By C. Trent Rosecrans
One of the most volatile positions on the field is closer -- one minute a guy is lights-out, the next he's teaching High School phys ed, like Kenny Powers. The few guys you can count on can count on big bucks, and even some with questions can still get big money.
Don't want to shell out big money on a big-name closer? Sometimes young guys can get the job done at a fraction of the cost with a young pitcher with a live arm. While the Phillies and Marlins have dolled out a combined $77 million this offseason, two other teams in the National League East will pay less than $1 million combined for two guys who saved 15 more games than the Jonathan Papelbon and Heath Bell combined in 2011 -- Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel and Washington's Drew Storen. So, for today's penultimate matchup in the Would You Rather Have? series, it's two young, NL East closers.
|Would You Rather Have|
Storen was the Nationals' second pick in the 2009 draft, but first to make the majors, beating Stephen Strasburg to D.C. He picked up five saves in 2010, before starting out 2011 as the team's full-time closer. He finished 2011 with 43 saves and nearly a strikeout an inning. He has a fastball that averages 95 mph and a very good slider, to boot. His changeup isn't great, but as a one-inning guy, two pitches are plenty.
In addition to his strikeout rate, he allowed just 2.39 walks per nine innings, a number that was better than his first year. He also bettered his strikeout rate (8.84 strikeouts per nine innings), ground ball rate (47.3 percent), left-on-base percentage (81.1 percent), ERA (2.75) and xFIP (3.14). Storen -- despite some questionable coaching from CBSSports.com blogger Matt Snyder earlier in life (true story) -- appears to be improving and could get even better than he was in 2011. Although it should be noted his batting average on balls in play dropped by .050 last season, from .296 in 2010 to .246 in 2011.
The case for Kimbrel
Kimbrel was a unanimous choice for National League Rookie of the Year -- and for good reason. He was nearly unhittable. The right-hander had a 1.039 WHIP while leading the National League with 46 saves and putting up just a 2.10 ERA. In 77 innings -- and 79 games -- Kimbrel struck out 127 batters, walking 32. He did that all while allowing a .314 batting average on balls in play.
Like Storen, Kimbrel gets by on his mid-90s fastball and a slider, both above-average pitches.
Another thing to love about the two pitchers is that they're both under team control through the 2016 season, although Storen is likely to be a Super Two, giving him an extra year of arbitration starting next season.
With apologies to Storen, this one isn't that close. Kimbrel's a little younger, will have one less arbitration year and is probably just flat better. The only question is how Kimbrel handles the workload he was handed by manager Fredi Gonzalez last season, when he put up a 4.76 ERA in the last month of the season. While he faced just three more batters and pitched only 1 2/3 innings more than Storen, his higher walk rate and strikeout rate means he threw 1,314 pitches in 2011 to 1,100 by Storen. Still, neither has been injured at the big-league level and expect Gonzalez to learn from his mistakes. Storen's a good pitcher, but Kimbrel's an easy pick here.
Fan Vote: Would you rather have Storen or Kimbrel on your favorite team?
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