With Neftali Feliz set to join the rotation, we have to evaluate what the Texas Ranger’s closer Joe Nathan holds for this year’s ball club. Joe Nathan is a four-time MLB All-star with a career 261 saves and a 2.87 ERA. However, the former MLB All-star gave up three walks and a three-run homer in one inning on Monday against the Mariners.
The Ranger’s have taken a gamble by signing Nathan. By saying it’s a gamble, I’m referring to the Rangers signing Nathan to a two-year deal worth $14.5 million. Nathan underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2010 and has been virtually untested since the surgery. Disregarding the 2011 World Series, Neftali was a reliable closer for the Rangers and his move to the rotation has left a void. In Neftali’s best year, 2010, he finished with 40 saves and a 2.73 ERA. In comparison, Nathan’s best year was in 2009 when he finished with 47 saves and a 2.10 ERA. Time will only tell if Nathan can recapture 2009 and if the Rangers have struck baseball gold.
This is the American league and runs are more of a commodity. It is well known that AL pitchers do not have to go to bat and are allowed to reserve their strength for the mound. The unknown net effect is that only 10,117 runs were scored in the AL while the National League had 10,691 runs scored in 2011.
Translation: fewer runs equal tighter games and a stronger need for a solid closer at the end of games in the AL. The in-division rival Angels have retooled with MLB All-stars additions C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols. The Angel’s offseason moves have appeared to have added runs and wins to the LA ball club. If Nathan can’t recapture 2009, this misfortune could spell late-inning runs for opponents and disaster for the Rangers. Does Monday’s performance concern you yet?
A strong performance by Nathan could equal a Ranger’s three-peat for American League Champs. Conversely, if Nathan has a bad season then it’s closer-by-committee, the wild card for the Rangers, and a short playoff visit.