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Failed closers never die...

Posted by Anonymous
... they just fade into the lower reaches of the NL East.

The Mets have signed the two pitchers who combined for 28 of Toronto's 33 saves last year, inking Frankie Francisco for 2 years and $12 million and Jon Rauch for 1 year at $3.5 million. In actual meaningful news, they also acquired Ramon Ramirez (along with Andres Torres) by trading Angel Pagan to the Giants.

At present, they plan to use Francisco as the closer and Rauch as the primary setup man -- even though Ramirez is clearly the best pitcher of the three.

Putting aside their roles, I can't help marvelling at the salary landscape in which Francisco can command a 2-year deal at $6mm per. His last 3 seasons have been interchangeably mediocre for a reliever: ERA between 3.55 and 3.83, ERA+ from 120 to 122, IP from 49 to 53.

Even if we measure from 2008, his best year, Francisco falls firmly in the ho-hum range of reliever rankings. Since 2008, Francisco has 216 IP, a 126 ERA+ and a 1.21 WHIP. There are 16 relievers who best him on all three counts; 25 beat him in IP and ERA+; 21 beat him in IP and WHIP. In Win Probability Added, he ranks 40th among relievers since 2008.

Francisco does rank 7th in SO/9 since 2008 among relievers with 200+ IP. On the down side, his HR rate (1.04 HR per 9 IP) ranks 66th in that group.

He has never gone a full season as the primary closer. He had 25 saves in 2009, but shared the job with C.J. Wilson (14 saves). He had 17 saves last year in Toronto's Russian Roulette bullpen, taking over from Rauch in May, losing the job in July, and getting it back for the final month.

Francisco worked last season on a 1-year deal for $4 million that he signed with Texas before he was dealt for Mike Napoli. The rationale behind a 50-percent raise and an extra guaranteed year escapes me. He's 32 years old.

At least Rauch didn't get a raise. But even the same $3.5 million he got last year seems generous in light of his performance: 4.85 ERA/88 ERA+ in 52 IP with a 1.35 WHIP, 11 HRs and 6.2 SO/9; 11 saves and 4 holds against 5 blown saves; -0.5 WPA. Over the last 3 years, he has a 1.33 WHIP (65th among relievers with 150+ IP) and 6.6 SO/9 (80th).

But there should still be plenty of work for Ramon Ramirez. Five of his six seasons have seen at least 68 IP and a 136 ERA+. Over the past 4 years, Ramirez has averaged 70 IP (9th among relievers with no more than 15 GS) and a 152 ERA+ (10th among RPs with 200+ IP).

Ramirez has a dreadful postseason record -- 8 ER in 4 IP, charged with at least 1 ER in 5 of 6 games -- but that's not likely to cause any discomfort this year.

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