Who's the man in L.A.?
Judging solely by pedigree, the answer is Jonathan Broxton. The rotund Dodgers reliever, famous for his high heat and devastating slider, saved 36 games and led all relievers with 114 Ks in 2009 (his first full season as a closer). He continued this dominance in the first half of 2010, closing out 19 games in 21 opportunities with a 2.11 ERA.
Then things started to go horribly wrong for "Johnny Double-D." In 24 innings pitched after the '10 All-Star Game, Broxton only saved three games in eight chances,by a .354 BABIP after the All-Star break -- is largely to blame, but it derailed the closer's confidence and his skills declined accordingly. In '09, he recorded 13.50 K/9 and gave up 0.47 home runs per nine innings; in '11, his strikeout rate fell to 7.15 and his home run rate rose to 1.59.
Despite his recent tumble, the door isn't closed on Broxton finishing games in Los Angeles. He's sporting a 4.76 ERA and a shocking 1.94 WHIP, but has only blown one save. On Monday night, he earned his seventh save by shutting the door on the Chicago Cubs in a 5-2 Dodgers win. Despite a lack of skills, he's still somehow finding a way to shut the door, and closing remains a results-orientated business.
It doesn't hurt that every other Dodgers reliever has forgotten how to throw, too. The Dodgers activated Hong-Chih Kuo, expected to be the primary set-up man, on Sunday and he promptly gave up four earned runs in 1/3 of an inning. Free-agent acquisition Matt Guerrier sports an ugly 4.11 ERA in 15.1 innings. Starter-turned-reliever Vicente Padilla has thrown well since returning from the DL, but he has three career saves to his name, including one that he picked up on April 27.
So where do the Dodgers go from here? Mattingly seems stubbornly committed to Broxton, but the former All-Star will have to correct those alarming peripherals to keep the closer role. That said, if he was dropped in your league last week, he'd make a high-risk, high-reward add.
If Mattingly's patience runs out, I don't think the Dodgers will turn to Padilla -- he seems better suited for the starting rotation. Kuo is better than his first outing suggests and he'll definitely be in the mix. One sneaky name to keep in mind in NL-only leagues: Mike MacDougal. The 34-year-old has 0.96 ERA in 9.1 innings and has shown the ability to close in the past.
How did other major league bullpens fare this week? Let's take a look around the league:
After blowing two straight saves last week, Super Mariano has returned to form, converting four straight saves since April 27. ... The key to Papelbon's resurgence? The Red Sox closer is relying on his slider more than ever, throwing the pitch a career-high 14.5 percent of the time.
Cordero is getting the job done in Cincy (1.50 ERA and four saves) but his numbers are due for a regression. He's sporting an unsustainable .161 BABIP and stranding 93 percent of runners. ... After I speculated Soria might be hiding an injury, he's returned to form, allowing only one run in his last 5.2 innings. It's a far cry from his normally dominant self, but it's a step in the right direction.
After a blazing start, Kimbrel has come down to earth, allowing two earned runs and four hits in his last 3.1 innings. That said, his strikeout rate is still 11.57 and he's not losing his role anytime soon. ... League is a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities, and the word is David Aardsma needs more rehab time. If League's somehow available in your mixed league, add him now.
Capps (3.55 ERA) hasn't been stellar since inheriting the closer role, but he's a perfect 4-for-4 in save chances. Joe Nathan, on the other hand, has given up five earned runs in 3.2 innings since his demotion. Capps' hold on the role is solid. ... Santos has converted three straight save opportunities and sports a 10.66 strikeout rate. The South Side of Chicago has found their closer and he's owned in about half of mixed leagues. If he's available in your league, add him now. ... Who's the man to own in St. Louis? Mitchell Boggs had the first shot, but has given up three runs and six hits in his last 3.1 innings. Salas picked up two saves last week and has struck out 12 in 10.1 innings. Add him in deep NL-only leagues, but know we haven't heard the end of the closer controversy in St. Louis.
The Rangers cleared Feliz to begin rehabbing, and if he doesn't suffer any setbacks, he could be activated Friday. ... Aardsma will reportedly spend longer than expected on his minor league rehab assignment as he builds up his arm strength. ... Bailey is set to face hitters for the first time on Wednesday. His ETA looks like mid-May.
Backups who will ensure you're banking saves even if your closer goes down: