OK, before we get to the heart of the matter -- and the elbow of
And here is how some of the biggest stars of the division have hit against Nathan over the last six years:
Admittedly, yeah, the last few there are not stars or even close to stars, but, well, there aren't that many non-Minnesota hitting stars in the American League Central. If you want, you can add in
And all that gets us to the point, which is this: NOBODY is going to replace Joe Nathan as closer for Minnesota, not if you understand the word "replace" to mean "fill the role." Nobody. If Nathan's
• They could give the job to
• Longtime Nathan setup men
There are probably other options that I'm not even considering -- don't be surprised if the Twins go closer-by-committee until one pitcher emerges naturally. Still, the one certainty is that whatever substitute the Twins find, he won't be Joe Nathan.
So what does it all mean? Well, people have different feelings about the importance of closers. Many people inside baseball think that a good closer is absolutely crucial to a team's success. Look at
Others think that the closer role, while important, is probably overrated. There is a point to that. Look at the Philadelphia Phillies.
In 2008 the Phillies were second in the league in runs scored, and fourth in ERA, and closer
In 2009 the Phillies were first in the league in runs scored, sixth in ERA, and closer Brad Lidge was a fiasco -- he was 0-8, with a catastrophic 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves.
The Phillies won one more game in 2009 than they did in 2008.
So, yes, there are arguments both ways. It's difficult to say just how much the Twins will be hurting without Nathan's dominance and his aura of invincibility inside the division. I have long talked about how much I think of manager
What you can say is that, even before this injury, the Twins' issue coming into 2010 was their pitching. The rotation -- with
Most people still picked the Twins because their offense should score a bunch of runs -- they were fourth in the league in runs scored and added
But with Nathan out, there is definitely a new wind of hope blowing through the American League Central. Combined, the Indians, Tigers, Royals and White Sox hit .161 against Joe Nathan. They'll be happy to take their swings against someone else.