Addison Reed is living proof of the myth of "proven closers." The logic goes that because a pitcher has entered in the ninth inning with his team leading by three or fewer runs and induced three outs with some regularity in the past, that player is a "proven closer" and can be trusted without question. This is, of course, hilariously untrue. Ernesto Frieri was at one point a "proven closer," as were Brian Fuentes, Jose Valverde, Jim Johnson and Chris Perez. Some of those guys simply got old; some of them were Jim Johnson and Chris Perez. In 2012, Johnson and Perez combined for 90 saves. That same year, Addison Reed notched 29 saves for the White Sox. He threw to a terrifying 4.75 ERA while blowing a quartet of save opportunities. SIERA says that he threw more like a 3.49 ERA pitcher, so the Sox keeping him in the closer’s role for 2013 wasn’t a totally foolhardy move. Reed rewarded them with 40 saves and was promptly shipped out to the Diamondbacks at season’s end.
Reed had an even better 3.19 SIERA in 2013. He put up 1.5 fWAR of value for Chicago and improved his K rate to 24.4 percent. His WHIP fell from 1.36 to 1.11 and generally looked like a decent grab for a team looking to replace J.J. Putz in the closer’s role. Good for Kevin Towers, right? He got himself a proven closer.
Well, Reed has been less than ideal in the desert, to say the least. He turned in a disturbingly bad 0.0 fWAR campaign in 2014, despite some solid peripherals in his 3.26 xFIP and 2.68 SIERA. 13.9 percent of the fly balls he gave up left the park, and he induced fewer ground balls. 2015 hasn’t been much better, either. When he entered Wednesday’s game against the Nationals, Reed was rocking a 4.17 xFIP and had already blown one of his three save opportunities this year. He had walked three batters in nine innings pitched while allowing twelve hits and four earned runs. Reed faced seven batters in his outing on Wednesday.
The first was Clint Robinson, who grounded out to third. Denard Span came to the plate and singled up the middle on a 93 MPH heater that caught too much of the outer third of the plate. That summoned Yunel Escobar. He hit pretty much the same exact pitch in the same place, a 93 MPH fastball on the arm-side third of the plate at thigh height. Weird. This brought Jayson Werth to the plate. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, this happened.
A number of things happened here. The home plate umpire, Rob Drake, had been calling a very funky zone all day and called this a ball. Jordan Pacheco also did about the worst framing job in the world on that pitch. Werth wound up walking, which brought the young Michael Taylor to the plate. Taylor was in the game because Bryce Harper was ejected for arguing with Drake about not checking with another umpire on a check swing call. Oh, that rascally Bryce Harper. Either way, here’s Taylor in his first big league plate appearance that involved a bases-loaded situation. No pressure, kid!
On the first pitch after Reed bounced one badly in the dirt, Taylor takes the beleaguered closer alllll the way out to deep center. The meltdown is complete in the most spectacular fashion possible, and the Nats lead 9-6. Look at the pitch Taylor caught, by the way. A 92 MPH fastball on the arm-side third of the plate right at the knees/lower thigh. The exact same pitch that Span and Escobar hit for knocks. Perhaps Reed should try something else.
This is one of those closer meltdowns that had everything. Bad umpiring, bad work by the catcher, a massive dinger; the works. This all came after the Snakes took Gio Gonzalez to the cleaners, too. The moral of the story is that the Diamondbacks’ bullpen came into Wednesday with 0.3 fWAR of value, of which Reed was responsible for… 0.3 fWAR of. So when this is what Reed churns out, Arizona is in quite a tight spot here. For now, though, let’s just sit back and watch the fireworks.
Wait, those aren’t fireworks. It’s just Addison Reed, the "proven closer" pitching and some balls are leaving the yard. Pretty show either way, unless you’re a D-Backs fan. Addison Reed is what happens when one lets the "proven closer" title go too far and suddenly Addison Reed is pitching in crucial situations. The Diamondbacks don’t exactly have a wealth of options on their pitching staff, but this is silly. Tigers bullpen-level silly, except in this scenario Joe Nathan is healthy and closing instead of Joakim Soria. Freaky stuff. At some point another option needs to be tried, because after this outing Reed is rocking a 4.45 xFIP. That’s far less than ideal for someone who’s supposed to dole out the proverbial shutdown inning. Not everyone can be Andrew Miller, but the point stands.
Wait, what do you mean Miller wasn’t a proven closer entering this season? He leads the league in saves! My world has been turned upside down. I need a moment.
. . .
All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.com.