Often times you will hear sports fans talk about the concept of “What if?” Some people enjoy the chatter, but most will shrug, not caring to know about something that never came to be.
On the contrary, the Dodgers could have lost tonight.
The closer of the Dodgers has seen fans both defend and criticize him despite a rough patch of this early season after notching his first seven saves.
Just for the record we will take a look at these numbers:
- Apr. 5 – Apr. 15: six appearances, 1-0, five saves, allowing no runs on two hits, striking out five, and walking two in 6.0 innings. 0.00 ERA.
- Apr. 17 – Apr. 25: six appearances, 0-3, two saves, two blown saves, allowing seven runs on 11 hits, striking out seven, and walking two in 4.1 innings. 15.37 ERA.
What gives? He’s allowing 10.2 hits per nine innings this season, up from 7.1 last year. For those wondering, that’s only half a hit under where Jonathan Broxton resided a year ago in his disaster-laden season.
His walks are down from 3.5 to 2.8 free passes per nine, as are his strikeouts per nine, raising from 7.3 to 10.2.
Clearly he is pitching well, which is the reason fans are holding out hope that a return is in store. But as a closer, Guerra must learn how to finish off a batter, developing an effective waste pitch (or two), anything to fool batters into waving on the final strike.
What isn’t being mentioned is that perhaps Guerra is just coming back to Earth.
Guerra’s numbers last season came as a surprise to many, after Javy bettered his minor-league numbers, an unheard-of practice. Prior to getting the call to the Dodgers, Guerra posted the following numbers:
- 2007-2008: Class A+, 11-13 with a 5.48 ERA, allowing 10.1 hits per nine innings, posting a K/BB ratio of 1.48.
- 2005, 2009: Class A, 5-6 with a 3.46 ERA, allowing 7.1 hits per nine, and a 2.50 ratio.
- 2004, 2006, 2010: Rookie League, 5-5 with a 3.99 ERA, allowing 9.0 hits per nine, and a 1.56 ratio.
- 2009-2011: Class AA, 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA, 8.0 hits per nine, allowing 8.0 hits per nine, and a 1.65
Guerra heated up at Double-A, prompting his call-up last season, and he stuck with the club, eventually taking the reins as the club’s closer. He wound up finishing the year with a 2-2 record, a 2.31 ERA and 21 saves.
That came in 47 appearances. Yet this year, he’s already lost his third game in just 12 appearances.
Luckily the Dodgers have depth to replace Guerra should they decide to lessen his role. On Friday night we saw Kenley Jansen close the Nationals out, but just barely, after Jansen narrowly escaped (by about an inch) a blown save after Danny Espinosa hit a Jansen offering just foul. The scoreless inning lowered his ERA to 2.63, but he is striking out 13.8 batters per nine. Josh Lindblom, much like Guerra last season has been terrific, posting a 0.79 ERA in 11.1 innings.
Should it get to this point, there is 24-year old Shawn Tolleson, who has four saves in 8.0 innings for Double-A Chattanooga, striking out 16.9 batters per nine innings.
As you can see there is plenty waiting for that closer’s role. It’s not time for a change yet, Javy’s confidence could easily falter if the Dodgers mishandle this situation. However, continued difficulty will only continue to warm his seat up.
Looking back at this week that was, Guerra cost the Dodgers two games against Atlanta, and nearly one last night against Washington. He nearly gave the Padres a huge win two weeks ago, but was saved by a triple play, which perhaps was a sign from the baseball God telling Dodger fans that hardship was on it’s way.
I would expect another few chances for Guerra before a change is made. I like Javy, and really hope he does rebound. Rest assured that even if he falters, he is certainly due to be apart of a rock-solid tandem alongside Lindblom and Jansen that will shorten a game’s life to just six innings.
It’s only April, but it’s better that this issue be addressed now. This way the Dodgers won’t relapse, and cough away leads when it counts. If they do, be assured that the topic will have been thoroughly researched, prepared for, and ultimately resolved, and it all starts with this past week’s struggles by Guerra.