Sunday, September 30, 2012

Closing Time?

Only three regular season games left for Chunichi and, as far as I know, Takagi hasn't declared who his closer will be for the postseason.  The closer position has been an ongoing question mark since the All-Star break when long-time closer, Hitoki Iwase, was removed from that role.  Since that time Daisuke Yamai has been used as the closer on most occasions, though Iwase has had a few save opportunities late in the season as well.  Jorge Sosa has four saves this year and is who I suggested to be the closer earlier in year when this whole issue arose.  Rookie Shinji Tajima is another option, he leads the team in holds with 30.  Now Takuya Asao is back in the bullpen after returning last month from a strained/inflamed rotator cuff, so Takagi has even one more option to go to.
I was pretty surprised that Yamai was chosen to be the main closer for the second half of the season, he's been a starter most of his career and though he's had outstanding moments, his career has also been very inconsistent.  Yet he's been up to the challange and kept the job by pitching well, I believe he's converted every one of his save opportunities.  Still I don't think he's our best option for closing out postseason games this year.  If I were the manager, and under the condition that he's fully healthy, I think now is the time to name Takuya Asao the closer. 
Asao has been the closer-in-waiting for a couple years now, but happened to be on injured reserve when Iwase finally faltered.  Asao seems to be healthy, he pitched multiple innings last night (unfortunately I wasn't able to see them because the poster shut off the feed after the Dragons' 11-run 5th inning), and he's pitched well since returning to ichi-gun.  His stuff looked to be close to what it was before the injury when I saw him pitch a couple weeks ago.  He's also pitched in a lot of tense, postseason situations and of course he's an excellent pitcher with a good fastball and breaking pitches.  An added long-term benefit would be that as the closer he would generally only be called on in save situations.  Over the last few years, he's been called on a lot in various situations to keep the lead or keep games close.  He's been overused and that's something that needs to change.  He'll turn 28 this month (even though he looks 18) and should still have many quality years left.  So let's make him the closer now and see if he can match Iwase's Hall of Fame career. 

No comments: