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Trying to Win the Closer Lottery? How about Ross Ohlendorf?

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You might be thinking I'm insane, but please just hear me out. He is the sneakiest potential closer with a solid case.

Ohlendorf could be the one receiving the 9th inning calls in Cincinnati
Ohlendorf could be the one receiving the 9th inning calls in Cincinnati
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 battle of closers has officially begun. The first battle’s winner was Jeanmar Gomez, and now we are all anxiously waiting for the second winner. All J.J. Hoover needed to do to keep his job (and turn around his career) was to suck just a little, but he couldn’t even do that. He is now posting 15.19 ERA with 3 HRs in 5.1 IP. He has been purely terrible, so even Sabermetrics could not help his case at all as his FIP and xFIP are 11.11 and 6.61.

The Reds desperately needed Hoover to perform at least modestly well since he could have been a very attractive trade bait in the mid-season as the reliever price in the market is going sky high (Remember that the Astros paid Vince Velasquez for Ken Giles). The Reds probably won’t mind losing as much with Hoover on the driver’s seat, but at this point, it’s tough to imagine Hoover bringing in any decent return, so it was time to move on.

So here we are. Every gamer’s eyes are on the Reds bullpen at this point. The problem is that the bullpen situation in Cincinnati can’t be any murkier.

IP

ERA

FIP

WHIP

BB/9

SO/9

Owned

J.J. Hoover

5.1

15.19

11.10

2.25

6.8

6.8

47%

Caleb Cotham

8

0.00

2.91

1.13

3.4

5.6

10%

Ross Ohlendorf

7.2

8.22

4.34

1.17

3.5

10.6

0%

Blake Wood

7

3.86

3.61

1.57

5.1

5.1

0%

Tony Cingrani

6.2

4.05

4.54

1.50

9.5

9.5

11%

Dan Straily

13.1

2.70

4.01

0.83

4.1

8.1

1%

Jumbo Diaz (Minor)

6.2

5.40

9.04

1.65

4.1

5.4

2%

Keyvius Sampson (Minor)

3

12.00

13.70

2.67

12

9

0%

We can easily cross out Hoover (you know), Straily (long relief / spot starter), Diaz, and Samson (minor leaguers). Among the other four left, I personally think Ohlendorf would be getting the first shot.

Cotham and Cingrani are the front runners in this race so far. They are each owned 10% and 11% in the Yahoo! League, and they are currently getting the most attention from the Fantasy experts. Cotham is obviously putting up the best numbers with zero ER, and Cingrani is an intriguing name since we all remember him from his hot debut back in 2013.

Nevertheless, this closer race has nothing to do with a pitcher’s skill set in the first place. What the Reds need is nothing but finding a stable long term 9th inning solution. Despite their current misleading over .500 winning record, the team isn’t built to contend this year. What they really need is a trade bait, and the best way to create one is by promoting a pitcher as a closer. This hurts both Cotham and Cingrani, as they are under the team control until 2019 and 2021 respectively.

Cotham, who the Reds got from the Aroldis Chapman trade, spent six years in the minors, and he doesn’t own any outstanding stuff to be a closer in this league. The Reds probably don’t consider Cotham as their future franchise closer, so they don’t have much incentive to let him close games and increase his arbitration salary in few years. If he is actually serviceable reliever, the Reds are better off by keeping him around their pen for minimum price for next five years.

Cingrani is the only lefty in the pen, so it won’t be easy for the manager to hold him until the very last inning. He also doesn’t have any effective weapon against the right handed hitters. He only possesses two pitches, fastball and slider, and his slider moves more horizontally than vertically. He has a good fastball, but it’s not enough to overpower the hitters, so unless he develops his changeup, he is not someone to be thrown in the late inning regardless of the matchup (career wOBA .287 vs L, .332 vs R). Despite his shortcomings, a lefty reliever is always valuable commodity, so the Reds probably don’t want to trade him away when they can control him for three more years.

That leaves Blake Wood and Ross Ohlendorf. Both are over 30 and came to the Reds for one-year deals, so the Reds would jump all over if they can trade any of the pitchers. Wood throws harder, so he might fit the closer profile better, but I think Ohlendorf is in a better situation.

We have to pay attention how Bryan Price ran his bullpen against the Cubs (4/20, 6-5 Reds Win) right after he announced that Hoover is no longer their closer. Blake Wood came in at 7th to bail out Rasiel Iglesias (he failed the job), and Ross Ohlendorf came in at top of the 9th when the game was tied. For his 2-year tenure as the Reds managers, Bryan Price always ran his bullpen in a very traditional way. In 2015, out of 65 games, Aroldis Chapman was only used 3 times before the 9th inning, and even those three cases, two were to get 3+ out save and the other one was to close out the losing game at the bottom of 8th. The setup man, J.J. Hooever also appeared in the 8th inning 44 out of 67 times, and 8 of non-8th-inning games were the 9th inning appearance either to give Chapman break or to close out a non-save situation.

In a home game, if the game is tied at top of the 9th, there is no more save situation to emerge, so using closer for the top of the 9th is the most classic way. In last two years, 12 of the Reds’ home games were tied at the top of the 9th while Chapman was active, and Price used Chapman in 11 of them. The one exception was the second game of the double header, when Chapman had already pitched in the first game (Hoover came in instead). No one is more traditional than Bryan Price when it comes to the bullpen, and for him, the top of the 9th in a tied home game is time to bring in his closer, and it was Ohlendorf who got the call last time. To Price’s mind, it’s very possible that Ohlendorf passed the first closer audition as he pitched the scoreless inning to get the Reds’ walk-off win.

As soon as I saw that happened, I rushed to add Ohlendorf. I’m not saying he is 100% closer, but I believe we have a pretty good case here, especially since there isn’t any other obvious options in that miserable pen. Ohlendorf is currently owned 0% (possibly I’m the only one in the universe who owns him), so I’m pretty sure you can grab him anywhere unless you play against me. If you have an empty roster spot to play around, why not give him a shot?