Dodgers Analyst Feels Team Shouldn't Go Closer By Committee in 2023
Dodgers analyst Jerry Hairston Jr. says the team needs to name a closer before Opening Day because "everybody feels more comfortable" with a set closer.
At the moment, the Dodgers don't have a closer. The man who filled that role in 2022, Craig Kimbrel, had lost his job by the end of the season and didn't even make the postseason roster. The two biggest names among closers on the free-agent market are ... Kimbrel and the guy he replaced, Kenley Jansen.
L.A. has plenty of internal options to fill the role, though. Evan Phillips and Yency Almonte were both outstanding in 2022, Daniel Hudson is coming back, and Brusdar Graterol has the raw stuff to be a lights-out closer if he can put it all together.
Do they need a set closer, though? SportsNetLA analyst Jerry Hairston Jr. thinks so, as he explained on SNLA last week.
“They will need to have a designated closer come opening day. Everybody feels comfortable when you know who that guy is. Is it Evan Phillips? Could it be Brusdar Graterol?”
You can quibble with JHair's statement a little bit. Everyone knew who "that guy" was last season, and very few people would describe their feelings about that situation as "comfortable."
The downside to installing a guy like Phillips as closer is that he was so good in his role last year. He had the highest Win Probability Added of any L.A. reliever at 3.2, and only Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin (both 3.7) had a higher WPA on the pitching staff. Phillips' WPA was eighth-best among relievers in MLB.
Phillips would get plenty of high-leverage opportunities as a closer — Kimbrel actually had almost the exact same Average Leverage Index as Phillips last year — but when you have a guy who has proven he can handle the biggest moments in a game, it would be a shame to base his appearances on the inning number rather than the game situation.
If Hudson is back and healthy, I could get on board with him being the closer. He's proven in that role, and with his age and injury history, he might benefit from that stability of knowing when he's going to pitch. And unlike Kimbrel last year, Hudson would probably be pretty solid in that role.