Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Relievers Need To Get Nine Outs In Today's Game

Hall of Fame righthander Jim Palmer, the Orioles top pitcher on their AL championship teams during the 60’s and 70’s understands the intricacies of baseball.

Palmer told me that the last three outs of a ballgame are the toughest outs to get.

I believed him until this year.

Click below for more!In today’s game, a quality start is defined as one where the pitcher goes at least six innings and gives up no more than three runs. With six innings pitched the measurement of success, the toughest outs are now the last nine outs of the contest.

If you don’t have a quality pen to close the game, then you aren’t going to be playing baseball in October.

Teams with championship pitching staffs are those with starting pitchers that consistently take the ball into the seventh inning or later.

The best teams win more often because their relievers only need to get six or seven outs instead of the nine or ten needed by teams that struggle.

The teams on the top are the ones that can close the game efficiently.

In Chicago, closer Bobby Jenks is fine. The Sox are giving Ozzie Guillen some anxious moments late in the game. Righty Cliff Politte has been hit hard. Recently retired right-hander Jeff Nelson is the latest addition to the relief corps. Brandon McCarthy, Neal Cotts, and Matt Thornton have been just so-so.

The Tigers have the best record in baseball. Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, and Todd Jones are virtually automatic from the seventh inning forward.

Detroit’s pen gets its first real test this week when both the Yankees and Red Sox face Jim Leyland’s team in MoTown.

Cleveland’s problems begin and end with its pitching. If the pen gets straightened out good things can still happen for the Tribe.

Toronto can close the game with BJ Ryan, but the all star lefty needs help getting the ball.

Boston has struck gold with lights out rookie closer Jonathan Papelbon. Veterans Mike Timlin, Keith Foulke, Julian Taverez, and Rudy Seanez anchor the workmanlike pen.

The Yankees are on Boston’s heels, but the Bombers are still searching for the perfect eighth inning man to bridge the gap to closer Mariano Rivera.

Overused righty Scott Proctor is Joe Torre’s first choice when the game gets close. Kyle Farnsworth might reach triple digits on the radar gun, but he lacks consistency.

Believe it or not, the Yankees are banking on the return of Octavio Dotel from the DL later this summer to bail out their pen.

If I told you in April the A’s were counting on Steve Karsay, Chad Gaudin, Ron Flores, Santiago Casilla, and Randy Keisler as the core of their pen, your reaction would have been one of dismay.

With injuries to Joe Kennedy, Justin Duchscherer, Jay Witasick, Rich Harden, and Esteban Loaiza, the unthinkable has happened: the A’s pen is in shambles.

Unless the injured come back strong, the daily concern reflected on manager Ken Macha’s face will become more pronounced.

The Angels are still a dangerous team once they have the lead late in the game.

On the offensive side, if youngsters Dallas McPherson, Kendry Morales, and Mike Napoli continue to hit, the Halos end of the game pitching can get them back in to the race.

Toronto needs a second baseman. Angel second sacker Adam Kennedy will be a free agent this winter. Kennedy to the Blue Jays for infielder/DH Shea Hillenbrand would change the balance of power in the AL West very quickly.

Texas is winning since Akinori Otsuka replaced Coco Cordero as closer. Watch out for the Rangers if they find the right mix of pitchers to get the ball to Otsuka. It’s not impossible.

The same analysis applies in the NL too.

Without fail, the teams that are the best at getting the last nine outs of the game will play in October.

You can count on it.


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