Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Balfour to the Yankees? Not Bad

Lon Horwedel / Associated Press
Monday, MLB Trade Rumors put out its list of the Top 50 free agents for 2014 with predictions of where they could end up. Of course my full attention went to those players predicted to join our boys in pinstripes, and I came upon one prediction that I actually liked : Grant Balfour as closer.

We fanatics have the unfortunate task now of continuing to watch Yankees baseball without the security of having Mariano Rivera to close games. It's been thought for the past few seasons that, upon Mo's retirement, the easy choice would be to move David Robertson from set-up man into the closer's role. Makes sense. In the 339 games he's pitched in his career, D-Rob boasts a 2.76 ERA with 428 strikeouts and an opposing batting average of only .221; not to mention a WHIP of 1.25. These are sick numbers. But as David has himself admitted, and as most well versed in baseball are aware of, there is a mental aspect to closing that you have to be prepared for. When the game is on the line and you're what stands between a win and a loss, the pressure can be insurmountable, and D-Rob has not done well in the few games he's closed. Of the 18, he's blown 10. Granted, only 18 save opportunities spread through a span of 8 years is not much of a sample size for judgment; how could he have more with Mo as closer? Nonetheless, Robertson has faired far better as the bridge to the closer; it's a role the Yankees know he's great in and probably don't want to mess with.

Balfour is coming off of one of his best seasons as a career reliever. In 65 games as the closer for the Oakland A's, Balfour saved 38, pitching to a 2.59 ERA with 72 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.19. The numbers earned him his first All-Star bid. It's a good guess that Balfour played a huge role in Oakland's success this past year. As they showed all season long a propensity to come back late in games, wins were likely with Balfour closing.

He throws 3 pitches: four-seam fastball. slider and curveball. His fastball is his best pitch which he throws in the mid 90's and uses to induce groundballs. The slider, his swing-and-miss pitch, has good downward movement and excellent velocity. The curveball is his least used. Moves early at a speed in the low 80's.

The one thing about Balfour that Yankee fans would need to get used to is his temperament. He does not have the reserved cool of a Mo or D-Rob. He gets fired up as a means of motivation and is extremely emotional to the point of theatrics at times. We were spoiled for many years by Mo's ability to stay calm in any situation and leave each game on the field once it's over; Balfour will be the complete opposite. However, it might be refreshing to see his passion on the mound; could be a way for him to connect with a stadium crowd needing a boost after this last dismal season.

So Balfour gets my vote. Plenty of upside and the Yankees probably won't break the bank to sign him. What do you think?

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on Twitter: @ra_cooper

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