Saturday, May 27, 2023

Always Be Closing: Clase for Effort


Y'ever just...casually remember that Emmanuel Clase has 83 saves since the start of the 2021 season?

It's not the most in that stretch, Kenley Jansen has 89, but no other closer in that period has more. Ironically Clase has as many saves since 2021 as Josh Hader, another one of the few perennial closers we have right now. 

I'd honestly refer to the group of closers that has most dominated since the start of the decade as people like Liam Hendriks, Jansen, Hader, Clase, Edwin Diaz and Jordan Romano. That is, admittedly, a small sample size, but you don't see many other people right now who are guaranteed the closing spot wherever they go, and are guaranteed to dominate. You have a lot of veteran closers who are chasing what they had, people like Mark Melancon, Craig Kimbrel, Will Smith, Brad Hand and Aroldis Chapman, but some of those guys can lose the ninth. Some of them already have. 

What makes Clase a member of the small, dying breed of relied-upon closers is just how tough he is to face. We don't have a ton of pure intimidators as closing heroes anymore, guys like Lee Smith, Rod Beck or Trevor Hoffman who scare the shit out of you. Clase is as close as we have to that right now. He's not the tallest, he's only 6'2, but he's built like a brick shithouse and throws fire. I still have the memory of Clase being suspended for the whole 2020 season for PEDs, but even if that is what's made him into the pitcher he is, I think a lot of the work is just pure intimidation and workmanship.

Clase led the majors last year with 42 saves, and he's leading the majors again at the moment with 16. However, even with that said he's blown 5 already, and has given up too many earned runs. I don't know if this means the fans are turning on him, but his status as a sure thing is being tested this year, even with the amount of saves he's already racked up. Some of it is an indictment on the Guardians themselves, and how  often their bad luck gets in the way of what should be wins, especially if their contact-friendly play isn't amounting to many overpowering wins so far. But some of it may just be that Clase is getting too confident and might not be as much of a perennial standout as we thought.

The good news is that the closest challengers to the league mark are at 13 right now. One of them is Josh Hader, whose goodwill hasn't especially been harmed much by the last half of the 2022 season. We'll see if Clase can hold the throne for now, or if his blown saves will catch up to him.

Coming Tomorrow- All things as they should be.

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