Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Always Be Closing: The Respected Default


Sometimes, when a subpar team really needs a closing option but isn't well-developed enough to have a surefire winner, they'll have the senior most relief specialist there take the ninth and run with that. It's the old adage that any reliever can close games, but not every reliever can be a great closer. Sometimes you're handed the job because the best option is you, and you've got to do the best you can with that. 

Kyle Finnegan fits this description perfectly. A longtime A's farmhand who never made the team, Finnegan was cut and picked up by the Nationals after their landmark 2019 season. The Nats haven't had an especially strong closing option since Sean Doolittle left and promptly forgot how to stay healthy. There have been some attempts from people like Brad Hand, but nobody stuck around and kept the job. And so it's fallen on Finnegan, who's been a perfectly stable relief option for the Nats but never exactly screamed 'closer'.

Finnegan, to his credit, has 25 saves this year, even if he's blown 8. He's the most common reliever to finish a game, is 7-5 in 63 appearances, and has only needed set-up man Hunter Harvey to lap up saves occasionally. Finnegan isn't flashy, but neither are the Nats right now; they have great players, and great future pieces, but don't have enough to a team to stand a chance, and this may be the case going forward. To that end, Finnegan might continue to be the closing option for a bit. There's a chance they can use an ex-starter like Joan Adon for it, but unless Finnegan truly craps the bed in the ninth, which hasn't entirely happened yet, it won't be for a while.

Finnegan also represents one of several aspects of these 2020s Nats teams that have stuck around because they just work. I'd put Victor Robles in that category as well, he's struggled with injuries a lot, but he gives you defensive perks and the occasional hot bat day when he's there. Same with Luis Garcia, who's not an overwhelming talent at 2nd but hits over .250 and has over 100 hits. Until this team really builds a winning formula, those familiar, steady guys are gonna help a lot. They may not be the best, but they're safe and reliable, and right now the Nats need as much of that as possible.

I don't know how many years Finnegan will be relied upon to close games in Washington, but I hope he enjoys the opportunity, even if it's due to the team not being great. At the end of the day, he's still got 25 saves for an MLB team, and that's more than a lot of relievers can say.

Coming Tonight: A defensive weapon for a very depleted AL Central team.

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