By now it’s no secret closing out games is going to continue to be a glaring issue for the
Atlanta Braves. For a while, Luke Jackson filled the void; however recent appearances – namely against the Phillies on June 15th and the Nationals on Sunday – have shown that he does not have the electric stuff necessary to be the shutdown arm at the end of a game. Here are five stats that have weakened my faith in Luke Jackson.
When batters are ahead in the count: 2-1, they hit .444 with a slugging percentage of 1.222 and
with a 1-0 lead in the count, they hit .375 with a slugging percentage of 1.222. Batters have an OBP of .321 against him with runners on base. Jackson has a 4.50 ERA when the Braves are on the road. He’s 11/17 on saves for the season which leaves him with a SV% of 64.7 – that ranks 26th among qualified closers according to MLB Closer Report. He has an ERA of 6.00 when pitching against NL East teams (and yes that includes the Marlins).
I believe in Luke Jackson, and he has bee a savior of sorts in relief, but it’s time for Snitker to
put someone else in the closing role and allow the sliderman to help set-up his teammates coming out of the bullpen.
We have three options in solving this problem:
Option 1: Aquire someone new to come on board and take the mound
I have listed players below who could be acquired by the Braves if they are looking to solve the
problem by seeking someone from outside the clubhouse:
At this point it’s all but happened: Brad Hand will be traded. The next question is to which team. It will cost Atlanta an elite prospect, as the Cleveland Indians dealt Francisco Mejia to the San Diego Padres to acquire Hand in the first place. However, the lefty closer has proven he is worth it with an ERA of 1.08, a SV% of 100 (!!!!!) And 22 saves on the year. If the Braves are serious about going for it this year, Brad Hand should be on top of the list of targets.
The Fresh Prince (5 hours and 35 minutes outside) of Bel Air. Smith has been lights out for the
San Francisco Giants so far this year with an ERA of 2.01, 20 saves and 47 strikeouts compared to seven walks through 31.1 IP. His contract is currently at $4.23 million, and he will be a free agent at the end of the season, meaning the Braves might be able to get him in a trade without giving up too much in terms of prospects.
Shane Greene is one of the hottest arms in baseball right now, showing significant improvement from last season. In 2018, he had an ERA of 5.12 and only nine saves in 71 games played. So far in 2019, Greene has an ERA of 0.93 with a save percentage of 95.5%. He is playing the best baseball of his career and has another year of arbitration left after this season. The Tigers are currently 22 games out of first and will be looking to sell at the deadline. The Braves should be buyers.
Option 2: Give someone currently in the Braves organization a shot at filling the
role we ever so need.
If Alex Anthopoulos and Liberty Media decide they don’t want to give up any future assets,
there are a few players on our current roster who can help the cause.
In a trade that swapped Jesse Biddle and Arodys Vizcaino for Anthony Swarzak and cash, the
Braves have become outright winners. Jesse Biddle has posted a 9.82 ERA since arriving in
Seattle, while Swarzak has been sensational with an ERA of 0.57 since moving across the country. Swarzak did blow three saves during his time in Seattle and only posted a SV% of 50, but he
has proven to be a different pitcher now that he’s in the heart of a playoff race.
Newcomb is back from his stint on the IL with a concussion. He has benefited from switching to the bullpen and brought his overall ERA down to 2.12. It has been talked about before (Sean Newcomb is the rightful heir to the closer’s role), and with Luke Jackson faltering, it might be time to let Newk have his shot.
Jacob Webb has two saves, a 1.33 ERA, an opposing batting average of .206, and currently holds
a record of 4-0. He has been great in relief this year, providing some much-needed consistency. In his last 23.1 innings pitched, the California native has allowed one earned run. At the very least, the Braves should give him an opportunity at closing the door. Webb had 29 saves in AA and AAA last year in 36 opportunities.
*There are several guys in the minors (Patrick Weigel, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Muller, Ian Anderson,
etc.) who could also provide some aid to our bullpen. However, the three players currently on our roster would do a better job in the “closer” role.
Option 3: Do nothing. Let Luke Jackson continue as the full-time closer.
This is the worst of the three options, but one the Braves have stuck with to this point. Luke
Jackson could find his stride and begin to heat up after the All-Star break. However, it is unlikely that it ever reaches the point that he outweighs the need for a new closer. Jackson belongs as an integral piece to Atlanta’s bullpen, and he would thrive in more of a setup role. Let’s stop the insanity and attempt to fix the problem at hand, rather than continue to crush Jackson’s morale by putting him in a position to fail.
If the Atlanta Braves, more specifically Alex Anthopoulos and Brian Snitker, answer this problem of closing out games, they should be viewed among the World Series favorites, featuring an explosive offense and lights out bullpen.