ESPN’s Keith Law: Closer isn’t the right role for Mariners’ Steve Cishek

Jul 13, 2016, 9:31 AM | Updated: 9:35 am
Steve Cishek has already allowed seven home runs this season, three more than his previous career-h...
Steve Cishek has already allowed seven home runs this season, three more than his previous career-high. (AP)
LISTEN: ESPN's Keith Law on Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto's approach

The Mariners’ bullpen has been up and down this season, and the team’s closer is the prime example of that.

While 30-year-old right-hander Steve Cishek has a nice 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his first season with the team, he’s also blown five saves and has already allowed a career-high seven home runs in 37 appearances. For reference, his previous high homer mark was four, which he allowed last season in 59 games for the Marlins and Cardinals.

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What the numbers suggest, at least to ESPN senior baseball writer Keith Law, is that while Cishek is a valuable arm to have in relief, closer doesn’t appear to be his ideal role.

“I think if he’s your third-best reliever, you’re fine,” Law said Monday to John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle. “If he is your best reliever, you probably don’t have a contender’s bullpen, and I say that also thinking that there’s more value to the best parts of your bullpen in October.”

Law cited a years-old Baseball Prospectus study done by noted statistician Nate Silver, now the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight, that showed just how important it is for contending teams to have reliable pitchers for the late innings. And to Law, that means the Mariners should find a better option to close out games.

“One of the things that tends to play up in October is the strength of the very back end of your bullpen – the closer, maybe it’s your closer and your setup guy. Cishek can’t be that,” Law said. “However, he really does have his uses in the middle of the game, or I always think of the alternate closer. Your closer is not going to be able to pitch 90 times for you over the course of a season. … He can be that. You just don’t want him to be the primary guy who’s pitching whether it’s the ninth inning or just your high-leverage situation late in games that are close.”

The bottom line: If the 45-44 Mariners decide to be buyers before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline passes, a new closer just might be what they target.

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ESPN’s Keith Law: Closer isn’t the right role for Mariners’ Steve Cishek