Mehring Monday 7/6: Ryan Franklin, All Star07/06/2009 4:06 PM ET
By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Look at the names of the players with
Look at the names of the
pro baseball ties in the 2009 MLB All-Star Game.
Raul Ibanez: very good major league player for the last several years.
Brian Fuentes: All-star closer for the Colorado Rockies and now an
All-Star closer for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Felix Hernandez and Adam Jones: Über-prospects.
The same Ryan Franklin who was
23-44 over three seasons as a starter for the Seattle Mariners from 2003 to
2005. The same Ryan Franklin about
whom a website once wrote after his
final start with the Mariners in 2005.
fact, I'd go so far as to say that having Ryan Franklin collect 106 starts
during his tenure made Mariner fans a little smarter. There will always be that
cute little group of Franklin supporters who point to his W/L and his run
support, but for the rest of us, we've seen just how easy it is to take a random
guy - replacement-level by the very definition of the term - plug him into the
Mariner rotation for a year, and end up with an ERA around the league-average
for a #5 starter. As long as we have this park and a solid team defense, we'll
(ideally) never have to see the team spend a bunch of money on a guy like Milton
or Jaret Wright or what have you, because we can get the same kind of
performance by tossing in some spring NRI or AAA veteran for 180 innings. The
money saved through that maneuver, in turn, can go towards frontloading the
rotation with a legitimate ace or two, making the team better than it would've
been with five above-average starters instead.
same website wrote this about Franklin earlier in 2005
and it is prescient:
allows a few extra homers, but
is clearly the better pitcher when he's
coming out of the bullpen. Not only can you point out the numbers - strong
strikeout and walk rates - but there are subjective components as well, such as
the fact that Franklin threw harder out of the 'pen than he has as a starter,
and that he relied on his better pitches instead of employing a broad
At $2.4m in 2005,
looks like a sunk cost. It's unlikely that there will be much demand for his
services on the trade market, and it doesn't make much sense to enter him into
the rotation when he's just going to provide six mediocre innings every five
days, so we might as well try to salvage what we can out of his deal before
(hopefully) cutting ties.
Someone was listening.
moved on to
's bullpen in 2006 before landing in
has been moved into the closer's role for the Cardinals and he has been very
good and well-received in Missouri.
Cards signed him to provide depth for both the starting rotation and the
bullpen. He excelled in the set-up role in 2007, emerging as the go-to guy for
the eighth inning.
He filled in as the closer last season, upon Jason Isringhausen's demise, and
did a so-so job. He seemed likely to return to the set-up role this season.
But general manager John Mozeliak wasn't able to woo free-agent Brian Fuentes,
who opted to return to his native
and sign with the Angels. The Cards came out of spring training with a muddled
Hard-throwing rookie Jason Motte got rocked in the closing role on Opening Day.
Cardinal Nation gulped, fearing a repeat of 2008's Festival of Blown Saves.
La Russa planned to mix-and-match his relievers to close games early on, but
immediately took charge of the position. He earned his All-Star berth with a
2-0 record, 20 saves and a 0.84 earned-run average - near perfection for the
first half of the season.
That success allowed general manager John Mozeliak to deal Closer of the Future
Chris Perez to Cleveland to get infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa, who offers
desperately needed offensive help.
At the age of 36,
has finally peaked. He will remain the Cards' closer as long as he is willing
and able to perform those duties.
He's come a long way since
being a teammate of Alex Rodriguez and Raul Ibanez on the last Appleton Foxes
team in 1994. And we congratulate
him for it.
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