The Cardinals’ 38 year old incumbent closer said to the Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold that he intends to return to his late-inning role.
Franklin has been the Cardinals closer for the last three years, earning 82 saves from 2008 to 2010. His best year was 2009 where he saved 38 games and carried a sub-1 ERA well into the summer before wrapping up the season with a 1.92 ERA.
Then began the nightmare of 2011 for him. His season kicked off with a blown save against San Diego in the season opener. He managed to pull in the save in his next appearance against Pittsburgh, but blew saves in his next two appearances. On April 17th, after a home run by Matt Kemp to seal the Dodgers’ walk-off victory, Franklin sat with 4 blown saves in 5 opportunities and a 11.57 ERA. The struggles had sealed his fate, the team was going to decide to use a bullpen by committee to determine a closer to replace Franklin.
Since then, the closers role has been manned by Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez, and most recently Fernando Salas. Those three pitchers have been 17 for 20 in save opportunites, and the current guy who just happens to pitch in the 9th inning, Fernando Salas, is a perfect 9 for 9.
In 5 appearances in the month of May, interestingly enough all on the road, Franklin has a 5.79 ERA in 9.1 innings over 5 games. Despite getting tagged for four runs in Wrigley Field, Franklin has turned in a solid month for a mop up closer. However, his last 3.2 innings have been scoreless as he’s allowed just two base runners. Is Franklin getting his groove back?
According to Goold’s report, Franklin has been simplifying his approach, not throwing his cutter or split-finger fastball during his outings. Many fans I know were disappointed by his attempts to seemingly work in his knuckleball more often during early season games. In an article by Matt Leach last September, Franklin has played with the knuckleball his entire career, but only throws it occasionally.
I can see why simplifying your approach, especially when struggling, can aid you. You hear a lot of guys that decide to go “back to basics” when they begin to struggle. After all, the best players are able to execute the routine things over and over again without much issue.
I also love that Ryan Franklin wants his role back. As a 38 year old who makes the salary of a good middle reliever who has talked about retirement, it’d be easy for him to say that he’ll just ride off into the sunset. I believe he wants to be a Cardinal and wants to be a valued member of the bullpen. If he can return to that role, it gives the Cardinals an exceptionally potent bullpen.
Do I see Franklin getting his job back as closer? Not really. There is something that Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas possess that Franklin, Boggs, Motte, and Co. do not, and that is a swing-and-miss pitch. I much prefer my closer having that pitch in his arsenal and at his command.
I’ve been on the Fernando Salas bandwagon since he was riding back and forth from Memphis. I wanted him to make the team out of Spring Training this year. And now he’s back on the team and he’s looking like our best option at closer. He’s certainly been the most reliable and consistent reliever on the roster this year. That should tell us something.
But I am quite pleased that Franklin has set his eyes on a goal and is taking steps towards that. His back to basics approach will hopefully help him return as a valuable member of the bullpen. I could see him being a regular 7th or 8th inning guy and that would help solidify our bullpen immensely, and we wouldn’t even need to trade for it.