Trevor Rosenthal and the curse of the closer

As I mentioned last fall when Mike Matheny announced that Trevor Rosenthal would be the team’s closer at the beginning of the 2014 season, there seems to be a curse on official closers. Just look back at Ryan Franklin in 2011. Or Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs in 2013. Now we’re dealing with Rosenthal struggling out of the gate in 2014. It’s a bad track record.

With pitchers who rely on pure speed as a major factor of performance, my concern is always that any slight discomfort or worry about control can affect your velocity and, as a result, your performance. Kevin Reynolds and I spoke about confidence and Boggs a lot last season and how that little extra ounce of confidence can be the difference between a hard to hit 94 mph fastball and a 92 mph easy to hit one. I wondered if that’s what Trevor Rosenthal is dealing with.

Christine over at Aaron Miles’ Fastball wrote today and talked about his velocity. She found that Rosenthal’s fastball velocity so far this April is 96.11 mph. Over two mph slower than last April and last year in October. His fastest pitch of the year? Yeah, it hit a batter.

Rosenthal said post-game that he felt good and, “I’m worried about throwing strikes. I’m not worried about the velocity.” Maybe it isn’t what he meant, but if he’s having to think about throwing strikes rather than just winding up and putting the ball in the catcher’s mitt, that’s all you need to know.

For their part, Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist haven’t publicly expressed any worry about Rosenthal’s performance. That might hold some water in most cases, except this is the manager that insisted on running Boggs out there in high leverage situations last season when it was clear to everyone not in the dugout that it was a bad idea. Hopefully Rosenthal can get it figured out before we reach that point.