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The Arizona Diamondbacks' Closer: Who is the Backup?

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What if Addison Reed isn’t ready for the season opener? Would Evan Marshall or Oliver Perez step up?

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Addison Reed is a lock for the Diamondbacks closer position. He has earned 101 saves. He has a proven closer mindset, albeit a mindset that drives some fans crazy. Relatively young at 26, with a passion for closing, he has upside potential. However, questions remain. What if he is not ready for the season opener? What if the Diamondbacks decide to trade him? Who would step into the position?

Looking at the 2014 pitching stats, I quickly narrowed it down to two worthy candidates: Evan Marshall, and Oliver Perez. Before we talk about it, please look at information from FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.

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Evan Marshall is the best pitcher.

Evan Marshall has the best ERA, FIP and run expectancy. A pitcher’s run expectancy (RE24) is the expected runs based on runner positions and outs minus the number of actual runs. Evan Marshall has by far the best run expectancy. The Diamondbacks need to keep him in some role. Nevertheless, the best pitcher may not necessarily add the most value to the team as closer.

Evan Marshall’s curve and changeup are effective pitches as measured by pitch value. His fastball is 93.9 mph, and 62.4% of his pitches are fastball. Unfortunately, his fastball has a negative pitch value.

Evan Marshall is young at 24, inexpensive, and does not become a free agent until 2021. If he becomes a closer, he will become expensive in arbitration, like Addison Reed has. Instead of closing, he would add more value in his current role as seventh inning guy.

Oliver Perez has a pitching style best suited to closing.

Oliver Perez gets a lot of strikeouts (11.7 per innings), is ahead in the count more than behind in the count (113-50), and has a high rate of no-contact with pitches in the zone (18.8%). His style matches Addison Reed more closely than Evan Marshall. He could be better than Addison Reed because unlike Reed, his slider has a positive pitch value. Oliver Perez has demonstrated mental toughness by surviving 12 major league seasons. He knows how major league hitters react, and has bounced back from failures.

Up until yesterday, Oliver Perez had posted great results in spring training – even now, although seven innings is a small sample size: Nine strikeouts, with two earned runs and only six hits. Especially in the K department, this looks great compared to Evan Marshall (1 strikeout, 2 earned runs, and 7 hits, also in seven innings).

In September 2014, Oliver Perez suffered dead arm after a career-high 65 appearances. In 2014, 26 of his games had 4 to 7 at-bats. The closer role is usually just one inning which would reduce the total innings and help prevent dead arm.

Perez is in his last contract year. His trade value as a closer is higher than a reliever. If Diamondbacks are not in contention at trade deadline, Oliver Perez could be traded for a prospect.

In conclusion, if Addison Reed is not ready for the season opener, Oliver Perez would be my choice for closer. He had a great spring, his strikeout rate is high, his fastball and slider are great, and he has the mindset to be closer.