Opportunity knocks for Aardsma

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The
big headlines from Wednesday include Justin Verlander‘s seventh straight win,
Gil Meche‘s 11-strikeout gem in Cleveland and Carlos Quentin‘s recovery
timetable being pushed back until after the All-Star break.

But
the most useful piece of news came from Seattle, with word that Brandon Morrow
would be moved back to the rotation roughly three months after the team decided
to shift him back to the bullpen.

Why
is this important?

The
announcement signals the club’s growing confidence in David Aardsma, a
little-known journeyman right-hander acquired from Boston this past offseason
for a bag of Cracker Jacks.

With
Morrow no longer lurking in the shadows, Aardsma is the clear-cut closer in
Seattle, not just the guy whose name appears first during roll call.

That’s
great news for owners who were lucky enough to scoop him up a few weeks ago.
Saves are saves, and Aardsma deserves the chance. The guy owns a 1.84 ERA,
having converted all but one of his 11 save opportunities this season.

Still,
winning a closer job and keeping it are two different things.

While
Aardsma has both the imposing mound presence and the heavy fastball required of
good firemen, he’s yet to erase the control problems that have hampered him
throughout his five-year career.

Sure,
you can argue that he strikes guys out (9.85 K/9 rate) and limits hits (.175
AVG against), but the righty’s strikingly high 6.5 BB/9 rate is cause for
legitimate concern. Sooner or later, the ball will start falling in more
frequently, as is made clear by his .247 batting average against on balls in
play. And when that happens, it’s only a matter of time before Aardsma’s back
in middle relief like so many past flavor-of-the-month closers.

If
you’ve held onto Aardsma for this long, now is the time to cash in your chips.
This is as good as it gets.

Other
tidbits …

Francisco Liriano‘s
ERA fell below 6.00 for the first time in weeks Wednesday, as he struck out
seven Oakland hitters and walked two en route to his second consecutive quality
start.  A buy-low opportunity could be
brewing here, as his next start comes against the powerless Pirates.

3 Comments

Hey Alex,

So I’m wondering… with the DA’s production since your post (5 innings, 5 saves, 2 hits, 1 BB, 11 Ks), would you consider changing your outlook on Aardsma? I blogged about him last night, so I was just curious to know what your recent thoughts were.

Thanks for the knowledge,

Scotty Mac
http://scottymac.mlblogs.com

Yes, those are definitely good signs that have forced me to think twice about counting out Aardsma. That said, the dominant stretch you pointed out came against some pretty streaky lineups in the Orioles, Padres and Diamondbacks. It’s possible he’s learned to dial things back a notch and locate the strike zone better, but I just don’t see that holding up over the long run. It will probably take more than a few impressive outings to cure Aardsma of his wild ways.

After all, an alarmingly high BB/9 rate of 5.57 doesn’t disappear overnight.

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