Rondon’t: Cubs Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Closer

I’m pretty sure the folks at Octagon are less than pleased with what the Cubs are doing on the diamond these days. That’s because one of their would-be breakout clients is getting screwed out of an arbitration raise by his team. But, Evan, I thought Kris Bryant was repped by Scott Boras. Yeah, he still is. I’m talking about Hector Rondon, the closer who doesn’t close.

The Cubs have discovered a new market inefficiency in hanging crooked numbers late in games to avoid giving their lights-out 9th inning guy a save opportunity. Friday’s five-run outburst in the 8th inning marked the eighth time this season the Cubs have put the game out of reach in 7th inning or later. Though the Cubs have already put up 38 total wins, Rondon has notched only 8 saves. That’s fewer than 23 other relievers, many of whom are pitching for clubs with losing records.

Thing is, Rondon almost gave up on the opportunity to close games at all. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. He almost walked away from baseball entirely six years ago. Funny how breaking a bone in your elbow while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery will shake your confidence. It ended up being a huge break for the Cubs, who snagged Rondon in the Rule 5 draft two years later when the Indians failed to add him to their 40-man roster.

I guess one team’s trash is another team’s closer.

With two-thirds of the season left to play, Rondon will certainly get more chances to boost the stats people pay attention to and teams pay for. That’s good for him and for his representation, as he’ll be entering his first year of arbitration in the offseason. We can talk all about the other, more accurate indicators of value, but the fact remains that closers are measured by save totals. You don’t have to like it, but it’s the truth.

It doesn’t bother me that the Cubs are blowing teams out of the water on the regular, though there’s a little nagging fear I have when it comes to a closer who doesn’t get to pitch in save situations very often. I don’t even know if the numbers bear this out, but it feels like those guys struggle a bit more when the pressure isn’t ratcheted up quite so high. It’s as if their calibrated to perform under a very specific set of circumstances and changing the parameters of the outing throws them off their game.

Is this a really dumb thing to worry about? Probably. I just know that playoff baseball is likely to be a bit different from regular season baseball, or at least the regular season the Cubs have had to this point. So as cool as the easy wins are, I’d kinda like to see Rondon out there with a bit more regularity. I’m sure his agents would to.

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