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NL Player Spotlight - May 2, 2007

Tom Gordon: All the calls for Brett Myers to take over the Phillies' closer job seem premature, as Gordon converted a save last night against the Braves by pitching a perfect ninth inning, impressively fanning 2 batters. Gordon's K/9 of 10/6 shows that he still has the firepower to get the job done. While the 59% GB% will come down, it is encouraging that he has it back above 50%, it slid down to 45% in 2006. A ground ball/strike out pitcher is ideal for closing in homer happy Citizens Bank Park. Gordon's high ERA of 4.82 can be partially blamed on some bad luck, 40% H%. He should be fine as the closer.

David Bush: Bush was a trendy choice as a breakout candidate this year. So far, he has been a disappointment, 2-2, 6.23 ERA. There is nothing wrong with his command, 5.2 K/BB rate. He is getting hurt by a .351 BHIP%, a whopping 81 points over his three year average, and a 55% strand rate. That bad luck should change making him an excellent buy low candidate.

Matt Cain: In the second half of last year, the 22-year old Cain showed that he was ready to move into the elite starting pitcher category, 3.38 ERA and a 9.2 K/9. One look at his 2007 surface stats, 1-1 and a 1.54 ERA, and you would think that he has arrived. However, there is trouble lurking below the surface. A 5.9 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 are not the numbers of even a good starting pitcher. A ridiculous .123 BHIP% and 85% strand rate are severely depressing his ERA. Even though he starts half his games in games in pitcher friendly Pac-Bell Stadium, his 56% FB% will eventually get him in trouble with the longball. His future remains bright, but those in non-keeper leagues should seriously considering selling at what looks like a top.

Rafael Soriano: Given Mike Gonzalez's tender elbow and his wildness so far this year, 7 walks in 10.1 innings, Soriano might be the better choice for saves out of the Braves pen while Bob Wickman is out. Working as a set-up reliever for the Mariners last year, Soriano put up closer-worthy numbers, 2.25 ERA and a 9.8 K/9. The high fly ball rate, 54%, and slightly elevated BB/9, 3.2, are minor causes of concern, but considering that he was coming back from a major injury, those numbers should improve.

Bob Wickman: Wickman goes on the 15-Day DL with an upper back strain. For the last couple of seasons, he has been getting by as a closer with less than ideal skills, 2005/2006 K9's of 6.0/7.0. At least in 2005, he had a GB% of 50% to make up for the lack of K's, last year his GB% rate was 42%. With a 9/10 K/BB ratio in 11.1 innings in 2007, he is lucky that he only blew 2 saves in 8 chances, although the back problem can take part of the blame. If either Mike Gonzalez or Rafael Soriano step up and produce as the closer in Wickman's absence, he could find himself in a set-up role upon his return. At this point in his career, the 38-year old Wickman is better suited for such a role.

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