Hanrahan or Meek? Who will be Bucs closer in 2011?
Last week I asked President Frank Coonelly if the organization was comfortable with Evan Meek or Joel Hanrahan as their closer for the 2011 season or if they would sign a veteran for the closers role (similar to 2010 with Octavio Dotel). This is what he had to say:
“Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek both have shown that they have the tools necessary to be quality closers. As a result, we would be comfortable relying on Joel and/or Evan closing games for us in 2011. Having said that, we are looking to add to our bullpen and if we were able to add an experienced closer, we would certainly consider making such an addition to the back of our bullpen.”
But how exactly will the Pirates determine who would be the better fit in the ninth inning? After Dotel was traded to the Dodgers, both Hanrahan and Meek split time closing out games. Joel did get more of the opportunities and seemed to be favored due to experience closing out games with the Nationals in 2008. Hanrahan was six-for-eight and Meek was three-for-three in the ninth inning role.
Evaluations are underway by the organization to decide before spring training who they want to be the closer for the 2011 season.
“That is one of about 104 questions for us to answer internally this off-season,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “I’m not a big fan of Spring Training competitions, because it’s so difficult to make an even playing field. So to make it a Spring Training competition, in our minds, is probably not the best way to go about it.
“It’s a tremendous situation to be in, because we feel comfortable with both guys coming back and closing games for us,” Huntington added. “Both deserve to close games for us. It’s certainly something that we’ll talk about a lot this off-season and work to come to the best answer that we can.”
Hanrahan has a mid 90′s fastball that on does reach 98, 99 and a nasty slider which gave him enough swings and misses to help him reach 100 strikeouts in a single season –a career high. Hanrahan ended the season with a 3.62 ERA.
Meek had a break out season –a 0.67 ERA which landed him a spot in the All-star game–. His fastball on average is 93-95 and can reach 96, 97 as well as a cut-fastball. Meek finished the season with a 2.14 ERA.
Both seem to have the mentality for the role and had no signs of control issues during the 2010 season.
“Really, it’s going to come down to who we want to give the ball to in the ninth inning,” Huntington said, noting the characteristics of both candidates. “There’s really not a huge separator that puts one guy over or under the other. We have two guys who are very capable.”
Regardless who the Pirates decide to choose for the closers role, having Meek and Hanrhan in the 8th and 9th inning is a huge weapon for the Bucs and one of the biggest strengths for the team.