Is he wasted as a closer?
While reading about Soria's awesome curveball strikeout to end last night's game this morning, the question of whether he's wasted as a closer came to mind. And, sure, there's probably a lot of other stuff on this blog about this, but I'm too lazy to find and resurrect those threads.
I understand how fans and the team hate to lose leads late. Heck, Soria's the only closer on my fantasy team, so that hurts, too. But the truth is that the guy doesn't have a "closer" repertoire. As Rany (and others) have pointed out, comparisons to Mariano Rivera are flattering, but ultimately superficial -- and not just because Soria has a long way to go to get that kind of reputation (to be fair, Rivera is one of the few closers who actually is worth paying "closer money," well, at least up to the most recent contract). It's superficial because Rivera had to become a reliever because he was failing as a starter with only one good pitch (two if you count his four-seamer). In other words, Soria's collection of pitches is "too good" to be relegated to closing, where hitters generally only get to see the pitcher once a game.
Now, I haven't gone back to look up Soria's pre-Royals stats as a starter, but even if they aren't that good, isn't he young enough that they aren't definitive. And doesn't he have 3 or 4 good pitches?
This isn't meant to be a negative post about the Royals team or organization, but I think that if there isn't any other reason not to (mainly health), that Soria should be converted back to a starter. I'll take it as obvious for this post that 200 innings of great starting pitching is worth more than 80 innings of equally great relief pitching. The "closer mentality" is at best an exaggeration. I'm sure there are other people around who can make this argument better than I can.
But beyond that, while the Royals system might be better than it was two years ago with respect to pitching depth, it isn't clear to me that the pitching going to be ready while Butler and Gordon are still cheap and good. I'm not giving up on Hochevar, but I think it's fair to say he isn't exactly Phil Hughes (at this point, I think we'd be happy if he turned out to be Ian Kennedy).
And take the current rotation. Bale and Tomko, in my mind, are still stopgaps, and only look good compared to past versions of such hole-fillers like Elarton and Jekyll de la Hyde. I love Brian Bannister as much as anyone (and, hey, I got him for $4 in my very deep and competitive Al-only league! He's already paid off.), but I still think that long-term he's an innings-eating #4 at best. Sort of a poor man's Brad Radke (or rich man's Josh Towers). Meche was great last year, but until last might, he looked like Mariner Meche in 2008. We'll see. Greinke, of course, looks like the pitcher everyone thought he could be. I believe it. But (and I don't want to be cruel) when Zack Greinke is the starter you're relying on the most for the future...
Anyway, as I wrote above, this isn't meant to be a negative post, complaining about the stupidity of the organization or anything, just a not-too-original claim that the team has good reasons to get try Soria as a starter. Starters are worth more than relievers -- even closers. And this is particularly so in the case of a team that has so little depth at starting pitching, and for whom contention isn't exactly on the horizon this season.
Look, you don't even need that great of a closer. Joe Borowski sucks (except in fantasy, where he teamed with Soria to get me craploads of saves last year). But the Indians somehow managed to win the division last year. One case isn't statistically signifncant, but I do think it's an illustration of how it's easier to get a sufficient closer than a sufficient starter for a winning team.