Is Heath Bell a Bust?
One month into the season and the Marlins’ closer role is still looking unanswered. In an offseason where lots of money was spent by the new-look Marlins, there was a conviction that the position for closing games was solved. Now, it seems, the Marlins are scratching their heads.
The Marlins have $27M reasons why they should be wondering if they made the right move. With his fourth blown save in seven opportunities, Heath Bell is looking more and more like a mistake. “We gotta do something. We can’t be waiting anymore,” Ozzie Guillen said to the press shortly after last night’s 9-8 12th inning win for the Marlins.
Being 0-3 with 4 saves and an 11.45 ERA is not what the Fish had envisioned when Bell was signed this past offseason. But it gets worse – his numbers, thus far, are in sharp decline.
Bell’s K per 9 innings ratio is down from 11.1 in 2010 to and 7.3 last season to only 5.9 this season. He has only 6 Ks in 8.2 innings but has 10 walks. He is not getting his first batters out and both sides of the plate are mashing him – lefties hit .308 while righties hit an appalling .409 right now.
Scouts are noting that he doesn’t look the same on the mound and that his velocity has begun to dip a bit. His location is off and he is struggling. The question is, can he correct this and emerge out of this funk as a consistent late game closer and will the Marlins be forced to scrap it and go in another direction? Judging by the trends of his numbers, it would seem that his walks are an anomaly or in the least, in direct correlation with control problems. He already has 10 walks while averaging about 26 per season from 2007-2011.
Ozzie’s let’s see and wait approach may only last a few more games – as it should. One of his strengths is his ability to make detached decisions while a manager like Freddie Gonzalez would give too many chances and cost his team games. Expect a short leash and possibly a change in the backend of the bullpen. You might see Heath Bell become one of the more expensive set up men in the league.