What won Matt Lindstrom the closer role?

Hey, here's a Rick Hahn quote from Scott Merkin's piece on Matt Lindstrom getting the closer role, and the suggestion that it's motivated by an attempt to boost the veteran's trade value.

"Upstairs, we can worry about guys' trade value or how they fit going forward," Hahn said. "We really tend not to have those types of conversations.

At this point there is the same amount of evidence that Rick Hahn does not allow front office concerns to infiltrate immediate personnel decisions as there is that he simply never admits when they do.

 The man in question. // Credit: Ami Prindiville

The man in question. // Credit: Ami Prindiville

Ventura cited the condition of Matt Lindstrom's slider to his winning the closer role before Opening Day, and he threw a couple of dandies to Trevor Plouffe in the ninth in the winning cause.

Of course, that's after he stepped in and left everything up in the zone for the first few batters and brought the tying run to the plate. It was a perfectly telling show of the talents that make him worth mentioning in a conversation of high-leverage relievers, and too flawed to possibly hold such an important role with the permanence Robin Ventura has bestowed on it in the past.

Ventura further qualified the promotion with this rather unusual definition for closing.

"It's giving a guy a full inning. There are certain guys that like to have that. I think Matty is one who likes a full inning to work."

This is a true statement about Lindstrom. He's someone whose effectiveness washes over slowly like the tide rather than like a rushing spigot. His strikeout rate (17.7% in 2013) is pedestrian, his walk rate (8.9%) is pedestrian, but his groundball tendencies (55.6%) keep damage against him minimal. If he comes in with the bases loaded and gives up a single up the middle, he's a goat. If he starts the inning and allows a few harmless dribblers through the infield, it looks like a clean inning in the final score.

But, is that a closer? Perhaps if he's regularly employed that way, but closers really aren't much of an exception to the rule of relievers never getting to pick their spots.

They might have a defined role, but have to put out fires that lesser relievers and starters left into long start in front of them, and while Lindstrom is better with full innings, his manager was able to pick his innings according to matchup last season. He won't if he chains him to the ninth, which is why a closer needs to be the type of hyper-dominant force that transcends matchup concerns to hold up to the unrealistic demands of the role. That's not Lindstrom.

Lindstrom has closer experience that's quickly becoming not recent, throws extremely hard and can probably do just fine in the ninth if a proper eye is kept on him. But those who surmise that he's working to build up his trade value aren't so much conspiracy theorists as they are identifying the one thing that distinguishes him from a rather undistinguished group of relievers. Where so much of the White Sox roster is focused on developing for the long-term, Lindstrom is being put in a position to rapidly increase his profile despite little change in his skills at age 34.

If it wasn't a ploy, it'd be a pretty odd move.

 

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