by: Scott A. Horstmeier
The Cincinnati Reds have had a history of great closers in their recent history: John Franco, Danny Graves, Aroldis Chapman, Raisell Iglesias, and of course the Nasty Boys. However, at the end of the 2020 season, the Reds traded their closer Iglesias and for the 2021 season used a closer by committee, trying to find out who their shut-down closer could be.
In 2021 Heath Hembree led the team in saves with 8. At that time, it appeared the Reds wanted to groom Amir Garrett to be their closer, but he proved to be too inconsistent. Garrett was traded to the Kansas City Royals before the start of this season. So the Reds entered the 2022 campaign with no true closer and again used a closer by committee. Well as the 2022 season has been going, the Reds may have found their closer.
Puerto Rican Alexis Diaz, just might be the Reds new closer. Diaz made his debut this season and has been the Reds best reliever. He only has 7 saves, but he has been dominant on the mound in other ways. His defining moment came on May 17 with the Reds in Cleveland playing the Guardians.
The Reds took the lead in the top of the 10th inning and went into the bottom of the 10th with a 5-4 lead. The Reds brought in Diaz to close the game out. Diaz started the inning with Richie Palacios on second base. He then struck out Oscar Mercado and Luke Maile swinging to get two outs. He then threw a wild pitch that moved Palacios to third base. He then walked Myles Straw on a full-count. He then walked Steven Kwan on four straight pitches. This made a bases loaded situation with two outs and Jose Ramirez was coming to the plate with a chance to give the Guardians the win against a rookie reliever with no saves in his biggest pressure situation to date. .
Ramirez has been the Guardians best hitter the last few years, one of MLB’s best third baseman, and is a player that loves these situations. Diaz started off with a ball to Ramirez and then countered with a strike right down the middle to even the count at 1-1. Ramirez then fouled off a fastball to bring the count to 1-2. Diaz then threw a slider that Ramirez whiffed on to give the Reds the victory and Diaz his first save. Diaz showed in that moment that he can handle pressure situations.
That slider that Diaz pitched looked familiar to the one his brother Edwin Diaz, the closer for the New York Mets, pitches. Edwin got tips from Jacob deGrom on his slider, which Edwin passed along to his brother.
For the year Diaz has posted a 1.86 ERA, 0.983 WHIP, 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings, and 32.5% of his plate appearances against end in a strikeout. His hit line against is .137/.258/.228. These are great numbers, especially for a rookie. One thing he needs to work on is limiting the amount of fly balls he allows. Great American Ball Park, the Reds home park, is notorious for allowing fly balls to become homers. 37.6% of batted balls against Diaz are fly balls, while ground balls make up 30.4% of batted balls against him, and his ground ball to fly ball ratio is 0.44. He will need to bring his fly ball numbers down for long-term success in Great American Ball Park.
His brother Edwin has made a splash with his walk-up song “Narco”. With the way Alexis had been pitching maybe his walk-up song could be “Baby I’m a Star” by Prince.
(stats from baseball-reference.com)