Chris Davis Is A Better Closer Than Heath Bell

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

On Saturday, after Marlins closer Heath Bell had blown his fourth save of the season on Friday night, Ozzie Guillen demoted him to a setup role.

Then, on Sunday, in the 16th inning of the Baltimore-Boston game, Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis took the mound as the pitcher of last resort. He did well. Davis has not yet supplanted Jim Johnson as the Orioles' closer, but he's probably moved past last year's closer, Kevin Gregg, on the bullpen depth chart.


So, we wondered, who's the better bullpen bet going forward: Bell or Davis?

Results: On Sunday, Davis threw two scoreless innings. He walked one, allowed two hits, and struck out two. On Friday, Bell allowed one run on two hits and two walks while striking out only one. Davis has a +.187 win probability added on the year, while Bell has a -2.637. Edge: Davis.


"Proven closer?": Google hits for "Heath Bell" + "proven closer": 8,170. Google hits for "Chris Davis" + "proven closer": 988. But we'd argue that the bulk of people calling someone a "proven closer" on the internet do so ironically. To wit, this tweet after Bell allowed four runs in a loss to the Astros. So it doesn't reflect all that positively on Bell. Edge: push.

Velocity: Fastball velocities from Davis's first inning of work on Sunday: 89, 90, 90, 90, 90, 90, 89. Bell's fastball velocities from Friday? 94, 94, 94, 94, 95, 92, 91, 93, 92, 93, and so on. Edge: Bell.

Offspeed stuff: Heath Bell's curveball grades out negatively at FanGraphs, but his changeup has worked well. So has Davis's, though. We can't rule on this one. Edge: push.

Command: Davis threw 15 of his 23 pitches for strikes, a 65 percent strike rate. Bell has a 57 percent strike rate on the season. Edge: Davis.


Swinging-strike capability: Davis got swings and misses on two of his 23 pitches, a swinging-strike rate better than 8 percent. Bell has swinging strikes on only 4 percent of his pitches this year. Edge: Davis.

Contract: In December, the Marlins signed Bell to a three-year, $27 million deal. The Orioles are paying Davis $488,000 this year, although he's eligible for arbitration after the season. Edge: Davis.


Age: Bell is 34, long past his prime. Davis is 26, a year away from it. Edge: Davis.

Non-pitching benefits to team: Heath Bell's cousin is former Nickelodeon superstar Drake Bell. Presumably Bell could bring him in to have him lecture Logan Morrison about overlord-friendly behavior. But Bell can't hit. He's oh-fer-six in his career at the plate. Meanwhile, Davis has been worth 15 non-defensive runs above replacement in his five-season career. Yeah, you should keep this guy away from your corner infield spots, but he has value as a Brooks-Kieschnick-type curio. Edge: push.


Overall: Tally 'em up. That's three pushes, five categories for Davis, and two for Bell. They need a new closer in Miami—sell high, Dan Duquette!