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Milwaukee Brewers Closer Candidates: Carlos Torres

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Could last year’s most valuable middle reliever step into the 9th inning role and still have success?

St Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

While the Brewers still weigh free agent options in the bullpen, we've been weighing their interal options to close games. Sure, the Capital-C Closer isn't the most important part of a rebuilding team, but someone is going to do it in 2017, and preferably it'd be someone who would be solid in the role.

As we've noted, Corey Knebel, Jacob Barnes and even Wily Peralta could be good (or at least interesting) choices. But if you want someone who excelled in pressure situations last season, then maybe Carlos Torres is your guy.

Torres went from a relative afterthought to being one of the most valuable members of the 2016 bullpen. After being signed following the conclusion of spring training, Torres struggled a bit last April, allowing 15 hits and 8 walks while surrendering 6 runs in 12.2 innings. After that, he settled down, putting up a 2.45 ERA from May through September and settling into a bit of a fireman role.

Pitching anywhere from the 6th to the 8th inning, Torres got out of the most critical parts of games unharmed and helped swing the odds in the Brewers' favor. Take a look at the Brewers' Win Probability Added leaders from last year. Among pitchers, Torres ranked fourth on the team, behind only Jeremy Jeffress, Junior Guerra and Tyler Thornburg. Two of those three are no longer on the team, and there was a large gap between Torres (1.24 WPA) and Jhan Marinez (0.52), who ranked 5th on the team.

There's an argument to be made that Torres would be better served putting a stop to mid-inning rallies, rather than saving him for the last three outs. There's also the possibility he was more lucky than good in 2016.

While he carried a season-long 2.73 ERA, his FIP was a full run higher at 3.75. A lot of that has to do with a lower-than-average BABIP of .260 opponents had against him last year, combined with some average walk rates. While he wouldn't be a bad pitcher with normalized numbers, he's also not likely the superstar reliever his surface numbers might hold him up to be.

In the end, Torres' argument is based more around results than process. Unlike Knebel or Barnes, he doesn't have great pure strikeout stuff, and his pitches may be a bit more hittable. Unlike Peralta, there's no idea of untapped potential to dream about, either. Torres is what he is at this point -- a "Mostly Fine" middle reliever who can possibly be solid in the 9th inning.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference