The 36-year old veteran has been one trade that has worked out well for Boston, particularly given the timing of it. The Red Sox acquired Ziegler just before Kimbrel was placed on the disabled list with a knee injury expected to sideline him 3-6 weeks.
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Ziegler has been great so far, tossing 4 shutout innings and allowing only one base runner. His sidearm delivery and pitch-to-contact approach don’t fit the usual blueprint of a closer, but he comes with experience in the role. Ziegler converted 18-of-20 save opportunities this season for the Arizona Diamondbacks and boasts 81 career saves on his resume.
The one concern that stands out is Ziegler’s penchant for allowing base runners, which could prove problematic in a tight game. He issues too many free passes, with a 3.2 BB/9 that has inflated his WHIP to 1.35 this season. Among American League closers with at least 10 saves this season, only Shawn Tolleson has a higher WHIP and the Texas Rangers removed him from the ninth inning months ago.
The number of base runners is troubling, but Ziegler’s ability to induce double-plays helps mitigate that concern. He gives up a lot of contact, but by keeping the ball down in the zone he has managed to keep most of the hits that get through the defense to a single. Ziegler has allowed only one home run and nine extra-base hits in 42.1 innings this year.
Based on a combination of experience and productivity this season, Ziegler appears to be the best option to use in the closer role until the Red Sox get Kimbrel or Uehara back.