They do most of their work late at night, often after most upstanding fantasy managers have gone to bed. They necessitate early checking of box scores and Fantasy Baseball 101 to see if they secured the win for the home team. They are your average, everyday closers. And that is the best way to describe this Motley Crew – average. Any average reliever, if he’s asked to record the game’s final three outs, can make a half-way decent closer. So, you never pay for saves, which oddly enough is the first rule of closers.
We aren’t even a full month into the season, and yet we’ve seen closer upheavals akin to the confederates firing upon Fort Sumner. If you decided against drafting a closer, and instead shrewdly watched the waiver wire, your corps of firemen could consist of Fernando Rodney, Ryan Franklin, Scott Downs, Brad Ziegler and others. I’d be perfectly fine with them picking up enough saves to compete on a weekly basis.
Closers are a dicey proposition. I’d say why draft one at all, but some can provide useful Ks. Outside of these select few, you need to play the wire game. The wire game isn’t difficult, you do, however, have to be diligent. This requires staying super informed, and understanding the intricacies of every major league bullpen.
What to do when you win the Wire Game?
I’m glad, you asked. If you’re like me, you acted quickly to grab Rodney, Franklin, Downs, etc. Now, you are accumulating close to 10 saves a week, and winning the category by five to seven. While domination is fun, this isn’t helping your team. Take advantage of your situation and start talking to the other owners in your league – pair a good closer with a hitter to upgrade at one of your weaker positions.
The second rule of closers is always buy low and sell high. A save is a save; rarely will a reliever completely destroy your ERA/WHIP for a given week. So if you can trade a currently hot closer like Heath Bell for a currently slow closer like Jose Valverde, as well as an extra part, do it. Be careful with this particular trade, though, given Valverde’s health.
As always, trades can go either way. Even if you sell high on a guy that ends up with the most saves and your new closer puts up a goose egg, it’s not the end of the world. Remember, the waiver wire is always just one click away. That is, if you have a comprehensive knowledge of major league bullpens (or read this column).
Toronto Blue Jays: If you haven’t heard, Scott Downs is two-for-two in save opportunities. He is a must-own in all mixed leagues. Incumbent closer, BJ Ryan was ineffective then DL-ed. Downs can be the closer for the full season.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves have a closer two-step going on. Both Rafael Soriano (while healthy) and Mike Gonzalez (while healthy) will get saves based on the match-ups. Gonzalez will pitch in high leverage situations against lefties, while Soriano will get the other chances.
Houston Astros: What I wrote yesterday: Jose Valverde is unable to pitch in back-to-back games. Apparently, Valverde is now incapable of pitching in any games. This makes Latroy Hawkins the immediate pick-up for all Valverde owners, as well as for those of you who recently dropped Todd Coffey.
Nationals: Joel Hanrahan blew his third save in monumental fashion. He gave up a grand slam to Raul Ibanez in the bottom of the eighth in a two-run game. Garrett Mock – the Internet’s hot closer replacement – got the Nationals into trouble. The news came down yesterday that enough is enough! Hanrahan has been replaced by a hodgepodge of Julian Tavarez, Joe Beimel (DL), Kip Wells (yes, that one), and Saul Rivera. This could be one of those situations where Hanrahan gets his feet wet in middle relief, shows some good signs and is elevated back to the closer’s role because, frankly, none of those other options are at all appetizing. Hanrahan is droppable at the moment, but, unless youare in a deep league, I wouldn’t rush to pick up a potential replacemnet. I’d rather have Ryan Madson.
UPDATE: Tavarez received and converted the first save opportunity — he is the reliever to own in Washington.
Seattle Mariners: David Aardsma has three saves this year, largely because Brandon Morrow has a vaguely defined shoulder problem, which just happens to take three days to get better. So on those days when Morrow’s “chronic” problem is acting up, Aardsma will be in line for saves. He’s no Latroy Hawkins, but he’s decidedly ownable – I don’t know whether that was an insult or a compliment.
Baltimore Orioles: First Jim Leyland created the opening-day closer position. Now, my favorite manager, Dave Trembly, has dubbed Chris Ray the Orioles No. 2 closer. Odd? Well, Ray is better and younger than Sherrill. He can also pitch in back-to-back games. Ray should see a similar chance at saves that Aardsma does.
Philadelphia Phillies: Apparently, Brad Lidge is “day-to-day” “because of inflammation in his right knee.” While the problem occurs in the same knee which was under the knife twice in 2008, Lidge is “not overly concerned.” Still, Ryan Madson got the nod from Charlie Manuel to close the Phillies’ most recent game against the Nationals. Lidge owners should be rostering Madson immediately. Others can wait and see while grabbing some of the above closer prospects.
Kansas City Royals: There is something fishy going on in Kansas City. To quote Terry Hillman in the Kansas City Star, “We’ll see how [Soria] is [today].” “He might play catch again, he might not.” Playing catch is a long soft toss away from pitching in an actual game against major leaguers. Personally, I’m a concerned Soria owner. If you are looking for a saves uptick this week, try Juan Cruz, but don’t be surprised when (inconceivably) Kyle Farnsworth gets the first shot.
UPDATE:Juan Cruz got the most recent save for Kansas City. Cruz is a talented pitcher and could hold it down while Soria is injured. However, the game wasn’t supposed to be that close. Jamey Wright gave up some runs, so it is possible that Hillman was saving Farnsworth for a higher leverage situation. Still, Cruz is the better pitcher and should be able to hold it down.
Milwaukee Brewers: Trevor Hoffman is healthy and hasn’t blown a save all year – of course he hasn’t had a save opportunity yet. Given Milwaukee’s tendency to pick up old washed up closers, I don’t have great faith that Hoffman has much left. It doesn’t hurt to add Todd Coffey to your roster as he could be in line for a 10-15 save year.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Brian Fuentes has been horrible: 6.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in six innings. Scot Shields, somehow, has been worse: 10.8 ERA and 2.25 WHIP in 6.2 innings. At some point in his career, Jose Arredondo will be the closer. It might not be this year, though the way Fuentes/Shields are pitching anything is possible. If elevated to the closer role, Arredondo should make the most of it. His career line is 2.09 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 64 Ks in 69 innings.
Florida Marlins: Matt Lindstrom has been awful lately, posting a 10.8 ERA and 2.25 WHIP. He has, however, received a vote of confidence from manager Fredi Gonzalez. If you are in a deep league or own Lindstrom and none of the above are available, I’d roster Leo Nunez.
If there is a fluke injury to a closer, please refer to the handy dandy closer chart below.