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.
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 to be able to pluck the next closer from the free agent pool quickly.
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 Matt Capps, plus an extra part, do it. Be careful as Capps just had his elbow bitten by the injury bug.
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). The order below presents a hierarchy of which bullpens you should be monitoring right now. It is subject to change as the wind doth blow. Voila:
Colorado Rockies: Huston Street is back in the saddle again. Manny Corpas, meanwhile, isn’t even close to ownable right now, and, in fact, could be sent to the minors any day. Huston Street, not Jason Street, should be universally owned.
Seattle Mariners: David Aardsma has three saves this year, largely, at first, because of Brandon Morrow’s vaguely defined shoulder problem. Now, Morrow has been put on the DL because of a “chronic” problem. Aardsma will be in line for plenty of saves throughout the year and should be owned universally.
Houston Astros: Speaking of closers going on the DL, Valverde hit the shelf over the weekend and could be out three weeks. I like to make a lot of fun of Hawkins history of not finishing off games. However, I bought him in my most important league. He is off to a good start, converted his first save successfully and could get some good saves.
Baltimore Orioles: Last week, Chris Ray was anointed the Orioles No. 2 closer. This week, Dave Trembly said some discouraging things about incumbent closer, George Sherrill. “[I]t could be a “day-by- day” decision on who gets the ball in a save situation,” Trembly told the Baltimore Sun. Ray is better and younger than Sherrill. He can also pitch in back-to-back games. Still, be mindful of Danys Baez – sometimes managers like those that have a history of successfully closing (although why that would hurt Ray is beyond me). There is also Jim Johnson, who posted a 2.23 ERA last year, but with only 38 Ks in 68 innings. Put simply it’s a big fat mess.
Washington Nationals: Speaking of big fat messes and the beltway, Julian Tavarez successfully closed his first game, and then turned in a stinker in a non-save appearance. According to FB 101’s player news, the Nats recently signed Mike McDougal. Recently, I speculated that eventually Hanrahan might get the role back. At this point, I can’t endorse any reliever in the pen. Pay attention to the situation, but don’t buy anyone in 10-team mixed.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Capps, who has been horrible lately (giving up six runs over his last two innings while blowing one save), is sidelined for a few days with a “real sharp pain” in his elbow, which is actually a bruised bone and some fluid, according to Jennifer Langosch at MLB.com. In the interim, the closing duties will likely be a platoon between John Grabow and Tyler Yates. Yates, the right hander, would likely get more chances – he did strikeout 63 batters in 73 innings last year. However this year he has posted a 7.56 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. Similarly, John Grabow the southpaw, struckout 62 batters in 76 innings last year. So far, Grabow has a 2.84 ERA but a 1.74 WHIP. Capps did miss a few months last year so this could linger, but the other options won’t be kind on your ratios.
Oakland Athletics: Brad Ziegler made this Michael Wuertz owner (it’s a 20-team league) very happy this weekend. Apparently he had that flu that’s been going around. Ziegler appears set to pitch; however his absence made clear that, for the moment, Michael Wuertz is the necessary handcuff.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Brian Fuentes continues to be horrible, posting a 7.00 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in nine innings. Meanwhile, Jose Arredondo has a career line of 2.32 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 73 Ks in 73 innings. In 2009, he has 18 Ks in 12.2 innings. He is the next K-Rod. It is only a matter of time.
If there is a fluke injury to a closer, please refer to the handy dandy closer chart below.