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 halfway decent closer. So, you never pay for saves, which, oddly enough, is the first rule of closers.
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 Ryan Franklin for a currently slow closer like Mariano Rivera, do it.
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:
Kansas City Royals: Soria hasn’t been particularly healthy all year. Now he is on the disabled list, retroactive to Friday. While there is not overt doom and gloom here, there is an uneasiness surrounding the injury. To quote Soria, “I think the better thing is to go on the DL, work hard on my shoulder and see what happens after 15 days.” “See what happens after 15 days” doesn’t sound promising. If you – or a leaguemate – haven’t already, you should pick up Juan Cruz right now. He is the best pitcher in their pen – it’s not like Kyle Farnsworth can do a Fernando Rodney impression, right?
Baltimore Orioles: Just when you thought George Sherrill was dead (he has been recently dropped in a ton of leagues and is currently owned in only 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues), he turned in a tidy week for a closer. He pitched three scoreless innings, secured one save, struckout three, and posted a 1.67 WHIP. No one else in Camden’s pen pitched as well, so that rope has slackened a bit. If Sherrill is available, you should scoop him up quickly.
Oakland Athletics: One week ago, I wrote that Brad Ziegler’s injury made this Michael Wuertz owner (it’s a 20-team league) very happy. Now, I’m not quite so happy, even though Ziegler self-assessed himself to be “probably two weeks away from being 100 percent.” Andrew Bailey has gotten the most recent save opportunities and he has been lights-out. In 21 innings, Bailey has posted a 1.27 ERA, a 0.61 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts. Still, if Bailey is unavailable and you need to speculate on saves, Wuertz is no slouch either (1.53 ERA and 0.68 WHIP, with 15 Ks in 17 innings).
Seattle Mariners: Brandon Morrow came off the DL to save a 5-3 game. Of course he made it a 5-3 game by giving up one run, walking two, and surrendering two hits in one inning of work. David Aardsma will likely get the occasional save and it’s not like Morrow has been automatic. In deep leagues, you don’t need to be dropping Aardsma just yet.
Atlanta Braves: Bobby Cox has always been a shrewd manager. On Sunday, with several teams dying for that last save to secure a h2h category victory, Cox turned to Mike Gonzalez in the eighth inning!!!! WTF, you might ask. Well, the ever-astute Cox realized that the Phillies were sending Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez to bat in the eighth. What do they have in common? They are devilishly left-handed. Gonzalez did his job, and Rafael Soriano secured the victory in the ninth. When healthy, Soriano is a great pitcher, so it won’t hurt to have him around your roster if you’re looking for a vulture save.
Washington Nationals: I’ve speculated that Joel Hanrahan would eventually be the Nationals closer of record. So far the rest of Hanrahan’s penmates (yes I made that up) have been pushing him into higher leverage roles, i.e. they have been bad. Hanrahan has allowed two runs in his last six innings, while posting five Ks, allowing nine hits and walking no one. Still, I wouldn’t be jumping to pick up Hanrahan over the guys listed above.
That’s about it for the latest closer upheaval. Ryan Franklin blew his first save of the season (is now 9/10), but I wouldn’t worry about it. La Russa loves him and he does have a 90 percent conversion rate (small sample size, what?).
If there is a fluke injury to a closer, please refer to the handy dandy closer chart below.