I almost decided to rebrand this column “Aint no Other Man.” Instead, however, I have chosen to defer to Bob Dylan and Wag the Dog when they so famously said “why change horses in mid-stream?” Technically, this isn’t mid-stream; fantasy owners should know that we aren’t that far into the year. It is only May 20.
Still, I felt the need to pay homage to Christina Aguilera – mother of the year I mean, why should newcomer Katy Perry get a column named after her, while Christina has been cranking out hits since 1999. However, how could I let my vague woman-of-the-night fall by the wayside? Instead, I’ll just offer that my and your life is far better because of “Candy”, “Fighter,” “Keep Getting’ Better,” and “Ain’t no Other Man?”
Speaking of “Ain’t no Other Man,” does that remind anyone of closers? As in “you’re the kinda guy a [fantasy owner] finds in a blue moon/you got soul, you got class, you got style with your bad ass.” Doesn’t this scream Norm Charlton?
Closers 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 to 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 Trevor Hoffman for a currently slow closer like Joe Nathan, 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:
Seattle Mariners: As with any top prospect (ahem Ben McDonald), the Mariners haven’t closed the book on Morrow yet. According to newly anointed closer, David Aardsma, via MLB.com, “Brandon Morrow is the closer on this team…I’m just filling in for him.” That’s some nice camaraderie. Aardsma should be universally owned. Morrow, meanwhile, should be stashed if you can afford it. If he sorts himself out in middle relief, the team’s closer role will once again be his.
Kansas City Royals: Mystery surrounds Joakim Soria. According to MLB.com, Soria “did some throwing on Tuesday for the first time since he went on the disabled list May 10.” While that is positive news, it doesn’t sound like Soria is coming off the DL when he is eligible on Friday. People should hold onto Juan Cruz as he has been effective, even though only has one save.
Oakland A’s: I never really believed in Brad Ziegler and happily traded him early in the season. He has recently been really sick (in a bad way) and hasn’t pitched all that much (five IPs in the last 13 days). In that time span, both Michael Wuertz and rookie Andrew Bailey have converted saves. If you are chasing saves and can’t roster both relievers, I’d grab Bailey. Bailey is the better pitcher (31 Ks in 25 IPs, with a 1.42 ERA and a .83 WHIP) and has upside for the A’s being only 25 – so they are likely to enhance his value. Wuertz is no slouch, 18 Ks in 20 IPs with a 1.74 ERA and a .77 WHIP. However, he doesn’t represent the K-dominance that Bailey does. And, it doesn’t appear that Manager Bob Geren will help: “I’ve never really named a closer, I still haven’t, nor will I.”
UPDATE: Ziegler received and converted the save opportunity on May 20. This still could become a closer by committee, but Ziegler appears to be the top dog followed by Bailey, then Wuertz. Remember that just the night before Bailey threw 44 pitches.
Houston Astros: Apparently steady LaTroy slipped on some grass and hurt himself, so Chris Sampson (who really isn’t very good) converted a messy save on Sunday. If you are in a super deep league you might want to roster Sampson as he could get the inadvertent save. However, it looks like LaTroy is cleared to pitch again, according to the Houston Chronicle.
UPDATE: Chris Sampson got the save on May 20 because the Astros had a big ninth inning lead that Alberto Arias (no relation) tried to ruin. It was more a saving of LaTroy Hawkins for a high-leverage situation than Sampson ascending to the role. Don’t drop Hawkins or pick up Sampson (unless you are in a deep league).
Cleveland Indians: Kerry Wood has been messy lately (over his last four innings he has blown a save, allowed four runs, given up four hits and walked five). Still, the Indians gave him a huge contract and he has managed to strike out four batters in that span. If you’re in a deep league or need to handcuff, it is probably Rafael Betancourt. Wood, likely, has a very long leash though.
Pittsburgh Pirates: What to do with Matt Capps? Do you realize he has given up 10 runs in his last 7.2 IPs? In that span, he has isolated the damage as he has pitched 2.2 innings without giving up a run. Still, his season ERA sits at 7.62. Be thankful that the rest of the Pirates’ pen is doing their best Washington Nationals imitation. Tyler Yates has even hit the DL “because of inflammation in his pitching elbow,” according to the Beaver County and Alleghany Times. That leaves John Grabow – he of the 1.94 WHIP – who I wouldn’t be rushing to add. If you’re speculating and have a deep bench, why not. However, don’t think of inserting him into your starting lineup just yet. Another name to consider might be Tom Gorzelanny; however the “Pirates still think Gorzelanny can be a starter,” according to the Beaver County and Alleghany Times.
Washington Nationals: The swine flu of bullpens. You can stash Hanrahan, but, by all means, do not insert him into your starting lineup. He should earn the most saves for the Nats, but until he strings together a few solid frames, you’re better off not letting him hurt your ERA/WHIP.
If there is a fluke injury to a closer, please refer to the handy dandy closer chart below.