h2h Corner ~ Red Light District, the Closer Carousel

People seem to devalue closers in h2h leagues, viewing them as one-category wonders that can’t be trusted to either retain a job or post consistent saves from week-to-week. While the latter half of that statement might be true, that doesn’t mean closers have less (or no) value.

It’s important to remember that there is always safety in numbers. Rather than getting a few good closers, stockpile a number of decent closers. There is no reason to be carrying Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Paplebon as your only closers. I’d much rather own George Sherrill, Matt Capps, Fernando Rodney, and Huston Street, plus fringe-relievers like JP Howell and Ryan Madson – or you can substitute in Andrew Bailey, Rafael Soriano, David Aardsma…you get the point. To break it down further, for a 25-man roster you need to have at the least three closers, but hopefully five or six depending on the roster spots available.

You can guarantee that your team will win at least one category by accumulating fringe closers. Doing so means you only need to worry about winning five other categories. With a cadre of “below average” closers, you’ll have one step up on the competition because your team only has to win 5 categories out of 9 to take a week, whereas your opponent has to take 6 out of 9. It’s that simple. Build a strong base of closers and an average team can easily post a near .600 winning percentage.

You might be concerned about the ERA/WHIP ramifications of carrying crappy closers. I wouldn’t worry – you can pitch upwards of 80 – 90 IPs a week, so your starters will have more to say about your ratios than your motley crew of closers.

So, before your league mates figure this out, obtain cheap closers. Trade the Papelbons, Riveras, Bells, Nathans of the world for a combination of two lesser closers. In 5×5 h2h, there is really no such thing as a quality closer, only a quantity of closers.

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.


Tampa Bay Rays: It took awhile, but through futility (Balfour) and injury (Isringhausen), we finally have a leading candidate in the Rays’ pen. JP Howell, who is owned in just 18 percent of leagues, will likely get the bulk of saves chances, even if he is a lefty. Choate will continue to pick up the rogue save, so don’t drop him if you are in a deep league. Just to be careful, and cover your bases, don’t sleep on Winston Abreu. Abreu, according to MLB.com’s Bill Chastain, has been called up from AAA to replace Isringhausen. While in AAA, Abreu posted a 1.41 ERA, went 10/10 in save opportunities and struck out 49 batters in just 32 IPs. Depending on how things play out in the Rays’ pen, he could be a sneaky source of saves later in the year.

Philadelphia Phillies: According to Scott Lauber for the Delaware News Journal, Lidge played catch for ten minutes on Saturday and felt good enough to announce that “[he] can use everything [he has] in [his] body instead of trying to change [his] mechanics.” Still, “[b]oth pitching coach Rich Dubee and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. insist Lidge won’t be activated until the inflammation in his knee subsides.” Until that time, which is not currently in sight, Ryan Madson will be handed the ball in the 9th inning. Madson could be a very surprising closer for the bulk of the year.

Texas Rangers: As profiled last week, CJ Wilson should be owned. It is likely Francisco’s stint on the DL will end when he is eligible to come off, which is June 19 or so. Still, it doesn’t hurt to grab the oddly effective Wilson for the time being.

Houston Astros: I will now condone the dropping of LaTroy Hawkins. As stated last week, take a boy LaTroy.

If there is a fluke injury to a closer, please refer to the handy dandy closer chart below.


Background on the Closer Carousel:

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).

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