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).
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 CJ Wilson 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 closers 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: Somehow JP Howell is owned in only 36 percent of Yahoo! leagues. That is unconscionable. If he is available, go get him right now. In his last five appearances, Howell has one win, two saves, five Ks and just four walks and hits in 4.2 IPs. In deep leagues, Randy Choate should also be owned.
Toronto Blue Jays: Don’t overreact and add Jeremy Accardo at the expense of Jason Frasor. According to Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail, “Gaston failed to make a double-switch in the eighth inning when he brought Jason Frasor in the game and ended up using Rod Barajas to pinch-hit the next inning.” So, point of fact, Frasor was going to close the game. Frasor has the stuff and pedigree to close. Accardo sort of does do. There’s also that B.J. Ryan guy. Still, if I’m trolling for saves in the Jays’ pen I’m going to Frasor, then Accardo and then Ryan.
Los Angeles Dodgers: I didn’t think I’d cover the Dodgers, i.e. Jonathan Broxton in this column all year. After a disastrous weekend (four runs in 2.1 IPs), it is possible there are lingering issues with his toe injury. If you’re in a deep league or a Broxton owner, grabbing Ramon Troncoso would be a good idea.
Texas Rangers: I’d hold onto CJ Wilson, even though Frank Francisco is off the DL. Francisco’s first appearance was in a non-save opportunity and manager Ron Washington is on record saying he wants to ease Francisco into the position. In addition, it’s not like Francisco has been all that healthy this year. If Wilson was dropped, and you have room, he could make a nice add.
Philadelphia Phillies: I didn’t think Ryan Madson owners would be happy that Lidge will return from the DL later this week, yet they must be doing cartwheels. Since taking the closer position, Madson has done everything in his power to make Phanatic fans miss the roller coaster that is Brad Lidge. I’ll condone dropping Madson at this point.
If there is a fluke injury to a closer, please refer to the handy dandy closer chart below.
All stats as of June 22.
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