h2h Corner ~ Red Light District, 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).

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 bunch 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, Rafael Soriano, and Huston Street, plus fringe-relievers like JP Howell and Fernando Rodney – or you can substitute in Andrew Bailey, Leo Nunez, David Aardsma, Dan Meyer…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 will be in a much better position to 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 70 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.


Florida Marlins – Unfortunately, Matt Lindstrom is looking pretty good in is rehab assignment, according to the Miami Herald. That means the Marlins closer speculation might soon be over. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have both Nunez and Meyer on your squad. Both relievers have picked up saves (and Meyer has added a win) since Lindstrom hit the DL.

Washington Nationals – It wouldn’t be a closer carousel without mention of the Nationals. While MacDougal seems to be doing well (1.15 ERA and five saves), it is mostly an illusion. His ERA is shielded by three unearned runs. In addition, a healthy 1.47 WHIP belies a much worse ERA, and don’t forget his atrocious 7:11 K to walk ratio. I guess you should be stashing Joe Beimel. He’ll at least get the lefty closer chances and has a better K-rate and WHIP than MacDougal.

Detroit Tigers – Rodney has an unimpressive 4.25 ERA, but a usable 1.33 WHIP. Meanwhile, he has an impressive 17 saves with 30 Ks to 16 walks. Rodney took the loss by allowing a game winning homerun to Mike Jacobs on Monday. Still, Joel Zumaya has a 1.62 WHIP on the season and a 2.29 WHIP over his last 12.2 IPs. Leyland let Todd Jones, in 2007 earn 38 saves while posting a 4.26 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. Rodney seems safe.

Toronto Blue Jays – According to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, Downs had a good bullpen session. Still Downs said “It’s looking like it could be three days, it still could be a week, it should be two weeks, I don’t know.” Downs could be good to go in a few days days or so. Enjoy Jason Frasor while it lasts.

UPDATE: Scott Downs has been activated from the DL and BJ Ryan has been released as of July 8, 2009. Frasor could get a couple more save chances as Downs eases into his “high-leverage” role, so don’t jettison him right away.

Trade Bait: much like if there is a fluke injury, you should understand the chart below. If you’re in a deeper league, you should probably handcuff the following closers as the trade deadline approaches (the appropriate handcuff is listed below):

  1. George Sherrill
  2. Matt Capps
  3. Huston Street
  4. Kerry Wood
  5. Bobby Jenks
  6. Chad Qualls

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


All stats as of July 7.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mark levin on July 8, 2009 at 8:35 am

    if you list the guys to handcuff specifically, you may as well list the handcuff next to the one in question. and lindstrom will be out almost as soon as he is back in.

    and at least quote your source, matthew berry, for the quote never pay for saves. he had that about 15 years ago.


  2. Thanks for the idea to streamline my column.

    I agree that Lindstrom is a roller coaster, but, so far, Fredi has stayed steadfast in him being the closer. The fact that neither Meyer nor Nunez took the position “and ran with it” seems to suggest Lindstrom will get the same leash.

    As for the talented mr. roto, i was unaware that this colloquialism was started by him. I had not read him much until he joined with ESPN and before that time i had heard the mantra, so i assumed it was just a general saying. I’ll be sure to give him due credit in the future.


  3. Posted by Evan Rosen on July 8, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    I don’t think there’s any reason to give Matthew Berry credit for stating “never pay for closers.” That was a strategy that came about long before Matthew Berry started writing about fantasy baseball. While he is the most famous proponent of the strategy, I think it is a fairly generic saying and cannot be attributed solely to him.

    Another great article, Albert. I always enjoy reading them.


  4. […] pitchers have more saves then they do? Three (Fuentes, Bell and Rivera). This illustrates my point about closers: trade Nathan or Broxton or Rivera for Brian Fuentes and a hitter. You can really maximize your […]


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