As Kevin Nealon said, “yeah, lot of pressure. You gotta rise above it. You gotta harness in the good energy, block out the bad. Harness. Energy. Block. Bad. Feel the flow, Happy. Feel it. It’s circular. It’s like a carousel. You pay the quarter, you get on the horse. It goes up and down and around. Circular. Circle. With the music. The flow… all good things.”
It is no different than with a majority of major league closers. Sure some are like violent roller coasters (Armando Benitez) and some are like the teacups (Mariano Rivera), but most are in the muddy middle. Thus introduces your weekly reliever mash-up.
Relievers you should be jumping on (in order):
Houston Astros – Matt Lindstrom has always had an issue with free passes – 3.7 per nine innings for his career, 4.6 last year. So far, he has kept his walk rate at 3.8, but has shown some bad signs of late. So far, in June, he has pitched 6.1 IPs and given up five walks. Not surprisingly, he has also given up five runs and seen his ERA balloon to 3.18 from 2.05. Meanwhile Brandon Lyon (he of the enormous incomprehensible contract) is walking fewer batters (3.3) and has pitched much better in June. In fact, he has only given up three runs since May 19, a span that includes 13.2 IPs. Lyon could, very well, be the next closer.
Baltimore Orioles – It has never been harder to be an Orioles fan, yet there are some promising aspects of the team. The bullpen, however, isn’t one of them. David Hernandez, a young promising pitcher (most likely suited for the bullpen) appeared to grab the closer’s role and run with it. That was until his poor performance on Friday: two runs and four hits to blow the save against the Padres. Then, Alfredo Simon got the next save chance on Saturday, and he, sort of, didn’t disappoint. He gave up one run, but otherwise secured the lead. Simon isn’t a long-term option and isn’t very good, so the role could, very well, go back and forth for the majority of the year. I’d rather have Hernandez because, at some point, the Orioles want to see what he can do. All of the above could be moot if Michael Gonzalez decides to pitch this year. Gonzalez has set out on a rehab assignment and could be ready around the All-star Break, according to the Baltimore Sun. The Orioles will want to feature him in the closer’s role to recoup some of the ridiculous payment they gave him in the off-season.
Chicago White Sox – Ozzie Guillen is temperamental. Recently, his temperament has focused on the most volatile aspect of a baseball team: the bullpen. While there is a real chance Bobby Jenks gets traded, the White Sox are also featuring other arms in the closer role. On June 20, JJ Putz was given the ball in the ninth and he secured the lead while striking out two. Putz also hasn’t allowed a run since May 11, a span that includes 13.2 IPs. During that time, he has only given up seven hits, while posting 16 Ks. Jenks hasn’t been great this year, but he hasn’t blown a lead since May 9. In addition, Jenks had made three appearances in the last 6 days, so Guillen likely wanted to give him the day off. The situation would be even cloudier if Sergio Santos and Matt Thornton haven’t posted bad months. For fantasy purposes, I’d rank Jenks first, then Putz, then Thornton. In the end, the Sox could end up trading both Jenks and Putz and splitting the save opportunities between Thornton and Santos
Pittsburgh Pirates – Octavio Dotel was only a temporary closer (aren’t they all?). If nothing else, Dotel has been consistently not good all year. Meanwhile Evan Meek has consistently dominated all season (0.68 ERA and 0.825 WHIP). In addition, Joel Hanrahan has thrown some good innings of late and sits with a 4.55 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, while striking out 46 in 29.2 IPs. There is, also, the hope that the Pirates can trade Dotel for anything. At the moment, I’d rather have Meek than Hanrahan, but be ready to pounce on both should Dotel get shipped off for some minor prospects.
Seattle Mariners – The Seattle and Pittsburgh situations are eerily similar. Both have expendable older closers who are being pushed by younger better relievers. In this case, David Aardsma hasn’t been good this season, while Brandon League has posted a 3.41 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. When the Marines officially give up, Aardsma is likely to be trade bait. At which point, League will become pretty valuable in fantasy circles.
If you need to grab a reliever in a pinch, check out the below bullpen hierarchies.
All stats as of June 21.