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):
Milwaukee Brewers – Up until yesterday, Trevor Hoffman had pitched three scoreless innings in a row. Unfortunately, he couldn’t maintain the momentum as he gave up three runs in just one inning last night. Of course, on the year, his WHIP is still north of 2.00 and ERA is comfortably in the double digits. Meanwhile, John Axford has recorded two saves and has struck out 13 batters in eight innings. He has posted a much more friendly 2.25 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. While I think the Brewers will give Hoffman every opportunity to pursue save 600, his complete ineptitude might prohibit him from doing his Joe Borowski impression. Axford is a good add right now as someone who could maintain the closer role
Toronto Blue Jays – Kevin Gregg is happy to see May go away (5.11 ERA and 1.95 WHIP). Unfortunately, his struggles are following him (one could say they have followed him throughout his career), as he blew a save in spectacular fashion going only 0.2 IPs, while walking FIVE, allowing one hit and four runs. Meanwhile, since a disastrous start, Jason Frasor has been good. He has lowered his ERA to 4.64 and WHIP to 1.69. While those aren’t great, they are light years better then where they were at the end of April (8.38 ERA and 2.59 WHIP). Still, the best Blue Jays reliever has been lefty Scott Downs. He sports a 2.96 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Even though he is a lefty, I’d prefer to have Downs if I am speculating for saves in Toronto. When in doubt, take the best arm and that is certainly Downs.
Philadelphia Phillies – Apparently the fountain of youth is a move to the bull pen in the National League as Jose Contreras has been super dominant (0.56 ERA and 0.75 WHIP). Unfortunately, Charlie Manuel seems to believe that Brad Lidge is both healthy and effective (he hasn’t been either for 1.5 years). According to Matt Gelb, “We’ll work him in,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Lidge. “I’m not going to say how long it’s going to be. It probably won’t be very long.” JC Romero’s usefulness has ended. Keep Contreras around for awhile, as Lidge is not far away from a bad outing or DL-stint.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Chad Qualls hasn’t been any good all year – neither have the other arms in the bullpen. If you own Qualls or need to speculate, Aaron Heilman, while imperfect, is the addition here.
Chicago White Sox – The White Sox are 8.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins. No one outside the AL East is earning the Wild Card. Soon the White Sox will be sellers. Clearly Bobby Jenks can be moved as the Sox have two viable replacements in Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos. Both have pitched well this year and sport K/9 rates over 10. Thornton has seven years on Santos. So, long-term, the White Sox will want to see if Santos has the stuff to be their closer of the future. I say Santos will get the most save opportunities down the stretch (when the White Sox are out of it). However, if they stay in the race, the Sox could split time between Santos and Thornton, with Thornton getting heavy lefty line-ups. Either way, Santos should get the most save opportunities, if Jenks gets dealt.
If you need help with a snap closer decision, check out the below hierarchy of middling relievers.
All stats as of June 1.