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):
Philadelphia Phillies – According to Todd Zolecki and Zach Schonbrun, Brad Lidge wants to return early next week. He will, likely, throw a few bullpen sessions later this week or over the weekend. If those go well, he could very well be back in the majors and closing. Is that a good thing? Who knows? I might as well ask what the sideways flash was in Lost (I’d get more consensus, anyway). Anyway, Jose Contreras should be rostered everywhere. In addition, those in deeper leagues should kick the tires on JC Romero. He’ll get opportunities against lefty-heavy line-ups. As they say, a save by any other name is just a save.
Milwaukee Brewers – It looked like Carlos Villanueva was all set to take the closer’s job and run with it. However, he blew his most recent save opportunity, giving up one run, four hits and two walks in just two innings. This opened the door for John Axford, a 27 year-old rookie, to attempt to close out a game. The flamethrower did just that by striking out the side. Unfortunately, in between Ks, he allowed one run, three hits and a walk. Clearly he didn’t completely seize the opportunity. I still think Villanueva is the top dog for the moment. Still, Axford is definitely rosterable. Nevertheless, if Trevor Hoffman can string together a few decent middle relief appearances he’ll be back in the saddle again. I’d rank them (in terms of save opportunities going forward): Hoffman, Villanueva and Axford.
Arizona Diamondbacks – the only good thing about the Diamondbacks bullpen this year has been Aaron Heilman. Heilman has a 3.44 ERA, and 1.10 WHIP. He is keeping his walks down this year to levels similar to his successful 2006 and 2007 campaigns, something that he hasn’t been capable of over the last two seasons. With Juan Gutierrez being horrible and Chad Qualls struggling, Heilman very well could get some save opportunities.
Baltimore Orioles – Alfredo Simon hasn’t really been good as the closer, but it’s hard to say he’s been “bad” in a traditional sense. He has blown only one save and pitched as admirably as someone can with a 1.54 WHIP. Koji Uehara, who has been manning the eighth inning for the Orioles, might be headed to the DL, reports Britt Ghiroli. This is important, as Simon left his last outing after tweaking a hamstring. As reported by Dan Connolly at the Baltimore Sun, “Simon said the strained left hamstring that forced him out of the 10th inning of Sunday’s game with the Washington Nationals shouldn’t sideline him for an extended period.” In the interim, Cla Meredith is the add. However he is horrible. Only in super deep leagues where you aren’t worried about your ratios should you add him. Keep an eye on Will Ohman. He is a lefty and could get the saves against lefty-heavy line-ups. He also hasn’t allowed a run all year, whereas Meredith allowed the game winning run yesterday. In other horrible Orioles reliever news, Roch Kubatko of School of Rock has reported that Mike Gonzalez threw an extended spring training outing, tossing 19 pitches and 11 strikes. He’ll get the keys to the closer job once he is healthy. The Orioles are simply too invested in him.
[UPDATE] It appears everyone realizes Cla Meredith is not good. So most of those in the know are speculating that Will Ohman will be the Orioles interim closer. For instance, Orioles Insider’s Jeff Zrebeic thinks so. This is a moving target — even David Hernandez or Frank Mata could earn saves. For now, I don’t think you have to worry about Meredith. Ohman is the proper add.
So, I rank these splendid relievers: Lidge, Hoffman, Gonzalez, Contreras, Simon, Villanueva, Romero, Axford, Meredith, Ohman, Hernandez, Mata, and Heilman.
All stats as of May 24.