Closers Continue to Cause Angst for Fantasy Owners

by Eddie Mayrose

Last August, I wrote a column that was, essentially, a letter to my 2012 Draft-Day self, beseeching caution on a number of fronts where, in the past, a blind eye had served to bite me in the butt during the season.

Luckily, I included that column as part of my Draft Prep last month and skirted the biggest pitfall- Closers.  Highlighting the line: “No matter how often we hear that Saves are Fantasy Baseball’s most unreliable statistic, it’s difficult to pass on established closers” , I remained patient and didn’t reach early.  That pearl of wisdom, seemingly obvious, was unfortunately ignored by many once the first two or three relievers came off the board.

Think about it.  The “Closer Run” is the first in any draft, as some Fantasy Owners scurry like frightened deer to grab recognizable names three and four rounds earlier than their statistics/opportunity/reliability dictate.  And, every year, many of these guys spend April bemoaning the fact that their selections have gotten out of the gate slowly, or, worse, performed poorly enough to lose the job.

The first two weeks of the 2012 campaign have followed the annual script, with as many as ten teams uncertain about the role or being forced to show patience with their struggling stoppers. While this ambiguity may be a headache for the likes of Bobby Valentine, it’s an opportunity for Fantasy Owners to add 20+ Saves to the statistics through judicious use of the waiver wire. Here’s a quick, Moonlight synopsis of how some of these situations might play out.

San Francisco-  With Brian Wilson likely out for the season, the Giants have no option but the always ill-fated “Closer by Committee” system. Of the candidates, the favorite to receive the most opportunities is Santiago Casilla,who was 6 out of 7 in 2011 when Wilson was out.

Detroit & Miami- Even though Jose Valverde and Heath Bell have each blown two saves over the season’s first ten days,(and looked terrible in doing so), neither is in danger of losing his job.  Valverde, who was a perfect 49 for 49 for the Tigers in 2011, has built up enough credit with Jim Leyland to dissuade the manager from making a change, while the Marlins are locked into Bell by virtue of the big contract he signed over the winter.

Toronto- Sergio Santos never could win over the White Sox brain trust during his stay in Chicago, prompting his trade to the Blue Jays. He’s currently sporting an ERA and WHIP that would get him demoted on my son’s Little League team.  With an established closer like Francisco Cordero in the same bullpen, Santos is on a short leash.

Washington- With the news that Drew Storen will likely be out until the All Star break, Nats’ fans are becoming familiar with the anxiety experienced by Phillies’ faithful over the last few years whenever Brad Lidge was called into a game.  Lidge has split two outings, looking good in the first and abysmal in the second.  That inconsistency will probably open the door for Henry Rodriguez and his 100 MPH heater, as Davey Johnson is unlikely to move the reliable Tyler Clippard from the set-up role.

Texas- Joe Nathan has long been a Moonlight favorite, so it pains us to watch him struggle.  We still think that Nathan will work his way back from TJ surgery, but, if he doesn’t, the Rangers will probably turn to Mike Adams.

Boston- Alfredo Aceves has become a symbol of the discord between Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and manager Bobby Valentine.  Bobby V wanted Aceves as part of his rotation while Cherington demanded that career-reliever Daniel Bard be inserted as the fourth starter.  As each continues to struggle in his new job, look for Valentine to impose his will and turn to Bard.

Kansas City- Jonathan Broxton is a two time All Star with little competition in the Royals’ bullpen now that Joakim Soria is gone for the year.  Even after a 2 BB, 2 HBP meltdown vs. Oakland, KC manager Ned Yost declared that Broxton is his man. Not knowing what, specifically, caused Broxton’s fall from grace in Los Angeles. we’re a little less confident, and might take a look at Greg Holland.

Cleveland- When Chris Perez went down with an oblique injury during Spring Training, it was thought he wouldn’t be ready for the Tribe’s opener.  He wasn’t, as he got cuffed around in his 2012 debut.  He’s 2 for 2 since, but we really think that Vinnie Pestano is the better pitcher, and will eventually take the job.

Chicago Cubs- If you already have Carlos Marmol, you know that his Saves will be accompanied by horrific peripheral stats.  You’re stuck, though, as Kerry Wood is the only option for the Cubbies.  He’s almost as bad.

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