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Put That Coffee Down! Coffee Is Closers Only: Top 5 Closers Projected For 2013

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Tuesday February 12th, 2013

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Fernando Rodney had one of the best seasons for a reliever in baseball history in 2012. It will be interesting to see if he can build on his strong season in 2013.

MLB Reports:

From the movie Glengarry Glen Ross came one of the most compelling scenes ever – when Alec Baldwin took the stage in an office setting – spewing out some of the greatest and powerful insults over a failing sales crew that included Jack Lemmon and Ed Harris.  In the scene, Baldwin himself is a powerful corporate executive that has been sent down to yell at these guys – from the powers to be of the operation.  At the beginning  point in Alec Baldwin’s lecture, old sales veteran (Lemmon) goes for a cup of coffee. Baldwin yells out “Put the coffee Down!  Coffee is for closers! 

The same can be said for closers that are not doing the job in nailing down games.  Many teams have bullpens that blow games at the most inopportune times.  Nothing is as deflating as losing a lead in the late Innings.  It is bad for team moral, the players and managers try to not play the blame game, however it is a tough pill to swallow when your team can’t close down baseball leads….  Just like the guys in Glengarry Glen Ross the movie couldn’t.  After you view this clip, you can move past it and read on who the best players that nail down victories.  The last part of the speech also works:  A.B.C.:  Always Be Closing.  It is Close or hit the bricks!  Great movie BTW…

Glengarry Glen Ross – Explicit Language so Parental Guidance is advised (Not for the Weak Of Heart):

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Ryan Madson and Edwin Jackson: Free Agent Gambles That Became Scott Boras Blunders

Monday November 12th, 2012

Jake Dal Porto: There isn’t a single general manager is baseball that enjoys negotiating with Scott Boras, the man behind many of baseball’s top players. He usually gets his way when the final dominos fall, but he isn’t perfect. Edwin Jackson and Ryan Madson are two examples of Boras’s flawed work of late.

Here’s how they have and will be affected in free agency:

How Edwin Jackson Will Be Affected

Jackson seems to be the MLB’s definition of a journeyman. With ten years under his belt, he has pitched on seven teams, and not once has he signed a contract worth longer than three years. Jackson had an opportunity to erase that trend last off-season with several long-term deals at his disposal. However, Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal noted last winter that instead of taking the safe route, he could roll the dice and shoot for a larger contract next winter, which is now this winter. Jackson followed Rosenthal’s blueprint, signing a one-year deal with the Nationals worth $11 million. Read the rest of this entry

2012 Top Ten MLB Saves Leaders

Monday October 8th, 2012

Sam Evans: With the 2012 regular season completed, bullpens will become even more important during the postseason. Closers in particular will be under more pressure than usual during these next few weeks. Before these pitchers make a name for themselves in the postseason, let’s admire what the top closers in baseball did during the 2012 regular season.  Some closers helped many fantasy teams, and their real-life teams, by their outstanding performances in the ninth inning. Here is a look at the top ten closers in baseball this past year in terms of saves:

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Aroldis Chapman: The Best Closer in Baseball?

Thursday September 13th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  Aroldis Chapman has had an unbelievable season for a closer. He has gone 5-5 with a miniscule 1.60 ERA and 119 strikeouts. And, he has only pitched 67.2 innings. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings is 15.8. That would mean that if he were to start, he would strike out more than half the batters he would face if he went the distance. Chapman has established himself as a dominant pitcher, and with Mariano Rivera on his way out, is “the Cuban Missile” the best closer in baseball?

When the Reds signed Aroldis Chapman, they had intentions to make him a starter. Many thought he would be very successful with the plus fastball that he already had, along with other, developing pitches. Chapman spent his first two years towards the back of the bullpen, but not as a closer. He was a bit wild and had not completely gotten control of his ridiculous 103 mph fastball. Even with some of these flaws, Chapman showed major closer potential. He had no problem striking batters out, he had an out pitch, and he had a decent ERA. His only major issue was walks. In his second season—his first full—Chapman walked 41 in 50 innings. If he would make it as a closer, he would have to gain control and make adjustments.

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2012 MLB Trade Deadline Update 7/23: Dempster, Blue Jays, Astros, and More

Monday July 23rd, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: As the trade deadline looms, teams are scrambling to make a final buy or sell in order to push toward the playoffs. Some teams are trying to get value out of their soon-to-be free agents while other teams are rebuilding. Here are some of the big deals that have gone down in the past few days:

Blue Jays and Astros—10 player deal. Big names: J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, Ben Francisco, Francisco Cordero, Carlos Perez

The Astros are obviously in their rebuilding phase. Last year, they gave up Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, and the year before they gave up Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Earlier this year, Carlos Lee went to the Marlins for top prospect Matt Dominguez and others.  More recently Brett Myers went to the White Sox for minor league pitchers and J.A. Happ went to the Blue Jays along with relievers Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter for Ben Francisco, Francisco Cordero, and other prospects in a ten-player trade. With these deals this year, the Astros have removed virtually all big names from the team. Not to say that J.A. Happ was a big name player, but he was a well-regarded pitcher that the Phillies gave up in the Roy Oswalt trade. Also given up by the Astros is former closer Brandon Lyon. He gave up the closer role to Brett Myers this year, but he does have the capability to serve in the back-end of a bullpen. Read the rest of this entry

Aroldis Chapman’s Unbelievable Start: Star Closer or Future Starter?

Thursday June 7th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: As the season winds on and we begin to approach the All Star break, many players who had hot starts have come back to reality.  The Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman, however, has not. In 24 games this season, the native of Cuba has given up only seven hits and yielded just one run (unearned) in 29 innings pitched. He posts a 52:9 strikeout to walk ratio—which translates to a ridiculous 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Against Chapman, hitters are hitting a miniscule .076. He has officially been named the Reds’ closer and has recorded six saves. If he could sustain these numbers, Chapman could be a legitimate Cy Young candidate (even as a reliever).

The Reds initially planned to use Chapman as a starter, while letting him adjust to the major leagues pitching out of the bullpen his first year, like many rookies. He was dazzling as he threw upwards of 100 miles per hour (even hitting 103), and was kept in the bullpen. This year, rather than being moved to the rotation, he was designated the closer and has excelled. After performing in this role, it seems like he is destined to stay. Chapman has all of the qualities of a closer, and on top of those, he is left-handed, which gives him an even bigger advantage due to the scarcity of left-handed closers. Read the rest of this entry

First Week of the 2012 MLB Season is in the Books: Fantasy Baseball Thoughts

Tuesday April 10th, 2012

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): What an interesting first week of baseball, in both the real and fantasy world. What jumps out most to me; however, is the proof that you should never overpay for closers. Saves can be had on the waiver wire, which Hector Santiago, Fernando Rodney, Henry Rodriguez, and Brad Lidge each demonstrated in the season’s first week. Last week, if you recall, I told you to grab Alfredo Aceves as well as Lidge and Rodriguez. Although Aceves has struggled as closer (except for his save last night in Toronto), his value skyrocketed when he was named the closer and I was able to flip him for John Danks. In a surprise move, rookie manager Robin Ventura named rookie Hector Santiago closer for the White Sox. I had monitored this situation since spring training and owned Santiago. Again, as soon as he was named closer I traded him as well- this time for DL’d Tim Hudson. So, after a draft in which I was left thin in pitching, within one week I was able to add Hudson and Danks for two waiver pickups, to join Dan Haren, Matt Cain, Wandy Rodriguez, and Bartolo Colon for a now very formidable starting staff in a 15-team league. The point is: people will overpay for saves, especially as guys go down with injuries. Do your best to capitalize while you can!


On the same note, take advantage of some of the old timers or well-known players who are off to a good start. For instance, Rafael Furcal is off to a blazing start, and is a great add. At the top of the Cardinals lineup, he can be a great source for runs and stolen bases. With his name recognition, he might also be able to net you some great value. Chone Figgins fits this mold as well, but he has been so horrendous the past few seasons, it is tough to expect much of anything from him. A definite buy-low candidate.


What has really surprised me after the first week, are the surprise starting pitchers. There are a lot of intriguing names more than likely available on your waiver wire. Filling in for Chris Carpenter, Lance Lynn dominated the Brewers lineup and I actually expect him to pitch himself into the rotation even when Carpenter returns. Likewise, Jeff Samardzija had a great 2012 debut start with the Cubs and could be a great matchup starter. With 11 strikeouts and 8 1/3 innings against San Diego, Chad Billingsley reverted back to his old form. Perhaps he can put his 2011 struggles behind him…or just maybe the Padres lineup can make any pitcher look good.


Although we are only a week into the season, Matt Kemp is already trying to prove that 2011 was no fluke. Maybe he can repeat his MVP-like season. Another consensus top-five player, Miguel Cabrera looks primed for a huge year with a solid first week, and his value will truly rise to another level when he gains 3B eligibility in a few days. A slow start for Albert Pujols with the Angels, but I expect him to breakout in a big way, perhaps on the big stage against the Yankees this weekend. Oh, and Eric Hosmer is the real, real, real deal. He could easily finish as a top-ten player this year and is a legit five-category stud at just 22 years of age.


That’s all for this week! Remember, the season is just one week old, but you can use it to your advantage. Be active on the waiver wires and with trades, and if can make an upgrade, or what you would have thought was an upgrade during your draft two weeks ago, go ahead and do it!

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein)***

 

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Spring Training is Almost Finished: Final Roster Decisions for Your 2012 Fantasy Baseball Team

Monday April 2nd, 2012


Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): The 2012 fantasy baseball season kicked off this past week with the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners two game set in Japan. What can we learn from this series? Even in a hitter friendly park, neither of these teams can really hit. They will both struggle to score runs all year. Therefore, Bartolo Colon will have a lot of value pitching in the friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum. Colon needs to be owned in all leagues, because he proved he still has something left in the tank last year. He is a must start option anytime he faces the Mariners and in most instances he pitches at home. The same is true with teammate Brandon McCarthy, who could perform to a near ace level this season. However, he does have an injury past, which also goes without saying with the old and portly Bartolo Colon. I also think this short series spoke volumes about the potential of Dustin Ackley, who can quickly emerge as a top ten option at second base.


With only two regular season games to reflect upon, let’s take a closer look at the end of spring training and its fantasy relevance. Henry Rodriguez is most likely available in your league, and the 100mph flamethrower will have the opportunity to close games as Drew Storen begins the season the disabled list. In 10 spring training innings, Rodriguez has allowed just four hits, but more importantly struck out nine batters compared to only two walks. The strike zone was the problem in 2011, when he still posted respectable numbers. But he seems to have found better control of the plate. He could be deadly and Zumaya-like. He should provide great value for strikeouts, and is great insurance for Storen owners, as I would not even be surprised to see him assume the closer role at some point during the 2012 season. Read the rest of this entry

Ask the Reports: ATR Answers Your Baseball Questions – March 25th, 2012

Sunday March 25th, 2012



Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@me.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week: Read the rest of this entry

For Whom the Bell Tolls: Can Heath Bell Keep the Magic Alive in Miami?

Wednesday February 22nd, 2012

Sam Evans: Over the last three seasons, Heath Bell has recorded more saves than anyone in baseball. Whenever the Padres had a late-inning lead they could rely on Bell to shut the door. In 2011, Bell got the job done in San Diego once again. He tallied 43 saves in 48 opportunities. Unfortunately, he didn’t pitch in as dominant of a fashion as we are used to seeing from Bell. His strikeout and line drive percentages both were askew from the standards we are used to seeing from him. In 2012, Bell will have to rekindle his previous success, in order to continue his triumph as one of the games premier closers Read the rest of this entry

Those Clutch Guys: A Preview of the American League Closers in 2012

Wednesday February 1st, 2012

Sam Evans: Closing ballgames takes confidence, skill, and experience. There are select players that have earned the closer role at the highest level possible. These players come in all shapes and sizes, with diverse backgrounds. 

Without further adieu, here are the closers for all fourteen American League teams:

New York Yankees: The Yankees have had the same closer for the last fifteen years. That is by far the longest stretch of any closer with their current team. Arguably the most successful closer of all time, Mariano Rivera has constructed his whole career around one pitch.

Rivera’s cutter is simply dominant. He breaks more bats than any other closer in the league, and he knows where to throw it to specific hitters. Even at 42 years old, hitters know what’s coming but still have no chance of making solid contact. In 2011, Rivera had a 1.91 ERA and he recorded 44 saves. Mariano Rivera still has at least five more years closing out games. The Yankees should be content with him as their closer for as long as he wants to pitch.

Tampa Bay Rays: Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth had a surprisingly effective 2011. Coming into the year, he was expected to compete with young prospect Jake McGee for the closer role. Farnsworth stole the show and was Tampa’s closer for the whole season. He posted a 2.18 ERA in 2012, along with 25 saves. It was a nice bounce back year for the once overpaid, angry reliever.

The Rays picked up the fiery reliever’s option for 2012, so he will likely retain his job as the Rays’ closer. However, if Farnsworth can’t get the job done, Joel Peralta or Fernando Rodney (87 career saves) will step in.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox bullpen has had a perplexing offseason so far. They let their closer leave in free agency and they moved two of their other best relievers to the rotation. Now, they’ll be trusting a young, former Rookie of the Year, who hasn’t thrown fifty innings since 2009. I think the Red Sox made the right move by letting Jonathan Papelbon walk, but I don’t see the benefit in moving Daniel Bard to their rotation.

Moving from Oakland to Boston, Andrew Bailey will have to learn to deal with constant criticism and media pressure. He’ll go from pitching in front of 10,000 people every night to almost 40,000. It’s impossible to quantify how much of an impact that will have on Bailey, but it’s got be at least a small factor.

The Red Sox will have a strong bullpen, despite which of their relievers end up in their rotation. Besides Bard, the Red Sox also acquired Mark Melancon who could see time as Boston’s closer. Melancon isn’t as good of a pitcher as Bailey, but he is still a strong option for late-inning relief.

I’m not high on Bailey and I see him having issues in 2012. Bailey relies too heavily on his fastball and his curveball was not effective last year. If he succeeds in Boston, then the Red Sox will look like geniuses for trading for him. If he struggles, then new General Manager Ben Cherington will have some questions to answer about the future of this bullpen. (I wrote more about the Red Sox bullpen here.)

Toronto Blue Jays: With the abundance of closers on the market, Toronto went out and got their closer of the present and future, in Sergio Santos. They had to give up Nestor Molina, a young starting pitching prospect, but they scored Santos and his team-friendly contract.

Since being converted from shortstop to pitcher a couple of years ago, Sergio Santos has molded into a top-notch closer. In my opinion, he has the second best slider in baseball. (Braves closer Craig Kimbrel gets a slight edge.)

The Blue Jays have a fairly strong bullpen and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos could always trade for more bullpen pieces. Rebuilding Toronto’s major league team is going to take a couple of years and right now the bullpen appears to be the least of their worries.

Baltimore Orioles: Jim Johnson emerged as a star for the Orioles in 2011. The twenty-eight year old reliever threw ninety innings but recorded only nine saves. The Orioles leader in saves last year was Kevin Gregg with 22 saves. This was surprising considering Gregg wasn’t even one of the Orioles top three relievers.

I’ve been a huge fan of Pedro Strop ever since he was with the Rangers organization. The twenty-six year old had a 2.62 FIP in 2011, and the Orioles have implied he’ll be their setup man in 2012. With Johnson, Gregg and Strop all gunning for the Orioles closer job in 2012, they’ll definitely have competition throughout the year. I’d expect Johnson to get the most saves, but Strop could have a breakout season as a 9th inning superstar.  Plus Alfredo Simon could always get hot and take back the role if he fails as a starter.

Detroit Tigers: For the Tigers, having a closer they can trust to close out games in 2012 will be huge. The Tigers are going to have plenty of late-inning leads, thanks to a strong pitching staff and a powerful offense. Jose Valverde has been the Tigers closer for the last two years and he’s excelled at the back of the Detroit bullpen.

Papa Grande took a step forward in 2011. He saved 49 saves in just as many opportunities in 2012. His electric (and to a lesser extent, annoying) personality provides a spark at the end of Tigers games.

Valverde will be back in 2012 and will help Detroit down the stretch as they look to make a run at the World Series.

Chicago White Sox: The White Sox no longer have a clear closer after trading Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays. Now, their bullpen will rely on the flame-throwing lefty Matt Thornton and rookie Addison Reed.

Matt Thornton had a rough 2011. He lost his closer job to a former shortstop and saw his strikeout rates plummet. In 2010, he struck out 12.02 batters per nine innings. In 2011, he saw that rate drop to 9.5. He also walked more hitters than he had in previous years, and his LOB% dropped to 61.2%. In 2012, he will probably see his numbers improve moderately- but not to the level they were at in 2010.

Addison Reed is the best prospect in the White Sox deprived farm system. He will probably start the year in the majors. He has a higher ceiling than any other White Sox bullpen arms and that might lead to a job closing for Chicago. Reed is a nice sleeper in 12-team leagues, in which you are looking for saves.

Manager Robin Ventura has said that Reed is likely to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. He also said that the closing job is Matt Thornton’s to lose. I don’t think it will be very long before Reed takes over the job from Thornton, so Reed will probably get the majority of saves for the White Sox this year.

Kansas City Royals: Last year, it seemed inevitable that the Royals would trade away their longtime closer Joakim Soria. Then Soria’s value dramatically dropped. In May, Soria gave up ten runs in ten innings, and Royals fans started to panic. Eventually, Soria got back to the pitcher he always was. He finished 2011 with 28 saves, his lowest total since 2007. General Manager Dayton Moore made the right move hanging on to Joakim Soria because his value was so low at the trade deadline.

For 2012, Soria will be the Royals closer barring a trade. Not to be forgotten is former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton who was signed this offseason. The Royals have a talented young bullpen that has the chance to develop into one of the best in the league.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins have no real closer heading into the 2011 season. Sure they have Matt Capps, who has 124 career saves. But he’s not a legitimate option if they plan on contending this year. They recently signed former Detroit Tiger Joel Zumaya who is coming back from a serious arm injury, but he used to be able to throw triple digits.

For fantasy players looking for sleepers, this team isn’t a bad place to start. Any one of the Twins pitchers could step up and take the closer role. This might be the worst bullpen in the league, so Minnesota will probably have to make some moves this year.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians a strong bullpen that should be able to give their starters a proper amount of rest. Vinnie Pestano is the best reliever on the team… and he’s not even closing. Pestano was worth 1.5 WAR in 2011, and he had 23 saves. If Chris Perez were to slip up in his closing duties, Pestano could easily fill in.

Chris Perez is a very good closer because he is a clutch performer. He doesn’t strike out many hitters and he walks a lot of hitters (1.50 K/BB in 2011), but he doesn’t blow many saves. He was 36 for 40 in save opportunities last year.

Even though Perez will likely be the starting closer on Opening Day, if Pestano keeps pitching like he has, he could eventually take over the position.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners probably should have traded their closer, Brandon League, this offseason. As strong of an asset as League is, the Mariners won’t be contending in 2012.

When Brandon Leauge decides to throw it, he has one of the best splitters in the league. Last year he threw his splitter 28.2% of the time. Mariners fans want him to throw it more because of how dominating it can be. In 2011, using his splitter more led him to 37 saves and a 2.78 FIP. If League were to be traded or injured, Shawn Kelley, Tom Wilhelmsen, or Chance Ruffin would likely step into the role.

Oakland Athletics: Since the A’s traded Andrew Bailey, their closer responsibility is no longer set in stone. Brian Fuentes will likely start the year as their closer, but he has 37 career blown saves and is no longer the pitcher he once was.

The next pitcher in line to get saves is probably Fautino De Los Santos. As a rookie in 2011, De Los Santos struck out 11.61 batters per nine innings. Fautino De Los Santos may be electric but he only has thirty-two career saves (all of which were in the minors.)

Texas Rangers: The Rangers have the most depth out of any bullpen in the AL West. Joe Nathan will be the closer out of spring training. If Nathan were to fail, the Rangers also have Mike Adams, Koji Uehara (barring a trade) and Alexi Ogando (if he doesn’t start) waiting in the wings. If the Rangers bullpen were a flavor of milkshake- they would be banana. Not always the first thing that comes to mind, but after you try it, it’s much better than you expected.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels should have spent more money this offseason on their bullpen. Jordan Walden is far from a sure thing. Although it was his rookie year, Walden had his ups and downs in 2011. Walden looked nervous at times. Hopefully in his second year, he will have a better ” closer’s mentality.” 

Setting up Walden will be most likely be Scott Downs, who was extremely lucky in 2011. Downs had 26 holds and a 1.34 ERA. He had a 3.40 xFIP and he left 86.4% of his men on base.  In 2012, there’s no question that Downs is going to regress. The only question is how much. 

Overall:  The bullpens in the American League aren’t as strong as they look. There are talented pitchers on nearly every team, but no bullpen stands out as the clear winner. 2012 is going to be the an important year for closers, as there will be many AL teams in contention (especially if the 2nd Wild Card goes through). Some say that the whole closer role and mentality is not important. But once this year’s playoffs are upon us, I think 2012 will prove just how important closers really are.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

MLB Free Agent Closer Carousel

Friday November 11, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  Every one of the MLB’s franchises will be looking for bullpen help, and most will be looking to add a major contributor to the back-end.  The closer position is one that is seen as the most underrated as well as the most overrated job in all of baseball.  On one hand, some people may over-value a closer’s “makeup” and poise, where others say “it’s the same as pitching at any point in the game.”  While I like to sit somewhere between these two concepts, most fans like knowing that their team employs a “proven veteran closer.”  All you have to do is look at the St. Louis Cardinals of 2011 to notice that is not necessarily the case.  Their closer was Jason Motte, although Tony La Russa refused to officially anoint him so.  Motte had 12 career saves going into the postseason, 9 of which were in 2011.  However, the fireballer was dominant in the postseason, and helped to bring in another World Series title to St. Louis.

In 2007, the Boston Red Sox employed a closer by the name of Jonathan Papelbon, a 2nd year closer, and they went on to win the World Series.  There are several other times where a homegrown closer has led his team to a championship, Brian Wilson of the 2010 San Francisco Giants being another recent one.

There are many closers without a set home for 2012, with Papelbon headlining that list.  It has been said that Papelbon is looking for a 4 year contract, and could even get a 5th guaranteed year on the open market.  Much of the early talk about closers this off-season has surrounded Ryan  Madson, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was rumored that he had agreed with the Phillies to a 4 year, $44M contract with a 5th year as a vesting option.  It was said that the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was awaiting approval from team president David Montgomery.   It has recently come to light that Amaro Jr. has vehemently denied these rumors.

Frank Francisco, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan and Francisco Cordero are all closers who may be looking for new homes in 2012.  Also available are Matt Capps, Jon Rauch, David Aardsma, and Takashi Saito.

The Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, LA Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins and Houston Astros are some of the teams who figure to be in the market for a closer, if not to upgrade.

Because of the Madson fiasco that has been taking place, I doubt he re-signs with the Phillies.  The Phillies seem to have moved on to their next target, Papelbon.   All Papelbon has done in his 6+ seasons with the Red Sox is accumulate 219 saves with a 4.43 K/BB ratio.  His career ERA sits at 2.33 while his FIP isn’t far off at 2.60, showing just how good he actually is.  I think a 4 year deal worth $51M and a vesting option of $15M would likely get the job done.

Madson’s early “almost signing” may have set the bar for Papelbon, and Madson will be looking for something in the same range. He may have to settle for a bit less as the Phillies look to get the signing done quickly.  Madson took over for Brad Lidge, who battled injuries in 2011 as the Phillies closer.  A 3.88 K/BB ratio and a ground ball rate close to 50% ensured a very successful season where his FIP was 2.25.  4 years and $40M should get it done, and I see him going to the LA Dodgers.

Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) was traded at the deadline from the Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers, but didn’t get an opportunity to close out games.  His displeasure with the situation was coming out, even though incumbent closer John Axford was performing extremely well, and the club was on its way to a playoff berth.  The Miami Marlins (still doesn’t feel right to say) are looking to be huge spenders this off-season, and I see no difference with K-Rod.  Rodriguez  has 291 saves in his career, including a single season record 62 in 2008 with the LA Angels of Anaheim.  I see the 30-year-old signing a 3 year deal worth $30M to usurp the incumbent Marlins closer, Juan Oviedo (previously known as Leo Nunez).

Heath Bell is a closer who has had tremendous numbers over the last three seasons, albeit in ultra spacious Petco Park as his home field.  His K rate dipped this year, and may have been a bit lucky with a .261 BABIP.  San Diego Padres GM Josh Byrnes has already said he would likely offer arbitration to Bell, a Type A free agent.  Bell has also said in the past that he would accept arbitration, as he likes San Diego.  This presents a slight problem for the cash-strapped Padres, who prefer to keep their payroll lower.  Bell will be due a raise from the $7.5M he made in 2011, so a $9-10M 1 year deal will likely be in place here with the Padres.

Joe Nathan is a special case, because he had an option of $12.5M declined by the Minnesota Twins, who would still like to bring him back.  Nathan did not pitch in 2010 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, and threw 44 2/3 mediocre innings in 2011.  However, over his last 27 innings, he gave up only 20 hits, 5 walks and 10 runs, really finishing strong and proving he is healthy again.  The downfall is that by spring training, he will be 38 years old and clearly looking at the end of his career.  The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a closer to anchor a bullpen that will see a lot of turnover, and Nathan could be had for $4M and a club option for 2013.

Jonathan Broxton is another closer looking to establish his value.  The hulking 6’4” 300 lb closer had a disappoint 2011 season, and just had surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in September.  His K rate has steadily declined from the career high of 13.50/9 IP in 2009.  His ground ball rate, BB/9, ERA and FIP have all suffered at the same time.  Broxton will likely get a one year, incentive-laden deal to prove he is healthy.  He will likely have to settle for a setup man role, and I think he could work with the Mets in spacious Citi Field.

Francisco Cordero has had a 13 year career that started in Detroit, then took him to Texas, Milwaukee then finally Cincinnati.  The Reds recently declined his $12M option, but GM Walt Jocketty has said he hopes to bring the closer back.  However, I don’t see him donning the Reds jersey any longer, as the soon to be 37-year-old will look to move on and close out his career.  While his fastball still averages 93 mph, it is 3 mph slower than Cordero’s prime.  Because of this, his K rate has dipped to 5.43/9IP from 12.22/9IP in 2007.  While his stats have declined, he has averaged 39 saves the last 5 seasons.  He will probably settle for a one year deal worth $6M, where the Minnesota Twins will sign him.

It’s a carousel in the closing world, as more teams are beginning to put less stock in having an established closer at the back of a bullpen.  Homegrown closers are becoming a more popular choice, but some teams look for that slight edge, and if it means overpaying for a pitcher who will throw roughly 5% of the team’s innings, they will do so. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

An A-to-Z Guide to My MLB Offseason

Friday  November 11, 2011

Daniel Aubain (Guest Writer):  Question: What does a fantasy baseball blogger without a blog do during the offseason? Answer: Guest write an article for one of his favorite baseball sites!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Daniel Aubain and I used to run a fantasy baseball blog called Colorado Springs Fantasy Baseball Addict or COSFBA, for short. I recently decided to shut the site down and pursue other writing opportunities but the itch to write has been too strong to ignore. While I am currently working behind the scenes on a new venture, I wanted to take this opportunity today to highlight for you some topics of interest I’ve been or will be following this baseball offseason.

Below is an A-to-Z guide of some of the key topics I am paying attention to this baseball offseason. Enjoy!

  • A is for Awards: So Brett Gardner doesn’t win a Gold Glove (even though he was the best defensive player in all of baseball). Miguel Cabrera doesn’t get a Silver Slugger. And now the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is on Twitter. I’m very excited to see what November 14th through November 22nd has in store for the blogosphere.
  • B is for Baseball: The most minor free agent news or offseason trade (see: Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo) trumps ANYTHING going on in the NFL, NHL (that’s still a thing) and the NBA (how much longer until this is no longer a thing?).
  • C is for Closers: Fantasy baseball GMs know to “never pay for saves”. How come real GMs don’t know this? Ryan Madson possibly getting a 4 year/$44M contract offer from the Phillies? Good luck with that.
  • D is for @DJAubain: That’s right. Shameless self promotion. Be sure to follow me at my new Twitter account name. The link is RIGHT THERE!
  • E is for Exhibition Baseball: I hope all of you with the MLB Network were able to catch some of the Taiwan All-Star Series. It was a nice fix for those of us going through withdrawals after an amazing World Series.
  • F is for FanGraphs: Any aspiring Sabermetrician or fan of advanced baseball statistics has to be familiar with FanGraphs by now, right? Well, why not support their work and show the world you’re a big baseball nerd by purchasing one of these fabulous t-shirts. I’ve got mine.
  • G is for Gold Glove: I still can’t believe Brett Gardner didn’t win a Gold Glove. The mainstream media may love awards such as this (it even had its own television show this year) but those of us with any true understanding on how to measure “worthiness” with more than just web gems and name recognition are left scratching our heads more often than not.
  • H is for Hot Stove: Free agent signings. Winter meetings. Blockbuster trades. What’s not to love about the MLB offseason?
  • I is for Intentional Talk: I’m sorry, MLB Network. For all you do right in my eyes, this is your ultimate worst. I find this show unwatchable. It’s so bad it belongs on ESPN.
  • J is for Jose Reyes: Reyes to the Marlins? Not hating it.
  • K is for Keepers: Fantasy baseball GMs all over the country are anxiously discussing whether or not player X or player Y is worthy of being a keeper. I think it is absolutely crazy that some leagues have already required you locking in keepers. Wait until February or March to lock up keepers. It will make your league better. Trust me.
  • L is for Lefty Specialists: Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver are both 41 years old, coming off of World Series appearances and free agents. Which GMs are going to overpay for 50-60 appearances and 40-50 innings pitched? I’m hoping the Yankees get one of these guys to replace Boone Logan.
  • M is for Mystery Team: Nothing says offseason free agent signings like a good mystery team in the mix. Who will it be this offseason?
  • N is for Nick Punto: Nick has a World Series ring. Ted Williams and Ernie Banks have zero. Just in case you were wondering.
  • O is for Ozzie Guillen: Ozzie is now with the soon-to-be Miami Marlins and every Latin ballplayer is now rumored to be heading his way via free agency or trades. If only I understood a word he was saying in English. Don’t believe me? Check out his Twitter feed during the World Series.
  • P is for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder: How high are these contract numbers going to go and which teams are in the mix? The Yankees can’t sign everyone (in theory). It will be interesting to see where these top sluggers land.
  • Q is for Carlos Quentin: With the Chicago White Sox discussing getting younger and cheaper in 2012, could Quentin be the type of player shipped out of town for a handful of prospects? We shall see. I hear the Marlins have money. Hmmmmm.
  • R is for Realignment: Moving the Houston Astros to the AL West makes absolutely no sense. Thanks, Bud Selig, for the usual knee-jerk reaction to a problem. I’m a huge fan of a radical realignment based on true geographical rivalries. Forget the AL/NL thing. Screw the traditionalists. Make the DH optional. Create regional television networks. Let’s move this game into the 21st century already!
  • S is for Sabermetrics: It’s not going away. It’s not made up of basement-dwelling bloggers. And it is definitely NOT ruining the game of baseball and how it is played on the field. It is a tool used to evaluate and measure the performance of players. Embrace it.
  • T is for Twitter: If you’re not using Twitter, I suggest you check it out. It’s not Facebook.
  • U is for UZR: Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is one of the most widely accepted defensive metrics available and yet Brett Gardner, the best defensive player at any position, doesn’t win a Gold Glove. Bitter much? Yes.
  • V is for Vernon Wells: Just a reminder, Wells still has three years left on his contract at $21M per year. That is all.
  • W is for Wilson Ramos: Kidnapped? Unreal. This is just a horrible situation. I hope this gets resolved quickly and without tragedy. We wonder why agents and players lie to escape other countries to come to America to play baseball.
  • X is for X-Factor: No, not that horrible television show on FOX. I’m talking about the intangible “x-factor” agents will be talking about their clients bringing to a team’s clubhouse. Jim Thome has it. Francisco Rodriguez doesn’t have it.
  • Y is for Yuniesky Betancourt: According to the Bill James’ 2012 Handbook (and this tweet), Yuniesky has been baseball’s worst defensive shortstop over the last three seasons; costing his teams 46 runs. Keep that tidbit in mind as this Type B free agent lingers on the market.
  • Z is for the AriZona Fall League: If top prospects are your thing, then you need to be paying attention to what’s taking place in ‘Zona (see what I did there?). Check it out online and be sure to follow it Twitter, too.
Thanks to the great folks at MLB reports for allowing me the opportunity to share my voice with their audience. I truly appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for updates on what the future has in store for me and all other guest posting articles I’ll be doing this offseason.
 
 
 
 
Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Fantasy Baseball Report: Value of Elite Setup Men: Romo, Alburquerque, Adams and More

Monday September 19, 2011

 

MLB reports:  We welcome the newest member of the MLB reports team, Peter Stein.  For all you fantasy baseball fanatics, Peter will be featuring weekly reports for you!  In his debut, Peter discusses the value of elite setup men and how they can benefit your fantasy team:

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports):  Playing in a standard 15-team, daily league, auction, 5 X 5 Roto league this year, I learned many valuable lessons in fantasy baseball. However, one strategy and way of thinking in particular proved to be the most valuable and has had my team in cruise control and on the way to first place since the middle of July. (Disclaimer: Although this article is most applicable to daily roto leagues, the basic concept can be extended to all formats of fantasy baseball).

While most relievers who do not contribute saves largely go unnoticed, the game’s top setup men can provide the highest of quality innings (ERA, WHIP, and K) and as a result are extremely undervalued by fantasy players across all boards.

It is common for owners to spend half of their budget on two or three top of the line starting pitchers with the idea that they can rely on these aces to carry their team in the pitching categories. However, said owner will still have over 50% of their innings to relegate –often to a variety of run of the mill starters or high-risk high reward types of players. If you play your matchups right, it is true that there are many starters who can provide quality innings for you. For example, on my team, outside of Felix Hernandez, for starting pitchers, I relied heavily on starting pitchers ranked outside of the first tier, such as Colby Lewis (95 innings), Derek Lowe (63 innings), John Danks (54 innings), Javier Vazquez (61 innings), Gavin Floyd (41 innings) Erik Bedard (39 innings), and Ryan Dempster (37 innings) in my effort to reach the 1,250 innings limit.

I managed to get tremendous value out of these players based on matchups (a whole different discussion), but you have to be careful with guys like this. Each of these guy’s season totals are very unimpressive, and if used incorrectly can ruin your team. Danks, Lowe, Floyd and especially Vazquez and Dempster each had epically bad stretches this year.  Personally, I have only used Vazquez for 61 innings, but it has come with a 1.45 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. If I threw Javy out there for every inning this year I would have to swallow an unimpressive 3.95 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.

But back to the topic at hand (Vazquez will actually be the focus of next week’s article), the point is that you simply cannot receive 200 quality innings from these guys. You need to look elsewhere and this is where the game’s elite setup men become so valuable. Three or four setup men, used in conjunction with each other, can contribute the same value as one ace – without having to deal with the stress of matchups!

To prove my examples, and draw from my team, lets take a look at Sergio Romo and Al Alburquerque, Mike Adams, three players who cost me $1 each. For frame of reference, the game’s elite pitchers, such as Felix Hernandez and Tin Lincecum, went for $45 and $43 respectively.

In 40 innings pitched, Sergio Romo contributed an ERA of 1.40 a WHIP of 0.64, a whopping 62 strikeouts, and a useful 3 wins and 1 save. Although, he pitches approximately twenty percent of the innings of Felix or Lincecum, he provides value that is actually significantly better than both of these starters. Now lets add Alburquerque’s 39.2 innings, which come with a league best 14.1 k/9 ratio, a 2.04 ERA and 6 wins. Talk about some quality innings and a sure way to boost strikeouts. A guy like Al can allow you to use a low strikeout starter who contributes to ERA and WHIP – perhaps a Mark Buehrle. Albuquerque is owned in just 1.0% of ESPN fantasy leagues, but if started all year he provides 6 absurd starts that are really uncharacteristic of ANY starter in the league.

Do you see what I’m on to?

Mike Adams, perhaps the most well-known of the trio entering 2011 (for save potential), in 68.2 innings has contributed 4 wins, 2 saves, and ridiculously low ERA (1.44) and WHIP (0.70 totals).

I morphed these three players into one. This three-headed monster (costing me $3 dollars), contributed 192 strikeouts in 150 innings, a WHIP of 0.87, an ERA of 1.63, 13 wins and 3 saves. Lets see how this imaginary player, lets call him Sergal Adamquerque, stands up to next to King Felix:

Felix Hernandez       Romo/Alburquerque/Adams

IP                         230                                     150

W                         14                                        12

K’S                       220                                     192

ERA                     3.32                                    1.63

WHIP                 1.19                                    0.87

Saves                 0                                          3

Do you see the point here? The combination of these relievers, for $3, provides more value than Felix Hernandez who cost $45! I use Felix as an example is because is one of the elite pitcher’s in the game, and I myself spent $45 on him in my draft. However, this was not $45 poorly spent. It is impossible to rely solely on relievers to fill your league’s innings limits. You must have an anchor on your staff, such as King Felix. I also received great support from two other aces, Zack Greinke (88 innings) and Cliff Lee(45 innings), but was able to trade them for help in the hitting department. However, the point is, not even Felix, Lee, or Greinke can give you the value in strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA as these elite setup men. Used in combination with one another, these guys can create your very own “ace,” one that is inexpensive and allows you to budget your dollars to bolster your offense.

With that said, it is true that it is difficult to predict wins with reliever, but remember Felix Hernandez will likely end up with a total of 15 wins in 200 innings. These relievers only need three or four wins in 50 innings to provide similar value in that department. However, you could also get surplus value here. In 2010 Tyler Clippard won 11 games in 90 innings. There is always the chance that these studly setup men take the reign as closer. I drafted my Sergio Santos for $1, partly due to my lack of faith in Matt Thornton, but also because in 2010 he averaged over a strikeout per inning with good ERA and WHIP. Now as a closer in 2011, with a 12.86 k/9 ration, he figures to be a hot commodity in 2012 drafts.

You might think I am drawing form a small samples size. Although I have focused on a few players, the list truly goes on: David Robertson, Koji Uehara, Jonny Venters, Greg Holland, Chris Sale, Glen Perkins, Aaron Crow, Daniel Bard, Tyler Clippard, and Antonio Bastardo are all examples of players who provide just as much value (or more) per inning as the game’s elite starting pitchers.

It is true that the list of the very elite reliever sis short, but there a long list of players who are still extremely useful. To really prove my point, lets look at a reliever who is the third or fourth option on his own team, only owned in 1.5% of leagues, yet still provides tremendous value: Jesse Crain. The little known and used Crain could have provided your team (to date) with 63 strikeouts in 67 innings, 8 wins, and a stellar WHIP (1.19) and ERA (2.29). You really don’t need to dig that deep to find value from relief pitchers.

The Takeaways:

Relievers do not need to get saves to provide value and as such do not overpay for closers who don’t contribute positively to the ERA, WHIP, and K categories. If you are going to splurge on a closer, it better be someone like Craig Kimbrel, but there is still risk when you pay big bucks for a top closer. Joakim Soria, usually a given to contribute in ERA and WHIP, actually provided negative value for fantasy owners this year in these categories. His 28 saves are not worth the $20 dollars I spent expecting his usual elite numbers.

Next year go ahead and spend the money on the elite pitcher or two to anchor your staff. However, do not waste the dollars and overpay for innings from unproven or middle of the road starting pitchers. These innings can be much more effectively filled with a plethora of setup men from around the league. Draft a sure closer or two, and if you invest wisely in the elite setup men, you will be sure to own another closer or two down the road. Investing in these types of relievers in the draft and on the waivers will save you money – money that can be used on your offense and s on elite starting pitching. You can now dedicate your bench spots to these relievers, shuffling them in and out of your lineup along side an ace or two, and you will get value per inning on the same scale as Felix, Lincecum and other elite starting pitchers. It will require you to not only to target such players in the draft, but you will also have to be a hawk on the waiver wire. Just think of a combination of three of four of these players as one Felix Hernandez, but for 10% of the price.

Clearly, this strategy is most effective in larger leagues and league that allow you to make daily roster changes. However, I hope this article demonstrates how setup relievers have potential to add value in all fantasy leagues, although they are largely ignored or overshadowed by closers.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Top 5 Closers Available at July 31 MLB Trade Deadline

Friday July 22, 2011

 

MLB reports:   The MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline is rapidly approaching.  With only nine days to go, MLB teams need to decide if they are buyers or sellers.  Right up until July 31st deadline, the baseball world will be buzzing on potential deals.  While transactions can occur after July 31st, the respective players will need to first pass through waivers, which makes trades more difficult to happen.  Especially in the category of closers, who are sought after by almost every team.  Whether to obtain a 9th inning stopper or upgrade their middle relief, the majority of MLB teams are currently on the prowl.

There are some contending teams would love to add a closer, including the Rangers and Cardinals.  The host of other teams battling for a playoff spot are ready to take a current closer to pitch the 7th or 8th inning.  To win today in baseball, you usually need 2-3 closer-type pitchers in your pen.  The Brewers recently added Francisco Rodriguez to compliment John Axford.  The New York Yankees signed Rafael Soriano to pitch in front of Mariano Rivera, although David Robertson has since grabbed the role.  True closers will always be in demand and teams with playoff aspirations will always find room for these guys on their rosters.

As the line between buyers and sellers becomes less blurry, we take a look today at the top five closer candidates to be traded by the July 31st MLB Trade Deadline:

 

1)  Heath Bell:  San Diego Padres

The Rolls Royce of available closers, the Padres are talking to teams on a daily, if not hourly basis on the availability of Heath Bell.  Nearly every team has been linked to Bell in the past few days, from the Rangers, Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox, Jays and Tigers.  The prize of the closing market, expect the Padres to demand a king’s ransom for his services.  At least two top prospects, with one being major league ready should get this deal done.  With 28 saves and a 2.45 ERA, the 33-year old Bell is having another fantastic campaign before his impending free agency.  The Rangers and Cardinals are most in need of a closer, with the Rangers the most likely destination based on availability of prospects.  The Rangers have the superior farm system and could match up best with the Padres.  The Phillies and Jays are the dark horses according to reports and need to decide if they are willing to pay the price.

 

2)  Brandon League:  Seattle Mariners

A first time All-Star in 2011, Brandon League has raised his stock this year and given the Mariners an interesting trade chip to work with at the deadline.  League has chipped in 23 saves already this year, with a 3.35 ERA and 1.088 WHIP.  With a team friendly contract and under team control for another season, League should draw much interest on the market.  St. Louis seems like a logical choice, as the Cardinals will be looking for a long-term solution to their closing woes.  I cannot see the Mariners dealing in their division and having to face League next year with the Rangers.  A top prospect or two middle prospects should make this one happen.  With the Mariners far out of contention and in complete rebuild mode, a top closer seems like a luxury that the Mariners cannot afford at the moment.  The Mariners need offensive help and need it quickly, with League being one of many candidates likely to leave Seattle by July 31st to replenish the farm system.

 

3)  Frank Francisco, Jon RauchOctavio Dotel, Jason Frasor:  Toronto Blue Jays

If Heath Bells is a Rolls Royce, the Blue Jays are running a used Ford dealership in their bullpen.  Frank Francisco is like a used mustang with transmission problems, while Jon Rauch is a pickup truck without the V8 engine.  The Jays have assembled a collection of the middle-of-the-road closers and setup men this year in their bullpen.  Francisco will likely draw the most attention, despite his mostly awful numbers this year.  At 31-years of age and throwing big time heat, Francisco still has potential.  Rauch has served as the Jays closer for much of the year and could be in demand as well.  Octavio Dotel, the eldest member of the pack, has bounced around during his major league career and could be a useful trade deadline pickup.  The most effective reliever though for the Jays has been Jason Frasor and a smart team should consider him.  While the Jays are unlikely to offer any true closers to contending teams, there are middle relief candidates to be had.  Expect the Phillies to come calling and pickup one of the above.

 

4)  Kevin Gregg:  Baltimore Orioles

For those teams that like to play with fire, closers don’t get more dangerous than Kevin Gregg.  A 4.00 ERA and unsightly 1.583 WHIP are not numbers that scream out lock-down closer.  Gregg has shown though the ability to get hot at times during his career and will be considered by many teams over the next week.  Signed through next year, the Orioles will look mainly for salary relief in shedding Gregg’s contract.  Personally, I wouldn’t consider Gregg if I was running a team.  But somehow he will likely move by July 31st.

 

5)  Leo Nunez:  Florida Marlins

Another up-and-down closer in the Gregg mold, Leo Nunez is quietly having a very solid season for the Florida Marlins.  Up to 27 saves, with a 3.22 ERA and 1.187 WHIP, Nunez might actually be the best affordable option on the closers market.  The Rangers and Cardinals will sniffing around here, as will the Red Sox, Indians and Tigers.  As the Marlins and Tigers have matched up well before in trades, I can see this swap happening.  The Tigers have the ability to surrender a decent pitching prospect and can use Nunez down the stretch as Valverde insurance.  With the Tigers in contention and the majority of their bullpen being fairly unstable for most of the year, Nunez might be a late inning option that the the Tigers can ill-afford to miss out on.

 

Send us your comments and opinions on available closers for the trade deadline.  Other names thrown around have been Joakim Soria, Matt Capps, Joe Nathan, Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes.  The trading of players, especially closers, is especially reliant on the competitiveness and status of a team in the standings.  With so many teams still in their respective races, there are not as many top bullpen arms available at this point in the season.  But come August, as more teams continue to drop out, expect to see even more trade activity.  Exciting times, as the MLB pennant races continue to heat up, and baseball trade talk is on everyone’s lips.

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

MLB Closers Report 2011: Who is in, Who is out

MLB reports:  I get several messages a day on the state of the closers in major league baseball.  Questions asking me which players have a closing job, which are about to lose their job and which players are most likely to get save opportunities.  In my fantasy baseball days, I used to call it fishing for closers on the waiver wire:  waiting for a closer to underperform and/or get injured and lose their job and immediately pick up the heir-apparent to the throne.  How are the thirty major league teams doing in the closer department?  Let’s take a closer look at each team and find out:

1)  New York Yankees:  Mariano Rivera

With seven saves in eight opportunities and a 1.93 ERA, Mo is as automatic as they come.  Even at his advanced age, Mariano is a #1 fantasy closer, if not the top closer.  Rafael Soriano is the next in-line, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

2)  Colorado Rockies:  Houston Street

Although health is often a concern with Street, seven saves in seven opportunities with a 2.03 ERA is not.  Street has really come into his own in Colorado and as long as he can stay healthy, he is becoming nearly automatic out on the mound.  Add in fourteen strikeouts and Street is as dangerous as they come.  Lidstrom has been spectacular as well to start the year, but with health and performance issues surrounding him in the past, Lidstrom at best is a filler in case of an injury to Street.  A solid #2, Lidstrom will form a solid 1-2 punch with Street all season long (on the field and likely on the DL at some point).

3)  Atlanta Braves:  Craig Kimbrel

The youngsters debate should be over.  Six saves in seven opportunities and a 0.96 ERA.  2/14 BB/K ratio.  Kimbrel is clearly the man in Atlanta.  While Venters is very talented and the next in line should Kimbrel falter, the rope for Kimbrel grows by the day.  Atlanta appears to have found its closer for the next decade.

4)  Cleveland Indians:  Chris Perez

With the hot start of the Indians, Perez has been enjoying the ride.  Six saves in seven opportunities and a 2.25 ERA.  One area for concern:  four strikeouts in eight innings pitched.  Although Perez is becoming craftier on the mound, low strikeouts for a closer generally leads to disaster.  The Indians have some decent arms in the pen, including Rafael Perez.  But the Perez of choice is Chris.

5)  San Diego Padres:  Heath Bell

The second coming of Trevor Hoffman, Bell is a perfect five for five in save opportunities with a 1.00 ERA.  Having Bell on the Padres is like driving a brand new Mercedes while living in a bachelor apartment on the wrong side of the town.  An unnecessary luxury in many observers’ estimation.  Beware that a hot Bell will have trade rumors surround him all summer long.  The Padres have literally 4-5 closing options in the pen, so this situation is far from settled if Bell is dealt.  I could see Neshek, Qualls, Gregerson and Adams all getting their shot.  For now Bell is a top five closer unless he leaves San Diego.  If I had to watch one reliever it would be Neshek, who has come back from injury and could claim the job in the event he is called upon.

6)  Los Angeles Dodgers:  Jonathan Broxton

Broxton somehow is a perfect five for five in saves but with a 5.19 ERA, the end is likely coming near.  The hope for many baseball analysts, including my own, is that Broxton can turn it around and reclaim his form.  Kuo, once healthy, is the likely pick to take over the role.  My dark horse pick is Mike MacDougal, the veteran who has extensive closing experience.  A 1.13 ERA for MacDougal is outstanding, but his 5/6 BB/K ratio is nothing to write home about.  Guerrier may also get a look, but Kuo is the consensus pick to take over at some point.  I would like to sit here and guarantee that Broxton will recover and return to form, but I can’t promise that.  It could happen, but with each passing rocky outing, even I am starting to have my doubts.  My plan would be to remove Broxton from the role and let him work out in his kinks.  In the interim I would insert MacDougal to steady the ship and then re-insert Broxton in July.  That would be my plan, but not necessarily the same script for the Dodgers.  Keep a look out as this mess is far from settled.

7)  Philadelphia Phillies:  Jose Contreras (Breaking News:  Now Ryan Madson)

Running an eight inning scoreless run, a perfect five for five in saves opportunities with nine strikeouts, Contreras has become the man in Philadelphia.  But running a close second is Ryan Madson, a 1.00 ERA and 2/10 BB/K ratio.  The long-term solution is Madson and any hint of a Contreras downturn will insert Madson in the role.  I expect this to happen any week now and once Madson becomes the closer, he should keep it until Papelbon joins the team next year (yes, it will happen).  Please do not say Brad Lidge though, that story has been written and re-written too many times.  Injuries and production problems is the story of Lidge.  Hopefully the Phillies are smart and do not go down that road again.  The moral of the story:  Contreras today, Madson soon and Papelbon next year.

(P.S. As I am writing this, Contreras has been sent to Philadelphia for an exam and is on the DL.  Ryan Madson is the closer, funny how quickly things can turn)

8)  Kyle Farnsworth:  Tampa Bay Rays

Another closer with a perfect five for five saves record, Farnsworth owns a 1.23 ERA and zero walks allowed on the season.  I am not sure who this person on the mound is and what he has done with the real Kyle Farnsworth, but whoever this imposter is on the mound I would keep him.  All kidding aside, I am a Farnsworth fan and have wished him well for years.  But after watching him implode in nearly every stop on his major league tour, I remain somewhat skeptical.  Jake McGee, my closer pick has started off slow but with improved numbers down the road could grab the job.  Same with Peralta, although walks tends to hurt his value.  The Rays will be riding Farnsworth like a rented mule until he cannot close anymore.

9)  Neftali Feliz:  Texas Rangers

Another five for five in saves opportunities, Feliz with a 1.08 ERA has a stranglehold on the job.  Recently placed on the DL with a sore shoulder, the Rangers will turn to some combination of Darren Oliver and Darren O’Day , perhaps even Rhodes, until Feliz returns.  Don’t sweat this one, Feliz will be back soon and continuing his climb to the top of the ranks of MLB closers in 2011.  Of concern is Feliz’s 5/6 BB/K ratio, which will have to change for Feliz to be ultimately effective as the closer.  Walks tend to do very bad things to closers in the 9th but based on the the talent in his arm, Feliz will be the go-to-guy this year again.

10)  Brian Fuentes:  Oakland Athletics

Fuentes was signed to be a solid lefty in the pen and fill-in closer for the A’s.  Five for six opportunities, Fuentes has been steady for Oakland but sports a brutal 4.66 ERA.  Just like Jonathan Broxton in LA, Fuentes is likely on borrowed time unless he becomes more automatic on the mound.  Add a 5/7 BB/K ratio and the Andrew Bailey watch will continue in Oakland.  While I see Bailey getting the job in the short-run, Fuentes will find a way to reclaim the job by the summer and possibly to the end of the year.  Don’t look now though but Ziegler has not been scored upon this year and could put up a fight as well.  Keep an eye on this situation as it unfolds.

11)  Joel Hanrahan:  Pittsburgh Pirates

Five for five in saves, 2/8 BB/K ratio and a 2.70 ERA translates to increased job security for Hanrahan.  Much like Heath Bell, as Hanrahan performs well he becomes a luxury on a rebuilding Pirates team in need of prospects.  Essentially keeping the seat warm for 2010 all-star Evan Meek, look for Hanrahan to be dealt sometime in the summer and for Meek to take over the closer’s role in 2011 and for the foreseeable future.

12)  Brandon League:  Seattle Mariners

Yet another closer that is five for five in saves, League is holding down the fort until the return of Dave Aardsma.  The 3.68 ERA is ok, but three strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings is not.  League has shown good control with only one walk, but changes are still likely coming in Seattle.  Expect the Mariners to deal Aardsma and/or League during the summer if Aardsma can return and show health.  Given that Aardsma is no guarantee, there is a good chance that League can keep the role for the majority of the year.  But I would not bet on it given his shaky track record… I actually expect a dark horse to emerge at some point in this race.

13)  Carlos Marmol:  Chicago Cubs

Five for seven in saves, Marmol has the security of a long-term deal and is clearly the closer in Chicago.  His 2.53 ERA is interesting, but more telling is his 7/15 BB/K ratio.  Few closers can touch Marmol’s heat and if he could just lower his walks totals, he would become a top-five closer in baseball.  But the walks will unlikely go away this year and expect some interesting moments with Marmol as he works towards 30+ saves in 2011.  Kerry Wood is the next-in-line in case, think of him as Marmol insurance.  Marshall has been steady as well and the one surprise is Samardzija with a 3.65 ERA, but his 14/14 BB/K ratio shows the heat is there but the control is not.  But the Cubs are Marmol’s team.

14)  Leo Nunez:  Florida Marlins

Totals?  Five for five in saves, which appears to be a standard at this point in the season.  Nunez has a 2.00 ERA and is off to a hot start in Florida.  As the summer months approach, I cannot see Nunez sustaining these numbers and a few bad outings could cost him his job very quickly.  For a strong run, I appear the Marlins making a trade or picking a new horse for the job.  Webb, Dunn and Hensley may all get looks this year, but are unlikely long-term solutions.  Until then, the job is Nunez’s to lose.

15)  Jonathan Papelbon:  Boston Red Sox

For a guy on the heat seat, all Papelbon has done is go five for five in saves, with a 2.16 ERA and a 2/11 BB/K ratio.  Papelbon is as automatic as they come and with his first run into free agency on the horizon, do not expect Papelbon’s role to change in 2011.  Papelbon has an incentive to be a fantasy closing superstar and the Red Sox will happily ride him to first round picks as compensation in the off-season.  While Bard is the heir-apparent with Bobby Jenks always lurking, do not expect this move to happen until 2012, unless injury strikes.  Papelbon will look really good in Philadelphia next year.  Remember you heard it here first.

16)    J.J. Putz:  Arizona Diamondbacks

Putz has been everything that Kirk Gibson could have imagined in Arizona and more.  Five for five in saves (yes, another one), 1.13 ERA and 0/10 BB/K ratio.  Expect Putz to be an all-star this year as he leads a young Diamondbacks team back to respectability.  With no plan b’s on the horizon, Arizona will live by the Putz and die by the Putz.

17)  Joakim Soria:  Kansas City Royals

Ok…ok…ok…. let’s not get too excited people.  Soria’s five saves in six opportunities comes along with a 5.59 ERA and a 5/5 BB/K ratio.  Add ten hits allowed in 10 2/3 innings and you have some pretty ugly numbers for a top-three closer.  With the three-headed monster of Collins, Crow and Jeffress looming, I can foresee some fans starting to call for the head of Soria as the Royals continue to excel.  Don’t see it happening.  I cannot see the Royals continuing their hot start and I cannot foresee anyone unseating the great Soria.  The young Royals pitching squad needs Soria and unless he literally implodes, which I don’t see happening, Soria will be the closer for the next few years.  As the Royals build to be contenders in the next 2-3 years, they will rely on a healthy and productive Soria to carry their bullpen.  Soria is the Royals closer and do not get any other ideas on the subject.

18)  Brian Wilson:  San Francisco Giants

The Giants were the feel good story of 2011 and while the “fear the beard” motto was cute in its time, I think this story is done.  Wilson has to get away from the beard and concentrate on what he does best:  close ball games.  Although five for six in saves this year, Wilson sports a brutal 7.94 ERA a pedestrian 4/6 BB/K ratio.  The World Series champion Giants will give Wilson a lot of rope and I cannot foresee him losing his job.  But with the World Series letdown could come a return to earth for several players, including Wilson.  While he will still get 30+ saves, his numbers are showing that a market correct is in order.  Wilson needs to get re-focused…he is the only game in town as the closer for the Giants.

19)  Brandon Lyon:  Houston Astros

The poster boy for mediocre closers, Lyon remains a frustration year-in and year-out.  Four for six in saves opportunities, with a 4.32 ERA, 13 hits allowed in 8 1/3 inning and a dismal 2/3 BB/K ratio, Lyon is better suited to middle relief than closing.  Lyon is a veteran on a young Astros team and while experience is supposed to help the young pitchers, his stats are hurting the team.  With Melancon and Fulchino pitching so well, a changing of the guard is coming in Houston.  Right now my money is on Melancon becoming the closer by May.

20)  Francisco Rodriguez:  New York Mets

Together with Papelbon, K-Rod had many doubters going into the year.  Legal troubles and a declining team and numbers looked to spell the end for Rodriguez.  His four saves in five opportunities has been great, together with his 2.35 ERA.  His 6/13 BB/K ratio is showing that the arm and heat are back, but so is his wildness.  K-Rod will get 30+ saves in my estimation, but may not so pretty getting there.  Frankie is getting paid the big bucks and will have the job for 2011.

21)  Jose Valverde:  Detroit Tigers

The king of hot starts, Valverde has been four for four in saves on a very inconsistent Detroit Tigers team in 2011.  His 1.04 ERA and 2/9 BB/K ratio have been spectacular.  Valverde will have the job this year as he works towards another free agency run at seasons-end.  Benoit is the closer in waiting and while he will have the job in 2012, will be the filler when called upon.  The Tigers will stick with Valverde, period.

22)  John Axford:  Milwaukee Brewers

Pitching for a contending Brewers team, Axford’s numbers have not cut it this year.  Three for five in saves, 7.36 ERA and a 6/8 BB/K ratio means that Axford is closing on borrowed time.  I still expect Axford to get a little more rope to straighten himself out, but not for much longer.  While Saito was my pick to take over the role at the start of the season, and poor health and inconsistency have plagued him.  Same with LaTroy Hawkins, another failed closer in the Brewers’ pen.  The dark horse for the role is Kameron Loe, the former Rangers starter and Japanese baseball survivor.  Look for Loe, who has been the Brewers best reliever season to get the role any day now and to run with it into the forseeable future.

23)  Drew Storen/ (Sean Burnett):  Washington Nationals

I know your first reaction:  is Sean Burnett not the closer?  A 3.24 ERA, three for four in saves and 0/6 BB/K ratio- is that not closing numbers?  Perhaps, but Burnett is like a mirage in the desert.  You think you are seeing water, but its all an illusion.  Storen with a 0.77 ERA, two for two in saves, six hits allowed in 11 2/3 innings and 4/8 BB/K ratio is the man.  Storen has been groomed for the position is whole life and was drafted as a closer to become the Nationals ninth inning stopper.  Burnett may still get the occasional opportunity but his saves opportunities are coming to an end.  As Storen becomes nearly automatic, the job will be his for the next decade in Washington.

24)  Matt Capps:  Minnesota Twins

The Twins originally said they would bring Joe Nathan along slowly after missing a year due to surgery.  What did they end up doing?  Throwing him straight into the fire and destroying his pitching confidence and stats line.  With a 9.82 ERA and 6/5 BB/K ratio, do not expect Nathan back in the role for a LONG time.  Capps, acquired from Washington for catching prospect Ramos has now taken over the closing duties.  Three for four in save opportunities, 4.09 ERA and a 0/5 BB/K ratio shows that Capps is ready to run with the job.  Minnesota is well-known for steady starting pitching and I look for Capps to finish with a steady amount of saves.  He may not blow hitters away anymore, but with continued control look for Capps to keep the job for most of 2011.

25)  Francisco Cordero:  Cincinnati Reds

For all the doom and gloom coming out of Cinci for Cordero, he has continued to put up great numbers.  Three for three in saves, 2.00 ERA, a stingy five hits in nine innings pitched and 4/7 BB/K ratio.  The changing of the guard is coming though for the Reds as you look at Chapman’s numbers.  Throws 100+ MPH heat, nine scoreless innings, two hits in nine innings with a 7/9 BB/K ratio.  This is another case that unless the incumbent implodes or gets injured, he will retain his role.  The Reds rely on the Veteran Cordero and Dusty Baker is very loyal to his foot soldiers.  Chapman is still showing wildness and the best course is to let him continue to develop as Cordero keeps saving games.  A change is coming in 2012 but until then, Cordero is the Reds closer.  If you like to gamble though, Chapman has a decent shot at the job… he is the heir apparent and the first reliever in line if needed.

26)  Jon Rauch:  Toronto Blue Jays

One of several new additions to the Jays pen, Rauch originally was supposed to keep the role warm for Frank Francisco until he returned from injury.  Rauch on the season has a 2.08 ERA and is three for three in saves opportunities.  While his 4/6 BB/K ratio is pedestrian, Rauch will have the job for the majority of the year in my opinion.  While Francisco has the heat and the strikeout numbers, he has shown to be very inconsistent and erratic in the closers role from his time in Texas.  Francisco will possibly get a shot at the role at some point early on this season, my money is still on Rauch.  With so many closing options in Toronto including Dotel and Frasor, this situation is very difficult to handicap.  At the end of the day, you either believe in Francisco or Rauch as the closer.  My gut is saying Rauch.

27)  Jordan Walden:  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The next, great Angels closer, Walden has taken to the role and run with it.  Ten scoreless innings, three for three in saves, three hits allowed in 9 1/3 innings and a 5/10 BB/K ratio are all impressive.  Fernando Rodney, the veteran closer will be breathing down his neck the whole season.  If not for his 8/7 BB/K ratio, Rodney has a 2.08 ERA of his own and only blown save on the season.  As with all young pitchers, Walden will run into some trouble along the way.  The question will be how he handles adversity.  This is one team that I have faced several arguments on this season.  I see Rodney taking back his job while Walden continues to be groomed into the next big thing.  For me, experience and knowledge tends to usually win out and Rodney has an advantage in both departments over Walden.  The job is Walden’s today and for quite some time, but 2-3 blown saves in a week can change things in a hurry.  Another situation to keep an eye on.

28)  Mitchell Boggs:  St. Louis Cardinals

Where is Ryan Franklin?  One for five in save opportunities and with a 7.88 ERA.  Complaining about the fans of St. Louis won’t appease Cardinals management either.  The 27-year-old Boggs is the newest closer on the carousel, with two saves in two opportunities, 1.59 ERA and outstanding 3/13 BB/K ratio.  There are many people jumping on the Boggs bandwagon and for good reason.  The kid is apparently coming into his own and has taken the job by the reigns.  As is the case with Walden, we do not have enough of a track record to know the long-term potential of the kid.  Again, 2-3 blown saves in a week can change the situation in a hurry.  I still expect Franklin to straighten himself out and perhaps reclaim the job later in the year.  But based on his solid work to-date, the closer in St. Louis is Boggs and the job is literally his to lose.  Keep one eye open, just in case.

29)  Kevin Gregg:  Baltimore Orioles

Pitching in the Brandon Lyon sea of mediocrity, Gregg has been up-and-down this year for the upstart Orioles.  Two saves in three opportunities, 4.50 ERA, and 4/6 BB/K ratio are nothing to write home about.  Mike Gonzalez with a 10.80 ERA does not appear to be healthy and recovered to be able to compete for the role.  Jeremy Accardo has a 2.08 ERA but an alarming 6/4 BB/K ratio.   Koji Uehara, with a 1.35 ERA and 3/7 BB/K ratio is my pick for the Orioles closing job when Gregg inevitably begins to break down.  The Orioles are lucky to have several options, with Simon originally being my original dark horse until legal troubles slowed down his season.  But based on track history, I really like Uehara’s chances to claim the job by June, if not sooner.

30)  (Jesse Crain):  Chicago White Sox

I certainly saved the worst for last and the White Sox have had their share of bullpen woes in 2011.  With one team on the season, Sale and Thornton have not been the saviors that Sox fans were expecting this year.  With ERAs north of 6.00, neither one is likely to take the role anytime soon.  Ohman and Pena have been fairly weak as well and the last two realistic survivors are Santos and Crain.  Much press has been written on Santos, the converted pitcher who has pitched 9 2/3 scoreless innings with five hits allowed a 5/13 BB/K ratio.  While many experts are already picking Santos, I am looking at the dark horse, Jesse Crain to take the role.  The former Twin had a steady 2010 year and has started this year with a 1.74 ERA and spectacular 2/11 BB/K ratio.  Santos is the darling of Chicago with his flame throwing ways, but the more experienced Crain appears to be just what the doctor ordered in Chicago.  A situation that is far from unsettled, Thornton or Sale could grab a hold of the job at any time with some steady consecutive outings.  But based on current numbers and future outlook, if you want my pick- it will be Crain.  With such a strong offense and steady starting pitching, the Sox cannot afford to lose too many games in the 9th if they hope to take the AL Central.  That is where a veteran as the anchor will prove to be best solution in the bullpen.

The state of closers is always a heated discussion in baseball circles every year.  Probably the most volatile position in baseball, approximately 30% of opening day closers will still have their jobs by years-end.  With injuries and failures, closers can come and go on a weekly basis.  Today’s failed starters can be tomorrow’s superstar closers.  Next week’s stoppers can also be minor league filler by August.  All baseball fans, whether fans of teams or fantasy players, all get driven to the point of insanity because of closers.  For every Mariano Rivera, there will be three Jordan Waldens, five Jonathan Broxtons and seven Brandon Lyons.  I hope that you enjoyed reading the state of the union on MLB closers today.  Although situations may have changed while I wrote this article (see Contreras) and even tomorrow, remember to keep an open mind and focus on where the next closers will be.  The most effective relievers in the bullpen will usually get the first crack- it is the ones that can succeed under pressure that will keep their jobs.

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2011 MLB CLOSERS- AN INSIDE LOOK

MLB reports:  As readers know from my previous articles, the closer position in my opinion is the most volatile one in all of baseball.  While I love the idea of a 9th inning hard thrower coming in to blow away the other team to get the save, the identity of the closer on each team can change day-to-day and week-to-week.  Some teams came into the season with a set closer in place, while other teams are still working by committee.  After completing opening weekend, let’s take a look around baseball to see how some closers have fared thus far.

1)  Pittsburgh Pirates- Joel Hanrahan:  After some talk of Hanrahan and Evan Meek sharing the closing duties for the Pirates, Hanrahan has taken the role and run with it.  In three games, Hanrahan already has three saves and is yet to give up an earned run.  His 5/1 K/BB ratio is great.  With Meek getting blown early and often (21.60 ERA), it looks like the Pirates have their closer for the foreseeable future.

2)  Los Angeles Dodgers- Jonathan Broxton:  With three saves of his own, Broxton looks strong to start the season.  Until you notice that he also given up two homeruns and has a 1/0 K/BB ratio.  This means that Broxton is giving up runs and not striking guys out despite being handed early season leads.  A recipe for disaster, Broxton will need to shape up in a hurry or risk losing his job in the next week or two.  Monitor this situation closely.

3)  New York Yankees- Mariano Rivera:  The only other closer with three saves on the season, Mo is just being Mo.  He is as automatic as closers come and requires no further explanation.

4)  Atlanta Braves- Craig Kimbrel:  Another possible closer-by-committee situation has turned into Kimbrel having the job exclusively to start the year.  With two saves, five k’s in two innings thus far, Kimbrel has been lights-out.  As long as he stays consistent, the job is his for now and possibly the next few years.

5)  Chicago Cubs- Carlos Marmol:  After signing a big contract, much was expected from Marmol.  The other closer besides Kimbrel to have two saves, Marmol has been hit and miss to start the year.  With few options on the horizon, expect Marmol to be good and finish with 20-30 saves for a middle-of-the-pack Cubs team.

6)  Anaheim Angels- Fernando Rodney:  With a 13.50 ERA and 4/2 BB/K ratio, Rodney is on a very short leash at this point.  With one or two more rocky outings, expect Scoscia to turn to other options until Rodney straightens himself out.  I see Rodney being the closer for the majority of the year, but April has not been kind to him thus far.

7)  Minnesota Twins- Joe Nathan:  I was at the Jays/Twins game on Sunday and got to watch both Nathan and Capps pitch.  I cannot say at this point which pitcher has the advantage, although Nathan looked very rusty after a year off.  If Nathan does not come together, I can definitely see Capps taking the job for the foreseeable future.  Coming back from injuries is tricky and I would not be relying on Nathan at this point yet.

8)  Arizona Diamondbacks- J.J. Putz:  So far, so good in Arizona.  With one save under his belt, Putz had 2 k’s in his first opportunity. After a horror of a bullpen last year, Kirk Gibson will enjoy a year of Putz as his closer in Arizona.

Remember, it is still early and much can change over the course of this month.  Closers are often one home run or blister away from losing their positions.  They are a nightmare for fantasy players and even bigger stress sources for baseball fans.  Keep your expectations in check and remember to judge the players on the totality of their work: one bad inning will rarely make or break a person’s career.

Around the Majors:  Players of Note from Monday April 4th

1)  Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis led the surging Orioles to another victory.  Roberts had a three-run home run for the O’s and Markakis chipped in with three hits of his own. 

2)  Jake Arrieta got the win for the Orioles over the Tigers, pitching six innings and only one earned run.  On the flipside, Porcello gave up five runs in five innings, with 9 hits allowed.  The Tigers pitching has been weak out of the gate.

3)  Martin Prado and Dan Uggla both homered for the Braves in a win over the Brewers.  Nice to see Uggla getting on track.

4)  Ricky Weekes continued his torrid start to the season with his third home run. Highly touted for years, if he stays healthy, 2011 could be his year.

5)  Beachy was outstanding in his first start of the year.  Only one earned run over six innings, he had a 1/7 BB/K ratio.  Kimbrel dominated for his second save by striking out the side in the ninth.

6)  Saito was bombed in the 8th for the Brewers, giving up two earned runs and three hits in the 8th.  With Axford’s struggles to boot, the closing situation in Milwaukee remains murky.

7)  Alfonso Soriano had two hits and home run for the Cubs in their win over the Diamondbacks.  Soto also chipped in with two hits as well.

8)  A-Rod and Posada both went deep for the Yankees as they beat the twins.  The Yankees bats have been on fire.

9)  Ivan Nova had a quality start for the Yankees, with three earned runs in his six innings pitched.  He finished with a 1/3 BB/K ratio.

10)  Texas remained undefeated as Nelson Cruz hit his fourth home run in four games.  Always a power threat, Cruz can break forty bombs if healthy.

11)  Elvis Andrus also went deep for Texas and is hitting .385 on the season.

12)  Derek Holland continued to show the Mike Maddux magic by having a quality start, seven innings, three earned runs and a 1/5 BB/K ratio.  Maddux is the new Dave Duncan.

13)  Milton Bradley hit third for the Mainers and finished with three hits.  With a .353 average, Milton is surprising a lot of people.  Let’s see if he can keep it up.

14)  Erik Bedard in his first start of the season after a long layover from injuries returned and pitched ok.  Three earned in five innings, Bedard gave up two home runs in the loss.

15)  McCutchen and Walker continued to lead the Pirates as they upped their record to 3-1 by defeating the Cardinals.  McCutchen hit his second home run of the year and Walker finished with three hits.

16)  Charlie Morton was the next Pirates pitcher to star.  One earned over six innings, though of concern was his 5/2 BB/K ratio.  Morton better watch those walks if he hopes to be successful this year.  A decent fifth starter, I wouldn’t expect much from him yet on a young Pirates team.

 

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