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By Brooke Robinson (Rangers Correspondent): Follow @bka_9
Though baseball season begins in Texas just hours away, there were many questions left for the team to answer throughout Spring Training. Who will become the fifth starter? Who will recover from surgery this season? And who will revive the Bullpen?
In the past month of training in Surprise, Arizona, some of the answers of these questions have come to light. The Rangers were plagued with injury in the latter part of the 2012 season, particularly with their pitching.
So it was no surprise that the front office brought in and up some new faces to test out this spring. Pitchers that will still be recovering at the beginning of the season include: RHP Colby Lewis, RHP Neftali Feliz, RHP Joakim Soria, and LHP Martin Perez.
Neftali Feliz hits 100 MPH!
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Sunday Mar.03, 2013
By Chance Moore (Padres Correspondent) Follow @chancemoore_EB
Street was traded by the Rockies to the San Diego Padres for Left Hander Nick Schmidt on December 7, 2011. As part of the deal the Padres paid the remaining money on his contract. Street missed a month with a right shoulder strain, but otherwise had an excellent first half with the Padres. He compiled a 1.13 ERA, was 13 for 13 in converting Save Opportunities, and did not allow a Home Run in his 1st 25 games, earning a selection to his first All-Star Game.
Street is an underrated Relief Pitcher in the MLB realms. The man burst onto the scene for Oakland in 2005 – netting the Rookie of the Year Award in the American League with a 5-1 Record and 23 Saves during his 78.1 IP. 8 Years into his career, he has 201 Saves – while yielding a 3.01 ERA. Here he is on the Active MLB Saves List in #8 position. Really he will be 7th early into the year because Brian Fuentes recently retired.
|Rank||Player (yrs, age)||Saves||Throws|
|1.||Mariano Rivera (18, 42)||608||R|
|2.||Jason Isringhausen (16, 39)||300||R|
|3.||Joe Nathan (12, 37)||298||R|
|4.||Francisco Rodriguez (11, 30)||294||R|
|5.||Jose Valverde (10, 34)||277||R|
|6.||Jonathan Papelbon (8, 31)||257||R|
|7.||Brian Fuentes (12, 36)||204||L|
|8.||Huston Street (8, 28)||201||R|
|9.||J.J. Putz (10, 35)||183||R|
|10.||Brian Wilson (7, 30)||171||R|
Huston Street Interview on his 1st Save for the San Diego Padres in 2012:
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Saturday, January.19th, 2013
By Nicholas Rossoletti (MLB Reports Trade Correspondent): Follow @NRoss56
It is easy to equate a big market team’s success with merely a willingness to overspend on free agents and use their superior earning power to dominate the sport. While the Rangers certainly are not afraid of spending all that money that playing the Dallas/Fort Worth area provides, it would be inaccurate to equate the team’s recent string of success with only their ability to outspend a fair portion of their competitors. As we enter the 2013 season, the Rangers have built a very strong base – while managing to not tie themselves to any back-breaking, future altering contracts. That is a testament to the organization’s belief in its system – and its refusal to spend on player just because they are able to. With that being said, let’s take a look at the Rangers 2013 payroll as of now and see where Texas will be spending its money next season.
Rangers 2011 ALCS Clincher:
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Monday January 14th, 2013
By Brooke Robinson (Rangers Correspondent): Follow @bka_9
Looking back on the end of the 2012 season, and how the AL West lead was given up in a matter of days to Oakland, it’s clear the Texas front office wanted change in the clubhouse for 2013. It seems as though GM Jon Daniels’ motto for the offseason is “out with the old, in with the new….er”. Daniels is eager to bring a World Series victory to Arlington and has pieced together a team of new players with old postseason successes. There is also a chance that the Rangers will also bring up some of their promising prospects that they protected throughout the offseason trade frenzy. This makes for some very interesting lineup possibilities for the upcoming season, especially with the major roles needing to be filled by former Ranger departures such as 1B/C Mike Napoli, U Michael Young, OF Josh Hamilton, and P Ryan Dempster.
Ian Kinsler Highlights for 2012:
Josh Hamilton: Overcoming the Demons or Reliving his Past? The Future of the Rangers Free Agent Superstar
Tuesday October 9th, 2012
Robert Whitmer: We talked in a previous article about the demons that we carry and how they can affect us. We all have things that we must overcome in order for us to progress and become the person that we were meant to be. For some it is easier to overcome these demons, but for others it can take longer; much longer. What is it about a person that takes one less time to overcome them and others longer? Is it the self-discipline that one has? What about distractions that come up while trying to work on their issues? We all know that Josh Hamilton has had some issues in the past and that he says it is a fight every day of his life to not go back to the behaviors that got him in trouble in the first place. Before I go much further in this article, let me be very clear about one thing. I have never had any type of issue with any type of addiction to any drugs, alcohol or tobacco. I don’t know how it affects people on a daily basis. What I do know is that it is a serious affliction. One thing I do know is that through it all, Josh Hamilton is a strong individual.
Normally when you write something like this you start at the beginning and you work your way to the present day, then project the future. This will not be one of those. I am going to start at the present and work my way to the beginning to see how far the man has come. As of today we are looking at Josh Hamilton the free agent. When the Rangers failed to advance in the postseason, Hamilton became an unemployed baseball player. In a rather lackluster free agent class that doesn’t really have a lot of players that are game changers, the speculation has not been about who Josh Hamilton will sign with- but rather how much he will sign for. Let’s start by looking at the season that the guy had. Out of the 12 position players that made the most money in the majors this year, Hamilton had a better season than all of them except for a guy named Miguel Cabrera, who won some award that hadn’t been won in 47 years named the triple crown. Hamilton made $13 million this year. The Rangers paid him $302,325.58 per home run that he hit (43). They paid him $105,691.06 per RBI that he drove in this year (128). When you are looking at how much you pay a player, you have to look at consistency to make somewhat sure that they are going to be worth the money. Read the rest of this entry
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:
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer): Follow @chuckbooth3024 To say that this year has been a good year for baseball is an humongous understatement. I thought after last years finish, that nothing was going to duplicate the experience. Everyone forgets (or maybe not) that there should not even have been many races last year with Atlanta and Boston having such substantial leads on playoff spots. The Red Sox and Braves collapsed like a couple of bowling pins with King Kong Bundy splashing down on them!
This year, there are 15 teams still vying for 10 playoff spots. So far the only probable locks are Washington for a playoff spot-and Cincinnati to probably win their division The player races for all of the categories is almost as fascinating. Will Andrew McCutcheon catch Melky Cabrera for the Batting title? Or will 2012 be forever cemented in baseball folklore by a stained player like Cabrera? He could still end up determining who wins the World Series in the Fall Classic by his Testosterone filled antics in his MVP ALL-Star Game. The big question is, will the San Francisco Giants fans cheer for him if he comes back in the playoffs? They cheered for another league leader before when it was obvious he was guilty. Right now if you are the Giants, you will take an opportunity to boo or cheer for Cabrera because that means you would be in the playoffs.
Will the spending happy Dodgers have to wait another year to capitalize on their new plan to make the playoffs? If they ultimately miss the playoffs outright, are they going to buy every player they can in the off-season? I sure hope Magic knows that there are Luxury Tax penalties for spending over 178 Million Next Year. 1st year fine is 22.5%, 2nd year is 30%, 3rd year and beyond is 40%. So if they plan on having a 250 Million Dollar Payroll in 2013 (by adding 2 or 3 more top Free Agents) will the Dodgers just forego the worry of any financial penalties on a yearly basis– just to dominate the whole National League (plus baseball for that matter.) Every other team has to consider the urgency in cashing out a World Series right now while the Dodgers have not had a full off season with the new management yet. Can Oakland and their ‘New Money Ball philosophy’ make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2006?
The Best Players over the last month were: Buster Posey, Prince Fielder, Giancarlo Stanton, Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Yovani Gallardo, Kris Medlen, Adam Wainwright, Aroldis Chapman and Felix Hernandez. The best teams have been Oakland, Washington, San Francisco, San Diego, Baltimore and Texas. The worst teams have been Houston (at least its better to go down hard and stockpile #1 Draft Picks guys.) I have a feeling you will be there for a while with the division you are heading into and may even challenge the 120 Loss Single Season Record. At least you are not going into the NL West to compete with the LA Dodgers! The Cleveland Indians have fallen to an epic drop-off as well. Toronto misses their top sluggers. What has happened to the Minnesota Twins? The Mets have ownership and payroll problems, so at least they have an excuse. Plus they lead the world in guys being hurt. When David Wright has been your healthiest player, you know the season has been backwards! So sit back, get your notebook and popcorn ready for this Month’s Rankings! Read the rest of this entry
Chuck Booth: (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- To be a closer in today’s baseball game takes quite the mental fortitude. There is a lot of psychological warfare one could do to himself in preventing a successful run at saving games. While I am of the mindset that the relief pitchers of yesteryear seemed to be relied on more for lengthier durations, this does not diminish this stat in any way. It is hard to acquire the 90-100% save rate that most teams are striving for in a pitching staff. In any given seasons the average save opportunities average from 45-65 chances to lock a game down. A lot of this also depends on what team you play for. There have been several phenomenal stretches put forth by closers of the game in recent vintage. Who could forget Canadian born Erig Gagne? This man once saved 85 straight games from 2002-2004. He is the all-time leader in that category and beat out John Franco’s previous record by an astounding 30 games. Another incredible run was Brad Lidge‘s incredible 2008 season where he did not blow a save opportunity out of 48 games both in the regular season and playoffs.
Sure these guys don’t log 120 innings anymore, or throw for 3 inning saves like Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage did for many years. By the way, we can all thank Tony La Russa for the invention of specialists pitchers (Rick Honeycutt, Jesse Orosco anyone?) and the one inning save closers. La Russa perfected this scenario with former starter Dennis Eckersley coming out of the pen for the Oakland A’s during their powerhouse days in the late 80′s. Eckersley was so dominant every team tried to duplicate their own bullpens to mock the A’s.
Before this time had come, relief pitchers were all mostly comprised of young pitchers trying to acclimatize themselves into the Major Leagues first, before earning a spot as a Starting Pitcher. For example, David Wells was once a relief pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays first and then was promoted to a starting pitcher after he proved he could pitch in the Major Leagues. In today’s baseball world, relief pitchers are now being drafted out of college and high school as relievers whereas they used to all come from the position of starting pitcher. It also used to be that relief pitchers were players that graduated to a starter and then could not find success as starters and were sent back to the bullpen once again to stay. When it came down to it, you had only a couple of chances to perform as a starter. Maybe it was because there were bigger than life characters like Gossage that make remember these pitchers in such favorable terms. Maybe it was because we never saw them interviewed on a social media platform like today’s athlete is and the mystery surrounded them made them more feared, or maybe it is because we tend to admire things more when they happened in the past. I still love the closers role in today’s game and nothing has more drama in a baseball game than trying to nail down the last 3 outs!
Wednesday June 27, 2012
Bryan Sheehan (MLB Writer): Fourteen months ago, Roy Oswalt took a leave from the Philadelphia Phillies to be with his family after a series of tornadoes ripped through Mississippi. He left the team, where he was one of the showcased “Four Aces,” with a 3-1 record and a 3.33 ERA and returned with a sore back. He spent a short time on the disabled list, but returned to start in eight more games before once again landing on the DL with “lower back inflammation.” It is unclear whether his back troubles arose during his leave of absence, but Oswalt continued to pitch because he didn’t “want to be labeled a quitter.” Ultimately, his injury became too much, and during his latter stint on the DL there was doubt that he’d ever pitch again. He did return, though, and finished the year with a 9-10 record and 3.69 ERA. After his team faltered (or imploded, depending on how you look at it) in the playoffs, Oswalt declared free agency; his career was not over after all.
At age 34, Oswalt has appeared in eight playoff series, one World Series and three NLCS. When he hit the market last offseason, Oswalt made it clear that he wanted to play for a winner. More specifically, he wanted to play for a team that would have a great chance of winning it all. Like Roger Clemens in 2006 and 2007, Oswalt told teams that he would continue to stay in shape but wait until midseason to sign with the team that he thought would do the best in the postseason. On May 29th, Oswalt picked the 31-19 Texas Rangers and began his road back to the MLB.
Monday June.4, 2012
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)-We are going to bring you monthly power rankings every month of the season. There will be a few notes written for each team. Please feel free to let us know your thoughts. The Texas Rangers are the top ranked team yet once again, although teams are certainly gaining on the them in the last week. Look out for Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees to make their move towards the top this month.
June Power Rankings-Last Month Rank in Parenthesis
1. Texas-32-22 (1) The Rangers rode Josh Hamilton in the month of May-who enters today on pace for about 60 HRs and 170 RBI while hitting .354. Nelson Cruz is starting to heat up and the duo of Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler are steady as as ever. Yu Darvish is 7-3 en route to the leading the group amongst Rookie of The Year Contention. Joe Nathan is looking like his old self again out of the pen with an ERA under 2.
2. LA Dodgers 33-21 (5) Even with Matt Kemp out of the lineup again, the Dodgers are winning ball games with solid contributions from Andre Ethier and A.J Ellis on offense. The pitching staff has been anchored by Clayton Kershaw and a fast 7-1 start by Chris Capuano. Ted Lilly was 5-1 before a stint on the DL. It is too bad because Lilly is 125-104 since 2004.
3. Tampa Bay 31-23 (2) Hideki Matsui homered in two of his first 3 games back with the Rays. The team has had steady pitching to stay in contention. Carlos Pena has really struggled in the last month and will need to pick it up. Luke Scott with 35 RBI has good production numbers in spite of his .225 AVG. Fernando Rodney has converted 17 out of 18 saves to pace the club.
4. Cincinnati 30-23 (12) Joey Votto has hit .404 in the last 30 days and maybe the best all-around hitter in the National League right now. Jay Bruce has 12 HRs and 34 RBI and is living up to his all-star potential. Aroldis Chapman has 27 Strikeouts in just over 14 innings and has yet to yield a run while opponents are hitting a paltry .043 against him.
5. NY Yankees 29-24 (6) The Bronx Bombers have 6 players with 8 HRs or more, which is a good thing because with the exception of Derek Jeter, a lot of them are hitting under their career averages. The return of Andy Pettitte has helped the rotation with the loss of Micheal Pineda. Phil Hughes threw a complete game over the weekend and CC Sabathia is on pace for another 20 win season. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday May 6, 2012
Bryan Sheehan (Baseball Writer): Seeing Mariano Rivera go down with a torn ACL is like driving by a car accident and reflecting on how easily it could have been you in that accident, or in this case- how it could have been your team’s closer cringing in pain on the warning track. And this is the year of the injured closer: from Boston’s Andrew Bailey to San Francisco’s Brian Wilson, closers across the league have been dropping like flies. Other closers, like the Angels’ Jordan Walden, have stayed healthy but haven’t played well enough to keep their coveted ninth inning role. Even though there has only been a month of baseball so far, much has changed for some clubs.
Today, I’ll be taking a look at every team’s closer situation, and breaking down how it got to be the way it is: Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday May 1, 2012
Ryan Ritchey: Are the Texas Rangers the best team in baseball? In my eyes they are. They are the most balanced team I have seen in this short period of the season. Going out and getting Yu Darvish was a huge part of the winter for the Rangers. Darvish a Japanese phenom, has come over the United States and gone 4-0 in 5 starts. He has changed his windup 4 times since the first pitch on opening day. Starting with his hands going over his head, to now just pitching from the stretch the whole game.
Darvish isn’t the only stud pitcher on this team. Derek Holland can also throw over 200 innings for this Rangers team. With a team focused around pitching, they sure do get the job done. Add Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan watching every pitch from the first row the pitchers have to succeed. Rangers starters have combined for a 13-4 record, with Darvish and Colby Lewis going 7-0. The Rangers starting pitching is in my opinion what is going to get them a World Series championship this season. Read the rest of this entry
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)-I had a lot of fun prospecting for the best interview experts amongst the friends network that I have in at http://www.ballparkchasers.com. I must say that I knew that Stephanie was a big fan of the Twins, I just didn’t know how far back her fandom went with the club. I was asking questions about the team since the Metrodome days us until now. Stephanie has been a fan since the team moved there from Washington. It was then I knew that having Stephanie as an expert for the Twins was the right decision!
CB: “Welcome to the MLB Reports Target Field Expert Interview Stephanie. Please tell us about yourself and then give us some information on your life as a Twins fan?”
SC: “I’ve been a Twins fan since I attended my very first Bat Day at Metropolitan Stadium in 1971. (With thousands of bats pounding against the old metal decks, I remember it being extremely loud!) As a kid, I would listen to the Twins game on my transistor radio after I went to bed; now, as a middle-aged woman, I keep track of the Twins via radio, TV and/or Internet.” Read the rest of this entry
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
Friday March 9th, 2012
Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): While the Angels and Rangers should battle for first place and eclipse 90 wins each, the Mariners and Athletics will most likely lose ninety games apiece. Despite this dichotomy, from a fantasy perspective, the American League West might the most intriguing division in MLB. The Angels and Rangers are loaded with fantasy studs, although many come at a risk, while there a number of undervalued and up and coming players on M’s and A’s roster that need to be targeted in fantasy leagues in 2012.
Colby Lewis is easily one of the most undervalued pitchers in baseball. Most people are quick to credit his 2010 return to the major leagues as a fluke. Although a slight drop in velocity last year, his 2011 numbers were very similar to 2010. He is a safe bet for a dozen wins an ERA around 4 and strikeout rate around 8K/9. He is not going to blow hitters away, but he is an attractive start against division foes Oakland and Seattle and should be available for a relatively cheap price. Read the rest of this entry
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***
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Thursday December 8, 2011
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: With the Winter Meetings at an end, players/teams/agents are left standing to look over the game of musical chairs and who is left standing. A particularly interesting position was closer- with more eligible players than open positions. In the past few weeks, we have seen many signings and trades in this area. Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies. Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays. Huston Street to the Padres. Francisco Rodriguez accepted arbitration from the Brewers. Heath Bell to the Marlins. Joe Nathan to the Rangers. Andrew Bailey is openly being discussed in the trade market as leaving the A’s. Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch joined the Mets. As a result, one big name is left standing with no dance partner. Ryan Madson is still on the open market with few promising prospects ahead.
As the story goes, Madson was supposed to re-sign with the Phillies. A reported 4-year, estimated $44 million contract was put on the table by the Phillies early in free agency. Player and agent (Scott Boras) happily accepted and a Philadelphia return was in order. Not so fast. There are conflicting stories on what transpired. Needless to say, there was never a firm deal in place and the Phillies moved quickly to sign the top closer on the free agent market, Jonathan Papelbon. Since then, there has been little discussion on Madson. There have been reports throughout the process linking him to the Jays, Marlins and Red Sox. Well…the first 2 teams have filled their vacancies. The Red Sox have Daniel Bard as the incumbent set-up man who could get a look at the closing position- although he may end up in the rotation. Other than that, there seems to be little hope for Madson.
Last night, Madson chose not to the K-Rod route and accept salary arbitration. As a result, he remains out in the market waiting for his next contract offer. Francisco Cordero is in the same boat, although he is still likely to go back to the Reds on a 1-2 year contract from the whispers around the league. But even if the Reds do not retain Cordero, it is unlikely that they will sign Madson- especially given the young players they still need to lock-up to extensions. So what other options exist for Madson? Perhaps the Orioles. Maybe the Rays. The options are getting bleak.
This is one of the few times that you will see Scott Boras caught “with his pants down” so to speak. For an agent that is well known to be able to create and stimulate markets and demands for his clients, Boras has come up short for Madson. The perception is that the Phillies did what was best for them in signing Papelbon, which left Boras outraged and in a bind. With little to no teams looking for closers, Boras essentially only has the Red Sox to work with. At this point, he may need to take a 1-2 year deal for Madson, in the $7-10 million range to rebuild his value and try again on the open market in the future. A risky proposition, but with few options- Madson may have no other choice.
I was actually quite surprised that Madson didn’t take the Phillies offer of arbitration. Based on his stellar 2011 numbers, he could have expected a strong 1-year contract at least. Now Boras and Madson are left to take their chances on the open market. For a closer with only 1 full year on the job, time is not on Madson’s side. A proven closer like Francisco Cordero knows that he find a contract soon. Heck, even K-Rod knows that he just needs another solid season under his belt and his next deal will follow shortly after. Madson was in line for his first and only big payday this offseason. If he gets hurt or becomes ineffective in 2012, that dream vanishes. Scott Boras better work overtime to get the Red Sox biting on his closer client. Otherwise, it may not turn out to be a very Merry Christmas in the Madson household this year.
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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