Looking for Closers. Offering Power, Speed or Stud Starting Pitching.
We’ve all seen at least one of these posts on our league message boards the past few weeks. And, the Fantasy Forum pages are full of owners’ pleas for advice on how to keep up with the tornado that has ripped through bullpens all over baseball so far in 2014. I hope these were not your posts, and not because you have plenty of closers, none of us do, but because I hope you are not mortgaging the whole farm in a desperate chase for saves. I play in a lot of FAAB leagues, 6 to be exact, and I have seen people blow through half of their season’s FAAB budgets already for the likes of Matt Lindstrom, Frankie Rodriguez, Shawn Kelly and Sergio Santos. If I was to handicap the odds of any of these 4 keeping the job for the rest of 2014 I’d conservatively give K-Rod about a 75% shot, Santos about a 35% shot, Lindstrom about 10% if he hasn’t lost it already, and Kelly, less than 5%. Had you spent half your 2014 FAAB on these four, and they held true to my better than Vegas odds, you would probably end up with 35-40 saves for about $500 of a $1,000 FAAB budget. I don’t have to tell you how many points in the standings 35-40 saves will give you in the grand scheme of things.
For the record, I predicted in Spring Training, in this very space, that Nate Jones will close for the Sox, Jim Henderson for the Suds, David Robertson for the Yanks and Casey Janssen for the Jays. I realize those were the favorites anyway, but I stand by all but the Henderson pick, and to a lesser extent the Janssen pick. I have Jones and Robertson on several DL’s in my leagues. Why do I stash them on the DL, and why should we not be surprised that K-Rod and Santos are closing on Easter Sunday? Quite simply, because CLOSERS CLOSE. Sure, it’s a revolving door, but never count out the guys with closing experience, even if they have been away for a couple of seasons. In that same article I mentioned that about 33% of all teams turnover their closer at some point during the season. Easter Sunday was the end of week three of the 2014 season, and already 11 teams have had to hand the ball to someone other than their opening day closer. That is 37% already in week three. Some teams more than once.
But, it gets worse. How many of you have run yourself ragged trying to figure out who the Astros Closer is? How about the Cubs? Considering those teams have generated a combined 6 saves after 3 weeks, does it even matter if it is Josh Fields, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Jose Veras, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm or the leader of the pack with 2 saves, Anthony Bass? Anthony who? And he has not even been named the Stros closer. (My personal handicap, if it matters, is Fields 25%, Strop 35% and Veras 35%. with the rest adding up to a combined 10%. Veras drops to less than 10% once he is traded to a contender in need of a set up man as he was last season. Qualls will likely go the same route, before he even gets another save. I had Jesse Crain as my pick for the Stros job and I can’t even tell you three weeks later what happened to him.
In that same article I talked about the people who like to grab Elite Closers early in the draft so they can have some peace of mind and spend less time chasing the merry-go-round. Alas, Craig Kimbrel, he of the 4th round pick, he of the whispers of shoulder problems, he of the 5 saves in the first week of the season, OMG he was out for the last 7 days with that balky shoulder. He pitched Saturday to the tune of 3 hits, a walk, 2 ER and 24 pitches in 2/3 of an inning, and then Freddi said he will be available Sunday. If you made it to the end of this article of mine and heard me say to pick up David Carpenter, I hope you haven’t dropped him yet. I really feel bad for those of you who missed out on Kimbrel and waited until the 5th or 6th round to grab Elite #2 Aroldis Chapman. He would have been fine if not for a liner to the face before he collected his first save. Did anyone else, besides me, laugh when owners started racing to the wire, or emptying their FAAB accounts for some guy named JJ Hoover? Or, jumped when Manny Parra and Sam Lecure nabbed opportune saves suddenly thrusting themselves into the closer conundrum. I quietly added the DL’ed himself, Jonathan Broxton (remember him?) for $1 in several leagues while league mates shelled out over $100 for Hoover et al. Broxton has gotten me 2 saves so far and a few k’s for less than the cost of a pack of baseball cards, and that is one less save then the combined total of Parra, Lecure and the 14.54 ERA Mr Hoover. Why am I telling you this? Not because I think I am good at this, no, I hate chasing saves as much as the next guy and it gives me a headache like no other. In fact, it is the main reason I play in FAAB leagues now. I’m telling you this because I want you to remember, when you hear someone say or write the words “Don’t Pay for Saves”, listen to them. And do you know why I snuck Mr. Broxton onto my team at the end of the FAAB auction for a buck after my friends fought over a $100 Hoover? Because CLOSERS CLOSE. Sure he had to come off the DL first, and will cede to Chapman soon enough, but the Reds named him the interim closer before he even was activated. He is only 29 years old too, and I’ll predict right now on April 21 that he is closing for a team in 2015. CLOSERS CLOSE. Don’t pay for Saves.
Maybe you were third in line and drafted Greg Holland of KC. Good for you. I predicted here that he leads the AL in Saves in 2014. His biggest competition, AL East Power Closers Koji Uehara and David Robertson and soft tosser but 2 time AL leader Jim Johnson are already on the shelf or on the outs leaving only 39-year-old Joe Nathan to compete for the crown. Robertson will soon regain his role, and I hope in the meantime you listened when I wrote in the above mentioned article, “Shawn Kelly, NYY – 12.9 K/9 11 Holds in 2013. What will the Yanks do if Robertson fails?”. Well, he (4 saves) and David Phelps and Adam Warren (1 each) have done just fine, but Robbie will be back in a week, so i hope you didn’t pay too much for Kelly. In fact, he should have already been on your roster, as should have been Ed Mujica, Sean Doolittle and Luke Gregerson. No need to race to the wire or unload your wallet when the big guys go down. Build a better bullpen for a long season. Don’t Pay for Saves. How smart were the Bosox to grab Mujica? Uehara goes down and there is no question who will step in. CLOSERS CLOSE.
Some other interesting situations unfolded in Spring Training. Many thought Cody Allen was the favorite in Cleveland to replace the departed Chris “Heart Attack” Perez, but John Axford took the job and I doubt he ever gives it back. CLOSERS CLOSE. Texas had a smorgasbord of closer candidates fighting for their closer job after Nathan left for Detroit. Former SP and Closer Neftali Feliz was not fully recovered yet from 2013 injuries and was sent to the minors, Tanner Scheppers, 2013 ace set-up man went to the Rotation to get knocked around till he was knocked to AAA. The closer job was won, and will not be relinquished any time soon, by Joakim Soria. CLOSERS CLOSE. My favorite is the Colorado Rockies situation where I predicted that Rex Brothers would be this season’s Kenley Jansen and take over for 55-year-old Andy Hawkins (I mean 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins) by Memorial Day. So far Hawkins has 5 saves, 4 in his last 4 appearances, and has not given up a run since opening day. Brothers meanwhile has 7 walks to 6 strikeouts sandwiched around 5 holds, 2 losses, a win and a blown save. THAT is pure closer material! I stand by my prediction. Memorial Day.
There is an exception to every rule, or not. Bobby Parnell blows out his elbow. (C’mon, who didn’t see that coming, he is a Met after all) and his replacement was not Vic Black or Jeuris Familia, who both may be future closers. Instead it was Jose Valverde that was named closer immediately, and everyone raced to the wire and unloaded their purses. I mean, CLOSERS CLOSE, no? Nope. Fail. Here is what I said in my Middle Relief Article a month ago, “We know Parnell is the closer and can handle the job, if healthy. But he was hurt the last couple of seasons missing time in each. There is very little in the way of Closer Insurance or even top Middle Relievers to count on. Vic Black is probably the best bet to set up and backup Parnell. That is a lot of pressure for a pitcher who has not yet had success above Triple A. The other option is Jose Valverde, who the Mets brought in as added Closer insurance, but he has not been reliable the last few years, lost his job to Benoit in Detroit last season and has not been a Middle Reliever in years. So, outside of Parnell, I can’t recommend any relievers from the Mets.” Ok, so I was not quite a prophet. Had I recommended you grab Kyle Farnsworth, a former closer of sorts, and you had, it would have saved you from having to look at this FAAB draft last night in one of my leagues: ($1,000 FAAB Budget for the season, deep 16 team league)
|FREE AGENT AUCTION BIDS PROCESSED|
|1.||The Twilight Zone||Kyle Farnsworth, NYM RP||$135||Added. ZONE dropped Matt Thornton, NYY RP to Waivers.|
|2.||Gun Free Zone||Josh Reddick, Oak OF||$88||Added. GFZ dropped Paul Konerko, CWS 1B to Waivers.|
|Too Deep To Swim||Kyle Farnsworth, NYM RP||$85||Unsuccessful. Reason: Player has already been added to another team.|
|The Slow Get Up||Kyle Farnsworth, NYM RP||$75||Unsuccessful. Reason: Player has already been added to another team.|
|3.||Too Deep To Swim||Matt Harrison*, Tex SP||$61||Added. drwn dropped Matt Moore*, TB SP to Waivers.|
|Too Deep To Swim||Josh Reddick, Oak OF||$60||Unsuccessful. Reason: A player you are attempting to drop is no longer on your roster.|
|Money to Burn||Kyle Farnsworth, NYM RP||$51||Unsuccessful. Reason: Player has already been added to another team.|
I’ll do the math for you. $135 was nearly 14% of Twilight Zone’s FAAB budget for the whole season, for the Mets 3rd string closer who started the season in AAA. The owner of TZ is one of the most experienced and accomplished Fantasy Baseball players I know, and the one who taught me how to build a better bullpen over years of watching him spend the last 10 rounds of every draft loading up on “closers en waiting”, or “CLEWS”. I guess he got caught with his closer pants down in this league this season. Over/Under on Farney’s saves total for 2014? I put it at 20 Saves. 20 Saves for $135. Not only will that hardly dent the final standings in a 6 X 6 league, but anyone could have rostered Farney for the $1 minimum just two days ago. Do you know why you don’t see the 65 Mustangs with a bid on that list? I’d love to tell you that it was because I “Don’t Pay for Saves” or because I already owned the new Mets closer, but alas I can’t. I was spending Easter with the family and didn’t even know that Farnsworth was replacing Valverde until I saw this auction unfold. I was asleep at the wheel. The closer Merry-Go-Round is hard to keep up with, and can be very expensive to chase. I would have lost this bid anyway as I probably would have bid $31, or about what I think 20 saves are worth. I’m right in the middle of the pack in saves in this league and my pen consists of Tommy Hunter (15th round), Rex Brothers (17th), Josh Fields (21st) and Pedro Strop (last round pick) Based on my own article from last month I’ll own 4 closers come Memorial Day. And, even if I am correct, history shows that I will have to replace at least one of them by 4th of July, and may need one more to compete on top of that since the Stros and Cubs won’t exactly generate a lot of saves. I guess I better get started on predicting the next round of closer failures so i can get their CLEWS for a buck next week. I will too. I’ll let you know who I pick up.
But, above all, don’t trade Jay Bruce or Zack Greinke for Fernando Rodney because you just lost a couple of your closers. The loss of 30 HR and 100 RBI or 200K’s and low 2 ERA/ low 1 WHIP will hurt far more in your overall game and be far more difficult to replace then 20 or 30 saves. Do your homework, or read my closer articles (shameless plug) and maybe you can build a better bullpen for a long season. It is, after all, only April 21st. There are 23 more weeks to go and probably a dozen more closer changes to be made. If you can’t stomach the closer tornado in week three, it will be a tough next 5 months. It is only one category, and you don’t need to win it to win your league. Later this season I’ll write about alternative scoring models that lessen the impact of the SAVE as an all important category while still maintaining the overall value of good Closers and just as importantly, Middle Relievers and Specialists. The more deep and varied your bullpen is set up, the better you will be able to weather the Closer Tornado, and the better chance that you will already own the next closer to be promoted, rather than have to run to the wire or dump out half your budget.
In most good leagues, the more well-known CLEWS such as Mark Melancon, Joaquin Benoit, Tyler Clippard, or Junichi Tazawa are already owned, but I’ll leave you with a brief list of relievers that I am keeping an eye on. Relievers you may not know quite as well, but may be in line for some saves later this season.They have the “stuff” and the make-up of a closer, but may need some sort of opportunity. (And, if you don’t already own JJ Putz you better pick him up quick. Addison Reed gave up a run each of the last two days….panic in the desert!!) Take a look at: Darren O’Day, Balt (got a save the other o’day), Craig Breslow, Bos, Justin Grimm, Chi, anyone named Webb in the AL, Cody Allen, Cle, Al Alberquerque, Det (He’s gotta close at some point, sick stuff), Chris Withrow, LAD, Will Smith, Mil, Warren, Phelps & Dellin Betances, NYY, Ryan Cook, Oak, (I bet he gets more saves then Doolittle and Gregerson), Dale Thayer, SD, Danny Farquhar, Sea, Brett Cecil & Steve Delabar, Tor, Alexi Ogando, Tex, and my favorite, Drew Storen, Wash. Also, remember, CLOSERS CLOSE, so don’t forget about these guys that are still pitching in the MLB: Chris Perez, Brian Wilson & Brandon League, LAD, Heath Bell, TB, Jim Johnson, Oak (you know he will close again this season, no?), Jim Henderson, Mil, Tom Wilhelmsen, Sea, Jason Motte, St L (DL), and, don’t laugh, Carlos Marmol, Mia. Hey, CLOSERS CLOSE, Ask Jose Valverde.