August 5, 2010
Hot Spots: Relief Pitchers
Craig Breslow may also get chances against lefty-heavy lineups, so keep that in mind. However, Breslow gave up a homer in yesterday's game and picked up a loss the day before, so Wuertz is your play here, even if it's just for the short-term until Bailey returns. He's owned in under 5% of ESPN leagues, and with fantasy seasons rapidly pushing toward the playoffs, every save counts. He replaces Brandon League on the list, who just saw his prospective value plummet to zero when the Mariners decided to hang on to David Aardsma.
We're seeing a little bit of a different situation in Pittsburgh, where Octavio Dotel's departure has opened up the closing job for Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan. I've mentioned a few times here that I thought Hanrahan was the better choice due to his high K rate, but that I thought Meek would get the chance because he had a lower ERA and "was an All-Star". However, Hanrahan received the first save opportunity, and it looks to be the right choice: Hanrahan struck out eight without a walk in the last week. Pirates manager John Russell hasn't made it official, and Meek may yet vulture a save here and there, making him a decent guy to hang on to. Still, Hanrahan needs to be owned in all leagues, and he's available in over 85% as of this writing.
Ryan Madson: I have to start out with these two tasty facts from our own Bill Baer: first, "this season, Ryan Madson BB/9: 1.3; Brad Lidge: 5.7." and second, "Roy Halladay K/BB, 2010: 7.5; Ryan Madson K/BB, 2010: 7.7." You'd think that replacing Lidge with Madson would be obvious by those numbers alone, if not propelled even further by Lidge allowing yet another walkoff disaster to the Nationals on Saturday. You'd think that, but Charlie Manuel continues to insist otherwise. That's well and good for him, but I continue to insist that no team with playoff aspirations can continue to live with that kind of performance. Madson's going to get his chance at some point, and he's still out there for 95% of you to pick up.
Drew Storen: With Matt Capps off to Minnesota (and yes, I was thrilled to see that move happen about six hours after I led off last week's column suggesting it), the Nationals job is open. After the trade, MLB.com reported that Jim Riggleman sees the job as being shared between Storen, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard, but I don't see that lasting very long. Burnett notched the first save, though that was in large part because Storen was unavailable and after having been brought in to face lefties in the 8th, Burnett stayed in as the first two batters of the 9th were lefties as well. Going forward, this is likely a two-man race between Clippard and Storen. As for Clippard, his last two appearances have each come in the 7th inning, suggesting that Riggleman still values him in a setup role (and he gave up a game-tying homer his last time out as well). Storen's still a rookie without a save, so he'll be eased into the job, but it seems clear that he'll get the bulk of opportunities - especially if he keeps going without allowing any long balls.
Hong-Chih Kuo: Don't let the rumors fool you; Jonathan Broxton is in no danger of losing his job, nor was Octavio Dotel brought in to do anything more than solidify a shaky bullpen. (Which in itself is arguable.) Broxton, however, continues to struggle, allowing runs in four of his last seven outings. Perhaps more worrisome, his strikeout rate has plummeted, as he's also without a K in four of his last seven. Meanwhile, Kuo keeps on dominating; the earned run he allowed on July 31 was the first that crossed against him in six weeks. He's still a good bet to pair with Broxton to get a ton of strikeouts, plenty of holds, and the occasional save.
J.J. Putz: Tough week all around for Putz, as Bobby Jenks survived the deadline while saving three in a row, in addition to Putz seeing his team record scoreless game streak end. The chances for Putz to grab some saves aren't as bright as they were a week ago. Still, Putz is striking out 5.6 as many as he's walking and picking up holds, so as far as non-closer relievers go, he's not without his value.