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June 24, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Relief Pitchers

by Mike Petriello

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Value Picks Season PECOTA Games '10
Relievers Throws W Sv IP H HR ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Starts Relief
Brandon League RH 5 1 38.0 33 5 3.32 1.158 6.4 2.6 1.2 7.15 2.77 1.2 0 34
Arthur Rhodes LH 2 0 31.0 15 1 0.29 0.806 8.4 2.9 0.3 8.50 4.00 0.8 0 34
Aaron Heilman RH 2 1 32.0 13 3 3.66 1.406 7.3 3.7 0.3 8.07 3.92 0.9 0 32
Brandon Lyon RH 5 1 31.0 30 1 3.19 1.323 6.4 3.2 0.3 7.00 3.50 0.8 0 33
David Hernandez RH 2 2 53.1 48 5 4.73 1.519 6.4 5.6 0.8 7.00 4.25 1.2 8 9
Alfredo Simon RH 1 7 16.0 19 1 3.94 1.750 7.3 5.1 0.6 7.20 3.92 1.9 0 16
Drew Storen RH 2 0 17.1 14 0 2.08 1.269 6.2 4.2 0.0 8.22 3.32 1.2 0 16
Fernando Rodney RH 4 6 28.1 21 2 3.18 1.412 6.0 6.0 0.6 7.20 5.00 1.1 0 31
  2007-09 in Rotation 4.43 1.39 6.6 3.1 1.1  
  2007-09 in Relief 3.94 1.36 7.7 3.8 0.9  

That's right, Arthur Rhodes. The same one who's been around for so long that in his first career game, way back in 1991, he was starting against a Texas Rangers team featuring Brian Downing, Gary Pettis, and Ruben Sierra, and who's accumulated just 32 saves in 19 big-league seasons. But you come here looking for deep value, don't you? Well, it doesn't get much deeper than this. Let's start with the obvious: Rhodes has been really, really good this year. His comically low 0.29 ERA (which I'm citing mostly for the opportunity to point out that his ERA+ is somehow 1463) is due to the fact that after allowing a solo homer to Jeff Baker in his second outing of the season, Rhodes has kept the ledger clean. That's 32 straight scoreless outings. Granted, a .193 BABIP means that luck has tilted in the old man's direction, but it's also 32 straight scoreless outings. No matter what you chalk that up to, it's a performance worth noting.

Of course, we need more than that to think that Rhodes may have some fantasy value, and that's where the rest of the Cincinnati bullpen comes in. Francisco Cordero's not really in any imminent danger of losing his job, but he's also having a subpar season by his standards, as his FIP and WHIP are each higher than they've been in a decade. Cordero's been ridden hard by Dusty Baker (he's tied for the NL lead in appearances, and pitched for the third day in a row yesterday) and he's already blown two saves in June and five on the season, not good signs for a guy who's already 35 himself. The rest of the Reds bullpen has been disastrous, as besides for Danny Herrera, none of the other Cincinnati relievers with more than 10 IP (Nick Masset, Mike Lincoln, Micah Owings, Logan Ondrusek,or Carlos Fisher) can boast an ERA below 5.27. If it's not going to be Cordero on a given night, Baker has few options more appealing than Rhodes - and in the meantime, Arthur has thirteen holds.

In Seattle, it may seem like an odd time to discuss Brandon League, given that David Aardsma has converted four saves in a row, but it's really all about timing. Short-term, Aardsma's wife is due to give birth at any time, and he's said he'll be away from the team for a few days to be in attendance. Should the Mariners find themselves in any save opportunities during that stretch, League is likely to get the first opportunity, though Shawn Kelley and perhaps even Chad Cordero may find themselves in the mix as well. Long-term, Aardsma is a very likely trade target for teams looking for help - especially if his recent turnaround keeps up - since the Mariners are just about to the point where there's not much to play for. League's still averaging nearly 95 MPH on his fastball, and even if his HR rate is a bit high, it's no higher than Aardsma's and less than Kelley's. Besides, finding saves in fantasy baseball is often more about looking for the guy with the best opportunity, rather than simply the most effective pitcher. Otherwise, I'd be talking about Hong-Chih Kuo every week.

As for who else is sticking around this week...

Alfredo Simon: Last week, I gave Juan Samuel a chance to see if he'd stick with the hot hand of David Hernandez, or stick by his word of easing Simon back into the closing role. Samuel gave Hernandez exactly enough rope to hang himself once, allowing him to blow a save in San Diego on June 18th and not using him again until last night. The very next night, it was Simon who entered in the 9th against the Padres, and he managed to convert. Now, let's not make Simon out to be something he's not, because he's allowed runs in three of his four games since returning from injury, and his BB/9 and WHIP are higher than you'd like. That said, he's also the man who's getting the opportunities in Baltimore right now, and that has value. We'll see how long that is - Mike Gonzalez insists he's close - but until then he can serve a purpose if you're hurting for saves.

Fernando Rodney: Brian Fuentes didn't get into a game for a solid week, and when he finally did, he allowed three runs in a non-save situation against the Cubs on June 20th. Even the saves he is getting aren't building confidence, because last night against the Dodgers he put three men on and was saved only because the Dodger baserunning display ought to have been accompanied by "Yakety Sax". Meanwhile, Rodney was able to sneak in for a hold in the same Cubs series. No matter what he says, Mike Scioscia doesn't fully trust Fuentes right now, making this a possible job-share at worst, with the potential for far more.

Aaron Heilman: Heilman attacked his new job as the Arizona closer with all the gusto you'd expect from a member of that cursed unit, allowing a run in each of his last three games, including last night against the Yankees despite not allowing a hit. Still, that's more than you could say about Chad Qualls, who's now allowed runs in four consecutive outings. Really, the only positive Qualls can look to right now is that at least he's allowing fewer runs each time out, from four to three to two to one. At this rate, he'll be back to All-Star form by July, right? Or much more likely, there's just no button that A.J. Hinch can press which is going to work. It may not last long, but Heilman's still getting the opportunities here for the time being, anyway.

Brandon Lyon: After missing over a week with back spasms, Matt Lindstrom came back to convert one clean save and then immediately blow his next, allowing four baserunners in a loss to the Rangers before converting last night against the Giants. Similarly, Lyon had a rough outing against Texas as well, and picked up a hold in last night's San Francisco game, though overall he's been good. As I said last week, back spasms have a tendency to stick around, so Lindstrom's going to need to get a few more clean outings on the board before we consider him out of the risk zone.

And we're saying goodbye to...

Drew Storen: Storen's been everything you could expect from a rookie reliever, keeping his ERA in the low twos, but it's time he moves on for some new blood. If you're in a keeper league, he's still worth hanging on to, and in certain NL-only leagues as well. Keep an eye on Matt Capps, who looked like he was getting over his slump, but who then went out and allowed four hits and two runs to the Royals in his last time out. Capps' ERA is as high as it's been all year (3.51).

Other notes: Yes, I did see that Ken Macha says that Trevor Hoffman may get a chance to move back into his closer's role, but I can't in good conscience recommend anyone pick him up. A few scoreless outings in non-save situations are nice enough, but he's not getting many strikeouts (just two in his last four innings) and John Axford hasn't yet blown a save, picking up #6 last night. Macha may just be trying to inflate Hoffman's deadline value, though I can't see anyone being desperate enough to go that route. In Cleveland, I keep wanting to add Chris Perez because I keep hearing that Kerry Wood is all kinds of available, but then Wood keeps doing things like giving up walkoff homers to Jimmy Rollins, and I wonder why anyone would want to bother?

Mike Petriello is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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