July 8, 2010
Hot Spots: Relief Pitchers
I have to say, I'm a little surprised that Ryan Madson is owned in just 5.1% of ESPN leagues right now, because he's really headed into the perfect storm. There's no doubt that there's opportunity in Philadelphia, where over the last month Brad Lidge has managed just two saves while blowing two others. Lidge has only even pitched once in July, and while his K rate remains high, he's also allowed multiple runs (and homers) in two of his last four outings.
Madson, who struck out six in 5.2 minor league rehab innings, could be activated from the DL as soon as today, and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sounds like he can't wait: "He's going to really help us. We need him back." After such a long layoff, it'd be no surprise to see Madson eased back into action, though with the issues Manuel has had in putting together a usable bullpen Madson might seeing himself back in the 9th inning sooner than you'd think. Either way, Madson is freely available in just about every league, and if you act quickly enough he might not even cost you a roster spot - you can stash him on your DL while you evaluate his return and its impact on your roster. It's not often, this far into the season, that you find a pitcher on the wire who's had success closing before and has a great chance to reclaim his old job. It's an opportunity worth taking advantage of.
Our other new face isn't a new face at all, since Evan Meek was on this list for much of the first half. If he wasn't on your radar already, he should be now that he's been named an All-Star. Clearly, being named an All-Star doesn't in and of itself make you a superstar, but it does raise his public profile, which could be invaluable on a team that's very likely to trade their incumbent closer in the next few weeks and may be looking for a replacement. Don't let the five blown saves mislead you, since several of those came in non-save situations - i.e., he could only blow the save, not gain it, so it's not like he was faltering in high-pressure 9th inning matchups.
As for who's sticking around this week...
Hong-Chih Kuo: Remember, Kuo is on this list in part because of his complete dominance, but also in part because Joe Torre trusts so few members of the Dodger bullpen. That list shrunk by one on Wednesday was Ronald Belisario was placed on the restricted list for personal reasons which are still unknown. Since Torre has shown no inclination to trust guys like George Sherrill or Justin Miller in big situations, and with Ramon Troncoso toiling away for Albuquerque, someone's going to have to be available when Jonathan Broxton isn't. Kuo is almost certainly that guy.
Chris Perez: Perez has four scoreless outings in a row, and his save total is being held down only by the fact that the Indians are trying to showcase Kerry Wood for a trade. The latest rumors claim that Wood isn't being looked at by contending clubs as a closer but instead as a setup man, which could increase his value. Most good teams don't need a closer right now, but everyone can use another late inning arm. Once Wood does move on, there's no question about who steps in, and Perez is putting up zeroes in anticipation.
Arthur Rhodes: After his hiccup against the Phillies last week, Rhodes came back with two perfect innings. Like the Dodgers, the Cincinnati bullpen is somewhat of a two-man show right now. Francisco Cordero has stabilized and run off a string of converted saves, but he's also made it through just one of his last ten outings without letting at least one batter reach base. Rhodes is still first in line to step in as needed.
Brandon League: League comes with a huge caveat right now, as he's had two pretty awful outings in a row. Still, David Aardsma is going to get moved sooner or later, and it's not like he's doing any better. In fact, League is the only healthy Mariner who can boast a relief ERA below 5.00. That really says more about the failure of the Seattle bullpen than it does about anything that League's doing right at the moment, but just keep in mind that a large part of value is opportunity, and League still has a chance at that.
And we're saying goodbye to...
Aaron Heilman: I pretty much give up on Arizona this season. Heilman managed to grab three saves before turning into basically every other Diamondbacks reliever. Each of the last three games he's entered has been in the 8th inning, and he's allowed a homer in each of the last two. Interim manager Kirk Gibson won't name a closer, but he did note that Chad Qualls' confidence is improved, and indeed Qualls had spun four consecutive scoreless outings... until giving up a three-run blast to Aramis Ramirez last night. Really, just stay away from this situation entirely if you can.
Alfredo Simon: The "official" reason why we're dropping Simon is because he's become owned in too many leagues, meaning he's not much of a value. And yes, he did blow his second save of the season on Tuesday, though I'm not going to ride anyone too hard for allowing a blast to Miguel Cabrera. But what really pushes Simon over the edge here is the impending return of Mike Gonzalez, who should be back shortly after the break. I'm not much of a Gonzalez fan, yet I do know that the Orioles aren't going to pay him all that money to not close. Simon was always somewhat of a placeholder here, and if you were able to wring value out of the unexpected ten saves he's provided, then all the better for you.