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September 20, 2013

Five to Watch

The Save Rush

by Craig Goldstein


In his September 12 Bullpen Report, Mike Gianella broke down the contract situations of all the closers in baseball, giving us an idea of where there might be change and throwing out some names so we could capitalize early. I loved this idea and wanted to take it a step further in the cases of the five teams that will be losing a closer to free agency. With that in mind, let’s get to it:

Oakland Athletics

Option 1: Ryan Cook
This seems like an obvious choice for an organization that doesn’t traditionally spend big money on the closer position. He’s done it before, with 14 saves in 2012 while Balfour was ineffective, and he’s been consistently great over 137 innings the last two seasons. His career rate of a strikeout per nine innings would sit well with fantasy owners and while he has had trouble with control in the past, he’s reduced his walk rate a full two percentage points from 2012 to 2013. I would expect his experience in the closer role to carry the most weight, and given his otherwise terrific numbers, there’s very little reason not to give Cook the nod if Balfour does indeed depart.

Option 2: Sean Doolittle
While the surface stats wouldn’t portray it this way, Doolittle has been a bit better than Cook these last two seasons, albeit in 24 or so fewer innings (which matters). While his ERAs have been in the threes each of the last two years, Doolittle actually sports a lower career FIP than Cook, thanks to a slightly higher strikeout rate and a significantly lower walk rate (four percentage point difference in career numbers). Cook does have the GB/FB rate advantage, but some of that advantage is neutralized when you play half your games in the O.co Coliseum, as demonstrated by the minor difference between their career HR/FB rates (Cook at 4.3 percent, Doolittle at five percent). The biggest factor against Doolittle may in fact be that he’s left-handed. We’ve certainly seen our fair share of southpaw closers, with Oakland having used one in their recent history (Brian Fuentes). That said, there is a bias toward right-handed relievers in the closer role, in part so a team doesn’t feel burdened to carry an “extra” lefty specialist.

Darkhorse: Dan Otero
Perhaps jokingly, Jason Wojchiechowski left the comment “Dan Otero, duh” on my article about “Would-Be, Could-Be Closers.” If he was joking though, he wasn’t wrong. Otero might not have the profile one would desire in a standard closer, but Oakland hasn’t been about doing things the standard way for quite some time now. One might blanch at Otero’s 17 percent strikeout rate as a reliever and think he doesn’t have the stuff to close, but they’d be ignoring his miniscule walk rate (3.4 percent for his career), his stellar ground-ball rate (59 percent career) and zero home runs allowed in 49 career innings. Otero’s strikeout rate and batted ball profile compare favorably to that of Jim Johnson, the league leader in saves each of the last two years, all with half the walk rate. So while it’s not a conventional closer profile, we know that he could book ‘em as well as anyone else.

Detroit Tigers

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Daily Roundup: Around ... (09/20)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Five to Watch: Hot Cor... (09/16)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Five to Watch: Nationa... (03/10)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Starting Pitch... (09/20)

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