Hot Spots looks towards 2011 with a check of NL relievers worth using a keeper spot on.
As you've probably noticed from my Hot Spots cohorts this week, we're using September to look towards next year. This week is the NL, and next week we'll cover the the AL. Now, I like to think that the weekly Hot Spots pieces have been pretty useful this season, but if it's taught me anything, it's that trying to predict saves from the lower level of relievers even a week in advance can be a difficult pursuit. That gets multiplied exponentially when talking about looking ahead to the following season, particularly because - as usual - I won't be wasting your time pointing out that Heath Bell and Mariano Rivera are really good at closing. So the guys we're looking at today don't necessarily enter 2011 as the undisputed closers on their teams (they can't, really, if they're to be "value picks"), but rather are young up-and-comers, lightly owned in fantasy, who have the right mix of talent and opportunity to make them interesting for next year.
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Lee Panas takes a look at battles in the Cubs and Mets bullpens.
Despite not being able to hit the side of a barn with his pitches, Carlos Marmol will enter the season as the Cubs closer. Angel Guzman came into camp as the leading candidate to set up Marmol, but the brittle right-hander is now likely out for the season with a shoulder injury. That combined with the trade of Aaron Heilman and the loss of Kevin Gregg to free agency has left the Cubs scrambling to find an eighth inning reliever. One candidate is Esmailin Caridad, who impressed the Cubs with a 1.40 ERA and 17/3 K/BB ratio in a 19-inning stint late last season. The twenty-six-year-old right-hander worked strictly as a starter at Triple-A Iowa posting a 4.02 SIERA. With further development, Caridad has a good chance to outperform his 4.64 PECOTAERA estimate in 2010.
One might guess from John Grabow’s platoon split – a .714 OPS versus right-handed batters and a .609 OPS versus left-handed batters since 2007 – that the southpaw would be best suited to a specialist role. Instead, he has been used frequently against all kinds of batters amassing 148 innings over the past two years. His 3.33 and 3.08 WXRLs in 2008 and 2009 respectively show that he has responded well to high leverage situations.
The short list of lefty no-hitters in Red Sox history serves a reminder that talent trumps environment.
As Will Carroll wrote last night in Unfiltered, sometimes a no-hitter is more than a no-hitter. Jon Lester's thorough blanking of the Kansas City Royals on Monday night certainly qualifies as such. No-hitters have achieved often enough by pitchers both distinguished and less so that it's safe to say that these events, as wonderful as they are, are governed by pure chance. Unless you're Ron Necciai pitching a 27-strikeout no-hitter (in the Appalachian League, alas), the pitcher is subject to the same laws on balls in play that affect every other ballgame: if the ball is hit near where someone happens to be standing, it's an out, and the pitcher looks brilliant. If it's hit three feet behind the pitcher's mound and the batter has some speed, bye-bye history.