Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league to help you find saves.
Toronto Blue Jays: Casey Janssen was activated from the disabled list on May 11, which will help stabilize a Jays bullpen that has been little more than a rotation of names trying to close out games and failing all the same. Santos provided the ultimate case study in how sustainable a horrendous BB% can be if you supplement it with a tremendous strikeout rate (the answer, not very). Aaron Loup tried his hand at closing and was spotty and unspectacular. Bret Cecil earned three saves but his walk rate was only slightly better than Santos’. Essentially, the Blue Jays bullpen was proficient at doling out The Three True Outcomes between Santos (8.3 BB/9 and a 2.3 HR/9), Loup (4.9 BB/9) and Cecil (6.6 BB/9). Janssen will provide consistency and control to a unit that desperately needs it. He’s a must-own at this point and will get the saves in Toronto.
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Updates on the ninth-inning situations around the league.
White Sox Nate Jones is going to miss a chunk of time to recover from back surgery. By this point, you know the story with Jones; he was tabbed to assume closing duties for the White Sox but after a fuzzy spring Matt Lindstrom was named the closer on Opening Day and Jones never quite got on track. He has yet to record an out this season and has already allowed four earned runs. In his stead, Lindstrom has performed the closing duties fairly well, as he’s riding a streak of 11 innings over which he’s only given up two earned runs (all in one appearance, April 25 against the Rays), and he’s picked up three saves along the way.
The White Sox bullpen was a mess last time we discussed it. It’s done better of late as Ronald Belisario has righted the ship since the bullpen wide implosion on April 17 against the Red Sox. Zach Putnam has been a revelation of sorts since he was brought up from Charlotte on April 17, and we’ve already touched on the resurgence that Lindstrom has experienced of late.
Updates on all of the notable ninth-inning situations around the league.
New York Mets
We’re all guilty of trying to hold on for too long at some point in our lives. Maybe it was a relationship that should have ended but instead lingered—even though we knew the process and personnel would yield obvious and painful results.
Enter the Mets and Jose Valverde, who finally lost his job after a particularly bad series of meltdowns that led Terry Collins to go in a different direction. I picked up Valverde in a few leagues, so I know the pain some of you are feeling. If we’re being honest, however, we all knew this was coming.
Updates on the ninth-inning situations for the White Sox, A's, Cubs, and Astros.
I’ve written about the White Sox a lot for two reasons: 1) I have access, and 2) their closer situation is tumultuous. Matt Lindstrom gave up another lead on Sunday. It wasn’t all Lindstrom’s fault—Jose Abreu made an error that started the rally—but Lindstrom’s profile doesn’t allow for many defensive mistakes behind him. Lindstrom’s stuff is contact-oriented for a reliever.
This all comes with the caveat that it’s early but Lindstrom has thrown a total of 91 pitches this year and has generated five swings-and-misses. For contrast, Daniel Webb has thrown 112 pitches and has generated a swing-and-miss 13 times. That doesn’t seem like a big difference in the raw, but essentially, Webb is doubling Lindstrom’s whiff rate. It fits both players’ profiles as well; Webb is a player who has swing-and-miss stuff, as he utilizes a mid-90s fastball and power slider to induce those empty swings that a high-leverage reliever needs when his defense makes an error behind him.
A rundown of the ninth-inning candidates in Houston, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.
Closers are the most fungible commodity in fantasy baseball. Predicting saves is a quixotic quest that frequently ends in heartbreak and confusion.
You don’t need to search long to find examples of how volatile the saves market can be. Kevin Gregg was a discarded reliever when the Cubs reached out for his services in the ultimate act of desperation. Carlos Marmol had imploded and their in house options were either hurt or ineffective. Gregg, who was unable to survive spring training with the Dodgers, ended up accruing 33 saves before being released in a much-publicized spat with management.
So if you have Chapman on the DL or you were just caught off guard ahead of a massive closer run and are in need of saves don’t fret. I’m here for you, friends.
Let’s take a look at three situations in which a closer could emerge from the shadows
A look at five pitchers who could be in line for save opportunities in future years.
Joe Borowski, Brandon League, Todd Jones, Kevin Gregg, Frank Francisco, Billy Koch. No, I’m not working on a baseball version of We Didn’t Start The Fire (that you know of). These are all relievers who have ascended to the closer role, whether they deserved it or not. They acquired the closer mystique that allowed them to beef up their earnings and hold on or land jobs long past when they should have. To be clear, I’m of the mind that it’s often helpful to have a Gregg or a Koch at the back of the bullpen—someone who is competent enough to finish most games and allows the use of a more efficient or dominant reliever, a fireman, to enter into the higher-leverage situations.
That opinion belongs to the baseball analyst in me, though, not the fantasy analyst. As a fantasy owner, I’d rather see the most talented bullpen option in the closer role because then I don’t have to roster nincompoops who destroy my ERA and WHIP, all while chasing the dragon save. Of course, being blocked by an incompetent colleague is not the only reason that pitchers get denied coffee. Injuries, a couple of poorly timed blow ups, or a lack of experience can also cost a reliever a shot to use SemiSonic as his entrance music as well. The point of this article, then, is to shine a spotlight on some guys who would be closers, but for a minor flaw, be it in their game or their situations. These are players who could be elite-level fantasy closers if they are presented with the opportunity. The key is identifying them before the opportunity arises.