Dan takes his first offseason look at keeper-worthy closers for the 2013 season.
Greg Holland | Royals Shallow (30 Keepers): No Medium (60 Keepers): No Deep (90 Keepers): Fringe AL-only (60 Keepers): Fringe Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes
Greg Holland has arguably been the Royals’ best reliever the past two seasons, and although he finally got a chance to close in the second-half of 2012, a couple major dominos had to fall for that to come to fruition. First, Joakim Soria was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery during spring training. Then, Soria’s replacement, Jonathan Broxton, was dealt to the Reds in a July trade. Finally, Holland became the man, and he handled the promotion with aplomb, presumably setting himself up nicely for first dibs on the ninth inning in 2013.
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Strikeouts are up this season, and this quartet of untouchable closers is driving the trend.
The evolution of pitching in the 21st century has trended toward increased specialization, to the point of eight-man bullpens and strict pitch counts for starters. The complete game has all but vanished from the baseball lexicon, and most pitching staffs are now structured with the goal of getting through six innings with a lead before handing the ball to the bullpen. Frequent pitching changes have been unkind to the hardcore fan base, slowing the pace of the game when the drama is at its peak, but the stats reflect the advantages that are gained through the tireless recycling of arms.
Major League Baseball has witnessed a historic trend toward increasing strikeouts, with 2012's league-wide K rate of 19.7 percent (through Wednesday) representing the highest figure of all time. The 1.1-point jump in strikeout percentage from 2011 is the largest season-to-season gain in 25 years. Interestingly, we are not in the middle of some historic home run binge, and the 300-K starter has gone the way of the dodo in the span of about 10 years. Mere memories remain of the exploits of Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, while 2011 strikeout kings Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw hit the ceiling at 250 strikeouts, a level that no pitcher is likely to crack this season. The 300-K starter has been replaced by the 100-K reliever.
The keys to the Angels' recent success and the Rangers' downturn could be the fortunes of two superstars and two ex-Padres.
The Rangers started 2012 strong. The Angels did the opposite. Premature conclusions were drawn. Then the two teams' fortunes reversed. There are many reasons for this shift. One is the play of the teams' superstars. Another is the acquisition and emergence of a key arm in Anaheim. These aren't the only factors, but they are among the most intriguing and are the ones we'll focus on today.
Remember the “Rangers are running away with the American League West” narrative from April, when it appeared that they were, in fact, running away with the division? Well, that narrative broke and has been replaced by the ever-popular “it's a long season” and “that's why they play the games.”
Francisco Liriano breaks the game of baseball, Ernesto Frieri learns to dance and Bob Gibson whoa whoa holy whoa.
Welcome to the Three Best Pitches Thrown This Week. There are many more than three pitches featured here. They also extend beyond this week, in one case to a time that predates many of your favorite things: The Wire, and all varieties of Skittles, and every dog currently alive. You might consider this a flaw, but we consider it bonus material, and no refunds will be given. Enjoy the Three Best Pitches Thrown This Week.
Janssen, Fuentes, and Thayer are discussed in this week's Value Picks
The debate between the old and new schools as to the usefulness of defined bullpen roles is as strong as ever, and with such a high turnover rate in the early going of this season, both sides have had plenty of fodder to build their arguments. For those of us who partake in fantasy leagues, however, such philosophical pedantry is a mere luxury. Chasing saves, after all, is a dirty game, so let’s have a look at some relievers of interest.
Well that was quick. Barely a week after he was given the closer’s role in Anaheim, Scott Downs appears to be DL-bound after injuring his leg Sunday while avoiding a comebacker, leaving fantasy players scrambling to find his replacement. Who that replacement will be, however, is currently up in the air. Of course, that won’t stop us from speculating. Today, I’ll try my hand at handicapping the situation.
The Yahoo! Friends & Family experts league is always an interesting barometer for this sort of thing. It’s a daily transaction league, and any time a ninth-inning changing of the guard may be taking place, owners race to the waiver wire to pick up anyone with a chance for saves. By yesterday evening, five Angel relievers had been picked up (if they weren’t already owned) in Yahoo! F&F: Downs, Jordan Walden, LaTroy Hawkins, Ernesto Frieri, and Jason Isringhausen. Let’s take a look at the chance each has of saving games for the foreseeable future.