There's value in even the worst of situations, if you know where to look for it.
Sometimes, I wonder why I even bother discussing the Orioles in this section. As Rob Neyer noted, the 2010 edition of this once-proud franchise has the same record through 66 games as the 1988 crew, who started 0-21 and finished up at 54-107. They've gone through about twenty closers, to the point that I wonder when Armando Benitez is going to surface, and that means that each week it seems to be someone new. This week, I'm going to hedge my bets and have two Oriole relievers on the list.
As expected, Alfredo Simon was activated from the disabled list and made his debut yesterday in a non-save situation, with the Orioles insisting all along that he'd be eased back into the to the closer's role upon his return. Nothing has caused us to think they'd deviate that plan, so Simon remains on the list. Yet with the Orioles being the Orioles, they could be forgiven for jumping at the first sign of life from anyone on the roster, and that's why we're adding David Hernandez this week as well. Hernandez wouldn't seem like a prime candidate for success, since the reason he's in the bullpen in the first place is that he lost his starting job after eight lousy starts in which he put up a 5.31 ERA and walked more (28) than he struck out (27). Yet he's allowed just one run in 8.2 relief innings since being converted, flashing his 93 MPH fastball and increasing his K rate from 5.7 as a starter to 7.3 as a reliever. He's picked up two saves, as well. While I still think Simon will get a chance to reclaim his job, it's not like he was that good, with a dangerously high walk rate. To be honest, I'd be surprised if either one of them claimed the job, with this looking very much like a "hot hand" situation for the few save opportunities the O's find themselves in. Keep an eye on this over the next few days to see how they play this, but gun to my head, I like Hernandez right now.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
It's time to look backwards in order to get value going forward.
Weird week here at the relievers outpost of Value Picks. As you can tell from the comments in last week's article, I'd expected that we'd be talking about possible closer changes in Houston and Washington, with Matt Lindstrom and Matt Capps having each blown three saves in four outings. Yet since then, Lindstrom's been perfect in converting three saves, and Capps has converted his chances as well, holding off the wolves at least for this week. Plus, two of the other teams we've been talking about - Toronto and Baltimore - haven't even been able to get far enough in games to have save opportunities. So as far as save-chasing goes this week, it's kind of a lean group, and with that in mind we're looking back at past values which could pay off in the near future.
We're welcoming back two previous Value Picks this week in Alfredo Simon and Fernando Rodney. Simon was one of the more successful value picks of the season, as he went from being a minor-league afterthought in April to converting six of seven save opportunities in May before being injured - a nice treat for savvy fantasy owners who were able to wring easy value out of him. Since he's been gone, the Orioles have been even more of a disaster than they were before, and though Will Ohman's been the nominal closer for over two weeks now, he hasn't notched a single save. Much of that is his fault, but not in the way you think. Yes, he blew the only save opportunity he was presented with (though he allowed just one run while doing so), but since he was forced into the 9th inning, the replacements the Orioles have tried in Ohman's old spot have failed miserably, leading to Ohman getting just one chance to actually close a game.
Mike Petriello looks at practically free closer-in-waiting, along with other relief values.
As you may have seen from the other Hot Spots pieces this week, our Value Picks list is going to be somewhat of a living document, with players added (in green) and dropped (in yellow) as circumstances require. So for this week, we start by waving goodbye to Fernando Rodney and Ramon Troncoso, though for very different reasons. Rodney's actually been very effective for the Angels, ranking second in the AL in saves while filling in for Brian Fuentes. That said, Rodney is no longer a secret (a full quarter of ESPN teams picked him up in the last week alone) and Fuentes is now back to reclaim his closer duties. Fuentes is hardly the most reliable guy around (he blew a lead in his first game back), so Rodney will probably still get his chances, but he no longer fits on this list. Staying in Los Angeles, Ramon Troncoso merited notice last week since the tattered Dodger bullpen and Joe Torre's misuse of Jonathan Broxton put him into position to steal some save opportunities. With George Sherrill seemingly turning it around and Hong-Chih Kuo & Ronald Belisario each returning to the active roster this week, the small fantasy value Troncoso may have had is gone.
As for who's joining us this week, well, I guess I can't get as lucky as I did last week, when we had two closer injuries and two closer demotions, can I? So today we're looking deeper, and by "deeper", I mean "two guys who are owned in less than 1% of ESPN leagues." Let's start with Juan Gutierrez of Arizona, where the drumbeats started pounding when Chad Qualls allowed runs in 4 of his first 6 games, including back-to-back blown saves against the Dodgers. Remember, this isn't just a fickle fanbase reacting to a bad week, because we have some history here: Qualls is coming back from a dislocated kneecap which ended his 2009 and required surgery, and we've already seen Gutierrez succeed in the role. Tapped as the Arizona closer for the final month after Qualls went down, Gutierrez sparkled in accumulating 8 saves and a win in 12 games through the end of the season - allowing just a .528 OPS in that time. So when you've got a veteran coming off a serious injury who gets off to a bad start, and there's a 26-year-old behind him with a nice track record and heat that averages 95 mph, it doesn't take much to get the controversy growing.
Mike Petriello looks at some surprisingly valuable yet available relievers in Toronto, Texas, Baltimore, and Los Angeles.
This week, Hot Spots turns to finding underappreciated value in the bullpen. You certainly don't need us to tell you that grabbing Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Broxton in your draft might have been a good idea, but there's plenty of other lesser-known arms who—by virtue of situation, talent, or both—can help you fill out your roster at the mere cost of a waiver claim. Some weeks, that's going to require us to dig pretty deep, but some weeks—like this week—the fantasy gods smile upon us by providing several injured or ineffective incumbents and sparsely-owned replacements.
Let's start in Toronto, where Kevin Gregg has never exactly been a favorite of the stats community. While many fans saw save totals of 32 and 29 in 2007 and 2008 and viewed him as a quality closer, a closer look beyond the basically meaningless saves stat showed mediocre peripherals (BB/9 between 3.9-4.9 over the last three seasons) and the xFIP numbers which would of course go along with them: 4.74, 4.59, and 4.16. We all cringed when the Cubs chose Gregg to start 2009 as the closer over the superior Carlos Marmol, and Gregg was lousy—losing the job in no small part to a 1.7 HR/9 rate.
Dave Dombrowski goes for a "proven closer," plus news and views from around the game.
Deciding to bid on Type-A free agents beyond those in the elite class always gives general managers reason for pause. Teams that sign Type-A free agents have to forfeit a premium pick in the amateur draft as compensation if that player has been offered salary arbitration by his former team. Teams that finish among the top 15 in the major leagues the previous season are forced to send their first-round pick to the player's previous club.
Thursday night was Christina's turn at the keyboard, as the series of Series diaries continues.
8:00 PM: It's the pre-game show, and... do we have a game or no? Me, I wonder if all this Taco Bell talk didn't inspire my decision to cook buffalo-meat tacos-as a former Taco Bell employee, you won't catch me dead in one of the thousands of Casa de Greasepits you'll find hawking its loathsome refried wares on a streetcorner near you.
The big story of Game Four depends on your point of view.
If you're a Cardinals fan, there's the way your team came through in the clutch, the big hits by Scott Rolen, David Eckstein, and Preston Wilson. There's Jeff Suppan gutting his way through six innings, and a bullpen that bent but didn't break. There's a three-week ride from, "my god, we're going to be the biggest chokers ever" to "we need one win to be champs."
The Angels possess five of the top prospects in the game. Did the Cubs do enough to help their offense this off-season? Jeremy Bonderman is a rare bright spot for the Tigers' future. These and other news and notes in today's Prospectus Triple Play.
Youth Movement: Spring training is here and that must mean one thing: top prospects lists.
The White Sox may finally commit to Willie Harris. The Reds are playing all the wrong players. The Miguel Cabrera era begins in Florida. The Twins' handling of Johan Santana is a crime. News, notes, and Kahrlisms in the latest edition of Transaction Analysis.