We're just one week into the season, and a host of teams already have ninth-inning concerns.
Reliever volatility is not a new concept. We’re all used to the closer carousel that sustains itself on poor performance and injury as it turns throughout the season. What happened this week, however, bordered on a league-wide implosion of closers. Let’s take a look at who is left standing after the week that was.
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You might want to let someone else draft or buy these closers in your leagues this spring.
At long last, our journey has come to an end.
Over the past two months, we've worked tirelessly (read: written two blurbs a week) to bring you a player to target and to avoid for each fantasy position. We hope our collective experience has helped you recoup some value and avoid some mistakes in your drafts this year, and we've enjoyed the debates that many of the names we've listed have spurred.
This aging club has some intriguing players, but many of them carry significant injury risk.
It’s easy and fun to make jokes about how old the Phillies are, but the team’s advanced age curve does have an impact from a fantasy perspective. Nine players on the team’s projected Opening Day roster are 33 years of age or older. Post-peak players aren’t worthless and certainly can provide fantasy value. However, discounts have to be built in for potential injuries and breakdowns, especially in deeper leagues where good replacement level players are harder to find. The Phillies are becoming a Bermuda Triangle in fantasy: a lot of players are worth owning, but the risk factor here is high in many cases.
Mike explains the criteria that contribute to his weekly rankings, before delving into the latest tiers and dollar values.
Welcome to another installment of The Bullpen Report. As a reminder, closers are rated in five tiers from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, a pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week this factors into the ranking as well.
Last week, one of my readers wanted to know why I had moved Jonathan Papelbon down a notch in the rankings. The introductory paragraph above serves as a cursory look as to why I might or might not rank a reliever in a certain place, but in order to offer more clarity, I thought I’d offer additional detail as to what my thinking is when I put this list together.
A look at how deadline trades could affect the ninth-inning landscape, followed by this week's tiered closer rankings.
Welcome to another installment of The Bullpen Report. As a reminder, closers are rated in five tiers from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, a pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third-tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week, this factors into the ranking as well.
In addition to my weekly rankings, this week I will be taking a look at teams that might be sellers and the relievers who might be trade targets at the major-league trade deadline. For every other position on the diamond, player trades matter almost solely in -only leagues, where you run the risk of losing someone to the “other” league. If a first baseman gets moved from a National League to an American League squad, the mixed-league impact is typically negligible. Closers are the rare commodities where fantasy owners in every format are at risk if there is a trade. More often than not, a closer who gets shipped out of town at or near the deadline moves from the front of a bullpen into a set-up role.
The pitches pitchers don't throw for strikes, to try to get strikes.
There’s a story about Gene Bearden in Veeck as in Wreckthat I’ve written about before. As a 27-year-old rookie in 1948, the knuckleballing Bearden posted a 2.43 ERA in 37 games and 29 starts for the Indians, winning 20 games and finishing second to Alvin Dark in Rookie of the Year voting. But he couldn’t sustain his success. In Bearden’s sophomore season, Casey Stengel, who had managed Bearden during his successful 1947 PCL campaign with the Oakland Oaks, was hired to manage the Yankees. Stengel, the story goes, knew that Bearden’s knuckleball “usually dipped below the strike zone after it broke, which meant that [he] was totally dependent upon getting the batter to swing.” So he instructed his hitters not to swing at the knuckler until there were two strikes, forcing Bearden to elevate it or throw his unremarkable fastball or curve. The scouting report spread around the rest of the league, Bearden became more hittable, and his walk rate rose. Working primarily out of the bullpen, he posted a 90 ERA+ from 1949 on and was out of the majors after 1953.
It’s an interesting story, and the stats mostly support it. Bearden was probably due for some regression, Stengel’s advance scouting aside—his BABIP in 1948 was some 40 points below the AL average (low even for a knuckleballer), he walked more batters than he struck out, and he allowed only nine home runs in 229 1/3 innings. But in 1949, his walk rate rose by more than two batters per nine, and he allowed 11 runs in nine IP against the Yankees, posting a lower strikeout-to-walk ratio (0.17) against them than he did against any other team. (Admittedly, Bearden struggled against the Yankees in 1948, too. The Yankees were good.)
Manager Charlie Manuel's bullpen management has been doing Philadelphia no favours this season.
They may have entered the year as favorites to win their sixth straight NL East flag, but with every passing day, the Phillies look increasingly like a team whose time has passed. Over the weekend they dropped two out of three to the division-leading (!) Nationals and fell into the NL East cellar. On Monday, they suffered a shocking 5-2 loss to the Mets when Jonathan Papelbon surrendered a three-run pinch-homer to Jordany Valdespin, a pinch-hitter collecting his first major-league hit. On Tuesday, they blew a three-run lead against the Mets thanks to sloppy defense and ultimately fell 7-4. The skid dropped their record to 14-17, matching their worst start of the past six years, which came via their division-winning 2007 team. Their offense is wheezing, and while their star-studded rotation may be in reasonable shape, their manager is suffering from rigor mortis when it comes to handling his bullpen.
Discussing the merits of whether the Red Sox should tender their closer a contract for 2011 or cut him loose.
Jonathan Papelbon has not made many new friends in Boston since the American League Division Series in 2009, to the point where many fans and even analysts are curious about his future with the team. Marc Normandin and Jay Jaffe go over the pros and cons for the Red Sox keeping Papelbon around in 2011 and whether he should stay or go.
Discussing Jonathan Papelbon's decision to go year-to-year on his contracts rather than sign a long-term deal.
Marc Normandin:Jonathan Papelbon once again waited until the last minute to avoid arbitration and signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox. His reasoning for delaying the proceedings has been pointed out in the past, by Papelbon himself-it boils down to the fact that Paps, a closer, feels monetarily slighted after being removed from a career path as a starting pitcher. The following quotes come from early in the 2007 season, his second full campaign as a reliever, and the first in which it was guaranteed by the Red Sox that it was his role for the future: