Some closer jobs are up in the air due to injuries and competition, and we're here to help you sort them out.
This week in the relief pitcher edition of Value Picks, we’re going to get into three situations where the ninth inning duties may be in doubt thanks to either injury or uncertainty. Since Alex Anthopolous seems to be laying low this week, I suppose we’ll have to acknowledge that there are actually other teams in the league besides the Blue Jays, who had served this column so well for content in recent weeks. Foiled again!
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.
Amidst doubt that the club could play well with outdoor home games, the Twins have managed to continue their dominance in Minneapolis.
In its almost 30-year history, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome has been known by many names, including most recently Mall of America Field. Among those which are printable include Homerdome, Humptydome, Thunderdome, and Rollerdome. Typically, every nickname bestowed upon the Metrodome typified how opposing teams felt about it: absolute disdain. This is not to suggest that home players enjoyed playing in the Metrodome either; Torii Hunter complained of the soreness that came from playing on the FieldTurf and Luis Castillo hobbled about like a man of twice his age, but it was widely perceived that this bunch of ragtag ruffians drew a great deal of benefit from knowing the intricacies and quirks that came with playing 81 games per season there.
The Twins and Yankees meet yet again in the first round of the postseason but Minnesota has home field advantage this time.
As they did last year as well as 2003 and 2004, the Twins run squarely into the Yankee juggernaut in the first round. Unlike those other three meetings, they have home field advantage this time around, as they won the AL Central going away thanks to a league-best 48-26 second-half record. The defending world champion Yankees, who held the majors' best record for most of the season, were forced to settle for the wild card due to a sluggish 13-17 showing against a very tough schedule in September and October. Despite the relative temperatures of the two clubs, it's important to remember that late-season records aren't predictive of October success—or failure.
Can the All-Star Game fulfill any element of its proposition to a serious skeptic?
I'll admit, I've been an All-Star skeptic for a long, long, long time. When I was blessed with the absolute certainty of youth, I would derisively laugh off the All-Star Game as merely a baseball-flavored entertainment. I haven't watched any portion of an All-Star Game since seeing Bo Jackson turn Rick Reuschel into the All-Star Game's answer to Craig Ehlo back in 1989*, usually treating the break as just that, a time to relax and review, what had happened and what could be coming, both before and after the launch of Baseball Prospectus for 1996.
That didn't change even now that the contest “counts,” a product of Czarist pique and union tractability after the embarrassment of the tie of 2002. It's not a worse idea than the previous method of letting World Series home-field advantage be alternated annually, but as someone who figures that home-field advantage should simply belong to the team with the best record—especially if we're going to have interleague play—it isn't exactly the sort of thing that makes you settle into your seat, intent on the outcome because of what's at stake.
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.
A number of young hurlers are making strong comebacks in 2010.
Last week in this space, I took a look at hitters who had already exceeded their 2009 VORP in the early stages of 2010 and tried to determine whether those players were likely to build on their exceptional starts. This week, I’ll be doing the same for pitchers. I’ve selected the five starters and five relievers who have achieved the greatest VORP bouncebacks so far this year, compared to last year’s VORP tally or, for players that put up negative VORP performances last year, a replacement-level zero VORP. To make the starter list, a pitcher must have thrown at least 90 innings last season, while the cutoff for relievers is 40 innings. Those performance benchmarks are designed to ensure the players selected pitched significantly, if poorly, last season, and are off to a good start, rather than off to a mediocre start that’s much better than their disastrous 2009 numbers.
With Opening Day a little more than a week away, here is a look at the projected rosters for each of the 16 National League clubs following conversations with club executives and media members. Keep in mind these are projected rosters and subject to change. American League lineups are here. You can also look at the fantasy depth charts at any time to see our latest updated projections.
A look at some of the spring roster battles are shaping up and how it affects playing time.
At this stage of spring, we don't think enough games have played to really understand how players compare to each other, but that doesn't matter, because teams are starting to make decisions based on what they've seen (and, of course, on what they already know). That obliges us to at least try and follow their thinking by looking at the spring stats and seeing how players are doing, particularly in cases where position decisions are on the line. It doesn't matter what Derek Jeter, Nick Markakis, or Albert Pujols are doing in the exhibition games because they'll start regardless. I'm looking for cases where the performance (or injuries, or visa problems) of the player merits at least a thought of changing the depth-chart projection. Not everybody mentioned gets changed
Lee Panas covers the bullpen situations in Baltimore, Houston, and Washington.
The Orioles signed Mike Gonzalez during the off-season to be their stopper and his job is safe. However, with his history of elbow problems and his recent back stiffness, it is prudent to keep an eye on potential replacements. Possible alternatives include Jim Johnson, Kam Mickolio, and Koji Uehara.
Johnson has accumulated 33 saves as a closer over the past two seasons but does not have the stuff to dominate in that role. He’s been a worm killer with a 60% ground-ball rate in the last two seasons but has had a K/9 rate of only 5.6. The physically imposing and hard throwing Mickolio could have a future as a closer but his control is still a concern and PECOTA projects a 4.6 BB/9 rate.