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.
Pedro Strop gets the no. 1 spot in this year's final Stash List, as Bret unveils the top 20 and prepares for his second taste of fatherhood.
This week, the Stash List turns 18, and to celebrate, I’m kicking it out the house and telling it to get a job. Like I mentioned a week ago, the closer we get to the end of the season, the more luck-based and less skill-based stashing becomes. It also becomes less helpful to actually use a roster spot on a stash once the beginning of September rolls around. Those roster spots are generally better used by grabbing pitchers who will have attractive upcoming match-ups and hitters who have pronounced platoon splits that you can sneak into your lineup once or twice a week when the situation permits.
This goes double for those of you in head-to-head leagues, where you may have been stashing a player or two on the off chance that they carried real fantasy value for the playoffs. Since we’re now less than two weeks from the likely start of your playoffs, that potential value needs to be shifted to real value. Once the bell rings in that first playoff match-up, it’s all hands on deck every week. And that goes for anyone who is not currently on an active roster. The worst thing you can do is become too confident in your team and look ahead to the semi-finals or finals.
With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, Mike looks at the changes in the closer landscape before unveiling his new tiers and the updated 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.
This week’s edition of The Bullpen Report will focus on moves teams made at yesterday’s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline. Additional analysis is also available at today’s Free Agent Write-Up, but if you’re looking for more specific analysis about middle relievers/deeper league fodder like Jesse Crain, you’ve come to the right place.
Bret offers advice that could help you capitalize on tomorrow's trade action, before unveiling this week's top 20.
It’s tough to avoid getting into the trade deadline spirit this time of year, and with less than 48 hours left until we actually know who has changed uniforms, speculation is in full swing. It seems like every hour or two there is a new name thrown into the fire. The Phillies are buyers and then they’re sellers and then they’re buyers again. The White Sox are looking to unload Jake Peavy and then they want to build around him “long-term”—but not if Zach Mortimerhas anything to say about it. The rumors are endless and it’s nearly impossible to differentiate the smoke from the fire in the internet age.
So to avoid getting too deep into the actual names being thrown around (we’ll get into that with some of the players below), let’s take a step back and talk about the best way to speculate prior to the trade deadline. While there are certainly players whose fantasy value would increase greatly due to trades, whether it’s an eighth-inning arm who gets a shot to close or a fourth outfielder who gets a full-time job, the trick is to grab as many names as possible and keep your fingers crossed.
The Orioles are surprise contenders behind an excellent bullpen. Or, more accurately, behind a bullpen that has pitched excellently.
Pedro Strop was a utility infielder who spent three years in short-season ball and never slugged as high as .350 before the Rockies decided, in 2006, to try his live arm on the mound. In his first try as a pitcher, he struck out 22, and walked just two, in 13 innings. But the Rockies released him two years later, and the Rangers picked him up, waited him out, and eventually promoted him to the big leagues. He had an ERA over 7, with 22 walks in 27 big-league innings, when they traded him to Baltimore as the non-famous half of an August waiver-period trade for Mike Gonzalez.
That was a year ago this week, and Strop has been far more significant in this year’s pennant race than Gonzalez ever was with Texas. He has the second-best ERA in the American League (minimum 30 innings), and among relievers, his win probability added is sixth, ahead of all but four closers. He has the fifth-best groundball rate in the majors, a fastball that averages 97 mph, and no platoon split worth worrying about. The Orioles entered play Sunday tied for a Wild Card spot, though their playoff odds were just 13.4 percent. It’s probably no exaggeration to say that, without Strop's work this year, those odds would be close to zero.
Only one closer was traded at yesterday's deadline, but there are still plenty of situation's in flux in this week's VP.
Of the 18 earned runs Orioles closer Jim Johnson has allowed this season, 13 of them have come in the past 16 days. Sprinkled into this hellacious stretch was a five-run clunker on July 16 and a six-run disaster on Friday. It has not been pretty for this Jim-John (yes, Jim-John) owner. So what’s to blame for the slump? Whenever there’s a stark downturn like this, injury is a concern, but I’ve read nothing to this effect. Correction is possible, too; Johnson misses far too few bats to think he was going to sustain a sub-2.00 ERA all season. But the fact that he absorbed all of this correction (and then some) in such a small window is worrisome nonetheless.
When there are no good starters in your league, the bullpen can offer you the wins you need.
It may sound strange, but one of my absolute favorite parts of running a fantasy team is finding undervalued relievers. Having Matt Kemp fall to me in the middle of the first round and getting 10 home runs through the first three weeks? Eh. Having my 24th-round pick throw a perfect game? Color me mildly elated. But grabbing Jason Grilli for $1 in Tout Wars? I’m throwing a parade in my mother’s basement!
Middle relievers can be an underappreciated source of value, especially in AL/NL-only leagues and in leagues with innings caps. Not only are they capable of producing elite ratios, but they can also match near-elite starters in wins on a per-inning basis, which is incredibly important in leagues with innings caps. Even if your league doesn’t have an innings cap and is simply deep, these relievers can be worth several dollars. Your pitchers are going to get injured, and when you find out that Michael Pineda is done for the season, there aren’t exactly a lot of options out on the waiver wire. In a lot of leagues, there may not be a single starter available at all, even of the Adam Wilk variety.
Just because you're out in your fantasy league doesn't mean you shouldn't go shopping for potential ninth-inning guys.
For the past four years, I’ve written an article at the end of each season discussing one of my favorite keeper league strategies: stashing potential closers. Today, I’m going to do the same, explaining the strategy and then trying to figure out which middle relievers are poised to step into the ninth-inning role.
The Strategy All keeper leagues are different, but if you are in one where your leaguemates make a habit of keeping top closers, this strategy will be especially good for you. In these leagues, when auction day or draft day rolls around, the number of closers will be limited. Those who haven't kept a top closer will be bidding against each other for the leftovers, the second-tier closers. By default, their prices will rise, quite possibly above their raw value. This can trickle down the list of closers until Kevin Gregg is being auctioned for some crazy amount, like $18.
Our prospect guru finds himself in a food coma in Mexico, taking in a televised matchup between two AL contenders.
After a few weeks in Mexico, I happen upon my first televised major-league baseball game, a battle between the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox, shown on ESPN. I’m excited for obvious reasons: The baseball void has already nullified a quarter of my general existence, and the Rangers are the team of my youth—I’m always willing to give them my eyes and ears. The game is dubbed in Spanish, which is annoying and rousing at the same time; the former because the speed of said Spanish is at Billy Hamilton level, and my overall comprehension requires the gentle pace of an aging Molina. My head is pounding from exposure to altitude and alcohol, but the medicinal qualities of baseball’s familiar attraction will no doubt minimize my discomfort.
I’ve been living in a foreign country for 15 days, and I’ve been exposed to more luchadores than lanzadores, which presents an interesting reality, although not one that proves to be especially productive for someone who (supposedly) feeds off the bosom of the game. It’s 2 p.m., and the game is set to begin, with Colby Lewis matched up against Texas native John Lackey. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is packed to capacity. I’m hydrating and reclining in a relaxed state. Oh, baseball.