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Value Picks Season PECOTA Games ’10
Relievers Throws W Sv IP H HR ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Starts Relief
Brandon League RH 8 2 55.0 47 6 3.27 1.200 6.5 3.1 1.0 7.20 3.00 1.2 0 49
Joel Hanrahan LH 2 1 47.2 34 5 3.40 1.007 12.7 2.6 0.9 11.25 3.75 0.8 0 49
J.J. Putz RH 5 2 39.2 26 2 1.82 0.857 10.2 1.8 0.5 7.76 3.41 0.9 0 41
Evan Meek RH 4 1 60.1 36 3 1.49 0.912 7.6 2.8 0.4 8.50 5.56 0.9 0 49
Ryan Madson RH 3 4 21.2 23 3 4.57 1.246 10.4 1.7 1.2 9.00 3.50 1.3 0 22
Michael Wuertz RH 2 2 25.2 24 4 4.56 1.403 8.8 4.2 1.4 7.77 4.50 0.8 0 33
Drew Storen RH 3 0 33.0 26 0 2.45 1.212 7.6 3.8 0.0 8.22 3.32 1.2 0 31
Hong-Chih Kuo LH 3 3 37.1 17 1 0.96 0.777 11.3 2.9 0.2 10.1 3.00 0.5 0 34
2007-09 in Relief 3.94 1.36 7.7 3.8 0.9

In the comments of last week’s article, I noted that I was "starting to wish I’d gone with my first instinct and included Michael Wuertz, since Andrew Bailey is still unavailable and is being seen by Texas doctors tonight." Bailey was only supposed to be out for a few days with his strained ribcage muscle, but he’s still on the DL and is not expected to be activated when he’s eligible on August 6. Wuertz, who was on the Value Picks list earlier this season, has finally regained his form since coming off his own DL stint to start the year. In his last eight outings, he’s been unscored upon seven times while picking up four saves, and the strikeouts he was known for in 2009 are starting to return.

Craig Breslow may also get chances against lefty-heavy lineups, so keep that in mind. However, Breslow gave up a homer in yesterday’s game and picked up a loss the day before, so Wuertz is your play here, even if it’s just for the short-term until Bailey returns. He’s owned in under 5% of ESPN leagues, and with fantasy seasons rapidly pushing toward the playoffs, every save counts. He replaces Brandon League on the list, who just saw his prospective value plummet to zero when the Mariners decided to hang on to David Aardsma.

We’re seeing a little bit of a different situation in Pittsburgh, where Octavio Dotel‘s departure has opened up the closing job for Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan. I’ve mentioned a few times here that I thought Hanrahan was the better choice due to his high K rate, but that I thought Meek would get the chance because he had a lower ERA and "was an All-Star". However, Hanrahan received the first save opportunity, and it looks to be the right choice: Hanrahan struck out eight without a walk in the last week. Pirates manager John Russell hasn’t made it official, and Meek may yet vulture a save here and there, making him a decent guy to hang on to. Still, Hanrahan needs to be owned in all leagues, and he’s available in over 85% as of this writing.

Ryan Madson: I have to start out with these two tasty facts from our own Bill Baer: first, "this season, Ryan Madson BB/9: 1.3; Brad Lidge: 5.7." and second, "Roy Halladay K/BB, 2010: 7.5; Ryan Madson K/BB, 2010: 7.7." You’d think that replacing Lidge with Madson would be obvious by those numbers alone, if not propelled even further by Lidge allowing yet another walkoff disaster to the Nationals on Saturday. You’d think that, but Charlie Manuel continues to insist otherwise. That’s well and good for him, but I continue to insist that no team with playoff aspirations can continue to live with that kind of performance. Madson’s going to get his chance at some point, and he’s still out there for 95% of you to pick up.

Drew Storen: With Matt Capps off to Minnesota (and yes, I was thrilled to see that move happen about six hours after I led off last week’s column suggesting it), the Nationals job is open. After the trade, MLB.com reported that Jim Riggleman sees the job as being shared between Storen, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard, but I don’t see that lasting very long. Burnett notched the first save, though that was in large part because Storen was unavailable and after having been brought in to face lefties in the 8th, Burnett stayed in as the first two batters of the 9th were lefties as well. Going forward, this is likely a two-man race between Clippard and Storen. As for Clippard, his last two appearances have each come in the 7th inning, suggesting that Riggleman still values him in a setup role (and he gave up a game-tying homer his last time out as well). Storen’s still a rookie without a save, so he’ll be eased into the job, but it seems clear that he’ll get the bulk of opportunities – especially if he keeps going without allowing any long balls.

Hong-Chih Kuo: Don’t let the rumors fool you; Jonathan Broxton is in no danger of losing his job, nor was Octavio Dotel brought in to do anything more than solidify a shaky bullpen. (Which in itself is arguable.) Broxton, however, continues to struggle, allowing runs in four of his last seven outings. Perhaps more worrisome, his strikeout rate has plummeted, as he’s also without a K in four of his last seven. Meanwhile, Kuo keeps on dominating; the earned run he allowed on July 31 was the first that crossed against him in six weeks. He’s still a good bet to pair with Broxton to get a ton of strikeouts, plenty of holds, and the occasional save.

J.J. Putz: Tough week all around for Putz, as Bobby Jenks survived the deadline while saving three in a row, in addition to Putz seeing his team record scoreless game streak end. The chances for Putz to grab some saves aren’t as bright as they were a week ago. Still, Putz is striking out 5.6 as many as he’s walking and picking up holds, so as far as non-closer relievers go, he’s not without his value.

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sajtan
8/05
The problem with Madson is that, every time he gets a shot at closing, he comes up small. It's almost as if he'd rather be the set-up guy than the closer. Don't know if he can't handle the pressure or what. Had Madson enjoyed success during his previous closing stints, there's no question that he'd be the closer now.
mpet29
8/05
I'm not sure that's really true, though. He was the full-time closer last September, and he saved 6, blew 1, and had a 14/2 K/BB mark. Seems fine by me.
willjosh09
8/05
Furthermore, he suffered from some bad luck earlier in the season when he was the closer. I don't know specifically why, but Madson has carried the stigma of not being able to close out games. His struggles early this year probably solidified that in the minds of most people. Contreras was solid when Lidge and Madson were on the DL, so I question whether Madson is 100% next in line. Might be closer to a 50/50 proposition if they finally remove Lidge. Regardless, the ratio and K help combined with the potential for saves puts him toward the top of the list of MRs. Since I'm posting I want to mention that I love these articles. They're short and to the point, and they usually dig deep enough so that some of the players are usually available in my leagues.
mpet29
8/05
Thanks! It's sometimes tough to strike the right balance between "uh, Mariana Rivera is good" and "ooh, Pedro Feliciano lucked into a save!" but it's enjoyable, and I'm glad people find value in it. Personally, it's helped me too: I'm crushing both of my leagues in saves right now thanks to the research.
mpet29
8/05
You might want to hold onto Putz... Jenks is lighting himself on fire right now.
bflaff1
8/06
Madson in 2008: 1 save, 2 blown saves Madson in 2009: 10 saves, 6 blown saves Madson in 2010: 4 saves, 3 blown saves Lidge vs. Madson isn't quite cancer vs. AIDS, but the contrast between Madson as set up guy (good) vs. Madson as closer (Maalox) is severe enough that he pretty much blew his chance(s) of taking Lidge's job. There's no obvious replacement if someone Tonya Harding's Lidge in the leg, but Manuel et al may decide that Madson, for one, is better off staying where he is in the set up role. I'd set the over/under for saves between now and the end of the year at 3, and go under.
CrashburnAlley
8/06
Someone on my blog (@Phylan on Twitter) went through Madson's game logs and found the following, regarding his blown saves: Madson in 9th inning save opps: 2003: 1 appearance, not a save situation 2004: Pitch in a save situation in the 9th 1 time, converted. Blew 1 save while pitching in the 8th inning 2005: Blew 7 saves. By inning of appearance: 7th, 8th, 7th, 7th, 7th, 7th, 6th. 0 save opportunities in the 9th inning 2006: Pitched mostly as a starter. 2 saves, 2 blown, 2 save opportunities in the 9th inning, recored both saves. Two blown saves by inning: 6th, 7th 2007: Recorded 1 save by pitching the final 3 innings in an 8-4 victory. 1 blown save came, in the 8th inning 2008: 1 save opportunity converted in the 9th. Two blown saves by inning: 7th, 8th 2009: 14 save ops in 9th inning, 10 converted, 4 blown. Two blown saves in 8th inning 2010: 3 saves in 4 9th inning save ops, 1 blown Total saves/opportunitiess as closer in 9th: 17/22 Mop-up saves (3+ IP in blowout): 1 Total blown saves as non-closer: 15 Madson is one of the better relief pitchers in all of baseball. If he is given an opportunity to close, you would be nuts to pass on him. He strikes out a lot of hitters (avg. 11.1 K/9), doesn't walk many (avg. 1.2 BB/9), and induces a lot of ground balls (52%). His 9.25 K/BB ratio is third-best in all of Major League Baseball according to FanGraphs, behind only Edward Mujica and Rafael Betancourt.
mpet29
8/06
Bill nails it here. As a Dodger fan, I get the same argument when Broxton struggles, noting his high number of blown saves. Of course, many of those came between 2005-2008 when he was a setup man, and thus in the position to only blow saves, not attain them.
bflaff1
8/07
Cheers to your reader for putting in the work. That softens the history, but the perception that Madson isn't as effective when he's a closer didn't emerge out of thin air. More importantly, here is Manuel complaining to the beat writers after Lidge's latest blown save against the Nats: "I hear you guys say that for two (gosh darn) years," said Manuel, when asked about Madson. "I hear this and that, this and that. What the hell? We try this guy. We try that guy. We try this guy. Then I hear you bitch to me sometimes about their roles: 'Guys don't know their roles.' I can go on all night now. Let's just drop it right there." h/t Todd Zolecki Madson, for better or for worse, is locked in as the set-up guy. He's good at it, and I'm almost sure he's going to stay there. I'm not trying to disagree with the notion that Madson couldn't be a good closer. I'm just saying that I doubt he'll get the chance. And I thought that was relevant for anyone thinking about a speculative pick-up in fantasy.