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.
Lindstrom has the job now, but his hold on the title of closer is shaky at best. Nate Jones’ condition is improving but there’s still no real timetable for his return. I think it’s worth a shot to pick up Webb in case Lindstrom falters again.
I’m torn on this issue. The baseball game theory enthusiast in me loves the idea of teams experimenting with a closer by committee, playing matchups and utilizing good baseball analysis rather than employing a security blanket in the ninth inning regardless of where the high-leverage, late-game situation may come. The fantasy player in me hates the idea however as it makes it impossible and generally not worth it to try and pick up saves from any of teams utilizing the closer by committee strategy.
Three teams are going with the CBC strategy, the A’s, the Cubs, and the Astros.
Jim Johnson has been awful to start the year. He’s not locating, and when he is, he’s getting hit. Johnson is still getting the strikeout numbers, but that’s the only glimmer of hope that fantasy owners can hold on to at this point. The former Oriole started last year poorly as well, but in that case Johnson managed to hold onto the closer job despite his shaky performance. In this situation, Johnson will have to pull an Ernesto Frieri to separate himself from a collection of arms in Luke Gregerson, Sean Doolittle, Danny Otero, and Ryan Cook. Cook in particular was a favorite pick of mine to eventually ascend to the closer role, but the situation in Oakland is murky. I think Johnson is actually a decent bet to win the job back outright, but I’m looking closely at Gregerson if Johnson continues to struggle.
The Cubs situation is similar to the A’s in that their closer has been awful in the early going and it’s caused them to go to a committee and hope someone makes a clear case for the gig soon. Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon are the two names I’ve tabbed to eventually get the job, but I’m still not ruling out a return to form from Jose Veras.
Early on, Veras has shown no feel for where his curveball is going, and it’s led to brutal innings, but I feel that the Cubs are invested in Veras pitching well enough down the stretch to flip him for assets near the trade deadline. I’ve cut ties with Veras on a few teams, but I still have him flagged, as I think there’s room for resurgence if he can get the feel for his curveball again. In the meantime, I would go after Strop before Rondon but if you missed out on the hat tilted reliever Rondon isn’t a bad consolation prize. Kyuji Fujikawa lurks, but he’s still a long way from the ninth inning at Wrigley and left his extended spring training outing with an apparent injury.
The Astros are just waiting around for Jesse Crain to come back healthy. Currently, the combo of Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, and Josh Fields has combined for exactly one save, and Anthony Bass has been finishing games so far for the Astros. I think this job will change hands frequently until Crain returns.
- Jonathan Broxton came back with a successful outing against the Rays last week. Broxton is slated to be the Reds’ closer until Aroldis Chapman comes back. Broxton is only owned in 30 percent of ESPN leagues and 36 percent of Yahoo leagues, so there’s likely some time to pick him up.
- John Axford blew a save against the White Sox on Sunday. He’s been solid this year so I don’t think this marks the start of the Cody Allen era by any stretch.
- With Casey Janssen due back from his injury soon, Sergio Santos is making the situation in Toronto very interesting. Santos has 10 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings of work and he hasn’t blown a save yet. I think Janssen owners should start to get worried about job security here.