Imagine yourself alone…in the middle of the woods….middle of the night….a dense fog hovers just above the ground. Jason, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, the Cropsy Maniac and some guy with a hook for a hand all have you surrounded. Zombie hands push through the dirt at your feet grasping at your ankles. Your heart is racing, your breathing labored, you try to scream but nothing comes out.
Well, you can take all that, multiply it by 10 and you still don’t equal the nightmares fantasy owners are experiencing with regard to MLB closers right now.
Or so they think…
Look, I get it. The position feels like it’s in complete disarray. Jim Johnson lost his job and the A’s pen seems like a mess. Matt Lindstrom is a disaster. Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara are dealing with shoulder issues while David Robertson remains out with a hamstring problem. Jim Henderson was out before he even started, Aroldis Chapman took one in the melon and Joe Nathan looks like he should be measured for a coffin. It’s ugly. You know it and I know it, but believe me when I tell you, it’s really not all that bad.
While everyone is freaking out over some of the bullpen nightmares we all seem to be suffering from, there are plenty of good performances being overlooked and in two or three weeks’ time, we’re all going to look back on this frenzied state of panic and laugh. People are so hung up on the fact that one-third of the closers who entered the season with the job have now lost it or are hurt, but that’s actually not a fair assessment. Yes, there are a number of situations with injuries and unrest, but to say that you don’t invest in closers during your draft because of what’s happening right now is completely misguided.
First of all, in that infamous one-third, they are listing Chapman, Robertson, Casey Janssen and Bobby Parnell. That's a little unfair, don't you think? Injuries happen, people. That’s a fact. And they happen to everyone. If you’re telling me that you won’t invest in a closer and you cite any of these four as your reason why, then you’re being foolish. That’s like telling me you won’t invest in third basemen because Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval and Aramis Ramirez keep getting hurt.
You want to avoid guys because they are injury prone? I totally get that. But then don’t piss and moan about the closers because you didn’t look into Uerha’s shoulder or the fact that Nathan may have had an arm problem which led to his diminished velocity which we knew about last year! That’s not the position being a mess, that's you being a mess. That’s you not being a smart fantasy owner. If you’re avoiding Troy Tulowitzki because of his injury history then you should have avoided these two as well.
Also included in that one-third are, for whatever reason, Henderson and Chad Qualls. Whaaaaat? How do you include these two? Henderson never even had the job and if you look at the closer for the Brewers from Day 1, Francisco Rodriguez, he’s been pretty damn good. And Qualls? He was never even named the closer. The Houston pen was always closer-by-committee. Sure, many speculated that Qualls would see the most work, but the job was never his. You simply cannot include those two in your list of busted closers.
And what about Jose Veras? While yes, he should be counted in the one-third, did anyone even think he’d be a legitimate closer this year? No. And if you did, then again, you didn’t do your research and made a bonehead choice. Everyone and their grandmother knew that Pedro Strop had better stuff and would soon take over, if not when Veras blew up and lost the job, then when he was traded. If you didn’t, well then your train of thought must still be boarding at the station.
Now as for some situations that can be legitimately counted…
When Johnson lost his job in Oakland, I was flooded with emails and tweets asking who to pick up for the A’s bullpen. I told you no one. In a legitimate closer-by –committee, you simply don’t know who is getting the save until the moment it happens. There are just too many variables. I also told you that Johnson would get his job back rather quickly and since he was removed from the job, Luke Gregerson has two blown saves while Sean Doolittle is responsible for one. Meanwhile, Johnson has made three appearances and thrown five scoreless innings with a 5:1 K:BB. Today will make one week since he was removed and I bet it doesn’t even make it to two.
The White Sox situation has been a disaster since spring training. Who knows what was going through Robin Ventura’s mind, but it was his fault for not naming Nate Jones his closer by mid-March. It was obvious that he was the guy who should have the job but for whatever reason, Ventura continued to delay the process and eventually hand the ball to Matt Lindstrom, who has blown the job multiple times in the past. Who knows how things would have turned out had Ventura just made the right call from the start? Maybe the team wouldn’t have mishandled Jones’ back injury. Maybe he would never have gotten hurt because he would have been use differently. Sadly though, that’s not the way it went down and now we have to wait another week or two before Jones returns. Maybe Ventura will wise up and start using Daniel Webb, but then you can’t count him as one who lost his job once Jones does come back.
Meanwhile, no one is even remotely acknowledging the two-thirds who have done well and/or retained their jobs. How come no one is talking about Greg Holland or Sergio Romo or Steve Cishek? Where’s the Huston Street Fan Club? No love for Tommy Hunter, Jason Grilli or Kenley Jansen? Even LaTroy Hawkins deserves some props. There are plenty of closers out there who are doing their job just fine but no one is talking about them. Why? Because they’re just doing their job. There’s no drama. There’s no controversy.
Panic buttons are hit by those who continuously overreact. We’re two weeks into the season with five and a half more months to go. Things balance out, numbers regress, the law of averages takes over and everything settles down. There is no reason to freak out and completely lose it over two weeks of a bumpy road. Trust the process and have faith. All will be right with the closing universe soon.
This was informative and refreshing Howard. I am an advocate of never paying for saves a la Matthew Berry. This can usually lead to a result in a breadth of struggling or marginal closers. In 12-team leagues I happen to be still performing well this early on. Closers such as Reed, Parnell, Valverde, Kelley, Santos, Crain, Jim Johnson, Nate Jones need lots of monitoring. This is why I suggest holding 4 closers at all times whether they are elite or marginal, and then a 5th as either an "8th inning" handcuff to one that is struggling, OR the 5th closer may be your high-upside DL/NA candidate like Crain, Nate Jones, or Hanrahan.
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