2014 Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: The Carousel Continues
‘Round and ‘round she goes! Where she stops, nobody knows!
No, really…nobody knows.
The closer carousel keeps on turning and while other carousels have a bit of predictability to them, the one for closers goes forward and backwards and in some cases side to side, inside out and…well…a little all over the place. Funny enough though, we’re still really only talking about a few situations.
As we discussed in the last piece, most of the situations around the league remain unchanged. We had a few scares, of course – the shoulders of Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara are fine and Joe Nathan is still locking it down in Detroit – but overall, most of the appointed closers are still sitting with their jobs intact. Again, it’s something that you simply have to accept. You may not like it, but you have to accept that many closers will take their fair share of lumps. They’re going to blow saves. They’re going to give up annoying home runs. But will it cost them their job? No. Jason Grilli isn’t losing his job because he gave up late-game home runs to Ryan Braun on back-to-back nights. Trevor Rosenthal isn’t getting bumped because he’s hit a bit of a rough patch. It’s one thing if they never get the job done, but if they usually do, then you have to accept the occasional blow-ups and move on.
But enough of what you have to accept. Let’s talk about the situations that are still causing fantasy owners grief and what you may have to do to make it through. We’ll also talk closers returning from injury and then go with an updated version of the Closer Grid.
New York Mets
So after back-to-back poor outings, Mets manager Terry Collins is done with Jose Valverde as his closer. Forget about the five previous outings where he was practically lights-out and locking down saves; those two poor outings were all Collins could stomach. A bit of an overreaction? I think so. Managers obviously have that instinct for self-preservation and when they end up losing a game they should have won, they’re always looking for someone else to blame so that their job remains safe. But is this instinct to protect one’s job really working?
The Mets will now go with Kyle Farnsworth as their closer and the question is, for how long? Is Farnsworth really a better option than Papa Grande? I’m not so sure. Valverde has the higher strikeout rate, by almost three batters per nine innings. Right now, he’s also got a better ground ball rate. The recent numbers say that he gives up more home runs than Farnsworth, but those numbers don’t tell the full story. The not-so-hot totals are just in the last two years and they are greatly skewed by the small sample size. Look at the overall totals and you’ll see that Valverde actually gives up the long ball less. And, of course, let’s not forget that he’s got way more successful experience in the role than Farnsworth does. For as many times as you’ve seen Valverde get yanked from the role, Farnsworth has too and then add a few more on there because of all the times he was briefly considered and then immediately dismissed.
Farnsworth may have the job now, but I’m not blowing my FAAB budget on him either. In fact, I don’t even think he holds down the job for very long. A week? Maybe two? Collins seems like a pretty fickle guy when it comes to his ninth-inning specialist and should Farnsworth stumble on an accasion or two, we could be seeing Valverde back in the saddle again. At least until the second half which is when I estimate Vic Black will be ready to go, but that’s for another day.
Speaking of fickle managers, what’s up with Rick Renteria of the Cubs? Last week, we got conflicting reports where one said Renteria was sticking with Jose Veras as his closer and then another that said he was switching. It didn’t say that he was necessarily switching to Pedro Strop, but that he was switching. Then, over the weekend, we get another report saying that Renteria wants Veras back in the role. You gotta be kidding me. I’ve seen my 12-year-old niece make more assertive decisions than that.
On top of that, he totally sets Veras up for failure as he doesn’t pitch him for nine days and then throws him into a game Sunday in the seventh inning with the Cubs down 5-0 at the time. How is that going to help the situation? You’re the closer, you’re not the closer, you’re the closer again but here, work this non-save situation for your first time back on the hill. Come on, Renteria. That’s no way to handle it. You’ve got a volatile situation with emotional players. Surely you can make a more sensible decision.
So for now, I suppose it’s back to Veras again. He should receive an opportunity if the Cubs ever win a close one again. However, be wary of the fact that Renteria could spaz out again and screw the whole system up once again. This is not a situation you should even be touching. Not at all.
The Jim Johnson Return Watch is in full-on action mode here. Since being removed from the closer’s role, Johnson has made four appearances and has tossed 5.2 scoreless innings and has allowed just three hits while posting a 5:2 K:BB. Meanwhile, while Luke Gregerson has nailed down three saves, he also blew one and gave up the lead in a ties game. Sean Doolittle, who is also working in the closer-by-committee group, has earned himself one save while also blowing one of his own. There has been no word out of the East Bay as to how long this configuration will last, but at some point soon, manager Bob Melvin is going to want to settle things down in his bullpen and get the guys into a more structured routine. It might take another blown opportunity or two before it happens, but you know it’s coming. For the sake of making pick-ups, gun to my head, I’m bidding on Gregerson.
On the Mend
David Robertson, NYY – He’s eligible to come of the disabled list Tuesday and that is exactly when the team expects him back. They made do with Shawn Kelley in his absence and there were really, at times, moments where Kelley looked amazing, but the job belongs to Robertson and that is where he’ll stay. Get him active for this week as you’ll see plenty of save opportunities coming your way.
Aroldis Chapman, CIN – He’s been making outstanding progress and even tossed some live batting practice over the weekend, something that definitely pushes him ahead of schedule. He’s still not going to be back until mid-May so continue to roll with Jonathan Broxton and be patient. Once he does return, he should slot back in to the closer role immediately.
Casey Janssen, TOR – A lower back issue has extended Jannssen’s stay on the disabled list by at least another two weeks and probably more. After experiencing pain in his lower back during a bullpen session, Janssen has officially been shut down for a minimum of two weeks and won’t throw at all. After that, the club will re-evaluate him and decide upon a new throwing schedule and then set up a new rehab assignment. Sergio Santos owners can breathe a heavy sign of relief as his stay as the team’s closer gets extended by what could be almost another month.
Now here’s a look at the current Closer Grid:
One thing to note, it was suggested that I do some sort of listing by order of job security rather than juts alphabetical. This is obviously more conjecture and speculation than it is built in fact, so don’t take this as a rankings post. The top group, I feel, has strong job security and even if someone hits a bump in the road they’re not likely to lose their jobs. Obviously with the middle group there’s a bit more trepidation but still, the guys are worth owning and deserve your attention. And then the last group, well…..they speak for themselves, now don’t they?
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@tortowl rather have Iwakuma than samardzija.