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Another week goes by and another mad-dash to the waiver wire occurs as fantasy owners who are chasing saves this year continue to search for the new closer du jour. However, there’s a lesson to be learned here given the quality of who’s available right now and that lesson can best be summed up in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers who penned the phrase, “You gotta know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.” It’s a time-honored philosophy that teaches you when it’s right to stand your ground versus when you should call it quits, and the new closer situations for a few teams are hopefully showing you that this is/was the week for the latter. Some of them thar situations is damn ugly.
Chicago White Sox
While one would think, based on his perpetual mediocrity with occasional splashes of disgustingness, losing Matt Lindstrom to the disabled list with major ankle surgery would be a good thing for fantasy owners, there are even less desirable option in the bullpen to step in as potential closers. If you had a gun to your head, which is probably the only reason to touch this bullpen, Ronald Belisario is the guy to own. At least for the time being, that is.
Even if you forget about the fact that he just gave up five runs over his last three outings (three innings), he was never much good in the first place. Sure, being a ground ball pitcher is a benefit, but here’s a guy with a career 3.47 ERA, lost velocity and command issues that make every outing a dangerous one. He only throws his slider about 85 mph, but that thing spends more time in the dirt than Pig Pen at a mud pie baking contest. He bounces at least two to three pitches per batter and sends the catcher running to the backstop at least once or twice. As a result, his walk rate continues to climb and it really won’t be long before you see him start blowing saves without allowing a single hit. White Sox manager Robin Ventura says that he’s sticking with him, but that is just one bad situation you want to avoid.
Besides, given Belisario’s potentially ship-sinking performances, the Pale Hose are going to have to eventually turn to someone else. How quickly that happens is obviously up in the air, but given Belisario’s recent performance and knowing that a managerial vote of confidence is the kiss of death for any struggling closer, it could be a lot sooner than later. Unfortunately, the other options in the pen aren’t too enticing. Daniel Webb’s 2.39 ERA might look good now, but check out that 6.15 BB/9, the 4.19 FIP and understand that his ratios are being aided by a low BABIP and unsustainably high strand rate. He is not long for the closer’s role, by any means.
The third option in the pen, Scott Downs, might just be the dark horse here. He may hav a rather unsavory 6.11 ERA and he’s walking guys at a high rate, but Downs is actually a decent ground ball pitcher who does have experience closing out games – he had nine saves for the Angels in 2012 and he had nine saves for the Blue Jays in 2009. Obviously as a lefty with less-than-stellar splits, the deck is somewhat stacked against him, but is he really any worse than any other guy in that bullpen?
The bottom line is that any one of these three guys could be the closer within the next two weeks. It's understandable if you have to be aggressive on the wire, but if you're just trying to pick up another part-time closer-in-waiting, save your money becuase none of these guys has the stayiong power you'd like when making an investment.
Tampa Bay Rays
OK, so Grant Balfour hasn’t exactly been removed from the closer’s role yet, but with 18 walks in 19.2 innings does anyone think that Joe Maddon is going to stand for this much longer? Notice the movement on the Closer Grid below. Balfour has a 5.49 ERA with more walks than strikeouts and it’s all happening with just a .212 BABIP which tends to mean that the hitting against him is probably only going to improve. If he doesn’t right the ship soon, then Maddon is going to be forced into looking for alternatives and those alternatives really aren’t very tasty options.
We can start by immediately eliminating Joel Peralta from this conversation. While Peralta has provided sound relief for the Rays in the past, he is a veritable disaster this season. His 5.24 ERA over 22.1 innings ius awful, his strikeout rate is down, and while he may not be walking as many guys this year, his 2.01 HR/9 says it all….and then some. There’s no way he earns the closer job when he can’t keep the ball in the yard. Plain and simple.
Next up would possibly be Jake McGee. There’s a whole lot to like about the 27-year old southpaw with his 1.21 ERA, his 3.83 K/BB and the fact that he hasn’t allowed a home run yet through 22.1 innings this season. However, there is a pair of obvious things working against him. Number one is the fact that he is a lefty and Maddon, like most every other manager, would prefer to use his lefty in a more situational role rather than just locking him up for the ninth. The second is that McGee, over the last few years has been called upon to fill in as the closer a few times and not once has he been able to run with it. He’s been terrible in the role, in fact. It’s not that he can’t handle the job, per se, as much as it’s the splits he can’t endure. Left-handed hitters have almost always gotten the better of him.
And finally, there’s Juan Oviedo, the closer formerly known as Leo Nunez. Oviedo probably isn’t much of a dark horse as he could be the favorite at this point. He has the experience in the ninth inning and he’s currently pitching well with a 1.62 ERA with a solid 8.64 K/9 and a 2.67 K/BB over 16.2 innings. He also , has not given up a home run this season which is always nice. Should the Rays make a change from Balfour, Oviedo would likely get the call. Am I investing in him though? Probably not.
Now here's an updated look at the new Closer Grid:
*on the DL but coming off soon