How do you build your roster when it comes to relief pitchers? Are you the type that invested heavily on draft day in the elites? Are you the type that went mid level arms for some cost savings? Are you the type that said screw it, I ain't paying for closers since they simply cannot be trusted. Looks like group three may have had it right this year.
Here is what we know.
The White Sox made the unexpected decision to go with Matt Lindstrom and not Nate Jones in the 9th inning.
Bobby Parnell has a partial tear of his MCL and will be shut down for two weeks after undergoing a platelet-rich plasma injection. Best case scenario it sounds like he could be back in a month. Worst case is that he'll need surgery which will end his season. In steps Jose Valverde. Gulp.
The Blue Jays are now using Sergio Santos in the 9th inning after Casey Janssen was placed on the DL with a left abdominal strain. Projections suggest he could be back in three weeks.
The Brewers decided to go with Francisco Rodriguez over Jim Henderson in the 9th inning, something no one on the planet knew was going to happen three days ago other than Ron Roenicke, the manager of the Brewers. “Definitely, I was surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Especially [because] coming out of camp, ‘Hondo’ was supposed to be the guy who was throwing the ninth inning.” Roenicke said the following. “We had a conversation about Henderson [two days ago] and until we feel like he’s throwing the way he can and was last year, we’re going to put him in a role that we can give him a couple outings to get his stuff back and his confidence going.”
A HISTORY LESSON
Before I break down the four situations, some thoughts that were noted in the 2014 Draft Guide from Fantasy Alarm.
Here is a list of some of the saves leaders from 2013 followed by their ADP numbers (from the NFBC).
37 saves: Edward Mujica outside the top-400
33 saves: Kevin Gregg outside the top-400
28 saves: Jim Henderson outside the top-400
24 saves: Joaquin Benoit 339.3 ADP
21 saves: Koji Uehara outside the top-400
19 saves: Rex Brothers outside the top-400
16 saves: Mark Melancon 391.0 ADP
16 saves: Danny Farquhar outside the top-400
15 saves: Heath Bell outside the top-400
Here is a list of arms that were on waivers at the start of the 2012 season.
48 saves – Fernando Rodney
42 saves – Rafael Soriano
32 saves – Tyler Clippard
29 saves – Tom Wilhelmsen
29 saves – Addison Reed
27 saves – Jonathan Broxton
25 saves – Santiago Casilla
24 saves – Grant Balfour
23 saves – Ernesto Frieri
22 saves – Casey Janssen
16 saves – Glen Perkins
16 saves – Greg Holland
15 saves – Steve Cishek
You could have added those thirteen guys off the waiver-wire in many leagues an ended up with an average of 27 saves a man.
Here is a list of same waiver-wire gems from 2011.
32 saves – Jordan Walden
30 saves – Sergio Santos
25 saves –Kyle Farnsworth
24 saves – Fernando Salas
21 saves – Javy Guerra
How about 2010?
24 saves – John Axford
23 saves – Matt Lindstrom
22 saves – Octavio Dotel
21 saves – Jon Rauch
17 saves – Alfredo Simon
The fact is that studies show that at least 40 percent of all saves aren't drafted each year.
This situation – the closer carousel – arises year after year after year. The rapidity with which it occurred this year though is pretty stunning.
Let me address the four situations that have already popped up, but before I do remember my mantra: skills over role. I have no control over a manager doing something dumb like deciding to go with an inferior arm in the 9th inning (see the White Sox) or making a truly odd snap judgment decision (Brewers). No can know when a manager will do that. We also can't know for sure who will be hurt (Blue Jays) or how long a guy will be out once he is hurt (Mets). The fact is that I vote for the skills and hope that through the fog that emerges like a beacon of light.
You have to decide. Do you want to count on someone because he has the role right now (Lindstrom) or do you want to go with the better arm (Jones) and hope the manager figures it out.
Matt Lindstrom has something that Nate Jones doesn't – history. Not only has he pitched in far more big league games he's also had two seasons of 15 saves, and managers love it when someone has worked the 9th inning before (it's just three outs to me). At the same time Lindstrom has two saves the past three years. He also owns a career WHIP of 1.42. Looking at the K/9 column we see a 7.20 mark which leads to a 2.18 K/BB ratio. All of that is league average, or slightly worse. What he does do well is get grounders, he has a 49 percent rate for his career, but that's it. Let me ask you – do you want a guy coming off a season of a 1.43 WHIP, 6.82 K/9 and 3.41 walks per nine as your closer? I don't.
YOU WANT: Nate Jones
As I mentioned above, Parnell could be out for April or miss the entire season in a terrible development for the Mets. Signed off the scrap heap, Jose Valverde will get first shot at closing for the Metropolitans (Vic Black, Jeurys Familia and Gonzalez Germen may also be called on at some point). Valverde is just 14 saves short of 300 so he has history, but his performance has also trended down of late. Big time. The last time he struck out a batter per innings was 2010. In four of the last five seasons he walked at least 3.50 batters per nine. When he made a mistake last year he got battered to the tun of a 5.59 ERA and ghastly 2.79 HF/9 mark. He'll be a high-wire act at best.
YOU WANT: ? If Parnell is healthy it's obvious. If not it's Valverde and heaven help ya.
Sergio Santos was brought to the Blue Jays to close. He hurt his arm and ended up losing his job to Mr. Janssen. Could he reclaim it now? Santos saved 30 games in his last healthy season (2011) and he dominated last year in 25.2 innings with a 1.75 ERA, 0.58 WHIP, 9.82 K/9 and 7.00 K/BB. You really can't pitch much better than that. Now, do the Jays revert to the guy they brought in two years ago to close or will they turn back to the guy who has closed for them the last two years? Total toss up here. Both men have the skills to work the 9th with success. Razor thin call here.
YOU WANT: Sergio Santos
Francisco Rodriguez steps on a cactus and gets the job. Maybe The Oracle can tell the future? Check out prediction #7 in Fantasy Baseball Predictions. K-Rod has 305 career saves, but the last time he saves more than 25 was 2009, so it's been a while since he ran with the job for a full season. He still strikes guys out – he's been a K per inning guy every season of his career which started in 2002. He even did a better job last year with the walks as his 2.70 per nine inning mark was a career best and a full batter below his career rate. Can that continue? Seems unlikely given his track record. As for Henderson, maybe he didn't have a great spring with a 6.00 ERA and five walks in nine innings, but this is still a shock that he's not working the 9th. Henderson is in his 30's, much older that you like thought he was, and he's only thrown 90.2 innings in the big leagues. Still, he's racked up an 11.91 K/9 mark which is impressive. You also have to think his 26 percent career line drive rate will come down (law of averages). Plus there is this final quote from the manager. "We want [Henderson] as a closer. That’s what we want."
YOU WANT: Jim Henderson
If I had to list the arms on waivers I would go: Santos, Lindstrom, K-Rod and Valverde.
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