The Closer Report: Can We Talk?
Howard Bender looks at a few bullpen situations which warrant your attention
By now you’re probably flipping through the Fantasy Alarm pages wondering if you missed a Closer Report and if so, where the hell is it? Well, fear not, you haven’t missed a thing. While I was in the process of publishing the last one, I got the blue screen that every computer owner fears and yes, all was lost – the new grid, the old grid, the article, the photos and a world of other stuff that you probably don’t really care about. But while my baby (yes, I call my laptop my baby) is in the shop getting her new hard drive and all the fixin’s that will have her running like new, I refurbished an old desktop that is two steps away from being a Commodore 64 and can once again bring you a new Closer Report. It’s been a long and arduous few days, so I’m just going to shoot from the hip here and discuss a few situations that warrant your attention.
Joe Nathan Gets the Kiss of Death?
We’ve said it before – there’s nothing less reassuring than when your closer gives up 10 runs over his last six outing and the manager steps up to the podium to tell the world that he [the closer] is still the guy. Once that happens, like clockwork, your closer then blows up again and the next thing you know…KABLAM! Your guy ain’t the guy no more. So when Brad Ausmus told the media that Joe Nathan is still his guy after a week’s worth of ninth-inning atrocities, fantasy owners cringed and probably ran to their waiver wires looking for Joba Chamberlain.
Now obviously we have to take Ausmus’ word here and believe that he is sticking with Nathan who has sucked beyond comparison lately, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take some precautions. That’s right, if Chamberlain and/or Al Alburquerque are on the waiver wire, you’re going to need to do some roster shuffling and make some room for one, if not both guys. You have to think that the leash on Nathan is pretty short at this point. His velocity remains down, his strikeouts are down, his walks are up, his home runs are way up, and even his FIP looks like a bloated corpse that’s just washed up on the beach. Can he right the ship? Sure. Anything is possible. But you’re doing yourself and your fantasy team a major disservice by not establishing a strong contingency plan.
Do We Got the Mottes Yet?
Trevor Rosenthal coughed up the game-winning run in a tie game against the Royals on Tuesday and, once again, the fantasy community is all abuzz with questions of when we’ll see Jason Motte take over. While I cannot speak for Mike Matheny, I can say that it still seems extremely doubtful that change is coming. First off, while yes, it totally sucks that Rosenthal soiled the sheets in the ninth again, this was his first earned run in his last seven appearances and in that span, he’s had an 8:1 K:BB and looked solid on the mound. Motte has made seven appearances since his activation and while he’s allowed just one run in 6.2 innings, his 4:2 K:BB is low and he’s lost more than 3 mph off his fastball as he continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. Sorry people. Maybe you’re champing at the bit, looking to grab the next Closer du Jour, but Matheny isn’t throwing Motte to the wolves in the ninth inning while he is still trying to feel his way back into the bullpen fold. Rosenthal should continue to hold the job steadily…at least for the near-distant future.
What Happens When Hunter Returns?
While many of you have stashed former Orioles closer Tommy Hunter on your DL, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be taking the job back upon his return which looks like Saturday, June 7. Buck Showalter usually likes to stand by his guys until the player gives him no choice but to make the change, but in this case, there is just no reason to hand the gig back to Hunter. Forget about his blow-ups just prior to the DL stint, as there is really no way to know just how long that groin injury was bothering him. Let’s just look at the fact that he was a flawed closer coming into the season and had horrific splits against left-handed hitters. He earned himself the job during the spring, but it wasn’t necessarily because he was that good, but that his splits were less off than the rest of the guys – Darren O’Day and Brian Matusz. Not to mention the fact that the club was eager to have both Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman remain starters. So Hunter landed the job almost by default. Now with Zach Britton cleaning things up in the ninth, and doing it with awesome peripherals, an insane 79-percent ground ball rate and relatively even splits between lefties and righties, Showalter has himself a closer upon whom he can rely. Hunter will come back and jump into a set-up role, because Buck knows, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
In the two weeks since he’s been back from the disabled list, Jason Grilli has notched five saves while allowing just one run over six innings with a 10:3 K:BB. He was eased back into the job to start, but has officially run away with it again.
While there is talk of Neftali Feliz getting a call-up soon, Joakim Soria owners can rest easy. There is no way Ron Washington is pulling Soria from the job. Not even close. The man formerly known as the Mexecutioner has allowed just one run since April 17, a span of 16 appearances, and has locked down 10 saves in that span. As dumb as Washington can be, no man would be stupid enough to change closers here.
The White Sox continue to tread lightly with Ronald Belisario who has allowed six runs over six innings, but has five saves in that span. He’s thrown two scoreless innings in his last three appearances, but those eggshells he’s walking on are still crackling under his feet. Robin Ventura is sticking with him though, so there’s no reason to be grabbing anyone else from that disgusting bullpen.
Grant Balfour has now thrown three-straight scoreless appearances and hasn’t given up a run in five of his last six outings. The talk of change in Tampa has seemingly subsided, so there’s no reason to run out and add Juan Oviedo or Jake McGee just yet.
Check out the bottom right-hand corner of the closer grid below. You see that name? Remember it. You’ll be glad you did in the second half.
Side Note: While my baby gets fixed and I work off this miserable, welfare box of nuts and bolts, the grid will look a little different this time around. The pretty colors will be back next time.
|Closer||On Deck||In the Hole|
|Atlanta Braves||Craig Kimbrel||David Carpenter||Jordan Walden*|
|Kansas City Royals||Greg Holland||Kelvin Herrera||Wade Davis|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Kenley Jansen||Brian Wilson||Chris Perez|
|Cincinnati Reds||Aroldis Chapman||Jonathan Broxton||Sam LeCure|
|Boston Red Sox||Koji Uehara||Edward Mujica||Junichi Tazawa|
|New York Yankees||David Robertson||Dellin Betances||Matt Thornton|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Jonathan Papelbon||Antonio Bastardo||Mike Adams|
|San Francisco Giants||Sergio Romo||Jean Machi||Jeremy Affeldt|
|Miami Marlins||Steve Cishek||A.J. Ramos||Mike Dunn|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Francisco Rodriguez||Tyler Thornburg||Brandon Kintzler|
|Detroit Tigers||Joe Nathan||Joba Chamberlain||Al Alburquerque|
|Texas Rangers||Joakim Soria||Jason Frasor||Neal Cotts|
|Minnesota Twins||Glen Perkins||Jared Burton||Brian Duensing|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Jason Grilli||Mark Melancon||Tony Watson|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Trevor Rosenthal||Jason Motte||Carlos Martinez|
|San Diego Padres||Huston Street||Joaquin Benoit||Alex Torres|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Casey Janssen||Steve Delabar||Aaron Loup|
|Washington Nationals||Rafael Soriano||Drew Storen||Tyler Clippard|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Addison Reed||Brad Ziegler||Oliver Perez|
|Seattle Mariners||Fernando Rodney||Danny Farquhar||Tom Wilhemsen|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Grant Balfour||Juan Oviedo||Jake McGee|
|Colorado Rockies||LaTroy Hawkins||Rex Brothers||Adam Ottavino|
|Chicago Cubs||Hector Rondon||Wesley Wright||Justin Grimm|
|Chicago White Sox||Ronald Belisario||Scott Downs||Daniel Webb|
|Los Angeles Angels||Ernesto Frieri||Joe Smith||Fernando Salas|
|Oakland Athletics||Sean Doolittle||Luke Gregerson||Jim Johnson|
|Baltimore Orioles||Zach Britton||Daren O'Day||Brian Matusz|
|Houston Astros||Chad Qualls||Josh Fields||Tony Sipp|
|Cleveland Indians||Cody Allen||Bryan Shaw||Marc Rzepcynski|
|New York Mets||Jenrry Mejia||Jeurys Familia||Vic Black|
*on DL but returning shortly