Closer (Insert Play on Words)

Welcome to the Closer (Insert Play on Words) blog post, where we throw up the middle finger to all blogs who try to be witty with their Closer titles. That includes myself for referencing that terrible “Closing Time” song a week ago. Fuck you MDS! OK, here’s a question for you. If Mariano Rivera and Joakim Soria were on a plane, would they be able to hijack that sucker with their Cutters? Too early for a 9/11 joke? Bad taste? C’mon. We’re talking about the most overrated and volatile position in fantasy baseball. We have to put up a wall of hostility to guard ourselves against these heartbreakers. You can’t blame me, I drafted Trevor Hoffman and Chad Qualls last season. Make the jump for plenty of Closer hate with a little love towards the end.

Careful (Click Click)

I’m not saying Mariano Rivera is going to be a bust, don’t misunderstand me. I just don’t value his track record. He has been reliable in the past, but this is 2011; Mariano Rivera is 102 years old and his Cutter is fading. It’s a gradual fade, like (enter some one’s haircut), but it’s there nonetheless. His main weapon (83.3%) is losing Velocity and Horizontal Movement (seen here). If you want to value “reliability” and pay for past statistics, be my guest. Whoever drafts Carlos Marmol, Heath Bell, Neftali Feliz, Brian Wilson and Matt Thornton will get better stats.

Joakim Soria is another “reliable” Reliever with Cutter (73.3% usage rate) problems. His decline was more of a late season scare than a career related issue.The 2010 graphs on his PitchFX page look dooming. His Cutter basically wilted as the season wore on. The Velocity fell through the floor and the Horizontal Movement basically disappeared. His stats (K/9, BB/9) weren’t effected by this, like Mo’s were, but I’m still left wondering about what was going on with his arm. When I’m left wondering and can’t find answers, it’s time to panic.

I’m never going to pay the prices required to land any of the top tier Closers. Maybe I’m guilty of embellishing small details and using excuses to avoid these players, maybe not. I have them ranked 5th/6th among all Closers, but they’ll never end up on my rosters.


Spend the Extra Dollar For the Six-month Warranty

Joe Nathan is making a comeback from Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2010 MLB season after undergoing the procedure nearly one year ago. He’s throwing bullpen sessions, things are going well, he’s on track to be ready for the season opener, but he wasn’t throwing at peak velocity in his first appearance against the Red Sox (one inning, no hits allowed). The upside is high, the price is low (245 ADP at MDC). You may need to draft Matt Capps as an insurance policy.

Andrew Bailey missed a month of baseball while sitting on the 15-Day DL and then underwent surgery, shortly thereafter, to remove loose bodies from his elbow. The surgery reportedly went well, he’s throwing bullpen sessions and expects to be ready for Opening Day. I’m not betting on a healthy Bailey and it would surprise me in the least if another Reliever in the Oakland bullpen (Fuentes, Devine, Ziegler, Wuertz, Balfour, Breslow) ended up receiving the Save opportunities.

Speaking of Oakland Closers who lost Saved opportunities, Huston Street is another oft-injured Reliever. He’s hit the DL three times due to elbow, shoulder and groin issues. He claims a rib injury hindered his production in the final weeks of the 2010 season. It’s very likely we’ll see a “Huston, we have a problem” caption used somewhere in 2011. The Rockies aren’t afraid to remove a Closer from the role and Matt Belisle is ready to pounce. Beware.

J.J. Putz has issues with his elbow, this is news to no one. A trip to the 15-Day DL in 2008 and a trip to the 60-Day DL in 2009 ruined both seasons. Last year he hit the DL, for two weeks, due to patellar tendinitis (what Chase Utley has now). However, J.J. was dynomite with the White Sox in 2010 and may be past the elbow problems. Yeah? No. Don’t believe it. Austin 3:16 Trust No One.

Frank Francisco: Tommy John to the elbow, biceps tendinitis, shoulder inflammation, a rib cage injury and walking pneumonia. Franky Two Times (I’m gonna go get a Save, get a Save) may bankrupt the Canadian medical system with his decrepit body. I believe a Francisco injury paved the way for Neftali Feliz to dominate the Ninth Inning in Texas; Octavio Dotel will be waiting for his turn in Toronto. It’ll happen.

Jose Valverde had a tear in his labrum (shoulder) back in 2004 and experienced biceps tendinitis in 2005, but it’s the elbow soreness and inflammation from last September that worries me. We just witnessed the annihilation of Adam Wainwright after last season’s sore elbow, Valverde is next. Joaquin Benoit was most excellent in Tampa Bay last year, he could fill the role (potentially) left behind by Valverde. We all know Zumaya won’t make it past May. Fan boys will clamour for Ryan Perry, but I’d rather see Benoit in there.

Brad Lidge is truly an awful option as your Closer. The strikeouts are declining, he’s walking more than 4.5 batters per nine in the past three seasons, he gets hit hard and his medical bills are through the roof. Lidge has been placed the 15-Day DL five times since 2007 (elbow, knee, oblique). You don’t want a piece of this guy; Charlie Manuel does, but you don’t.

Koji Uehara is (reportedly) the favorite to win the Closer’s role in Baltimore, but he has yet to pitch a full season in MLB and just took a cortisone shot to the elbow. Two seasons, two elbow injuries. Koji is a good bet for the turkey. Look for Kevin Gregg to get some Saves and possibly Mike Gonzalez (who also has health issues).

David Aardsma is trying to recover from hip surgery. The injury prevented Seattle from trading the overrated Reliever. Once he’s healthy and gets about 10 Saves, look for the team to get rid of him. Also of concern, he had a “boil on glute” in 2008. I’m not sure if ass boils are contagious, but I wouldn’t take the chance by letting this guy into my clubhouse. I wouldn’t pay for Aardsma with your money. Brandon League is the better buy here.

Of all these players, Frank Francisco has the best chance of landing on my roster. That’s only because no one is drafting him. If the price is cheap enough, why not? Roll the dice.


Who’s Left?

I’m not paying exorbitant prices for a Closer, I don’t want an injury prone arm; so who’s left? The chosen few, the Pitchers who have tiger blood, the Vatican Assassins, the Wild Things, that’s who.

John Axford‘s 168 ADP looks nice, but he’s been more expensive in my drafts. I’d love a piece of that 11.79 K/9. I mean, c’mon, Axford basically chopped up the Hoff and devoured his soul/powers. Plus, he’ll chat with you on Twitter so you can let him know when you need a Save or tell him how much you love his ‘stache.

Drew Storen was dubbed the Nationals’ Closer of the Future when he was selected as the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft. He’s young, his arm is in tact, he’s already good, is improving and has the hunger to get better. Everything you want in a Closer, minus a winning team.

Chris Perez will open the season as the Indians Closer. Last year, he had to wait for the team to find someone who actually wanted Kerry Wood (not an easy task). Perez has seen his WHIP and BB/9 improve with each season. Although I don’t expect the WHIP to improve again, unless he can repeat the .222 BABIP, he is a healthy specimen, relatively cheap (163 ADP) and will put up quality numbers.

Ryan Franklin tends to fly under the radar. He’s not a fireballer who racks up the strikeouts so his level of sexiness remains low. However, he puts up reliable, steady production for a team that wins games. Because he’s not a strikeout artist, he needs to maintain a low BABIP. I can’t pay for the 1.03 WHIP from 2010, but I’ll pay for a 1.20-1.25 WHIP. His 234 ADP makes for a solid purchase.


Random Notes

If you want a ton of great examples for why xFIP/FIP are flawed forecasters of ERA, check out the majority of Closers. My inclusion of BABIP is pure genius.

Matt Thornton has a desirable ADP (238), but no competitive league will allow that to happen. He’s expensive. Ignore that data.

Not mentioned: Leo Nunez. The team doesn’t like him and desperately wants to trade for Heath Bell. Clay Hensley is a great Holds/Saves speculation grab. Brandon Lyon. Who wants Brandon Lyon? Find me one person, I challenge you. Francisco Cordero. See Brandon Lyon. Joel Hanrahan. Pretty much a guarantee to be traded at some point. Evan Meek should be rostered in deep leagues. Fernando Rodney. You couldn’t pay me to roster him. I am literally scared to nominate him in auction leagues. Give me Scott Downs, please. Craig Kimbrel/Jonny Venters. I’m waiting to see how this battle shakes out. Jonathan Broxton. I projected nice numbers from him, but the drop in velocity is somewhat worrisome. Plus he gets hit hard and has a terrible defense behind him. It could get bad in a hurry, again. Kyle Farnsworth. This is likely a Closer-by-committee situation, I can’t get involved with that.