August 25, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Blown Opportunities Week 20 Edition

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John Axford, RP, Milwaukee Brewers

The fantasy season is rolling away like minutes on the digital clock on a smart phone. 30 years ago that line would have read “slipping away like sand through an hour glass.” 20 years ago, it would have been “ticking away like the second hand on a clock.” 10 years ago it would have just been a regular digital clock. Much like time, closers in fantasy baseball are always moving. We’ve got one annoying time share, one ridiculous closer committee (do they have meetings? They probably should have actual closer committee meetings) and a new reliever that smarts should obsess over.

It’s perfectly acceptable to get rid of your “Free Vinnie” or “Free Brayan” t-shirts. We’ve got an all-new model that should fit just as well for the next few weeks in this week’s edition of Blown Opportunities.

Boston closer Alfredo Aceves recently blew a save against the Angels in spectacular fashion. The man called “Ace” was tagged for five runs on six hits and one walk in a full inning of work. The calls in Boston for Andrew Bailey have already started and, at this point in the year, Boston doesn’t really have much to lose by seeing what Bailey is capable of in the role he was brought in for. The only problem is that Bailey has yet to throw a full inning in any of his appearances. Aceves likely still has a few more blown saves before he loses the job. Mark Melancon may be a dark horse.

Detroit closer Jose Valverde hasn’t given up a run since August 7th. Papa Grande has given up a hit in each of his last five outings, but he hasn’t walked anyone and has racked up 25 saves in a year filled with mediocre pitching and nagging injuries.

There is no new news on Twins closer Matt Capps and it’s looking more and more like we’ve seen the last of ‘ol Cappy in 2012.

Grant Balfour has “held” the A’s closer gig for less than two weeks, but already has five saves. He hasn’t given up a walk, a hit or a run over that same stretch. It’s Balfour’s job until he blows up again and he probably will blow up again. Balfour is the hot hand and the A’s would be foolish to take him out of the ninth inning. Ryan Cook is a middle reliever with K-upside, but he’s probably not going to help most fantasy teams now that he’s not getting saves.

The Rangers have stuck with their “use Joe Nathan only in save situations” plan and it appears to be working. “Tired” Joe Nathan has five K’s and two saves in 2 1/3 innings of work in the last week. It certainly looks like Nathan won’t be giving up any save opportunities any time soon to Alexei Ogando and Mike Adams of the world.

Marlins de facto closer Steve Cishek is still racking up saves. He even managed to get a save in a game in which he was tagged for a pair of runs. Heath Bell is still tucked away in middle relief and the Marlins have made it known that he’s available. Very available. Teams don’t have to give up anything if they just take Heath away available. It looks like it’s Cishek’s job to run with until the end of the year and he’ll probably have to duel with Bell in spring training to keep the job.

Milwaukee has the dreaded time share at closer. It’s been announced that John Axford and Jim Henderson will be sharing the job until one of them stakes a claim to it. Henderson is a career journeyman in his third organization, but he has legit closer stuff and he’s racked up 18 K’s in 11 1/3 innings. He’s also managed to stay away from the walks by posting a 3.18 BB/9. We’re talking about a painfully small sample size, but dude looks like a major league reliever.

Axford is 2-2 in his last two save chances(speaking of small sample sizes) and actually struck out the side in his last outing. Both pitchers are worthy of a roster spot, but it’s looking like John Axford is staking another claim to the closer gig in Milwaukee. A closer look at Axford’s advanced metrics indicate that he’s been a victim of bad defense(3.34 xFIP), bad luck(63.6% LOB %) and poor pitching(4.73 BB/9). That’s the closer version of a perfect storm in which competent closers lose their jobs and wind up on the waiver wire. Axford isn’t as bad as his numbers indicate and it appears that Milwaukee realizes what they’ve got with him.

Frank Francisco is trying really hard to help the Mets choke the season away. Francisco actually recorded a save last week, but he’s been tagged for runs in four of his last six outings. Francisco’s ERA has risen to 6.42. It might be a good idea for Francisco owners to go try and handcuff either Jon Rauch(secretly not awful!) or Bobby Parnell. It looks like it’s the time of year when Frank goes from hurt to bad. Fantasy pundits have been writing basically the same stories about Francisco for years. At least he stopped chucking chairs into the stands.

How annoyed is Luke Gregerson? All he’s done for the past few years is put up competent numbers in Heath Bell’s shadow. Then, Bell leaves and the Padres bring in another closer. Then, said closer gets hurt(twice!) and Gregerson gets overlooked for someone named Dale Thayer. Thayer blew a two-run lead on Tuesday and Gregerson is clearly the better pitcher. Thayer is a nice story and all, but he really has no business trying to protect leads. Gregerson should who the Padres turn to in the ninth inning. If Tyler Clippard can finally get a shot at ninth inning duties, why not Gregerson? Let’s all grab our “Free Vinnie” t-shirts, cross out Vinnie (it’s not happening) and pencil in Luke. It’s time to get this bandwagon started properly.

San Francisco is in a full-blown closer committee between Jeremy Affeldt, Jose Lopez and Sergio Romo with Santiago Casilla looming in the background. It’s pretty clear that the Giants braintrust is going with the hot hand at this point. Affeldt started hot, racked up a few saves and then stumbled. Lopez has looked competent and picked up a couple cheap saves, but it’s clear that he’s viewed as a LOOGY. Romo is the best pitcher of the three and has the most recent save. Romo will likely be out there for the next save opportunity and the save opps after that until he stumbled. All right, grab your “Free Luke” t-shirt and cross out Luke. It’s time to get back on the Romo bandwagon.

Tyler Clippard is still looking awesome in Washington and none of the other guys really matter. Even you, Drew Storen.


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