15 of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball have changed closers at some point this year already. Six of those teams have changed closers twice and the calendar hasnâ€™t even turned to June.
The White Sox have become the team with the most muddled ninth inning situation in baseball. Alarm bells should have been ringing in spring training when they waited until after Opening Day to name a closer. Even manager Robin Ventura has no idea exactly who his closer is, so how can fantasy GMs be expected to decipher the White Sox bullpen? Want to know who the White Sox closer is? Wait five minutes.Â
Oddly enough the two guys that everyone had pegged as the most likely to lose their jobs have been among the most solid in baseball. Baltimoreâ€™s Jim Johnson has five saves in his last five appearances and has 13 saves on the season. He was also one of the last closers off the draft board in most leagues.
Clevelandâ€™s Chris Perez has forced most fantasy pundits to banish their â€œFree Vinnieâ€ t-shirts to the back of their closets. Perez is 12 for 13 in save opportunities, but heâ€™s getting the job done with a 3.68 ERA and a 11:5 K:BB ratio.
If you think closers are unpredictable now, just wait until August and September when teams fall out of the race and start using real â€œWho Datâ€s in the ninth inning. Dale Thayer won’t be all that shocking when Zack Slater is closing games for the Twins in August (I made that name up…or did I?)
Bostonâ€™s Andrew Bailey is set to start a throwing program some time next week and it sounds like heâ€™s going to be back around the All-Star break. Heâ€™ll likely slide right back into the closerâ€™s role. Alfredo Aceves has filled in about as well as heâ€™s capable of, but he hasnâ€™t made anyone forget about Bailey. Bailey could be worth a stash in a week or two should he still be on the waiver wire.
Chicago White Sox reliever Addison Reed was lit up in a non-save situation. Reed was tagged for six runs(all earned) on two hits, three walks and a hit batsman against Kansas City on Monday. Thatâ€™s lovely. Thereâ€™s got to be a name for a reliever roasting your ratios in a non-save situation. Reed followed his rough outing by converting a combo platter(one hit, one walk, one strikeout) save against the Tigers the very next night. Heâ€™s likely the guy in Chicago until someone changes their mind and Nate Jones winds up getting save opportunities.
Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde is suffering from a lower back strain, but he wonâ€™t be going on the DL. Papa Grande should be back at some point this weekend. Joaquin Benoit will get any save opportunities should the need arise.
There hasnâ€™t been any movement in the Los Angeles Angels bullpen, but Jordan Walden has four straight appearances without a hit or a run allowed. He could work his way back into the closerâ€™s job if his current run continues.
Yankees closer David Robertson hit the DL with an oblique strain. He claims heâ€™ll only need the minimum amount of time on the shelf. Rafael Soriano has already slid into the role and thereâ€™s a good chance he could keep it once Robertson returns. The problem is the Yankees middle relief situation. The Yankees would use Soriano and Robertson as the bridge to Mariano Rivera. Two of those three are on the shelf. Who will be the bridge to Soriano? Guys like Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Clay Rapada. Getting to the ninth inning with a lead could be an issue.
Brian Fuentes has given up runs in both of his save chances for Oakland and still converted both saves. Heâ€™s not long for this job at all. Grant Balfour could be saving games again before the end of the month.Â
Casey Janssen is 2-2 in save chances since taking over the Blue Jays closer job from Francisco Cordero. Janssen has a 14-1 K:BB so far this year and is a solid bet to hang on to the job until Sergio Santos works his way back from shoulder inflammation. Santos is still on target for a late May/early June return.
Cubs closer Carlos Marmol is on the DL with a strained hamstring. He should be back after the minimum amount of time, but this leaves Rafael Dolis as the guy getting save opportunities on the north side. Dolis has been battered twice in his last three appearances. Sadly, for the Cubs, James Russell, the other guy in the mix, has been almost as bad as Dolis. The Cubs bullpen is a mess and should be avoided unless youâ€™re really, really desperate.
Heath Bell just canâ€™t stop getting lit up. Bell earned himself a BSW on Monday after giving up two runs on two hits and two walks. The lone saving grace for Bell was that Mets closer Frank Francisco was worse. Bell still needs to string together a decent week or two before the Marlins will put him back out there in the ninth. The Fightinâ€™ Fish will still lean on Edward Mujica and Steve Cishek for ninth inning duties. It looks like theyâ€™ve got a two-man committee until someone claims the job or Bell can find a rhythm. Bell hasnâ€™t suffered a velocity drop, but the 8.53 BB/9 is the source of a lot of his troubles.
Speaking of Frank Francisco, Frank Francisco has almost pitched his way out of a job. Francisco has given up runs in three straight appearances, but he converted his ninth save in his last time out. The problem is that the Mets donâ€™t seem to have much faith in Jon Rauch or Bobby Parnell. Parnell has had the better year so far, but the Mets have never trusted him enough to hand over the ninth inning duties. Parnell owns a 17:3 K:BB in 18 appearances. Parnell has notched eight holds so far this year. Rauch has a save already, but heâ€™s given up runs in half of his last eight appearances. Francisco still has a blown save or two to go before he gets removed, but itâ€™s not because the Mets are thrilled to have him as closer. Itâ€™s because the other options are slightly less appealing.
Dale Thayer is 4-4 in save opportunities since Padres closer Huston Street landed on the DL. Long live Thayer.
Is it just me or does it seem like the ice under Santiago Casilla should be a lot thinner than it seems to be? Casilla had a nice run of three straight saves before blowing up again on Tuesday. One of the saves was a dirty save(one run on one hit and two walks), but it was nice to see him put together a run of saves before blowing up. Meanwhile Sergio Romo hasnâ€™t given up a run in 13 appearances and owns a 13:3 K:BB.
The Washington Nationals bullpen is more like an Emergency Room than a functioning part of a baseball team. Drew Storen is one more injury away from assuming the mantle of â€œMr. Glassâ€ from Howie Kendrick. Storen is aiming for an all-star break-ish return. He just started playing catch this week. Brad Lidge also started throwing again for the first time since May 1st. Hey, maybe Lidge and Storen can play catch together. Henry Rodriguez is 9-12 in save opportunities this year, but heâ€™s battling elbow tightness. This is something that would cause the White Sox to fly into hysterics and start having press conferences, but the Nats donâ€™t seem too worried. Rodriguez was pulled from a save opportunity for Sean Burnett. At least we know what the line of succession should look like if Rodriguezâ€™ elbow issues flare up again.