Thursday, March 31, 2011

Top 10 Blown Save Types

So I had Yovani Gallardo on my fantasy team today, and after a scuffling day in Cincy, he left with a 6-2 lead in the seventh. By the ninth, it was 6-3, with closer John Axford in to try and lock it down against the middle of the Reds order. Six batters and a walk-off three-run home run later, the Reds were winners, and my first-day lead in my fantasy league was gone. So sad, really. And very reminiscent of any number of closer blowups over my years as a fantasy player, all of which left a mark. Let's go through the types in turn, shall we?

10) Death By A Thousand Cuts - This one is where your guy pitches well, but gets dinked and dunked to death, with a special assist from the umpire and/or the road crowd. This one hurts like acid in a cut, usually because it tends to happen to poor teams where save opportunities seem precious, and on the road against full-house MLB+ teams. While it kills your WHIP and ERA, the damage isn't so bad, because there's usually an out or two in the mix, and the closer doesn't lose the gig. At least, not until it happens three or four more times, at which point your stats are totally crushed.

9) Clear Air Turbusuck - Your guy comes in with a one-run lead in the ninth, and blows away the first two hitters as he works on the bottom of the order. A ball then nicks a hitter or falls in for an excuse me hit, and it's followed by a foul pole home run from a banjo hitter on an 0-2 count, where your guy was just trying to waste one away.

Like many of these, this one is best left unseen, since it will seem like you have the closer of the damned, or a guy who is working for the modern-day equivalent of the Cleveland Spiders. But as blown saves go, it's about as innocent as they come. Remember, one out of every five save opportunities goes into the dumper, so it's going to happen from time to time. Breathe.

8) No Coffee - You've got a hotshot young flame thrower who looks primed for years of big-armed service. But he's also in dire need of a second or third condom to close the deal here, because he's just all kinds of nerves and not finding the plate. If he pulls out of the death spiral, he might rattle off three to six months of top-notch work and numbers... but if he doesn't, he'll get that dreaded Not Mentally Capable label, and spend the rest of his life toiling in the seventh for no one but people who play in leagues with Holds. Those leagues suck. And so does Tony LaRussa for doing this to Jason Motte, who I went hard after two years ago, just to watch him blow an Opening Day game and never get another shot at it. Die, LaRussa, die.

7) Glue Factory - Your guy has had a great career, but he's doing it on smoke, mirrors, and the lingering goodwill of umpires who give him wide strike calls in memory of what used to be. Unfortunately, all of the hard-hit line-drive outs and shaky strike calls in the world can't save you when the ball goes over the fence, and if you've got a guy whose manager is ready to take that long sad ride with him, you're really going to open yourself up to some pain. Welcome to the final year of Trevor Hoffman, or just about every other name brand closer that suddenly couldn't do the job any more. It's no comfort to realize this is how they all end up, of course.

6) The ReGift - Your closer comes in to a game where the opposing closer (oh, and special bonus if you owned that guy, too) blew the game. He's rushed, because he didn't expect to be working today. The wind's blowing out, there's blood in the water, and the hitting has become more contagious than herpes in the roadie van. Enjoy the white-knuckle ride that's to come, and the lead-pipe lock arson job. Good times!

5) The Fredo - Enjoy the spine-tingling mistake from a weak defensive player, the one that completely blows your otherwise clean outing. It's even more fun when it becomes a recurring issue, or from a young player that the team won't stop using, at a key defensive position like shortstop or catcher. But on the bright side, since the team is clearly rebuilding, maybe your closer will be dealt soon to a contending team... where he won't have the job. Pure fun!

4) Death March - Closer on a hot streak, with saves snapping off like popcorn? Every thing's going fine, except for the fact that you are starting to worry about a heavy workload... and then, like a racehorse wiping out in the stretch, your guy has blown chunks all over the place. This one is particularly common with managers like old-school types like Joe Torre (assuming there's no Mariano Rivera), and the whole trick is to determine whether or not your guy will be back in the saddle with rest (probably). Sleep well...

3) All About Set Up - You've got the shaky old closer. The set-up man is clearly the future... but so long as your guy does the job, everything will remain hunky dory closey, because the manager doesn't really want to rock the boat, and the organization does not want to jump the salary scale on the young guy in arbitration with a lot of save numbers.

But your guy just blew the game. And maybe the role, and his career, and your team. Enjoy the vote of confidence post-game press conference...

2) The Triple Kill - This is where you not only had the closer, but the starting pitcher, so you've blown both the win and the save... and the closer doesn't do the full deed of death in his first inning of work, but merely lets the game get tied up. You know what happens next, right? Sure you do... the team gives him and you another shot at the win with a go-ahead run, so he's got a whole new game to blow. And blow it he does, just to rub salt into the salt of the wound. Isn't fantasy baseball fun?

1) The Donnie Moore - OK, maybe some people have worse problems than your fantasy team. Or, at the very least, the ability to make a problem much, much bigger.

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