Friday, March 28, 2014

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Relief Pitchers

End of the line, and yes, yes, yes, only mooks pay for elite closers... but at some point, everyone doing the other thing means that doing the opposite pays off. Besides, juggling weak closers all year long is downright tedious. Winning your league on draft day is the best.

Closing Pitchers - Sleepers

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis.
Just filthy stuff, and going outside of the top tier due to the Cardinals' unfortunate habit of cycling out closers, and always having another stud arm to take the gig. But at some point, striking out nearly half of the people you face will assuage most fears, and winning 5 out of every 8 games means you aren't waiting long for another save opportunity.

Glen Perkins, Minnesota. Microscopic WHIP, low ERA, good pitcher's park and a 5 to 1 K/BB ratio. So why he's in the second tier? Because the strikeouts aren't elite, and too many balls leave the yard -- 13 in the next 132 IP, most of them spent as the Twins' closer. But it's not like he's losing the job, and the control means those are mostly solo shots. Grab him and forget the style points.

Jim Johnson, Oakland. Was last year shaky and no fun? Sure, in comparison to 2012's 1.01 WHIP fest. But he kept the gig in both years, has 101 saves in the last two years. and just traded a middling defensive team and good hitters park for a dynamite defensive team and top five pitchers' park. If he struggles, the A's have other options, but he's not going to, especially with the strong coaching staff. It's also telling that he's been durable, avoids the long ball, and was brought in by a GM that knows what he's doing.

Closing Pitchers - Busts

Joe Nathan, Detroit.
The commonly viewed numbers -- saves, WHIP, ERA -- seem to say that he's just fine, and should get a boost from getting out of Texas. But I'm just not buying it. Texas made no effort to keep him, despite a $10mm a year price tag that really wouldn't have hurt them, and with no obvious and healthy replacements on staff. His velocity has been down in spring training, and he's going to a town that just hasn't had much luck in getting long-term production out of their closers. He's 39; it's got to end sometime.

Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia. Is there anything to like here, other than he's got the job and no rivals? Well, no. The average velocity is through the floorboards. His off-speed stuff does not provoke swings and misses. His control is not exact, he doesn't avoid the long ball. He plays for a team that might win 3 out of every 9 games, in a hitter's park. He makes way too much money, which means no club is going to trade for him in June and hope for a dead cat bounce. Oh, and he's an unspeakable asshat. There are set-up men I'd rather have.

Ernesto Frieri, Anaheim. It's rare that a closer sees a 1.5 jump in the ERA and keeps the job, but that's just what happened in SoCal, where Frieri continues his pattern of dominance or dominated. 18 HRs in the last 123 IP is real trouble, and 56 BBs is also telling. He's still hard as hell to hit, but if you wait him out, you can get a walk and a blast, and it's not like Mike Scoscia has been all-in with him. I just don't see him keeping the job all year.

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