Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: Jim Johnson, Marlins, more

by Nicholas Minnix on May 21, 2013 @ 14:56:58 PDT


Pages 1 | 2 | all's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series gives you no-nonsense ratings of performances, injuries and managerial decisions in MLB bullpens. Get your arm loose: Let's find fantasy baseball players in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league who'll get saves.

Baltimore Orioles
Darren O'Day Brian Matusz +
Tommy Hunter +
Pedro Strop

In his last three appearances, from last Tuesday through Monday, Johnson blew three save opportunities, two of them with real flair. (That means he got rocked.) Last night's, against the New York Yankees, happened pretty much only because he gave up a solo dinger to Travis Hafner. That represents progress, if you're following the Baltimore Orioles closely.

Johnson's stuff looked quite good versus the Bombers. Velocity was good, most of the breaks were good. The location wasn't up to par, however. That has been the theme lately. Johnson's emotions can complicate matters, if he lets them, and last night, he certainly did, as Zach Wilt's piece points out. The writer has also observed some issues with Johnson's release point.

Miami Marlins RP Steve Cishek
Cishek making owners seasick

Buck Showalter declared his faith in his closer prior to last night's contest, as you'd expect. As Kevin Cowherd summarily states, however, if the results continue (at least if there's improvement in the process), the skipper has to begin to think about a change.

The time for that may not be imminent, however. Showalter is loyal. His tasks regarding Johnson's recent failures involve technical maintenance as well as counseling, degrees TBD. (We're talking about a nitpicky reliever who'd converted 35 straight dating to 2012, here.) Any switches are likely to be temporary and involve mixing and matching.

Strop's awful outcomes thus far have taken him out of that conversation. Those in AL-only leagues wouldn't be remiss to add other members of this hierarchy. Those in mixed leagues shouldn't grow overly anxious, but if they do, addition of O'Day may alleviate that, even if they never use him.

Miami Marlins
Steve Cishek
Chad Qualls +
Mike Dunn
A.J. Ramos Ryan Webb

"We're going to use everybody."

Mike Redmond, who uttered those words to the media on Monday night, is probably making a better decision for his predominantly young Miami Marlins than the one he did to stick with the conformist's standard prior to the season. But he may not have known better then. This is his first season on the job, one where he's been set up "to fail."

Don't view this as a condemnation of Cishek's work. A combination of things has made it clear to Redmond that meeting the demands of a faux position doesn't align with his goals, one of which must be to maximize his players' performances. Likely among them are:

  • The materialization of "save opportunities" is virtually unpredictable as it is; the Fish have generated situations that qualify nine times (last in MLB) in 45 games.
  • A pitcher needs some semblance of routine, including semi-regular work in game situations, in order to pitch near peak form and reduce injury risk.
  • Cishek continues to have trouble retiring left-handed batters.

If Redmond were to continue to attempt to preserve Cishek for those chances, he'd go nuts. Thus, he has empirical evidence of a logistical problem with the role of "closer": A contrived statistic and title have enjoyed great influence on managerial decisions. Redmond, as a newbie who's been given a largely unused canvas, has info that prompts him to question the status quo.

The problem becomes more difficult to address as the team becomes successful. A human is uncomfortable with uncertainty and perceives more pressure to perform when he's the last person standing between an opponent and victory. This is essentially why relievers prefer to have "defined roles."

Some deal much more effectively with the emotions that those situations evoke than others do. This lends to the traditionalist's argument that a closer has a certain "makeup." Really, any person can do the job if he learns how to deal with those emotions. That concept lends to the stat head's argument that, well, anyone can do it. They're both correct, but not always, and oftentimes mutually exclusively. They fight instead of play together.

So, Cishek, Qualls and Dunn, as well as Ramos and Webb, at minimum, are candidates for saves. Little distinguishes them in that regard, but for the likelihood that the first three are probably going to be Redmond's top choices for the foreseeable future. This will eventually lead to better results.

How much better? How long will it take? If a save falls in South Florida and no one owns the pitcher who records it, does it count? People are so arrogant. Except for those who play in NL-only and 15-team mixed leagues.

Mound Meetings up next....

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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat | AL depth charts | NL depth charts

About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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