KFFL.com'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.
The St. Louis Cardinals' Edward Mujica has been punished with a 7.11 ERA and two blown saves in his last seven appearances. (Bernie Miklasz points to an even worse sample.) The latest setback was a Thursday BS in which he allowed a solo jack to the retiring Todd Helton.
Strop on duty
When half of your unsuccessful conversion tries come within the span of a few weeks, that tends to hide the 1.73 ERA you held when August ended. The total of 62 games he's pitched this year isn't far off his norm, but fatigue may still be a factor.
Miklasz nails Mujica's predictable statistical drop-off. That 90.0 percent left-on-base percentage should fall a bit more before the regular season concludes. Despite his nearly career-high rate of inducing swinging strikes (a lofty 12.7 percent), he's experiencing the downside of a control-based arm that pitches ... "Chief"-ly, if you would, to contact. The notable downturn in his split-finger fastball's effectiveness has fueled the dip.
Mujica has accomplished plenty for his owners. Unfortunately, as many opponents have done to his pitches lately, the timing of his regression hits hard. This organization hasn't hesitated to make a drastic bullpen change for the postseason (Adam Wainwright, anyone?), yet logic says Mujica won't entirely be shut out of SVOs before October. Trevor Rosenthal may get a test run if necessary, though.
Pedro Strop will close for the Chicago Cubs until the end of 2013. Kevin Gregg drops to setup duty and warrants a dump in mixed leagues. Strop, who obviously should be added wherever possible, may sneak in one or two chances to help your squad. Strop me, Strop me.
His high-K, high-walk profile is the typical clay from which many closers are molded. Theo Epstein and co., however, have probably noticed the fact that Strop hasn't walked more than 3.38 per nine in any month since May, and the right-hander's 11.05 K/9 and 1.23 BB/9 for September give him the lead, albeit a marginal one, in the race for 2014 closures.
The Cubbies likely would prefer to promote the team-controlled Strop than pay Gregg, an impending free agent who doesn't fit their rebuilding plan.
Frieri: on point lately
Over his last 10 outings, Grant Balfour has blown two of eight save chances and walked six in 9 2/3 innings. (That's a 5.59 BB/9 for those keeping track.) After a recent stretch of three straight scoreless trips, he allowed a two-run homer to blow a closing call Wednesday.
Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin is sticking with him, despite the Australian's reoccurring trouble with walks. That trio of effective outings probably gave Balfour more cred with skip. On the bright side, Balfour has walked just one batter over his last five outings, during which he's fanned five. Maybe a recent stint of inactivity got to him, despite his assertions.
Ryan Cook's similar struggles don't have him threatening Balfour. Sean Doolittle wrapped one up last Friday, but he was facing a gang of lefty batters, and Melvin didn't want to discard him after the leadoff hitter. Maybe Doolittle will make another cameo, but Balfour was warming up for his last one. Outside rest, he should continue to prepare for such situations with Oakland close to clinching the AL West.
Mark Melancon suffered his third blown save of the season on Wednesday (two runs, four hits allowed). Jason Grilli hasn't allowed a run in his last pair of games; that's an improvement on a rough stretch following his activation from the disabled list. On the off-chance the Pittsburgh Pirates want to see if their closer for most of the season would be a better postseason option than the one that's filled his gap, Grilli is worth a trial in deep leagues.
Is Ernesto Frieri trying to become Goose Gossage? Following his two-inning wrap-up Sunday, he now has seven multi-inning saves on the season, which leads the bigs. He's given only up two plate-crossings (one earned) over those 11 innings, with 19 K's and six walks.
Mike Scioscia hasn't worried about letting the 28-year-old go the extra frame for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Most of the time, Frieri has enjoyed at least one day of rest beforehand. Frieri's 0.51 ERA during his last 15 games (including a 9-for-9 saves record and 23 K's in 17 2/3 innings) has given him firm control of this picture heading into next year.
The Houston Astros will look "to shore up the bullpen" next year, in the words of Jeff Luhnow. He wasn't specific as to the desired roles to acquire, but even if he brings in capable setup men, they'll at least push Joshua Fields for the back-end throne in the spring. The right-hander, however, looks like the front-runner next camp and, though he'd be one of the last closers drafted, could pay off nicely if his late-2013 improvements carry over.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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