Fantasy Baseball Tips: Will Joe Nathan's dead arm kill his value?

      April 9, 2014 @ 14:28:03 PDT

Joe Nathan, RP, Detroit Tigers
Lucky to get this handshake

Had enough closer news? No? Good. Or bad, for Joe Nathan owners:

Nathan clued us in on his issues today on Mad Dog Sports Radio (SiriusXM 86), saying he has a "dead arm" right now.
"For me, fortunately, I think the club has overcome me not throwing as well as I'd like to," Nathan told host Adam Schein. "I think I'm still at a case of maybe some dead arm going right now. Usually that happens to the middle or later part of spring and hopefully you get through it. But mine is going more into the season and I'm still fine tuning things but fortunately it hasn't hurt us too much and my tougher outings still resulted in wins for us. So (I'm) very happy about that and I just look to continue to improve for this ball club and be as consistent as I can."

Indeed, the 39-year-old's fastball is coming in about 2.0 miles slower than his four-seamers from last year, per Fangraphs. That much of a drop warrants concern, even in this small sample size.

He's 1-for-2 in SVO and has had a rough go in each; he has yielded two earned runs on three hits and two walks in 2 2/3 frames so far. His shoulder or arm fatigue is only going to get cured while he keeps pitching, so this could be a rough one for his fake-baseball constituents.

His K/9 and K% showed no ill signs last year, but his 1.39 ERA was too sparkling to be considered sustainable headed into this year, even for someone with his history. Leaving Arlington was supposed to help preserve his utility for another year in case something like this happened, but no such luck in this brief window.

You hate to consider benching a closer so early in the season, but the way he's going, even in his one-inning spurts, he could damage your ratios. Head-to-head leaguers should be inclined to sit him if they can afford it.

The Tigs' secondary options, including Al Alburquerque, Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain, haven't been effective in their own right, so Nathan isn't in jeopardy with job security. Still, Alburquerque is your first handcuff, per our Closer Depth Charts, but beware the possibility of signing someone else if Nathan were to miss extended time.

Now may be a good time to try buying low, but it's doubtful he'd be cheap, thanks to his name recognition. If this is just a case of an old man taking longer to warm up than everyone else and he recaptures his old stuff soon, it'll be a boon.

Of course, he could finally be falling off the table; if his ability to induce swinging strikes remains at its current level -- far below his normal form -- there's plenty to lose.

It's early enough to wait on him yet not too soon to consider the negatives.

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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 the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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