In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for an entire season - injuries, poor performance and managerial decisions can cloud a team's bullpen picture.
Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which relievers are climbing the depth chart? Are any injuries popping up? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat keeps you informed when you're looking for saves.
Closer: Trevor Hoffman
Lurkers: Todd Coffey
Hoffman gave up five runs on four hits (including two homers) and one intentional walk Tuesday to blow a save. He then blew a one-run, ninth-inning lead Wednesday, registering his fourth gaffe in seven chances, by giving up a solo jack. Crank up the heat.
The 42-year-old might be able to turn things around with some adjustments; he has gone away from his patented changeup and relied more on his mid-80s "heat." Both manager Ken Macha and Hoffman have cited faltering location. Hoffman said he can't use the changeup as often because he hasn't been in many two-strike counts, when he'd use the string pull as an out pitch.
Problem is, when you lean on a dull fastball and your location falters, you're not going to see productive results. Even if he changes things up, his weak stuff is catching up to him. His opponents' swinging strikes and contact rate are each on a career-worst pace, which coincides with his hittable stuff.
Hoffman's main punishment has come via the long ball (six homers), and the batted ball breakdown confirms it isn't a fluke: four grounders and 24 flyballs allowed on the season. He posted an extremely fortunate 3.1 percent HR/FB in '09. Given his skills pattern, it looks like that's the fluke, with his '08 13.8 percent HR/FB being the warning sign.
Macha has no plans to boot Hoffman, and it's difficult to bank on a change, but you should start bracing yourself for that possibility. If he continues to falter, does Milwaukee yank him sometime after he reaches the 600-save apex (he needs six) - say, if they're falling behind in the playoff hunt? They might try to solve the problem with a quasi-phantom DL stint, too.
Hawkins should be your first speculative option. His selling point is his 87 career stops, including his 11-save fill-in stint with the Houston Astros last season. He has had a down year, with his stuff looking "very mediocre," according to one scout. However, Hawkins has been relying heavily on his fastball, and using his other stuff would help if he were called upon to close games. He was acquired as Hoffman insurance, so it'd be unusual if they didn't use him in that situation.
Villanueva would also be a wise target (no runs allowed, 11.25 K/9 in 12 frames). Despite his 4.07 career ERA in save situations, he has better career numbers out of the 'pen than in the rotation. Caveats: He didn't do well in the role last year when Hoff started on the DL, and they might give him a try in the rotation if the back end keeps floundering.
Coffey, who has 11 career saves, should be an NL trial if you miss out on these two.
Job security score: 5
Health score: 4
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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