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A pitcher registering a win often eases the pain of a poor performance in the eyes of managers. Fantasy baseballers that look beneath the surface, however, know not to be as forgiving. Valverde fell into a victory Saturday after blowing the Detroit Tigers' save spot by hitting two batters and walking two, including one to plate the tying run.
This season, he's throwing darts - less like a pitcher and more like a pub patron. Papa Grande's K/9 (7.17) and enemies' swinging-strike rate (8.4, per Fangraphs) sit at career floors, and his BB/9 ranks at a lifetime high (6.33). His grounder inducement is at its lowest (37.1 percent), and opponents' liner frequency (21.0 percent) is at its most glaring since 2006. Ouch.
Though his skills have been teetering for some time, maybe he's still trying to rediscover his feel following the back strain that halted his season a few weeks ago and his erratic May schedule following the injury.
Jim Leyland is the loyal type when it comes to veterans of Valverde's stature. As ugly as the righty has looked, he's 9-for-12 in chances, and the 34-year-old's previous gaffe came almost a month before Saturday's, so Leyland may chalk that up to the flow of the game, at least to reporters.
In the event Valverde's rope appears to be snapping, or at least fraying, Benoit is the logical successor. Too bad he's dealing with forearm tightness. Dotel has stopper experience but is batting practice for lefty wood. Coke would most likely stick to lefty situations if they make it that far down the totem. Villarreal has the skills but not the rank.
A few more solid performances from the brash bullpen buttress will, at least for outward appearances, restore order, but be prepared if the Big Potato continues rotting.
Job security score: 4
Southpaw Javier Lopez retired a pair of lefty sticks to complete the Friday closure. He then induced a GIDP in facing another one Saturday but then was replaced by Sergio Romo, who sat down the final enemy to notch a save of his own. Romo, who's battled a dislocated kneecap of late, followed that by erasing two righty bats Sunday for his second wrap-up of the season.
Romo is the fantasy choice if Casilla, the head of this "committee," has to miss more time. He's a stud reliever when you're talking non-saves numbers anyway and is worth owning regardless of role. Lopez is a desperation speculation for situations with ample lefty lumber due up.
Huston Street (lat) is expected to return to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, which will bump Dale Thayer to a setup role. It's OK to roster Thayer until Street shows he's ready. In a 20-pitch outing Sunday for Single-A Lake Elsinore, Street's fastest pitch came in at 87 mph. He'll probably need some time to get his juice back, but that shouldn't prevent you from throwing him back in your lineup.
The Seattle Mariners haven't had an opportunity to test a traditional non-Brandon League situation. Hisashi Iwakuma has recorded two closures since League's removal, but last Wednesday's came in a three-inning blowout time bide, and Saturday's was a 12-inning affair in which Tom Wilhelmsen (three innings) and Stephen Pryor were needed earlier.
Wilhelmsen and Pryor should be your foci, not Iwakuma.
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