Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat - NL

by Tim Heaney on August 23, 2010 @ 14:30:00 PDT

 


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.

Key

Job security (JS) score 1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
Health (H) score 1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Jonathan Broxton

Understudy: Hong-Chih Kuo

Lurkers: Octavio Dotel

After pitching three scoreless innings in non-save work following the loss of his job, Broxton was given an opportunity to close Saturday and threw a scoreless inning. Great news for Brox owners: Kuo was used for 1 2/3 innings to set up Brox.

That juju didn't last long, though, as the Los Angeles Dodgers suffered through another Broxton blowup yesterday; the righty entered down a run but couldn't keep the Blue within reach, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk.

Colorado Rockies RP Huston Street
Street smoothing out his change?

Before Friday's game, manager Joe Torre said Broxton seemed more relaxed and might pitch if Kuo were unavailable. Torre put Kuo into Saturday's game in a tough seventh-inning spot (two on, one out), so maybe in that case, skip trusted Kuo more.

Though Torre still might give Kuo some chances here and there, Broxton looks to be out of the doghouse, at least with a few paws.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 5

Colorado Rockies

Closer: Huston Street

Understudy: Matt Belisle

Lurkers: Manuel Corpas

Manager Jim Tracy said Street is relying too much on his changeup. It showed Friday when, per Tracy, the closer failed to execute a two-strike offering and gave up a game-tying, two-run double. He frequently let hitters off the hook with two strikes during that game.

Street respectfully countered his skipper's assertion, saying he isn't using the pitch any differently than he did last year. The righty said the pitch that allowed the game-tying knock Friday was in fact a slider.

The two parties spoke before Sunday's contest to discuss their differing views. It seems to have worked. Street responded to the Friday drama by facing the minimum Sunday and earning the save. Eight of the 10 pitches he threw went 92 mph or faster.

Tracy was pleased with the showing and has insisted Street won't lose his job because "that's what he signed to do, pitch the ninth inning." Belisle, who has thrown 14 scoreless innings with 17 K's over his last 12 appearances, is the speculative candidate if you have to address this situation. He can help deep leaguers with his relief ratios, too.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 3

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: Committee

Understudy: Juan Gutierrez, Aaron Heilman

Lurkers: Sam Demel

Los Angeles Dodgers RP Jonathan Broxton
Broxton back in good graces?

The frustratingly venomous Diamondbacks carousel continued Saturday, with Gutierrez locking things down in the ninth despite hitting the leadoff batter and botching a potential double-play grounder. Heilman, the team's best bet for saves up until that point, threw in the eighth inning.

When asked if this was a permanent change, interim manager Kirk Gibson laughed devilishly at the foolish dreams of fantasy owners who want to put this situation to bed. "Well, we had a different guy close tonight," he said. "We felt this was the best way to get through the lineup."

Gibson probably swaps committee torture methods with NFL coach Mike Shanahan.

Heilman's trustworthiness in Gibson's eyes might end up hurting his chances for saves, especially with Guti off the DL. Heilman pitched Friday, Saturday and Sunday, none coming in save work. His recent erratic saves success can't be working in his favor, either.

For what it's worth, Guti has better raw skills than Heilman to take over the position on a full-time basis. He was dealing with his slider this past weekend, too.

The momentum in this battle has swung in numerous directions this year. Most are better off avoiding it if possible. If a lack of saves is keeping you from moving up this late in the year, Guti is probably as close to a savior as you'll get from here. Heilman would follow in that order.

Then again, at some point Gibson could go with Byung-Hyun Kim....

Job security score: 1

Health score: 4

Mound meetings

  • The Milwaukee Brewers aren't scared of their Canadian Ax dulling. In four of his last five outings, John Axford has gone 1 2/3 innings or more. Perspective: Axford logged 76 frames combined between the majors and minors last year; he's at 57 2/3 innings this year, with only 44 1/3 in MLB.
    Milwaukee will still preserve Trevor Hoffman's pursuit of No. 600, putting him in with three-run leads and having Axford available behind him. Don't worry, Ax owners: He'll keep chopping in as many ninths (and maybe eighths and sevenths) as possible this year.
  • In his first save chance since Aug. 7, Joel Hanrahan worked around a leadoff single Sunday to retire the next three hitters and lock down a one-run Pittsburgh Pirates win. It seems the Bucs are content with leaving Evan Meek in a setup role; the righty has stumbled with an 8.59 ERA in 7 1/3 August innings.
  • Brandon Lyon closed things out for the Houston Astros on Sunday for his fourth consecutive conversion. He's in the midst of six straight scoreless innings, too. He's doing his best to prevent Houston from rushing back the fallen Matt Lindstrom (back).
  • Brad Lidge (Philadelphia Phillies) closed the door Friday for his eighth consecutive scoreless outing and seventh straight save conversion. The righty said his command feels good. His frequent schedule is helping, too.
    He also recently worked with catcher/guru Carlos Ruiz on the mental aspect - letting past mistakes go and being aggressive. Om, everyone.
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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: AL | NL

Fantasy baseball closer depth charts: AL | NL

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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