Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat
by Tim Heaney
on September 28, 2009 @ 00:00:00
Also see: Fantasy baseball closer depth charts
In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for the entire season - injuries, poor performance and managerial decisions can cloud a team's bullpen picture.
Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which setup men are climbing the depth chart? Any lingering injuries popping up? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat series keeps you informed when you're looking for saves.
Job security (JS) score
Health (H) score
1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)
Closer: Ryan Madson
Next in line: Brad Lidge
Others to consider: Brett Myers
Sunday's Phils save chance was the first since Lidge blew his shot Sept. 23. The call went to Madson, who was more aggressive with his mid-90s heat Sunday (13 of his 14 pitches were fastballs), and he ended up snuffing the fire with a four-out save. One of those outs was a pickoff at first, but Madson was overpowering.
It would be surprising if Madson wasn't the first choice until the Phillies lock up the division and entering the playoffs. Anything besides that is uncertain, especially if the Phils want Lidge to be ready for the postseason.
"Like I told you guys before, let me tell you something: Lidge will get back to where he was. I'm a firm believer in that," Philly manager Charlie Manuel said. "I don't want to shoot Lidge. I think he'll be back to where he was at, really. Seriously. But I think right now, just from a mental aspect and everything - physical and mental - he needs a little break."
If you're a Lidge owner chasing saves, though, you should keep him in your lineup, just for the off chance Manuel relents, as we've seen him do often this year. If you play Lidge, understand the ratio risk he presents.
The Phillies say they have no plans to use Myers (shoulder) in the role if and when he's pitching again, but you never know.
Job security score: 1
Health score: 4
- For those who haven't picked up Matt Thornton yet, you may want to get on that. The Chicago White Sox's southpaw is the apparent choice to replace fallen stopper Bobby Jenks (calf). He has received the only two ninth-inning save chances; he has converted both but stumbled in Sunday's outing, giving up two runs on three hits in 1 1/3 frames.
- Leo Nunez will probably be the Florida Marlins' closer heading into 2010. The primary reason? It could be money: He'll have salary arbitration next year estimated at about $2 million, a very affordable number. Nunez didn't do much for his cause this weekend, though, as he gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in one frame. Nunez's struggles aside, Florida thinks he can grow with a full season in the role. "With Nuny being new to the job, he's trying to figure out how to best use his changeup and fastball effectively, and he's just starting to work his sliders in," said Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley.
Matt Capps had an up-and-down weekend, recording a spotless save Friday but giving up three tallies (two earned) in one inning Sunday. He backed into a win in his second outing, though. Despite his struggles, reports say Capps will head into Pittsburgh Pirates camp next year as the closer, but it could be a tenuous situation if this year has been any indication. For those considering using Capps this week, note that he has six games on the road, where he has a 9.37 ERA in 16 1/3 frames.
The Bucs hope Capps rebounds in '10
- The Tampa Bay Rays shut down J.P. Howell for the rest of the season Friday. They've said they don't want to spend money on a stopper next year, and Howell is probably the leading candidate for the rol e. Considering Tampa Bay will probably play matchups for the final week, there isn't really much security in earning saves from any of these guys: Randy Choate, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour and maybe Jeff Bennett. You should probably speculate in that order, though.
- Ryan Franklin rebounded with a scoreless save Saturday; the St. Louis Cardinals' righty has now thrown a scoreless inning in four of his last five appearances.
- Seattle Mariners skipper Don Wakamatsu said he's hesitant to use David Aardsma (neck) for more than an inning of work given the righty's recent neck issues. This is probably best for him anyway since he hasn't thrown more than a frame in an appearance since Aug. 20.
- The Toronto Blue Jays left their Sunday lead in the hands of Shawn Camp, who earned his first save since 2006 and the Jays' first conversion since Sept. 12. The righty brought his September stats to a 0.71 ERA, a 0.63 WHIP and a .178 enemy batting average. It's hard to suggest going Camping just yet if you're looking for saves, considering the ample options they have and their infrequency of contributing to the category. Interesting to note: Jason Frasor hasn't pitched in a save chance since Sept. 14.
- The Colorado Rockies' Huston Street had a productive weekend with a win and a two-inning save. Sunday's closure was his first six-out save in three years.
- On Sunday a four-run (three earned) blown save-loss combo broke a 21-inning scoreless stretch for the Los Angeles Dodgers' Jonathan Broxton, during which he fanned 33 hitters and posted a 0.71 WHIP. His defense was more to blame than him, though, so this isn't merely a reflection on the burly righty.
- Frank Francisco also was blown up Sunday, giving up four tallies in an L-BS. The Texas Rangers' righty had only allowed opponents to score in one of his previous 12 outings.
- Rafael Soriano has now thrown 3 1/3 scoreless innings (four appearances) since his Sept. 19 meltdown after his uneventful inning Sunday wrapped it up for the Atlanta Braves Sunday; he also retired the only batter he faced Saturday. Mike Gonzalez had similar success on both days (combined two scoreless innings, three K's, one hit).
- A two-inning save (four hits, one K) Sunday marked Joakim Soria's first game action since Sept. 22 for the Kansas City Royals.
- The closer roller coaster was also at full speed for the Cleveland Indians. Kerry Wood shut the door Friday (scoreless frame, one K) but backed into a win Saturday (one inning, two earned runs, three hits).
- Juan Gutierrez remains a source of steadiness in the Arizona Diamondbacks' 'pen despite his 3.55 ERA in the post-Chad Qualls era. In that time he has seven saves and a .213 opponents' batting average. He threw a combined 2 1/3 scoreless innings to record two saves over the weekend.
- The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's Kevin Jepsen coughed up four runs Saturday in two-thirds of an inning, an eighth-frame appearance in which he had a one-run lead. He came back the next day and worked around a walk in a shutout frame.
- Mike MacDougal has given up a run in seven of his 10 September outings, including five of his last six. During this stretch, the Washington Nationals' righty holds an 11.57 ERA, a .405 opponents' clip and a 3.00 WHIP. He hasn't had a save chance since Sept. 18. It's hard to count on the Nats getting many closures in the final week, making MacDougal a ditch option nearly everywhere if you don't need saves. He might not even get the chance again.
- The Rangers reportedly won't shut down Neftali Feliz in the final week despite his velocity dip. The righty hasn't given up a run in his last three outings (2 1/3 frames, three K's).
Also see: Fantasy baseball closer depth charts
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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