Relief Pitchers Outlook

by Tim Heaney on August 17, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT



Table: Do not bench list

Francisco Rodriguez
Joe Borowski
Jonathan Papelbon
Brett Myers
J.J. Putz
Chad Cordero
Trevor Hoffman
Todd Jones
Billy Wagner
Joakim Soria
Joe Nathan
Jeremy Accardo
Jose Valverde
Kevin Gregg
Brad Lidge
Ryan Dempster
Bobby Jenks
Bob Wickman
Takashi Saito
Brad Hennessey
Francisco Cordero
Matt Capps
Mariano Rivera
Al Reyes
Jason Isringhausen
David Weathers
Manny Corpas


Huston Street, Oakland Athletics

Schedule: 7 games - @TOR (3), @TB (4)

Analysis: Manager Bob Geren may have tipped his hand when Street came in the game Wednesday to nail down the save after Alan Embree struggled. Street is still getting batters out having pitched a shutout inning in eight of his 11 outings since returning from the disabled list. The right-hander has also come back with great control, striking out 13 in 10.2 innings. Those who own Street should put him in their lineups.

C.J. Wilson, Texas Rangers

Schedule: 7 games - @BAL (3), SEA (4)

Analysis: Wilson seems to have put an end to any doubt regarding the formerly vacant Arlington closer role. He has tossed 15.1 consecutive scoreless innings, mixing in five saves since the departure of Eric Gagne at the trade deadline. He has knocked his ERA down by 0.86 since he started his shutout streak, and for now it's his job. Let him help you out while he rides his momentum.

Alan Embree, Oakland Athletics

Schedule: 7 games - @TOR (3), @TB (4)

Analysis: Embree has converted in 15 of his 18 save opportunities this season. Embree struggled in his last outing Wednesday as he gave up two runs in the ninth before Street came on to close the door in a 3-2 win. It appears as though Street will resume his closing duties, which makes Embree virtually useless. If this is the case, go ahead and release Embree and be glad you got 15 saves out of him.

Joaquin Benoit, Texas Rangers

Schedule: 7 games - @BAL (3), SEA (4)

Analysis: Benoit was passed over as closer with Wilson taking the ninth-inning work, but it was not necessarily any fault of Benoit's. The right-hander has thrown eight consecutive scoreless innings of his own, including a 2.2-inning vulture win on August 1 complete with four strikeouts. Benoit could be a good bench stash in case Wilson fumbles his job away, or in case you need a shutout inning.


Eric Gagne, Boston Red Sox

Schedule: 7 games - @TB (3), @CWS (4)

Analysis: Gagne has given up a run in four of the six innings he has pitched for the Red Sox. He has given up 11 hits in five innings of work - not exactly template work for the anointed bridge to one of the top five closers in baseball. One positive to take out of this is his strikeout total on his new team: eight strikeouts in those five frames. He picked up the win against Tampa on Aug. 14 with a 1-0 deficit before Boston won it in the ninth. He has thrown a scoreless inning against both of these teams this year, so it's a good chance for him to regain some consistency. If you need your bullpen to help win it for you this week, wait until Gagne throws an effective inning before placing him in your lineup.

Pat Neshek, Minnesota Twins

Schedule: 7 games - SEA (3), @BAL (4)

Analysis: The savior of the owners that missed out on multiple closers, Neshek has provided stellar relief all season. For a pitcher who has given up 29 hits in 56 innings, it would be surprising to find him still available in your league. He has trailed off a bit since the All-Star Break, with a 3.97 ERA in July and a 5.06 mark so far in August, but his track record says to stick with him through his road bumps. He also has seven wins on the year. Seattle has tagged him with a 10.13 ERA this season, but he picked up the win in a scoreless inning against Baltimore. Feel free to expect scoreless innings when inserting Neshek into your lineup.

Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers

Schedule: 6 games - @PHI (3), @NYM (3)

Analysis: Already one of the most consistently dominant relievers in baseball, Broxton is one of the few game-changers for fantasy leagues. His 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio means he will provide you with a decent shot at a quick, effective relief inning that will lower your team ERA and WHIP. With 37-year-old Takashi Saito as the closer, Broxton has gotten some chances this season to steal two saves. Despite the fact that he has blown three saves, he is always a good bullet to have on reserve to increase your ratios. Leave him in your lineup. 

Scot Shields, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Schedule: 7 games - NYY (3), TOR (4)

Analysis: Mainly due to a five-run meltdown Aug. 3 against Oakland, Shields' ERA has jumped 0.61 points in August, which has likely caused some of his owners to want to jump ship on the fantasy game's most beloved relievers. That outing is most certainly an aberration. Shields allowed two unearned runs Aug. 8 against Boston, meaning he has not given up runs to his record in eight of his last nine. He still knows how to escape jams and provides one of the more solid closer bridges in baseball.


Hideki Okajima, Boston Red Sox

Schedule: 7 games - @TB (3), @CWS (4)

Analysis: It might be sufficient - yet unpopular - to say that Boston's best Asian pitcher ascends from the bullpen. The lefty has been utterly lights-out, and in a fair world would be in the running for American League Rookie of the Year. He doesn't need to even look at his pitches to realize that his 47-to-13 K/BB ratio is something every fantasy owner is looking for. August has presented him with some troubles thus far, as he has given up a run in three of his six outings, including a loss and blown save Aug. 10 at Baltimore. The benefit here is that he's only walked three batters in his last 18 innings. That's control you can't pass up despite recent struggles. 

Luis Vizcaino, New York Yankees

Schedule: 6 games - @LAA (3), @DET (3)

Analysis: Tied with Jon Rauch for the league lead in vulture wins, Vizcaino transformed his game in the second half to become one of Yankees manager Joe Torre's most reliable relievers. Uh-oh. Barring Torre becomes overly reliable on Vizcaino and wears his arm out, the right-hander has been more than reliable. Of Vizcaino's 23 innings pitched since July 1, 18.2 of those have been shutout frames. The one time he allowed an earned run in August was a two-inning outing on Aug. 6. He has pitched only one such outing per month this year, so it seems Torre is sticking primarily to a one-inning setup for him. He received six days of rest at one point this month, so Torre isn't overworking him just yet. Vizcaino will be able to provide a few solid relief innings a week.

Brian Fuentes, Colorado Rockies

Schedule: 7 games - PIT (4), WAS (3)

Analysis: Since returning from the disabled list, Fuentes has not had much of an opportunity to regain the closer's role. His Aug. 14 effort in mop-up duty was nonetheless effective, as he struck out two in two-thirds of an inning of work. With Manny Corpas saving all 10 of his opportunities, there's no reason for Rockies manager Clint Hurdle to make a switch, especially with the Rockies in the playoff hunt. Fuentes should only be used in emergency cases, and owners should wait until he puts together a few decent outings before putting in their lineup.

Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs

Schedule: 7 games - STL (1), @SF (3), ARI (3)

Analysis: Marmol has recorded at least one strikeout in nine of his last 10 relief appearances. On the flip side, he has given up a hit in six of those outings and a walk in five. He has only allowed two home runs on the season, a valuable number for any reliever. He has a penchant, however, for allowing base runners. He tends to escape his self-made jams, no matter how nerve-wracking they become. He hasn't saved a game since June 27, but Lou Piniella has said that Marmol or Bob Howry may get shots at closing out games. Marmol is still a commodity if you need strikeouts, so sweat out the tough spots with him as he contributes to your team.

Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs

Schedule: STL (1), @SF (3), @ARI (3)

Analysis: Wood hasn't exactly done much to impress the Cubs in his (unsurprisingly) long-anticipated return from the disabled list. Despite a redeeming stat of five strikeouts in five innings, the frequently bruised right-hander is allowing many of his inherited runners to score. Regardless of any progress shown at this point, putting Wood into your lineup is not a recommended course of action.

Tom Gordon, Philadelphia Phillies

Schedule: 6 games - LAD (3), SD (3)

Analysis: Gordon picked up a save on Aug. 10 and has pitched three and one-third consecutive shutout innings. However, Brett Myers is rendering Gordon fantasy-irrelevant at this point in terms of saves. Unless the Phillies move Myers back to the rotation for the stretch run, Gordon doesn't have much fantasy value right now.

Rafael Soriano, Atlanta Braves

Schedule: 7 games - @CIN (4), @STL (3)

Analysis:  Soriano hasn't been capitalizing on the rumors that Bob Wickman's closer job is in jeopardy. Soriano has given up five runs in six and two-thirds innings in August. His saving grace is his 4-to-1 K/BB ratio, which can be productive for a fantasy owner. At this rate, however, he might be doing more harm to his owners in every other category. He has blown his last three save opportunities; this isn't exactly making a case for him to steal the job away from Wickman. Soriano needs to put together a few consecutive scoreless outings before he warrants permanent consideration for your fantasy staff.


Joel Zumaya, Detroit Tigers - Out until mid-August

Rich Harden, Oakland Athletics - Out Indefinitely

Chris Ray, Baltimore Orioles - Out until September

Akinori Otsuka, Texas Rangers - Out until September

Octavio Dotel, Atlanta Braves - Out until September

Mike Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves - Out for season

B.J. Ryan, Toronto Blue Jays - Out for season

Justin Duchscherer, Oakland Athletics - Out for season

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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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