With the complexity of scoring, much like that of Scrabble, the steals game is all about the triple word score.  With names and with letters that are uncommon for words, you know the J’s and X’s of the world.  We all can cheat and make the word “jo” or “ox”, but imagine the scoring erection you will get when you use Rajai   This wordsmith of the basepaths has been giving new form to the SAGNOF game.  Over the last 14 games, no one in the game has more steals than Davis.  Rajai has been the Magi of it for years, and it is crazy to think that he’s crazy Joe Louis old.  He is 35, which isn’t quite as old as me, but I also don’t even run when chased, let alone run 90 feet from pillow to pillow.  For the most part, Rajai is the goods because he basically fills all your SAGNOF needs and isn’t and absolute void in other categories like a newly DL’d Mallex.  Davis, over the last 14, has put up 2 HRs and a cup full of RBIs.  It is more than what we get from Mallex, who offers nothing but steals. even is an abysmal in BA, and his one saving grace is that his OBP is decent because he takes walks at almost a 17% clip.  So for the few of you that are surfing for a SAGNOF savior to replace your Mallex fix…  here are some names that could be good for now and later.  Side note, I used to love that candy.

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The save buffet line in Minnesota is becoming a tiresome “wait-and-see who gets the chance today”.  We all sit there and wait to own all the bullpen condiments that they offer, whether it be Brandon Kintzler, Fernando Abad, Trevor May, Kevin Jepsen, or Michael Tonkin. Including Perkins, those are the names that have been gifted a precious save chance for the occupants of the Twin Cities.  A save opportunity total that is second to last in the league (18), in front of a surprise first place team in the Cubs.  The Cubs are only there because they are beating everyone up and don’t have the late-inning chances that other losing teams do.  So back to the Twinkies… they have the least amount of saves, holds, and have the least amount of appearances by relievers with the lead.  All those things are so bad for roster space that you are speculating it to get you a save. They are on pace to average less than 3/4 of one whole save a week.  But if people want to keep roster shuffling, looking for the odd save here or there, who am I to judge?  I mean, some people say cucumbers taste better pickled.  The fortunate thing for you is that I am here to guide that steady hand and give you astute advice for a nominal (not nominal, it’s free) fee.  So here the rankings of closers for week 11, now with more added snippets of goodness!

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It is more simple then just correlating the “every stolen base is essential” represents a swipe to the right.  It goes farther the that, for some guys. it is like fish in a barrel… for others. it is a game they just don’t play.  Anyone that has partaken in the chicanery that is Tinder, gets the other far deeper references here because there are endless similarities.   Over the past seven games of play, there have been 13 teams with one steal or less, on the contrary to that, there was only four teams that swiped more than five.  That does not add up to a ton of stats to go around, especially when players like Cody Asche, owned in 0.6% of ESPN leagues, and Marwin Gonzalez (3.0%) are toeing the line of stolen base leaders for the week.  Only being one behind the leader for the week, of a mass total of three.  The sexy factor of steals is like a 2 AM special at the bar: dark, desperate, and a crap shoot.  So I am not here to tell you to not shoot for the moon with guessing with stolen bases, I am just saying that it is a game of haves and have-nots.  So be heady my good friends, as you search the waiver wires for good situations, pay attention to the pitchers who allow the most steals.  Pay Attention to the last 14 days of OBP, and of course with lesser owned fellas, watch general playing time.  Here are some fish in the barrel types for this week…

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Dellin Betances is basically the fat of the fantasy set-up world. The goods are there, it just takes time and some settling before we all realize it is, what was and what always shall be…  I think I just laced this post with some subtle Led Zeppelin reference, but I may be crooked to walk on one leg to let myself know that I did, let alone let you subtly know.  So I will just go ahead and say there was a Zep reference-reference.  Good, moving on.  Success of a bullpen, let alone someone you should be relying on, is correlative of how well the team is performing. It’s science, if you score more you put yourself in a better position to win more, regardless of who is on the bump.  Dellin was and is the goods, currently and in post-script.  He came into the year as the man to target in any format that coveted fantasy goodness, condensed into a smaller innings unit of measure than that of a starter.  Now add in the dash of Holds sassiness, and he is a bullpen god.  He is now the king of the Hold in all leagues by quantity and not by just scripture.  His 16 holds on the year are tops on the this year’s gig and given the Yankees propensity to not score over 4 runs in a game, his reign may be a run away.  He has the good everywhere else; K/9, swagger, ability to tie multiple knots while buoyant at sea.  There are no bullpen stats that he isn’t the man at.  He basically walks into a bar/club and automatically has the best synchronized music to his step….think Matthew McConaughey in Dazed in Confused…and let here comes the story of the Hurricane ramble through your third eye for a bit.  So let’s jump into this fortnights dealing in the bullpen game… alright, alright, alright.

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When the season started, the hype was on top prospect Byron Buxton… he had the center field job won out of spring training and had the tools to be a fantasy asset.  Then he started the season going 7-for-49 with not enough counting stats to warrant him being on your fantasy team any longer, so the Bill Heywood-led Twins demoted him to Triple-A.  Down there, he worked on his composition, his derogatory comebacks, and sharped the tools in his shed.  That resulted in him slashing .336/.403/.603 with 6 homers and 4 steals in 29 games.  Now, fast forward to a week ago when he was promoted, everyone could see he was on (or most likely on) waivers, feeling burned by the failures of his previous performance.  He has gone 7-for-20 in his second chance at life in Minnesota, reaching base in every game and looking like a completely different player confidence-wise.  Because confidence doesn’t come in a bottle, which will kill all the snake oil salesman’s pension funds… but oh well.  Byron has made a slight timing adjustment to his swing and it is working wonders, and he’s, from this point on, someone to watch as he brings speed defense and youth vigor to an already “looking forward to next year” Twins team.  If he can maintain an OBP of between .320-.330, I think he can have a healthy steal total by the all-star break and be pushing 25-30 for the season.  If and buts were soup and nuts, my grandma always said, and it remains to be seen if he can be the asset we all thought, but the prospect status is almost gone from him now and he needs to show it or be buried in fantasy waiver wire purgatory.  Let’s see what else was going down on the basepaths this week in the SAGNOF report…

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Situations arise all the time with closers. Injuries occur, poor performance, and then the return of the incumbent.  In the preseason, Will Smith was the guy the Brewers had tabbed as the closer.  Then, like I just said, an injury happened.  So now that he is back, what goes on in the back-end of the Brewers bullpen?  Jeremy Jeffress has done a stellar job with a less than average set-up crew in front of him.  He has pitched to a 2.45 ERA and a slightly more bloated xFIP of 3.41.  For all his previous tangles with pitching, he is striking out far less then he is normally accustomed to at just a 6 K/9 rate.  Low for a closer, even from the Lauvern and Shirley state.  He has managed 14 saves in 15 opportunitioes, and for a team like the Brewers, 14 is a healthy total.  So does his reign come to an end now that the best reliever is back in the fray?  Granted, it is never a great thing when usual mop-up relievers start stealing your stats, namely Blaine Boyer and Carlos Torres, who have 3 saves between them in the past nine games.  And granted, saves are wonky and games dictate them sometimes, come from behind wins, and situational loogy-ness are also a factor.  So I think with the way Jeffress has been going, he stays there until Will comes and steals his mojo and never looks back… Until the trade deadline, which could alter things up completely and basically revert it back to the way it was.  So if Will Smith is on your waivers, do yourself a service and add him speculatively for a week or two.  If he doesn’t give you the returns that you expect, then, well, the opposite happened of what I think should happen.  Enjoy Week 9 of the fantasy baseball season’s closer report!

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The reflexive of what I have been covering in the last few posts has been looking at trends with pitchers and the stealers themselves.  In a steal equation, the catcher plays a part in this.  If he wasn’t involved, it would look like the scene from Naked Gun where Leslie Nielson is throwing the balls back.  We wouldn’t like that from a whole Enrico Pollazo type way, not one bit.  So for now, let’s stop googling that video and focus on the backstops, the teams running most against and their success (or lack there of).  Yes, there are other factors into being caught stealing, a bad jump, shoes being untied, or maybe even a cramp.  So before all the stat gurus get all huffy and puffy and get their mom’s basements in a tizzy, let’s just say that catchers and their caught stealing prowess are on the even keel that they are what their numbers say they are.  As I discussed last week, stolen bases are down across the board this year and a downward trend has been materializing for years… this has direct affect on the numbers for caught stealing, and attempts.  Without one you can’t have the other.  So here is some interesting stat dirt that I have dug up with teams to run against and the possible streaming value added by playing guys against those teams.

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The change in Texas has reverbed into the Holds ranks as well.  Tolley was the guy, now Frank Perdue’s arch-nemesis Sam Dyson is all comfy in the save bird seat.  The best part of this whole deal is that Jake Diekman is reaping all the benefits from a fantasy hold perspective.  This is a coup for the people who listened to me early and figured him to be the lefty-version of the lock-down pen arm in Arlington.  All Jake has done on the year is garner 13 holds with 11 plus K/9 and a HR/9 just a smidge over one.  We in the fantasy community rely on such precise words as smidge, scoonch, pinch… and I’m throwing prolly in there because some people like it and it doesn’t get more accurate than that.   So the main question is, can Diekman be the man and continue to be the man?  Absolutely.  He is thriving in a role that he started when he was with Philly.  The Rangers, also if anyone is paying attention, aren’t a half bad team and are fairly solid with or without Tolleson closing at the end.  So let’s take a look at what else has happened in the fortnight of games since the last bullpen lowdown, or ho-down.  Depending on how strong your hold pimp hand is.

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Listen, I’m a realist when it comes to numbers.  I understand that trends are written in there somewhere and the analytic guys use their Little Orphan Annie decoder rings to decipher everything.  I, my friends, am not that guy.  I look at something and then relay the message to you.  I am a sharer, an over excessive high-fiver, and extremely (and most importantly) excessively inappropriate in public.  I have looked at the numbers and I am telling you that the stolen base is the new punt stat.  Everyone always talks about punting stats from time-to-time in their ramblings of delusion, but I am being serious.  The downward trend in baseball is written in the stats.  I will even slap a handy chart in this post to clarify my thinking, (the chart is through the end of May for all other years but this), but the trend is going down the way of the SAGNOF drain.  I wish it weren’t true, because I loved watching the go-go 80’s and guys like Vince Coleman make a living being this generations, chuckle… Billy Hamilton.  Those days are gone.  Do we even remember the last guy who stole 100? 90? or even 80 bases in a year?  The answers are: 1987, 1988, and 1988 again.  The last significant stolen base total was when Jose Reyes was single and not suspended in 2007 with 78 swipes.  Like I said, I hate it to be true, but the days of amassing a significant total from one player, and having that player be a fantasy asset are dead and gone.  Running just doesn’t happen as frequently…  This is based on delivery times to plate, video technology, and basically the game evolving.  So I am sorry that this week’s report is a sad trombone of fantasy reality, which is an oxymoron, but I just wanted people to realize the decline in stat that they chase on a weekly basis.

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Besides that Eric Prydz catchy a** song, the bullpen situation/decision in Tampa is drawing nearer and dearer to our closer hearts.  The return of the “Box” is coming, and it drums in the deep.  Now we automatically assume, myself included, that three weeks ago, Brad Boxberger would just go all cutzies like in the high school cafeteria and get his job back at the time he arrives.  Fast forward three weeks, or to now, and that situation doesn’t look like it is a foregone conclusion because look what Alex Colome is doing in the role.  He checks all the “I am keeping my job” boxes. He of the 10 saves in 10 chances, 12 K/9, 2 BB/9, BAA under two bills variety.  Those are all good things to have, and better than 15 other closers in baseball for stats across the board.  Now, I just said that I don’t see Box claiming what’s his right away, but it could happen, because loyalty rules everything around baseball.  So if you own Colome and can get Boxberger before he gets noticeable stats on the cheap, I advise to do so.  If you own Boxberger and don’t own Colome, well, the price will be higher because the people that own him can read stats just as easily as I can type them out for you.  So be proactive as we reach the quarter post in the fantasy year, and for giggles, stay around as I find some goofy things to learn you…

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