You don’t often see a big-name closer come off the DL and not regain his job, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Colorado. Huston Street and his 29 saves hit the DL with a triceps strain a few weeks ago and returned to the Rockies on August 26. With a 49:8 K:BB ratio, fantasy owners obviously would expect him to step right back into the Bottom of the 9th. But as it turns out, the Rockies have a better pitcher already occupying the closer role.
Rafael Betancourt has been a machine since earning the closing gig in August, and on the day Street came off the DL, Betancourt had thrown 20 consecutive outings without allowing an earned run. Furthermore, that streak included 30 Ks and just one walk, absurd numbers any way you slice them. Ironically, he did blow a save on August 27, Street’s first action with the team, leaving Colorado with an open window to re-insert Street into the ninth. Instead, they stuck with Betancourt, and he responded with three straight perfect saves.
The threat of Street re-gaining his job looms around Betancourt, but with a 66:8 K:BB ratio, there’s no other reason not to consider him a top-tier closer right now. He’d surely do more for your team than that innings eater you’re holding onto at SP. As excellent as Betancourt has been since the All-Star break, he deserves to be trotted out there in fantasy lineups everyday regardless of what inning he’s pitching. Of course, for our purposes it would be great for him to keep the closer role. Street owners will have to be patient and hope for a mishap, but if I had to choose between the two, I’d go Betancourt.
Brian Wilson hasn’t pitched since mid-August, and unless the Giants get back in the playoff race quickly, Wilson could see his next action in 2012. Santiago Casilla and Ramom Ramirez have picked up the team’s three most recent saves. Casilla has walked a fine line all season, allowing just six earned runs in 41 innings despite surrendering 22 walks and 25 hits. Of course, none of that matters with Sergio Romo healthy; the electric setup man has 56 Ks and just four BBs in 39.1 innings, giving him a 1.60 ERA and 0.64 WHIP. So yeah, he’s your best look.
Leo Nunez had an ugly three-game stretch in August, allowing at least two earned runs in three straight starts (nine runs total). Steve Cishek went on to record the next save on a day where Nunez was unavailable, then posted another a few days later. However, Cishek himself was lit up on September 1, while Nunez has posted three straight scoreless outings. Consider Nunez the borderline closer right now, and I wouldn’t wait around for Cishek. Edward Mujica has better numbers than both and could be an option for deep league owners looking for every possible save.
Craig Kimbrel has 42 saves and 113 Ks. There’s obviously no actionable strategy to take with this information at this point, but I found that worth mentioning. Eric Gagne finished fourth in the Cy Young voting as a 26-year-old by posting a 1.97 ERA, 52 saves and 114 Ks. The next year, he turned in a 1.20 ERA, 55 saves and 137 Ks while winning the Cy Young Award. Kimbrel, at 23 years old, has a 1.57 ERA and a shot at reaching 50 saves and 130 Ks. Incredible.
Bobby Parnell has notched five saves since Jason Isringhausen bowled a perfect game. It hasn’t been pretty (he has five walks and three Ks over that stretch of saves), but saves are saves. I doubt he’s making a great argument for being the primary closer in 2012, so the team may look for a proven arm on the market this offseason (Heath Bell, anyone?).
Kenley Jansen picked up another save on September 1, and his sick numbers (25 H, 24 BB, 70 K in 42.2 innings) make him a possible add if only for the sweet K/9. More importantly, that looks like the profile of a Carlos Marmol-type closer, right? Even though Javy Guerra has done a quality job as closer for most of the year, he doesn’t have nearly the upside of Jansen. Dynasty owners take note, as Joanthan Broxton is no guarantee to return to form in 2012.
There isn’t much going on in the American League that we need to discuss. Jon Rauch is back from the DL, but Frank Francisco has managed to avoid falling on his face thus far, so the team will probably stick with him for now, especially with Rauch getting rocked by the Yankees on Sunday.