Each new season brings change.  And this one is no different.  The leaves have changed color, and they will turn back again.  The reliever corps are no different, in-season or off of it.  The reliever flux train has already started, and it’s just January.  For some teams, it is a needed boost to a back-end unit that was piss pour last season.  For most though, it is a change for the piece they were missing.  While others, (cough, cough, the Yankees) just want to be greedy and make a super-unit of the three-headed variety.  So today, as it being my first post in the new season, I will look at the guys who changed clubs and will most likely open the season as that teams new closer.  It isn’t very dissimilar to real life, you know that ‘ole tale… for it’s as old as the sea.  Some young up-and-comer arrives and thinks they can do your job better, faster and for longer, but veterans that have been an established piece for years get the respect they deserve.  That’s what makes a 12 dollar salad a 12 dollar salad.  So without all the soliloquy and gesturing, let’s just get to the closers who have changed clubs for the better…

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Overheard at my house on Christmas, “Why isn’t it Jesusmas?”  Then someone who you only see once a year chimes in, “‘Jesus, mas’ is what I say to the waiter when I want more cheese and his name is Jesus.”  Ah, family over the holidays.  Arriving a few days late for Christmas for Yankee fans was Aroldis Chapman.  It didn’t come in their stocking, but he will probably be wearing a stocking on his head while he tries to board a domestic airline with a gun.  “You know, in Cuba, no one cares if I wear a stocking on my head and try to rob people, because Fidel owns everything anyway.”  That’s Aroldis sitting next to someone in First Class who is being polite but just wants to watch Jason Sudeikis in Vacation.  So, Aroldis joins an already stacked Yankee bullpen and does nothing but makes it more sizzling, obviously.  I could make the case that Aroldis is the best closer of all-time, not just the best one in the majors right now, so, yeah, he’s definitely a $12 Salad and that doesn’t change in New York.  He could miss a couple of weeks of the season, due to domestic abuse charges, but that’s not set in stone, and, if baseball is ever going to become as popular as football, then the league will turn the other cheek while asking his girlfriend to do the same.  For 2016, I’ll give Aroldis the projections of 4-2/2.04/1.03/110, 40 saves in 60 IP.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw this offseason for 2016 fantasy baseball:

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Uh no, the Yankees fell for the oldest trick in the book, mon!  Starlin Castro was traded to the Yankees for middle reliever, Adam Warren.  Didn’t the Yanks get the memo?  Middle relievers are the new cheap starters.  There was an interesting development the past week.  Jordan Zimmermann got ridunk money and everyone was like, “Damn, Cousin Fat Pockets needs to let out the elastic on his velcro wallet.”  Then David Price got boku bucks and a Nigerian from Nigeria by the name of Boku said, “My last name is not bucks, I’m confused by this idiom.”  Then Zack Greinke went for a walk in the park and came across a suitcase of $206.5 million and looked over his shoulder slowly, then looked back at the suitcase, then started putting million dollar bills into his shorts.  Finally, Henderson Alvarez was non-tendered and the entire league was interested, and this sounded warning bells.  People are interested in Henderson Alvarez?!  What the eff!  At that point, the smarter GMs realized they just need to make it so their starters that aren’t terrific go six innings, then their bullpens can come in.  The Royals realized this two years ago, but now everyone is catching on.  As for Castro on the Yankees, I want to say unequivocally that this is the best landing spot for him in the majors outside of Coors.  Castro has totally failed as a top prospect– Oh, wait, he’s only 25 years old.  This was a case where the Cubs didn’t make a bad deal; they just had too much of a good thing with middle infielders, and their eyes set on Messin’ Wit’ The Zo’.  Castro feels set up to have his biggest season to date, and I’m going to project him as such.  For 2016, I’ll give him 72/16/77/.274/7 with room for more.  As for the future at 2nd base in Robert Refsnyder, there’s always playing for the Padres in two years.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw this offseason for 2016 fantasy baseball:

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Jay’s Note: Seeing as how Smokey’s title has put this song in my head for what will probably be the entire week, I’m happy to include this video to pay it forward.

That’s it.  Shows over.  Please help the rest of the Razz staff by stacking your chairs at the back of the room.  So with there only the same number of days left as fingers on Jason Pierre Paul’s hand (sick football reference!), it is only fitting to do a fun wrap of lots of gimmicky things and fun factoids.  I rented a cool clown horn for that moment, so if you don’t live in a one block radius of me, it was for not.  For the the rest of you, put that horn in your head and add it to the the tumor hum and the slight tinnitus.  So to recap the year, there were a total of 14 closer changes, and that includes teams changing multiple times.  We have 21 closers with 30 plus saves, which my research tells me… this is the new record.  While the overall number and percentage of saves successfully converted is in line with the norm, it just shows that teams are sticking with their guys and the committee approach is fading. Tons more are inside, it’s my last post of the year, so things might get either weirdly informative, or informatively weird.  Suspense!

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Late season injuries and minor league call-ups are one thing.   Just not doing your job is an utter disgrace.  Bruce Rondon was sent home, literally, because of lack of effort.  Holy stereotypes.  Because getting out of bed, traveling first class and then having to pitch one whole inning a game in the oft-chance that your team may be winning.  Yeah, that sounds impossible to me to keep up with.  For now the Tigers will roll with a combination of Neftali Feliz and Alex Wilson.  So anyone looking for 3-4 saves til the end of the year can be rewarded with the plight of Rondon and his poor work effort.  I wouldn’t expect a treasure trove of riches, the Tigers rank in the bottom five in saves, save opps., bullpen ERA, blown saves, and believe it or not, balks by the bullpen.   I know that last stat is bupkiss, but when is the last time you ever read a balk stat in a reliever post?  It just happened for the first time in history and I am officially placing a copyright on it. So this is the final rankings for the year for closers I will do an end of the year wrap up next week with lots of zany stuff.

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From Koji to Ross…  Sounds like a bullpen whirlwind in the shade of a Justin-to-Kelly type scenario.  Have things goten so bad north of me… NJ… that they are just trouncing anyone out there.  Any retreads?  Well, it’s full on guess mode at the late stages of the season for the B0-Sawx.  If you are really scraping for saves this late in the game, than you my friend are a desperate man in search of desperation and regret.  The Red Sox as a team are near the bottom in blown saves, bullpen ERA and basically look drab and beaten down.  The only good news there is I think the Bruins start soon and Papi is chasing 500.  Listen, I get that you play to the end of the season, but is Robbie Ross really the direction you want to go to when the end is near? Do yourself a favor, add a quality non-closer work on your rates, your free-style composure and possibly go shop at the merry-go-round for some really cool back to school clothes.  Your pitching stats and your swagger will thank you with some compliments and some vulture wins.

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The Mariner bullpen has basically been that round-up ride at your local carnival.  It doesn’t look that bad until it totally messes with your vertigo and you end up spewing up kettle corn and other assorted goods for two hours there after.  Last year, the Mariners bullpen had a 2.60 ERA, good for tops in the MLB.  They also saved 51 games to only 11 blown saves.  They were all comfy and coozy like footed pajamas last year, and basically everyone could rely on the decent value of return from drafting Fernando Rodney.  Then the year changes to five and the ship went askew.  Their bullpen ERA is over 4.30 and are on pace to accumulate 45 saves, and, to date, have already blown 18 saves (behind only three other teams for worst).  So let’s just run down the year so far: Rodney was the closer, then he wasn’t the closer, Carson Smith took over, and now it seems as though they are reverting back to 2012 in hopes that Tom Wilhelmsen can right the ship of battered and injured bullpen dreams.  Stick around for some tid-bits and bullpen ranks…

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Are the Red Sox grasping at proverbial straws here?  I mean, let’s go to the waiver wire in real life… Grab a reliever, Jean Machi, that has three career saves, and let’s say we’ll think about him being the closer for our team.  It sounds weird and crazy, but then you look at the Sawx record (it’s the worst in the AL by the way), and realize maybe it’s not such a far fetched idea.  Hanley Ramirez has nine freaking doubles all year. NINE!  I just hit four at Fenway the other day, until I realized they were hamburgers.  Okay, back to closers.  So the Red Sox, with the loss of Koji Uehara to the DL, will turn to just about anyone to see if they can close the 8-10 chances they will get the rest of the year.  The front runners are Junichi Tazawa (has 4 blown saves in the last 30 days) and Jean Machi, and the sleeper candidate is the former All-Star closer Ryan Cook.  Who in himself was traded for that spectacular fantasy asset: PTBNL.  The situations for closers is getting bleaker with the bad teams losing actual options and not having a genuine fall-back option that you could tie your waiver wire dollars too.  Best advice is don’t chance saves from all these guys, it will nuke your numbers elsewhere.  Concede that you will only get seven points from saves instead of nine. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk while texting or making waiver claims.

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All the fantasy world was hoping that Jonathan Papelbon would be traded to a team without a reliable closer.  Instead, he goes to a team and kicks in the door swinging with the “I make more money than you” swagger that only comes with wearing Jordache jeans. And then he takes Drew Storen‘s job.  From a relief pitcher standpoint, Papelbon jumps from the worst save-driven team to top 10 overall.  The Phillies generated only 26 save opportunities to the date of his trade.  The Nationals were a far better team, and their record says so with 43 save opportunities.  The Nationals have also had a lead 32 more times than the Phillies, so Storen isn’t a completely wasted roster spot. If you got skunked by this, you need to keep him rostered.  He will still get the off-day save chances, and should pitch in a ton of high-leverage situations based on the bullpen shape of the Nationals, which isn’t a blue ribbon. Papelbon immediately jumps to elite status for me because of his history, and the whole contending team thing. He will easily double his saves total (in less games) to date, which stands at 17.  On the flip side of this trade, it opens up the gates to wunderkid Ken Giles to close in the land of steaks covered in cheese.  Giles immediate value is that of a closer, but with the Phil’s, he’s going to basically have a worse representation of what Papelbon had, but he still has moderate save appeal.  I can see him getting 10 saves the rest of the way.  This is posting a day before the deadline, so things could be in flux. And make sure to check out Ralph and myself over on Razzball Soccer, as the FPL is in full go.

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So with the festivities of All-Stardom concluding, thus comes the second half.  It’s an inevitable thing, you eat half a cookie the other half remains.  So this week I am going to run down a list of the closers for the remainder of season.  So sorry for not doing salads with donkeys this week, I felt this was more noteworthy since we are about two weeks from the trade deadline in real and fake baseball life (in some leagues).  The closer rankings that I came up with will be based off of a few things: saves (no durrr), team success, likely hood to remain a closer, and peripheral stats.  So we lump all those together and we get the ROS STSLRCPS.  Which basically looks like a pretty good scrabble deck.  Bare with me, it’s a busy time of year, and for those in the know, Fantasy Soccer is live and in full effect.  Go check it out, it’s fantasy baseball with an accent.  So now onto the closer ranks for the rest of the 2015 campaign…

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