Hey, hey,  hey, talking relievers on Thursday.  What could be better? Well, maybe ice cream covered in Kate Upton.  Actually strike that and flip it.  That sounds better.  OR exactly the same.  Regardless, the top ‘pens are starting to take shape as we reach the 1/5 part of the season.  The who’s are the who’s and the what the eff’s are, well, what the eff’s.  The MLB average for bullpen ERA is 3.92.  Now, that isn’t exactly something that makes you have confidence in any teams collective bullpens.   That’s why you get to be selective… take who you want and disregard the rest.  It’s like the Chinese buffet down the street– not everything looks edible, and yeah, you will probably get sick from most of it, but there’s some value savings.  Always go with the soup, excellent starter, can’t go wrong with that option.  So, take a look at bullpen arms that are doing these three things: Save situations, games with the lead, and total batters faced (and the percentage of K’s from that).  You have those three things, you have a stout middle reliever.  Yeah, I hear ya dude in the corner with his hand raised, there are other stats that we should look at.  Everyone looks at them, every site pounds you on the simple stats.  Dig deeper, look past the first page of stats and do something different.  Sorry… I was yelling. I get mad when I am hungry.  Food for me, continue reading and comments for you.

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Ah, charts with actual stats are so much nicer to look at.   The first bullpen report of the year was like reading Playboy in braile, ’cause technically we shouldn’t need both hands, but we do.  The cream is rising to the proverbial top when you look at the chart below.  The familiar names are settling in, and if you drafted some of them, or they have been mentioned in the closenado of 2014 for save chances, they probably are owned, were owned  or some semblance there in between.   Middle relievers are like that old cartoon Pound Puppies, yeah they are cute and good ‘n all, but they are still living in the pound in acartoon.  No homes to go to, no freedom…  Sad, but as kids we were fooled.  Relievers are much the same, they never really have a home unless we give them one.

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We are going to take a break from the closenado news to bring the middle-reliever news and updates for those of you that are in Holds and NSVH leagues. While it’s not as sexy as the closer news that you usually expect, it is still fundamental in forming a well-balanced pitching staff. It has been a bizarre season, as far as Holds go, and no one person is showing their stoutness and running away with being “that guy”.  The usual candidates are lying in the weeds [Ed. Note-- you haven't smoked it all?] waiting to jump out and show you how to make balloon animals. So here are some snippets that I’ve noticed so far this year, though the season is still short ‘n sweet. There’s a long ways to go my friends. So be patient when it comes to the dudes who pitch after the dudes, but before the dudes that really matter.

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The first bullpen report of the year is always league-dependent, so read this with a grain of salt.  Some of the top-chaps will be and should be rostered in most normal scoring leagues, while some are strictly reserved for Holds only leagues.  For those of you with the ever trending upward Saves+Holds leagues (NSVH), (a trend I have tried for a few years that seems to work) the process isn’t really a groundbreaking formula where you need a calculator watch and/or an abacus to figure out.

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I’d say Alex Cobb was fantastic again last night, but I have to pay David Stern a nickel to use the word fantastic and money is tight, yo. If it wasn’t for the ball off his melon, The Tampa Bay Peach would’ve been a top 15 starter this year. I’m currently debating if Cobb is going to be in my top 15 for 2014 fantasy baseball. (What I mean by debating is I have three monkeys stand against a wall with signs that read, “Yay,” “Nay” and “Let Rudy decide.” Ling Ling, put down the sign until I ask the question. Ling Ling! Hard to find a well-trained monkey nowadays. His K-rate wasn’t otherworldly like I prefer my beefcake starters. It ended the year at 8.41 K/9. That is ace-ish, but not straight aces rollin’ through Compton flashing signs. His walk rate was 2.83. Again, it’s solid, I’d like to see better on that. Now his ERA ended up being 2.76, but his xFIP was 3.02. That’s not shabby at all. That’s right around Jose Fernandez, Chris Sale and Anibal Sanchez. Guys with seasons you would hump if a ‘season’ wasn’t an amorphous thing. For 2014, I think Cobb’s gonna be right around 15-20 overall for starters, which does mean Cobb is ready to emerge from the husk. Zadow! Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Michael Wacha was within an out of a no-hitter yesterday when Zimmerman hit a bouncer to shortstop, which he barely beat out. Ryan Zimmerman doesn’t want the world to see joy. He’s a joy killer. Every time some 14-year-old writes jk jk jk. They’re not abbreviating ‘just kidding,’ they’re really talking about Ryan Zimmerman joy killing. For a moment, I was on board with The Joy Killer because I don’t need Wacha getting hyped up anymore than necessary for next year. You hear Wacha I’m talking about? You like Wacha I’m working with? Wacha you say to that? Okay, I want to stop replacing what with Wacha, but I can’t. Wacha can I do?! There is gonna be an insane amount of young pitchers next year that I’ll be eyeing, and Wacha is yet another one. In 64 2/3 IP this year, he had a 9+ K/9, 2.61 xFIP and a 2.64 BB/9. Yes, please, come again. I could see this 22-year-old giving you a Shelby Miller-type season next year, maybe even, dare I say it, Matt Harvey. That’s Wacha I’m talking about! Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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I’ve been mentioning him here and there in the blurb sections of the roundups, but I can’t wait until Friday’s Buy, or until the offseason when I’m gonna gush over him in a sleeper post. I love Cody Asche. I love him for everything he is, and for everything he’s not. One thing he’s not is on many, if anyone’s radar. He’s not even owned in 1% of ESPN leagues, though once Matthew Berry picks him up on 24,000 of his teams that number will shoot up to 99% owned. Yesterday, Asche went 3-for-4, 3 RBIs and his 3rd homer in 28 games. Prorate that over a full season and he’s hitting 40 homers– Wait, I had my calculator to Chris Davis math. Okay, so it’s only about 15-20 homers, but he can also steal 10 bases and should hit around .290. He’s like a modern day Eric Hosmer, if Eric Hosmer weren’t already modern day. I remixing The Game for this Outkast and Asche’s to Asche’s, ah ha, don’t make me hush this fuss! Why do I love him for this year, but much more for 2014 fantasy baseball? The Phillies need to move towards the future, and Asche will have a starting job, and get drafted in the late 200′s in most mixed leagues, but have the upside of a 70/17/82/.285/10 player. Yes, I just gave you my first 2014 projection. Cody Asche, you make me excited, let’s cuddle. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Yesterday, on Fifth Avenue, Bud Selig was seen going into a photo shoot. That photoshoot was for him to be dressed as Uncle Sam for posters that will go up around the country. Under Uncle Bud, it will read, “I Want You!” You see, MLB lost a lot of players yesterday to suspensions and now they need people to play baseball. Tryouts will begin early next week and no one will be turned away due to their sex or age. If back in the day your grandma used to don the rawhide in that baseball league of their own, pull up her knee-highs and get her out there! Everyone must do their part to keep baseball together and moving forward. We need some Rosie the Pivoters at middle infield in San Diego and Detroit with the loss of Everth Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta. We need some bombers with the loss of Nelson Cruz in Texas. We’re gonna have some fatherless children on our hands with the troops heading off to battle on the diamond, but ironically Antonio Bastardo‘s kids will have their dad because he’s being sent home. When we’re in the bunkers amongst enemy pitchers, we’ll need someone to believe in with the loss of Jesus Montero. We’ll be without any guys that sound like names from a Harry Potter Name Generator with the loss of Jordany Valdespin, and we won’t have anyone that looks like The Great Gazoo with the loss of Francisco Cervelli. It’ll be a trying time for all of us, but we need to come together as a nation of Razzballers and fight through. Plus, really, for fantasy, we only lost Everth and Cruz, so don’t get so bent out of shape. Logan Forsythe or Alexi Amarista will take over for Everth, probably a bit of both until one emerges. Neither have the value of Everth, but Amarista could have some speed and he knows how to make a great frappuccino. Forsythe has little speed and power, but is dealing with a knee problem, so he may not be at 100%. In Texas, Engel Beltre or Jurickson Profar could see more time, but so far in 49 games Profar has a .244 average and four homers and no steals, so I wouldn’t go dropping anyone great in redraft leagues for him. Rangers also have Berkman coming back at some point in the next few weeks, so they could get crowded again. In Detroit, Jose Iglesias is the Indians’ backup plan, but if I saw him on waivers, I’d back up. In all, a bad day to be a cheater, but a good day to be an American. Now everyone will have a shot to make it to the major leagues. Just don’t be shocked if your grammie tests positive for HGH. She does, after all, take a lot of meds. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Phew! The fantasy baseball DT’s have finally subsided. It was touch-and-go for a while with many Trainspotting-like moments. Choose life. Choose a job. Choose Razzball. We are 90 games in and while I’m not so good with the math (look I spelled “boobs” on my calculator) me thinks that’s more than half-way through this fantasy season. If you were one of the lucky ones that drafted Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis or Carlos Gonzalez good for you. If you happen to own all three, I tip my turban in your general direction. But for the rest of us that drafted Jason Heyward, Matt Kemp and Brett Lawrie, we have some ground to make up. Hurry, everybody in the El Camino and let’s cruise over to the waiver wire flea market. While sifting through Mexican blankets, Blue Oyster Cult 8-tracks and old Playboys (Jaywrong, put that down! Oohh, Suzanne Somers), we might just find the player that catches fire in the second half and sends us to a fake baseball championship. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose to jam it or cram it.

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So the All-Star break has come and swept us away and now its onto the last 19/32 of the season. The chase for saves is becoming more and more concrete as the season grows, and the closepocalypse of 2012 is just a great conversation starter, just like super storm Sandy. The list of reliable closers with concrete gigs is growing and the rankings this week show a reflection of that. There is a huge have and have not factor going on, it’s either reliable and tried and true or it’s a 2 AM special where you’re trying to convince her to give you a Bryant Gumbel. The top of the list remains stout and the names are fairly consistent, it’s just getting to be a very swanky restaurant and the salad menu is expanded to accommodate more guests…so to speak. So enjoy the ensalade and don’t forget to ask for the endless breadsticks.

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