With every first list or preseason edition of anything, there comes question marks. Lots of ifs and buts, with no real sound determination until we actual see the product. I am pretty sure Jane Austen’s first attempt at Pride and Prejudice was an abomination because who knew if Elizabeth Bennett was up to the task of being wifey material? It turns out that I can win a bet and correlate anything into the bullpen situations of the current MLB teams. Until injuries, demotion or a better option arises, we have to go by two main instincts: former ability and common sense. So the list is based off of the news to date that we have gotten on all the potential closers to date and for gigg’s I have ranked them accordingly. I have been doing bullpens for a long time and have been wrong on a few occasions, but I am not the manager or GM for the team pulling the strings, I am merely a fantasy writer. So here is the Spring training edition of the Closer rankings, their set-up men, and the cuffs we covet for fantasy in 2016.

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Despite a season of disappointment and injury, Stephen Strasburg won me my points league championship. As one of my keepers coming into this season, I was excited for the potential of a Cy Young campaign. Instead what I got was a season of heartache and despair as he spent more time on my bench than he did in my lineup. In his last three starts however Strasburg threw a total of 23 innings, striking out 37 batters, walking 3 and yielding only 2 earned runs. During that three game stretch he scored 103 fantasy points for an average of 34.33 points per start. I’m happy when I get 25 points from a start. Just when I thought I had my keepers figured out for next season, Strasburg has to go and do this and put his name solidly back into the mix. On a side note, a few weeks back I suggested he grow a Bumgarner-like beard in hopes of helping him find his lost ways. Instead he seems to have shaved himself clean and I am thrilled with the result it has had on his performance. I just re-read that sentence and it can certainly take on a different meaning.

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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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The other day I made the best purchase of my life (okay, of the last week).  I bought a thermometer that has a laser beam on it.  You shoot the laser on the object and it tells you its exact temperature.  It’s meant–Actually, I don’t know what it’s meant for.  I bought it because our oven seems to be about 100 degrees off.  Though, I got it five days ago and I haven’t used it for the oven once, but have measured the temperature of about twelve hundred other things.  The coldest drinking water I’ve had was 49 degrees at this pizzeria around the corner from my house.  Oh, yeah, I’ve been taking this out with me.  I’ll go up to people on the street, shoot their temperature and be like, “You have a fever, you might want to take an aspirin.”  I like to put on my flip flops when they’re between 68 to 71 degrees.  Any colder and it stiffens my toes, any warmer and it raises my body temperature a full .4 degrees.  I know this because I have a thermometer with a frickin laser on it!  So, how does this relate to fantasy baseball?  I was watching Justin Bour slug his 23rd homer yesterday, his 2nd of two homers in the game, and I shot his temperature.  A blistering 109 degrees!  Doode’s fahrenhot!  Doode is straight butter that a professional hibachi chef puts on a sizzling lobster tail!  Doode’s Kurt Russell in Backdraft!  Yes, you should own him.  In fact (Grey’s gonna say more!), you should’ve owned him for the last few months.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw this weekend in fantasy baseball:

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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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Stephen Piscotty (+31.8%) was the most added player in fantasy baseball over the past week. Another homegrown talent looks to be panning out for the NL-leading St. Louis Cardinals, joining other key MLB players such as Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong, Trevor Rosenthal, and Jaime Garcia who were drafted and developed by that organization. As far as Piscotty goes, his name is like a glorious reminder of the incredible homemade biscotti and pizzelles that my Italian aunts used to make for me as a kid. Piscotty’s production this season since being called up roughly six weeks ago has been just as delicious for fantasy owners (well, almost). Entering yesterday’s play, his August numbers – 15 R, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 1 SB, .340/.374/.600 in 107 PA – have been stunning, with top-20 results in several key categories (BA, SLG, OPS) among qualified players over that span. However, his mediocre 0.22 BB/K ratio (MLB average: 0.37) over the past month as well as an unsustainably high .405 BABIP (MLB average: .299) indicate that he’ll probably be more like a Stella D’oro Breakfast Treat moving forward. Pretty good in it’s own right, but can’t hold a candle to Aunt Theresa’s homemade goodies.

Here are a couple of other significant adds and drops in fantasy baseball over the past week:

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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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*swirls a glass, takes a gulp. spits it back in a bucket*  “That’s vintage Justin Verlander,” said Kate Upton.  “Okay, this might sound gross, but can you spit into my mouth?”  That’s you getting up the nerve to say something to Kate Upton.  I just thought of a moneymaking idea for Shark Tank!  You stand outside of Comerica Park with a cardboard cutout of a naked Verlander and have people pay $10 to take a picture with him, pretending to be Kate Upton.  Oh, and no, this post isn’t an attempt to Bleacher Report up Google’s rankings by mentioning Verlander and Upton repeatedly, though it does seem that way…Verlander/Upton, Verlander/Upton and Verlander/Upten for the illiterates.  So, Verlander did look magnificent yesterday until the 8th inning when he began to tire, ending up with a one hitter –> 9 IP, 0 ER, 3 baserunners (1 Hit), 9 Ks with an ERA at 3.45.  Big Magoo captured Verlander’s upside about two weeks ago with this post.  Worth reading, but the key part (cause I know, y’all can only read so much), “Since the All-Star break, Verlander’s 7.25 K/BB ratio is the 5th highest among qualified starting pitchers, and his 1.1 BB/9 is the 6th lowest.  He shares the same swinging strike rate (12.1%) as Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole over that span as well.  Now, excuse me as I go drain the weasel on a picture of Grey.”  Hey, wait a minute!  I didn’t remember that last part.  So, if Verlander is out there in your league, the one-hitter yesterday doesn’t seem to be a hirame.  Sorry, I just had sushi.  It’s not a fluke.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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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…

Please, blog, may I have some more?