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Closers have a very difficult job to do, which is probably why so few relievers are consistently good at it. When things aren’t working out for a closer, he gets the added pressure of knowing the manager is looking at the other five or six guys in the bullpen and figuring out which one can do better. And to be honest, there usually are one or two relievers that could do a better job than the current closer on a team. In fantasy baseball, being out in front of any potential closer changes is key to winning a league. As a matter-of-fact, I’d rank it third behind avoiding injuries to key players (very difficult) and not drafting B.J. Upton (quite easy).

With Opening Weekend now in the books, we’ve seen six closers blow saves in the first few games of the season. Of the six, at least one guy will be supplanted from his role as closer eventually, and possibly very soon. In fact, grab your preseason reliever rankings, draw a line halfway through the top 30 and come to the realization that half the closers underneath the line will likely fail to keep the job all season. Some of the guys above the line may be joining them. Welcome to The Bottom of the 9th.

They Blew It

Fernando Rodney – The owner of a career 1.45 WHIP in 381 games, Rodney has grown accustomed to living on the edge. He was true to form on the first day of the season, allowing a walk and a hit while notching a save. His luck didn’t continue on Sunday, as Rodney walked the bases loaded while only recording one out, then surrendered a double to Wilson Betemit to blow the save. Rodney was mercifully pulled from the game at that point. Jordan Walden has become a must-own fantasy commodity in a hurry. He’s the closer of the future, and the future should be now. Desperate owners can also grab Kevin Jepsen and/or Scott Downs in case either of them has something on Mike Scioscia.

Brandon Lyon – Just when it appeared the Astros were going to shock the world and take down NL favorite Philadelphia and Cy Young favorite Roy Halladay in the first game of the season, Lyon saved the day by doling out singles like he was in a strip club. When the smoke cleared, Lyon was the proud owner of an 18.00 WHIP. He hasn’t ever held the closer role for longer than a season, only topping ten saves in 2005, 2008 and 2010. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the trend continue, with Lyon being ousted before he hits double digits. I’ve been a fan of Mark Melancon for a while, and my money is on him as the team’s long-term closer, but Houston’s usage pattern with the youngster suggests they may not be comfortable with him in the ninth just yet. That brings us to Wilton Lopez, who had a sick 50:5 K:BB ratio last season, his first full season in the majors. He notched a hold before the Lyon disaster and would be great in the ninth should Houston make the change. By midseason, I’d expect to have Lopez in the ninth, Melancon in the eighth and Lyon in middle relief where he belongs.

Ryan Franklin – As the closer of the Cardinals for the last three seasons, Franklin has a little bit more rope than the gentlemen listed above, but with St. Louis expected to be in a dogfight for the NL Central crown, he can’t afford too many missteps. The first hiccup came on Opening Day, with Cameron Maybin taking Franklin deep to tie the game. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they don’t really have any other great options in the bullpen, so it’s quite possible Franklin will stay the team’s closer if he avoids a monumental meltdown. If that were to happen, Jason Motte would likely move into the ninth-inning role. He’s not worth an add right now, especially since he’s not pitching particularly well.

John Axford – Axford came out of nowhere to become Milwaukee’s closer last season, and he did a great job, posting a 2.48 ERA and 1.19 WHIP while saving 24 games. He was so good that fantasy owners were willing to make him one of the top 15 closers off the board. He’s gotten the season off to a rocky start, giving up four runs on Thursday, including a three-run walkoff homer to prolific hitter Ramon Hernandez. Sunday saw Axford come into a 12-3 game, surrender two singles and record two outs. He’ll have to get his act in line quickly, as relievers that come out of nowhere to have fantasy value can just as easily go back to wherever it is they came from. Takashi Saito, who has 84 career saves, would take over in the ninth inning if the Ax Man can’t duplicate last year’s magic.

Francisco Rodriguez – K-Rod is in no danger of losing his gig — he makes too much money for that — but he also joined the blown save parade by giving up three hits and walking a batter on Saturday. Luckily for fantasy owners, he came out sphinctorious after the Mets put up a three-spot on the Marlins. Blaine Boyer earned the rogue save in the 10th inning, but Bobby Parnell would be the guy to own were something to happen to him or if K-Rod’s girlfriend’s father ever comes to another game.

Carlos Marmol – Marmol also made the blown saves team by giving up a couple runs on Sunday. The Pirates played it perfectly, sacrificing two runners over with no one out, and Pedro Alvarez delivered the two-RBI single to give his team the lead. Marmol induced a double play to get out of the woods without causing further damage. He’s obviously not relinquishing the closing job anytime soon. Kerry Wood would become the closer if injury were to strike Marmol.

That’s going to wrap up the first edition of The Bottom of the 9th, but we’ll come back with other reliever-related news periodically. Until then, may your adds be wise and your closers be safe.

66 Responses

  1. Long Bawls says:
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    I like this! The Razzball empire keeps growing, Risk-style.

  2. SwaggerJackers says:
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    I’m happy to say I’ve never had BJ Upton on a team.

  3. Jamal says:
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    Drop Fuentes for Walden?

  4. Eng says:
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    @Jamal: I have a very strong feeling Downs will be the guy who gets the job. His toe was a minor injury and it’s nearly healed. Walden is the more exciting pitcher but Scioscia makes the decisions and my money’s on Downs.

  5. I’ll say this — Joel Peralta worked the 9th on Saturday and was up warming late in the 8th on Sunday when the Rays were trying to rally. If you’re looking for anything in the Tampa Bay tealeaves for closing, that’s all we have so far.

  6. poop says:
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    Walden or Burnett?

  7. Exactly says:
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    Grey, i got axford, perez, hanrahan, lidge/contreras and madson…would you p/u walden, wilton lopez, or saito and drop madson? Thanks.

  8. Back To Minors says:
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    Honorable mention Fuentes and Nunez.

  9. “Doling out singles like he was in a strip club.” Classic line, and you’re not Lyon.

  10. Michael Bourne says:
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    @Exactly: does your league count Holds? If yes than keep madson, if no than madson is worth a drop.

  11. @Jamal: Yes, I’d take Walden over Fuentes. He should help more long-term. I agree Downs could potentially wind up closer, as could Jepsen, but Walden is the favorite for saves once the Angels get sick of Rodney.

    @poop: Gotta go with Burnett right now.

    @Exactly: I’d go Walden or Lopez over Madson, and I’m leaning Lopez, just because he’s clearly the guy if Houston makes a change.

  12. Pooch says:
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    Grey,

    For my roto team that is hit with a bunch of injuries, is it worth it to keep Raburn, already sitting out his second game and seems to still be competing for playing time, or drop him for a guy with a more definite job, like Kubel, Fowler, Morrison, or Byrd? This on a team whose injuries are all power guys.

    If so, which of those 4 is your favorite?

    Thanks

  13. Christopher says:
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    Great piece!

  14. AdamH says:
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    Farnsworth or Walden?

  15. The |3lue Crew says:
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    Grey,

    I am in a 10 team league and have Raburn. Today is his second day sitting in 4 games. Is this in indication of what to expect? Boesch has been starting over him… Is it worth it to drop him and pick up some reliable everyday starters? Raburn is my bench player so I do not typically start him. Thanks!

  16. AdamH says:
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    PS I sort of had a hard on for BJ this year and ended up with him on multiple teams.

  17. Rob says:
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    Is Carlos Beltran worth a roster spot?

  18. Buge Hoobs says:
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    @R.J. White:

    H2H Standard 5×5 cats +L, ER, & TB allowed

    Rank the following for value, please:
    Walden, Lopez, Chapman, Sale

  19. Wake Up says:
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    Our friend K Gregg deserves a nod of the cap too, along with the first 4 listed. I had Walden as my AL ROY.

  20. Michael Bourne says:
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    @The |3lue Crew: Tigers LF/RF don’t have a reliable starter. That is Leland for you. If he is your bench fill in that is cool to roll with, but don’t count on everyday starts.

  21. OaktownSteve

    OaktownSteve says:
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    Grant Balfour is going to be the guy in Oakland if Bailey is a no go this year. No way it’ll be Fuentes for long. Guy has no gas in the tank at all.

  22. sean says:
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    @OaktownSteve: That’s comforting. You mean the guy who was losing save opportunities in Tampa to JP Izzywheeler?

  23. OaktownSteve

    OaktownSteve says:
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    @Sean…no I don’t mean that guy. I mean the guy who had a 1.54 and a .891 whip with 12.65 k/9 in 2008. At least I hope that’s the guy I mean. The guy in the A’s uniform has been throwing like that guy anyway.

  24. @Pooch: I like Byrd there.

    @AdamH: Walden.

    @The |3lue Crew: I don’t see Raburn worth owning in a 10-teamer right now unless he gets serious PT in a hurry. You’re better off looking elsewhere.

    @Rob: As long as you don’t need a ton of speed from him, I think he is.

    @Buge Hoobs: Chapman, Lopez, Walden, Sale. I can’t see Cordero remaining the closer when the Reds have the fastest fastball ever sitting behind him.

  25. Exactly says:
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    @michael bourne/r.j. white: thanks…feeling the same way.

  26. phorts says:
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    I just added Saito to my watch list, and then watched him get Tsunami’d by the Braves in the 8th… what? Too soon? Anywyas, he’s off the list!

  27. paddyman says:
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    So many similar queries. Dropped Raburn but kept Beltran on bench. Boesch is hot so I bet he gets more AB’s than raburn. I have roberts anyway who is beasting right now.

    picked up Walden dropped Fuentes. Also added beachy who’s doing aii today.

    As far as these potential closers it is mostly guesswork though. Need a little luck. No mention of league. Is he just a bum?

  28. OaktownSteve

    OaktownSteve says:
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    Goodbye Axford hello Saito goodbye Saito hello Braddock and that’s the April Overreact Closer Shuffle

  29. TheBravesWearPrado says:
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    I’m in need of a closer in a 12 team mixed league. I currently have Fuentes (with Bailey on DL) and Storen. I’ve been offered Feliz for Dempster. I think I’m sufficiently deep at SP (Carpenter, Hanson, Chacin, Kuroda, Wood, Beachy, Baker are my other SP). I think Feliz would be worth the move given the uncertainty at the position on so many other teams and his talent level. What do you think?

  30. Rabbit says:
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    @TheBravesWearPrado: I think that’s a no-brainer. Assuming you mean Neftali Feliz, not Pedro Feliz.

  31. potus says:
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    @TheBravesWearPrado-

    Take Feliz. Don’t pass go. Don’t collect $200. Also try to trade with whomever offered you that deal as often as possible!

    “Doling out singles like he was in a strip club.” –commonly referred to as an Adam Bernard Jones special

  32. @paddyman: League should be fine for a few weeks, but he’s just keeping the 9th war for Aardsma.

    @TheBravesWearPrado: You definitely need to take Feliz and run.

  33. Nick says:
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    @phorts

    too soon man, too soon :p

  34. Steelers Can't Lose says:
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    Good Lord. Giant wall of text, and not even a donkey with a unicorn horn to guide me through it.

  35. Too Live Crudite says:
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    Where are all the “Drop Kurt Suzuki for Ryan Hanigan?” questions? C’mon, folks!

  36. thoughts from anyone are much appreciated…here is my closer situation:
    I have Cordero, Lyon (yeah it hurts), Chapman, Romo and Dotel.

    Obviously I’m hurtin….how would you rank these avail “closers”:
    Storen, Jansen, Downs, W. Lopez, Hensley.

    And who would you drop Romo or Dotel? both? we have a limited # of transactions….

    Thanks all

  37. Ryan Raburn – was given a day off – a few more day offs and he will have trouble hitting 10 homeruns this year

  38. skinny says:
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    grey – should i drop vazquez for:

    a – beachy
    b- britton
    c – arrencibia (i have ianetta)

  39. elwood blues says:
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    I need to pick up a potential closer.. there are 3 available in our NL only league.. how would you rank ‘em..
    Ry Webb, David Hernandez, Melancon.

  40. mrobs says:
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    vazquez worth dropping for minor, neise? it’s a limited transacation league.

  41. CheezWhit says:
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    I have both Kimbrel and Venters. Kimbrel looks like Eric Gagne circa de 2003. Should I drop Venters for Peralta or Wilton Lopez? I also have Frank Frank and Jordan Walden on my bench.

  42. The Situation says:
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    @FuzzyD: Dotel and Romo can go. I’d pick up Downs and throw him on the DL if you can. Then pick up Storen and Wilton. Wilton is a must as a handcuff to craptastic Lyon, and Storen, despite the immense struggles, is worth a bench spot and waiting it out for a turnaround. Look at how nasty Kimbrel has been. He’s really turned it around quickly after a terrible Spring… Hold onto Chapman- great MRP and a great handcuff to Cordero… In terms of having a limited number of transactions, you will have to make a determination on whether these moves are worth it on your own.

  43. The Situation says:
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    @skinny: Go get Beachy. Asap. Well, not quite asap, but pretty darn soon. After today’s start at Milwaukee he will get snatched up pretty quickly in decently competitive leagues (if he isn’t already gone).

  44. The Situation says:
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    @elwood: 1. Hernandez 2. Melancon……… 3. Webb.

    Hernandez is 1 because Putz is an injury risk and he’s next in line.
    Melancon is good but still has Wilton in front of him.
    Webb is behind Hensley and a distant 3rd.

  45. Flunkie says:
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    Do I grab Kimbrel NOW? As in trade Delmon Young and a fifth rounder for him? It’s a keeper.

  46. Flunkie says:
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    I also happily* own Lyon! Do I drop immediately? If so, for who?

    * no

  47. @FuzzyD: Right now I’d drop Dotel for Lopez. Once B.Wilson is ready you can drop Romo for another guy.

    @skinny: I’d pick up Beachy.

    @elwood blues: D-Her, Melancon, Webb sounds good.

    @mrobs: Not yet. Minor isn’t up for good quite yet.

    @CheezWhit: Keep Venters for now. He could earn some random saves eventually and should deliver good ratios while you wait.

    @Flunkie: Young/5th for Kimbrel depends on league settings, but I’d lean toward no. Saves shouldn’t cost THAT much. And don’t drop Lyon until he’s officially out of a job.

  48. thanks fellas.

  49. kangaroo hops says:
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    RJ-
    Great article, thanks! You say to keep Venters. I have too many closers-in-waiting and should drop one for a starter. I have Thornton, Rodney, Francisco, Fuentes, Venters. I also have Downs stashed on DL and have picked up Walden. Generally, in my league, having 4 closers gives one an advantage, as most have 3. All this prospecting is logjamming my starters. Given these guys, would you drop Venters? Eventually I should have Thornton, Francisco, the Angels closer, and Fuentes (assuming Bailey is out for a protracted period). Venters may be overkill. Still keep him? Thoughts?

  50. @kangaroo hops: I actually like Fuentes the least of that group, but if you’d like to cut Venters instead its understandable.

  51. JJohnson says:
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    In a 5×5 + total bases league (H2H)..

    Jorge Posada+Matt Kemp>Joe Mauer+Chris Young

    By a lot, right?

  52. Flunkie says:
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    @R.J. White: If it’s just Young? I have a deep OF but they’re all at 30 or more.. it’s a 14-man keeper, 14-team H2H 7×6

  53. kangaroo hops says:
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    @RJ
    Having had Fuentes last year, I hate him–I don’t like adventure and excitement in a closer. Would Wilton Lopez be a better save prospect, given that Bailey seems close to returning? News on Bailey seems positive so far.

  54. 3FingersBrown says:
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    @RJ: Nice job. Perhaps Nunez in FLA should be on that list after blowing that game against Los Mets before Frankie re-blew it.

    I dropped Rodney for Walden after Sunday’s blow up. Even if the Sciociapath throws Fernando to the wolves a few more times, the ratio damage isn’t worth the stray save he might pick up. Walden is the future and the future is now! That’s me talking to Scioscia.

  55. genghis chone says:
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    You down with starting Harang tomorrow? To give you an idea of my standards: 1500 IP limit, also have Haren, Greinke, Dempster, Gavin Floyd, Travis Wood, Derek Holland, Tim Stauffer, Chris Tillman, Rick Porcello, Brett Cecil.

  56. @JJohnson: By a lot.

    @Flunkie: If you have OF depth, I think it’s worth the trade.

    @kangaroo hops: I think Lopez will wind up with more value than Fuentes by season’s end. Wait as long as you feel you can before pulling the trigger in order to squeeze as many saves as possible out of Fuentes.

    @genghis chone: With that staff you can afford to wait on Harang to make sure he’s worth spot starting in San Diego.

  57. Kazmere says:
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    12 tm roto and sniffing flor saves. Please rank, need to drop one.
    Rodney, Motte, Chapman, Kuo, Romo, Dotel, Lopez

  58. @Kazmere: Rodney, Chapman, Kuo, Romo, Lopez, Motte, Dotel — don’t see Dotel as being the mix for saves at all and think he can be dropped.

  59. Flunkie says:
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    @R.J. White: I just don’t trust the age of my outfielders, and besides Murphy (who I think gets a lot of swings this year), Braun is the only other under-30 guy I have. My list of OF:

    Ryan Braun
    Delmon Young
    Shane Victorino
    Torii Hunter
    Jason Bay
    David Murphy

    Still do it? Maybe try and trade someone else? Definitely Young? I’m skeptical, because I fear getting burned in the long run.

  60. Danks Nugs says:
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    Walden named the closer in for LA of A…

  61. Danks Nugs says:
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    for LA of A*

  62. @Flunkie: I’d try and trade Hunter or Bay for Kimbrel, even if you have to give up a pick.

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