Whenever spring training starts to wind down and the closer spot is yet to be determined, it’s never a good thing. It causes rosters to get fat off the land, and wastes your draft picks on no-news type situations. I will turn my one good lazy eye to the Minute Maid conundrum of “who closes for the Astros?” Some may ask: “who cares?” But this is the essence of SAGNOF believers. Cheap closers are what makes the fantasy world get on a sit, spin, chug a beer, and scream obscenities at trolley cars. So from the beginning of the hot-stove baseball season, and even after they signed Luke Gregerson, I believe that it’s still Chad Qualls‘ job. No news is good news for the incumbent… Even though the news all across the reliever landscape is all speculation, “he said this” and “the beat writer said that”. Well, the only person who actually knows is the manager, Hinch. So I am going to do my best to break it down from my ivory soap tower. Stick around, there may be something fun or edible once you get inside.
So I went number-diving on all three options in Houston. Because for all intents and purposes, Pat Neshek is in the conversation after last year’s performance, and to be honest, he was the best out of the three most recently. The thing that jumps out to me as to why people don’t love Qualls is his lack of K potential (7.54 K/9 last year and never above 8.7 in his career). The no K love makes sense, he ranked outside the top-100 in eligible qualifiers on the year. The other thing people are knocking him for are his blown saves. He did have six last year, but if there is a silver lining, four of them were with the A’s. Now, any blown save is bad, but shift over to Luke Gregerson for a minute and he had eight blown saves in far less-pressure situations as the non-closer in Oakland last year. Sticking with Gregerson, his K/9 (7.34) was actually less then what Qualls produced!
So digging deeper for Qualls, let’s actually compare him apples-to-apples against another closer. Qualls is a pitch-to-contact pitcher, as is Zach Britton. I am not here to say that Qualls is better than Britton, he isn’t, but there are similarities. Their FIP numbers and xFIP numbers are identical, and of the two, Qualls has the better K-rate and walk rate. Now he does have veteran preference on his side, and has more career saves than everyone on the roster combined. I just think he gets shown the keys and says you can drive to the dance, but if you start pitching like you’re drunk, then we have a DD in Luke Gregerson. So draft accordingly, and bad closer situations always require a cuff.
You know that restaurant your girlfriend/wife/what-have-you likes to go to that charges, like, $12 for a salad? Every time you go there, you have a thoroughly solid meal. No complaints, except you just paid $12 for a salad when you could’ve went to McDonald’s and stuffed you and your woman for ten schmools and had $2 in quarters left over to make the hotel bed vibrate. These closers are $12 salads.
Imagine you’re following a donkey, who’s wearing a wool cap, through a desert for 1700 miles. Why are you following a donkey? Because he promises you something wonderful and you just need to trust him. Does the donkey talk? Yes. Yes, he does talk. So when you and the donkey in the wool cap arrive at his destination, he removes the wool cap to reveal a horn. The donkey is a unicorn and his gift to you for your trust is saves. These closers are Donkeycorns.
I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing apples, bananas and Carlos Marmol– Wait, he just gave up 12 earned runs and hit Castro in the head with a pick-off throw. Brain freeze! Make it stop! Use the following closers at your own risk.