In the Bottom of the 9th, we talk about the ever-changing landscape of baseball’s ninth inning, who’s in, who’s out and who’s pitching like they never want to close again, or “Frankling it.”  We usually look for the next man up in our quest to SAGNOF a fantasy championship. Fernando Salas? Check. Sergio Santos? Give him here. The list goes on.

This time around, however, the notable names ascending to the closer throne are guys we already know: the injured, the fallen, the disposed and disabled making their (hopefully) triumphant returns. Smart owners will check the wire and make sure impatient owners didn’t let these people go.

The Oakland A’s had been making due with a Dirty Fuentes, but that’s changed now that Andrew Bailey is back from the disabled list. Word was that Bailey would be eased back into the closer role, and with the A’s Moneyballing losses in 12 of their last 13, the changing of the guard may have escaped notice. Friday, in the A’s lone June win to date, the A’s entered the ninth inning down 5-3 only to score four runs off suddenly shaky stopper Sergio Santos. Bailey then made his triumphant return to the bottom of the ninth, getting three quick outs for his first save of the season. Bailey is the guy to own in Oakland, while all other A’s relievers are expendable.

After blowing back to back save opportunities at the end of May, the Mex-Factor was removed from the ninth inning in favor of relief wunderkind Aaron Crow. However, we effectively were counting Crow’s save opps on no hands, as aside from two walk off wins, the Royals put losses on the board throughout the beginning of June. By the time an opportunity to save the game came around on June 9, the Mex-communicator was the guy getting the job done, with Crow mopping up the eighth inning. I’m Too Mexy For My Shirt converted another save the following day, so we’re back to the status quo in Kansas City.

In Toronto, we correctly predicted Frank Francisco (a.k.a. “Frank Frank”) would be re-installed as the closer. Others argued it shouldn’t happen. Turns out we were all right. After a nice run of saves at the beginning of May, Frank Frank hasn’t successfully converted an opportunity in nearly a month, earning two blown saves and three losses since May 19. Jon Rauch has two saves to his credit over that timeframe, while Octavio Dotel and Casey Janssen each have contributed one. This isn’t a full-blown committee — Rauch has been dealing with a lat injury, giving Janssen the chance to swoop in and snipe a save. Frank Frank should be benched in larger leagues, while waiver wires need to be scanned for Rauch.

Mark Melancon has been excellent in the closer role, converting six of seven save opportunities while Brandon Lyon was out and maintaing an ERA in the mid-1.00s. However, since the Astros are the Astros, they likely want Lyon eventually closing again. In his first game back, Lyon allowed a solo homer in a blowout loss; his second time around, he came into the 10th inning of a 2-2 game and allowed four base runners without recording an out. All the runners would eventually come around to score. Melancon had pitched a scoreless ninth. Houston should quickly realize that Melancon needs to remain in the ninth inning, and I’ll still take the under on my “10 Saves for Lyon” line.

Quick Hits

Kevin Gregg blew a save opportunity on June 11, and a comparison between his and Koji Uehara’s stats this season indicates that a role switch is just a matter of time. It’s not that Gregg has been awful, but Uehara is clearly the better pitcher.

J.J. Putz has blown two of his last three opportunities in Arizona. He’s still very safe, but deep leaguers will want to own David Hernandez in case an injury looms.

Craig Kimbrel is still the closer in Atlanta, but Johnny Venters has picked up the team’s last two saves. Don’t expect a role switch this season, though with Venters’ eye-popping stats (40.2 IP, 2 ER, 43 K), he deserves to be owned worldwide in fantasy leagues regardless.

Sergio Santos has went from untouchable to shaky, giving up eight runs in his last three appearances after posting 22 scoreless outings in his first 23 appearances this season. He buckled down for the save in his most recent game and has a solid grasp on the closer role, but speculators should be on Matt Thornton watch.

Leo Nunez has been bothering with back issues, allowing Steve Cishek to record a save in his ninth major-league appearance. Nunez is expected back any day now, so Cishek doesn’t have any long-term value. Nunez owners wanting to handcuff their closer though now know who’s next man up.

Scott Elbert is the latest name to join the parade of Dodger save candidates, earning a one-out save on Sunday. He’s not worth owning in fantasy, as matchup-based save opps are few and far between. Interestingly, Blake Hawksworth started the ninth inning. I wouldn’t bother with any of the Dodger relievers — Elbert’s one-out save was the Dodgers’ only save in the first two weeks of June.

A stomach bug kept Kyle Farnsworth out of action Sunday, giving J.P. Howell an easy save opportunity. Considering Howell has a 10.50 ERA, you shouldn’t be rushing out to add him. I wouldn’t expect Howell to earn the closing job even if something serious were to happen to Farnsworth, who remains the only Tampa Bay reliever worth owning in mixed leagues.

  1. Mike L says:

    Nice rundown. What are the odds Crain is actually next in line to close for the White Sox? Ozzie went with him Saturday, and his stats are better than Thorton’s for the year.

  2. Kelley says:

    Good work. On the subject of closers, how quickly do you think Francisco Rodriguez gets traded, prompting the Isringhausen promotion to closer in NY?

  3. @Mike L: Never say never with Ozzie, but I don’t see it as likely. It’s easy to keep Thornton out of the role when Santos is pitching so well, but if he has to be removed and the manager passes over the presumed closer heading into the season yet again, it’s really going to be a big blow to Thornton’s confidence. I gotta think he at least gets the first crack.

    @Kelley: If K-Rod gets traded, I don’t see it happening till the All-Star Break or later. Of course, a key injury to a competing team’s bullpen could always change that.

  4. Feeding the Abscess

    Feeding the Abscess says:

    Am I wrong for hoping that Uehara stays in setup, so he gets more innings? I’m in a non-holds league, I’m simply switching strategy on the fly after most of my pitching has sorely disappointed

  5. No mention of Nathan possibly returning to the team this week. Should I take that as a sign you put the odds of him closing games this season somewhere between “slim” and “none”? Part deux, would you rather have Nathan or Uehara?

  6. Feeding the Abscess

    Feeding the Abscess says:

    I’d go Uehara, his 17& SwStr% is unbelievably sexy.

  7. jonnycat says:

    I don’t usually chase wins but my team is really far back in a roto league and wins is one area I could make up ground quickly. I’m 2-starting Maholm, Collmenter, Villanueva, and Masterson. I’m hoping to get at least 2-3 wins from that bunch.

  8. OaktownSteve says:

    I think if I’m the Dodgers, I put MacDougal in the role right now. Here’s my thinking. He’s got a couple of seasons as a closer under his belt and he’s pitched pretty well this year despite his a poor k/bb ratio. If they could luck out and get a consistent month or two out of him, they might get a flippable asset. In the meantime, the could let Broxton, Kuo, Jansen and Lindblom sort themselves out for a potential stretch run or for next year if they can’t get into the race.

  9. cincinasty says:

    reyes, rasmus, and latos for

    cc, hamels and stephen drew

    who comes out ahead

  10. mc serch says:

    Nice consolidation of all the closer chatter out there….I would add only that Kuo has had two successful rehab appearances and his prob was not physical…if he has righted his listing mental ship [i.e., he is no longer hearing the Kuo-Kuo sound while birdies circle his head] ) the LA bullpen shituation could quickly clarify for Grey’s avatar ….picked him up (in the fantasy bb sense) and stashed him on my DL…bee tee dubya, have we stumbled upon a Razzball Glossary term here? “Kuo Kuo” — which defines a player who has seemingly lost his shit mentally (see, Greinke, Zack; Votto, Joey; Knoblauch, Chuck; Sasser, Mackey)

  11. @Feeding the Abscess: If you don’t need the saves then Uehara sticking in middle relief would be great for you.

    @Awesomus Maximus: Nathan definitely isn’t closing immediately upon his return — Capps has been solid and was the closer when Nathan left. I think Nathan returns to the same role he had before the injury, so not really worth a mention yet.

    @cincinasty: I love the CC side of that.

    @mc serch: Good call on Kuo, but the LA situation is so far up in the air that I wouldn’t even bother guessing how it’ll pan out.

  12. stumanji says:

    Assuming it actually happens, what have you heard about the timeline for Heath Bell getting traded? In my $200-budget FAAB roto league, closers get snapped up for a LOT of money as soon as they are named (Crow went for $51 last week!!!), so I’m trying to preemptively grab Mike Adams (or would Gregerson be closing?). Do you think Uehara is a better speculative pickup?

    Guys like Thornton and Venters are already gone. Rauch is available but I just feel like he’d do more harm than good (Blown Saves count against Save total).

    Muchas gracias.

  13. @stumanji: Nothing wrong with Rauch, especially with such a premium on closers. I’d rank them Adams, Rauch, Uehara, Gregerson. Adams has been phenomenal, as usual, and should also be gone in a league where Thornton and Venters are rostered. Rauch is a good bet for saves, while Uehara will do good whether in the closer role or not. Gregerson’s K rate has come way down, and he’s hurt right now. I have him a distant fourth.

  14. stumanji says:

    @R.J. White: Thanks for the reply. Have you heard anything about Bell getting traded? All the rumor mills are saying that the Padres are getting closer to doing it, but I don’t think anybody really knows if they’re going to wait until the deadline or not.

  15. @stumanji: Nothing definitive. Just the sense that it’ll eventually happen.

Comments are closed.