Thor Nystrom

Saves and Steals

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In this week's edition of Saves and Steals, your milquetoast correspondent informs his sister that she is forbidden to date Francisco Rodriguez, checks in on the status of back spasming duo Bobby Jenks and Matt Lindstrom and analyzes the aftermath of Los Angeles' surprising decision to boot Jonathan Broxton from the closer's role.

In honor of the ongoing NFL preseason, this week's tiers are brought to you by the five levels of Super Bowl contenders for the upcoming season.

Tier 1: Elite (2) (AKA: The "New Orleans Saints" Tier.)

Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox

Tier 2: Rock Steady (7) (AKA: The "Baltimore Ravens" Tier.)

Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals
Billy Wagner, Atlanta Braves
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
Heath Bell, San Diego Padres
Rafael Soriano, Tampa Bay Rays
Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants
Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers

Tier 3: OK options (7) (AKA: The "Dallas Cowboys" Tier.)

Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers
Huston Street, Colorado Rockies
Leo Nunez, Florida Marlins
Ryan Franklin, St. Louis Cardinals
Matt Capps, Minnesota Twins
Brian Fuentes, Los Angeles Angels
David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners

  • Jose Valverde missed almost one week while suffering from a strained abdominal muscle. He returned to the mound to earn a save Monday against the Yankees but allowed one run in the outing.

    Valverde's now surrendered runs in eight of his last 11 outings, but he isn't in danger of losing his job.

  • Speaking of struggling closers, Huston Street has allowed seven earned runs and been slapped with two losses in August.

  • David Aardsma, on the other hand, has surrendered just two earned runs in his last 13 outings. He was perfect in save opportunities over that timeframe before punting Monday's chance against the Orioles by walking three and allowing a run in the tenth inning.

    As always, his control bears watching. But questions about Aardsma's job security have died down and he's regained a lot of the fantasy value he lost during a long rough patch from May to the beginning of July.

  • Tier 4: Question marks (6) (AKA: The "Chicago Bears" Tier.)

    Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies
    Bobby Jenks, Chicago White Sox
    Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds
    Matt Lindstrom, Houston Astros
    Kevin Gregg, Toronto Blue Jays
    Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians

  • White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't think Bobby Jenks, who hasn't pitched since Thursday while suffering from back spasms, will be ready to pitch by Tuesday. If not, there's a decent chance that Jenks would get placed on the DL.

    J.J. Putz replaced Jenks over the weekend and was charged with losses in consecutive games against the Tigers. He allowed two earned runs apiece on Saturday and Sunday and an additional unearned run on Sunday. Clearly, Putz blew his chance to unseat Jenks.

    Jenks has posted a 5.13 ERA and 1.46 WHIP this year, but he's 23-for-26 in save chances and his strikeout rate is stellar.

  • Matt Lindstrom was diagnosed with a muscle strain in his back during an MRI and X-ray on Wednesday, but later tests revealed no structural damage. He'd been dealing with discomfort for weeks and missed six days, returning to the mound Monday to get tagged with the loss against the Mets by allowing two runs over one-third of an inning.

  • Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (8) (AKA: The "Detroit Lions" Tier.)

    Alfredo Simon, Baltimore Orioles
    Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates
    Aaron Heilman, Arizona Diamondbacks
    Drew Storen/Sean Burnett, Washington Nationals
    Trevor Hoffman/John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
    Michael Wuertz/Craig Breslow, Oakland Athletics
    Hong-Chih Kuo, Los Angeles Dodgers
    Hisanori Takahashi, New York Mets

  • New Orioles manager Buck Showalter said last week that Alfredo Simon will share save chances, although no other reliever has been given an opportunity since that time.

    Mike Gonzalez is likely to see save chances and should be added in all formats for speculative purposes. Koji Uehara is also pitching well and should be monitored.

  • Drew Storen earned his second save of the season on Sunday against the Diamondbacks by pitching a perfect ninth inning. Storen hasn't allowed a run in eight of his last nine outings.

    Despite a 2.61 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 7.1 K/9 rate, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman keeps hedging on naming Storen his full-time closer, so Sean Burnett has remained in the mix. Storen has more fantasy value.

  • Trevor Hoffman is who we thought he was. Since Brewers manager Ken Macha said that he and John Axford would share closing duties, Hoffman's lost three games and converted zero saves in four appearances. He gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings during that time.

    Axford's seven wins and 17 saves in three months since his promotion make him one of the best fantasy waiver wire pickups of the season. Axford will continue to lose some opportunities to Hoffman, but he's still a valuable fantasy reliever. Hoffman is three saves short of 600.

  • There was a fair chance that Hong-Chih Kuo was already owned in your mixed league. After all, he'd produced a 0.88 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and a 51/13 K/BB rate in 41 innings as the primary setup man to Jonathan Broxton. When Dodgers manager Joe Torre booted Broxton from the closer's role, Kuo's fantasy value only increased.

    Broxton had been scored on in five of his last 10 appearances before the ouster, bloating his ERA from 1.93 to 3.42, and had a 12/13 K/BB ratio since his last appearance of June. He's still one of the top three most talented relievers in the game and we expect his sabbatical from the job to be ephemeral.

    Kuo took the loss on Monday by giving up three runs over 1 1/3 innings to the Braves, which should expedite the change.

  • Francisco Rodriguez tore a ligament in his right thumb when he punched his girlfriend's father last week and will require surgery that is likely to end his season. The Mets are reportedly trying to void his contract that calls for $11.5 million next year and holds a $17.5 million vesting option for 2012.

    In the meantime, New York could play matchups in K-Rod's absence. Hisanori Takahashi got the first crack at a save opportunity, converting on Monday night against the Astros. He will justifiably be a hot add in all formats today.

    Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano are also leading candidates for saves if Jerry Manuel decides to try out the committee approach.

  • * * * * * * * * * *


    Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins (Out for the season with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow)
    Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics (15-day disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle)
    Juan Gutierrez, Arizona Diamondbacks (15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation)
    Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets (needs surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb)

  • Andrew Bailey threw a pain-free 20-pitch bullpen session on Sunday and played catch Monday. It's possible that Bailey could return this weekend.

    "We're still a couple days away, but it's getting close," Bailey told "Each and every day you're feeling better and now that I'm feeling good, it's just about getting back into baseball and game form."

    Michael Wuertz and Craig Breslow will continue to swap save chances until Bailey's return.

  • The Deposed:
    Frank Francisco, Texas Rangers
    Jason Frasor, Toronto Blue Jay
    Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles
    Mike Gonzalez, Baltimore Orioles
    Chad Qualls, Tampa Bay Rays
    Kerry Wood, New York Yankees
    Octavio Dotel, Los Angeles Dodgers
    Jon Rauch, Minnesota Twins
    Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers

    * * * * * * * * * *

    The Steals Department

  • Gregor Blanco, Kansas City's new centerfielder, is a perfect addition to all AL-only leagues now that most leagues' trade deadlines have passed. Blanco is starting every day and has swiped five bags in August.

    He's hitting only .205 with a .484 OPS in 39 at-bats since joining the Royals from the Braves at the trade deadline. Blanco is a career .249 hitter who has gone deep once in 570 career at-bats. He's a one-trick pony, but he can definitely help AL-only owners make a push in the stolen base category.

  • The Red Sox placed Jacoby Ellsbury on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with another injury to his ribs, making Ryan Kalish an intriguing addition in all formats.

    Kalish is in line for at-bats as long as Ellsbury is out and for all we know that could be the rest of the season. The 22-year-old Kalish converted 85 steals while getting caught just 16 times in the minors. This season, between Double-A and Triple-A he hit .294/.382/.502 with 13 homers and 47 RBI while going 25-of-28 in stolen base attempts in 78 games.

    Kalish is batting .304 in 50 plate appearances since his promotion to the big leagues.

    He has a knack for getting on base and running, which should also translate into runs scored in Boston's lineup.

  • Thor Nystrom is a former associate reporter whose writing has been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to Rotoworld's college football writer on Twitter @thorku.
    Email :Thor Nystrom

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