Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Broxton Out? Sanchez In?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Your fantasy team might currently be straining under the stress of multiple injuries - at least one of mine has a bench full of dinged up dudes. We don't yet have any truly bizarre injuries on the list, but there's still time. It might be tempting fate, but let's name the tiers after those injuries that are devastating our lineups and ravaging our pitching staffs.

The worse the injury, the better the closer - because if we were to ever face these closers, the result would most likely be an injury. To us. The batters.

Tier 1: Elite (4) (AKA: The "Fractured Kneecap While Celebrating" Tier.)

Heath Bell, San Diego Padres
Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals

  • Though it's very unlikely that you'd hit a walk-off if you were facing one of these closers, it is very likely that you would hurt yourself badly facing them. And hurt yourself in an embarrassing way.

  • There's a distinct possibility that there is something wrong with Joakim Soria - possibly even a nagging unreported injury of some sort. He's lost about half of his swinging strike rate, and that might be a result of a fastball that is a mile-and-a-half slower than it used to be. He's throwing his slider almost twice as much as his curveball, which he's never done before, and using his fastball less often than ever before. Because he's been so good for so long, we'll leave him here, but he's hanging off the tier by a ledge. If you can sell him as an elite closer, this might be the time to do so.

  • Tier 2: Rock Steady (5) (AKA: The "Abdominal Surgery" Tier.)

    J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks
    Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers
    Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants
    Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
    Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
    Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets

  • Try to catch up to most of these fastballs, and you'd twist your trunk so badly that you probably would blow an oblique.

  • Craig Kimbrel had a bad week - he blew two saves and walked three batters in the past seven days. Amazingly, he still has 17 strikeouts in 12.2 innings this year, and though his control has been an open question, he only has five walks. If these were keeper rankings, he'd already be in the elite tier - he's still the closer despite his recent struggles, and will be for a while. But, for now, he'll stay in this tier and rack up the strikeouts for your fantasy team.

  • Brian Wilson wants to join the top tier, but he's spent the last week striking out six batters in four innings - and walking four batters in four innings. His control problems are probably related to his 'winning' stuff, but he's got to figure them out. He walked two batters in an outing against the Nationals and suddenly the bases were loaded with a 3-2 count on the final batter. That's enough to add 'gastrointestinal issues' to the list of his fantasy owner's ailments.

  • Francisco Rodriguez has more strikeouts than innings pitched (15 in 11), has blown only one save, and is not feeling any pressure from pitchers behind him in the pen. He did have a few too many walks early on, but he's only walked two batters in his last five appearances. Yes, the danger that he is dealt is still there, but for now, he deserves this ranking.

  • Tier 3: OK options (6) (AKA: The "Strained Hamstring" Tier.)

    Huston Street, Colorado Rockies
    Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates
    Jordan Walden, Anaheim Angels
    Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians
    Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds
    Leo Nunez, Florida Marlins

  • You could strain something worse facing Huston Street, but the likelihood that he, himself, strains something is also part of the package. He continued his elite work over the past week with a save and two strikeouts in one inning, and could easily move up.

  • It hasn't been a vintage Joel Hanrahan season, but his velocity is up over 97 MPH right now and he hasn't officially blown a save yet. Given his history, it's more likely that he returns to striking out one per inning than Chris Perez does, for example. Perez didn't blow up in the past week, but he also only has nine strikeouts (against five walks) in 13 innings so far. Those are not elite rates. You could say the same about Francisco Cordero and his nine strikeouts, four walks and 12 innings so far. Meh.

  • Jordan Walden blew his first game this past week, but the fact that he got right back on the horse and logged two straight saves thereafter is great news for his owner. He looks like he could close all year. We'll move Leo Nunez into this tier because he had a similar hiccup - two earned runs against the Reds on April 29th - and a similar recovery - two straight saves since. And, really, almost everything has been the same for Nunez as it was last year - except he's having better luck on batted balls. He can keep it up.

  • Tier 4: Question marks (5) (AKA: The "Back Spasms" Tier.)

    Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
    Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays
    Kevin Gregg, Baltimore Orioles
    John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
    Matt Capps, Minnesota Twins

  • Back spasms are not fun - and it wouldn't be fun to face these guys - but they're mostly temporary and don't usually lead to extended missed time. These guys are all okay - they have one or two pitches that could hurt you - but they're also flawed.

  • Yeah, Drew Storen's manager still says that he's in a time-share with Sean Burnett, but the actions on the field suggest that Storen is the main man. And yeah, Kyle Farnsworth blew a save last week, but he was put into a tough situation. He was brought on in a tie game in the ninth with Torii Hunter on second base and no outs. He gave up one hit and there went the 'save.'

  • Kevin Gregg just keeps on trucking despite having some wonky control (six walks in ten innings), and he hasn't blow a save in the last two weeks. Those holding on to Koji Uehara - in many ways a better pitcher - may want to consider rostering other relief aces that have clearer paths to saves.

  • John Axford has settled down bigtime. He hasn't walked a batter since April 18th, and although that's just a span of four appearances, it's impressive given his history. We did know, that given the lack of viable alternatives in that pen, that he would get a long leash, and he looks like the Axford of 2010 again.

  • continue story »
    Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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