Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Bacon & Bearded Closer: Elite

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (7) (AKA: The "Tofu" Tier.)

1st Chair: Frank Francisco, 2nd Chair: Jon Rauch, Toronto Blue Jays
1st Chair: Kevin Gregg, 2nd Chair: Koji Uehara, Baltimore Orioles
1st Chair: Mark Melancon, 2nd Chair: Wilton Lopez, Houston Astros
1st Chair: Ryan Madson, 2nd Chair: Antonio Bastardo, Philadelphia Phillies
1st Chair: Brian Fuentes, 2nd Chair: Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics
1st Chair: Fernando Salas, 2nd Chair: Eduardo Sanchez, St. Louis Cardinals
1st Chair: Matt Guerrier, 2nd Chair: Vincente Padilla, Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Tofu has modest upside, I'll give you that. With a crispy crust and downed in some sweet orange sauce, I can even dig on it. But, for the most part, tofu has little sway on the way a dish is going. These closers, in like fashion, are having little (positive) sway on the way their teams are going right now.

  • Frank Francisco has walked five batters and struck out six in May, but he looks like the closer now with two straight saves. Kevin Gregg is in way more danger right now despite also being the nominal closer. He has just as many walks as strikeouts and has now blown two saves in the past week. Koji Uehara is an enticing add these days, if only on the back of his pristine ERA and WHIP and great strikeout to walk ratio. Sure, Uehara allows fly balls, but so does Gregg. Change may be coming.

  • Mark Melancon is the closer in Houston - or at least we assume so because he's gotten the only Astro save in May. He did blow an opportunity Tuesday night by allowing a home run to the pinch-hitting Brian McCann, but it was the only hit he allowed, and, well, Brian McCann is a pretty good hitter. Wilton Lopez has four walks in May (he had five over the entire 2010 season), but he might be next if Melancon stumbles. This is maybe the most tofu-like: safe-ish and bland-ish.

  • Check on the Oakland and Phillie situations in the Injured section of this roundup - Ryan Madson and Brian Fuentes are fine closers, but they are just place-holding until their healthy first-chair closers return.

  • The merry-go-round goes around again in St. Louis and Los Angeles. Fernando Salas looks like the man of the moment in Tony LaRussa's pen - he's been the last pitcher in the last two games for the Cardinals and his 16-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio is pretty good. It's not elite, since he's thrown 17 2/3 innings, and Eduardo Sanchez still has the better strikeout ability (23 strikeouts in 16 innings). But Sanchez doesn't have quite the same clean slate and his last save came more than a week ago. Mitchell Boggs lurks, but this will probably come down to Salas or Sanchez, and Salas is ahead right now.

  • In Los Angeles, Jonathan Broxton has just played catch for the first time since hitting the DL, and this may just be a temporary scrum until he returns. On the other hand, he hasn't looked right for a year-plus now. Matt Guerrier got the save Tuesday night, and has the cleanest ERA of the crew, but he also has 19 strikeouts against 10 walks in 22 1/3 innings. That's neither closer-level strikeout punch, nor is it great control. He's also a fly-ball pitcher, so he's not really that notable in any one area. On the other hand, he doesn't have the control problems of Kanley Jansen or the health problems of Vincente Padilla. Jansen might be the long-term solution if he can control the ball, and Padilla might still get the next save. Anything could happen here.

  • * * * * * * * * * *


    Jose Contreras, Philadelphia Phillies (elbow)
    David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners (hip surgery)
    Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics (forearm tightness)
    Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies (shoulder)
    Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers (elbow)
    Brandon Lyon, Houston Astros (shoulder)

  • Brad Lidge may throw off a mound this week, which would be a big step toward starting his rehab. That probably means that he'll be back before Jose Contreras. It should at least mean that he'll be throwing so soon after Contreras' return that the Cuban becomes expendable if you need the roster spot.

  • David Aardsma will not undergo Tommy John surgery, but he will be shut down completely for a month before throwing, so he's probably out at least two months with his elbow strain. Brandon Lyon also opted to avoid surgery, but won't be coming off the DL when he's eligible too. It'll be a while, and he was so mediocre when in that he's droppable.

  • Andrew Bailey (forearm) is scheduled to pitch in extended spring training again Tuesday. The team is taking their time with the oft-injured pitcher, but he's close to a rehab assignment at least.

  • Jonathon Broxton (elbow) played catch. We'll keep you updated, step by step, as he tries to regain his form.

  • The Deposed:
    Fernando Rodney, Los Angeles
    Joe Nathan, Minnesota
    Ryan Franklin, St. Louis

  • Joe Nathan's velocity and effectiveness are both inching forward with every appearance. He's still a couple ticks short of his full fastball, though, and Matt Capps has been decent enough. Anything deeper than mixed, though, and Nathan is immediately interesting.

  • * * * * * * * * * *

    The Steals Department

  • On Wednesday, the Mariners activated Franklin Gutierrez, who is finally over his stomach issues thanks to a team of doctors from around the nation. He looked like the same old Gutierrez on his rehab, and even though his batting average will be an open question, he should be good for a 20-stolen-base pace either way. Given that he does give you some power, he could be a good bench piece that you play when he's going well without costing much power punch. That's certainly a way to add some steals, even if it's not going to be like finding Jacoby Ellsbury on your waiver wire. Because that doesn't happen really.

  • Continuing the Mariners-focused news, you may have heard that Dustin Ackley might be on his way to the major leagues soon - his general manager is considering it and just wants to see a little better defense from his prized prospect. Unfortunately, 'soon' is not now, and it's also unclear if Ackley has mixed-league upside. Since hitting Double-A, he hasn't had a batting average better than .274, and his isolated power has just been about average. He's also only stolen 21 bases in his first thousand plate appearances, so he's not really a 'speed' option. Also, his name value has probably over-rated him in keeper leagues to the point that he'll be owned and hard to pry loose in those leagues. So, yeah, Ackley's not a great option for most. But there is a sweet spot - deeper redraft league managers may find Ackley on the wire, may be struggling at second base, may need a little power and a little speed, and may have space on the bench to stash Ackley for a mid-season callup.

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    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.
    Email :Eno Sarris

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