Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Pen Shakeup in the T-Dot

Wednesday, June 01, 2011



Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (7) (AKA: The "Too Much TV Can Make You Fat" Tier.)



1st Chair: Fernando Salas, 2nd Chair: Eduardo Sanchez, St. Louis Cardinals
1st Chair: Ryan Madson, 2nd Chair: Jose Contreras, Philadelphia Phillies
1st Chair: Aaron Crow, 2nd Chair: Luis Coleman, Kansas City Royals
1st Chair: Kevin Gregg, 2nd Chair: Koji Uehara, Baltimore Orioles
1st Chair: Mark Melancon, 2nd Chair: Wilton Lopez, Houston Astros
1st Chair: Jon Rauch, 2nd Chair: Frank Francisco, Toronto Blue Jays
1st Chair: Javy Guerra, 2nd Chair: Matt Guerrier, Los Angeles Dodgers

Comment:
  • Caution is important. Like, it looks like Fernando Salas should be in the next tier up and Neftali Feliz should be here. But these guys have pitched fewer than 25 innings each this year. They could pitch five innings each this week, and if those five innings look like the back of their baseball cards, it will have been a good idea to move slowly. But Salas only walked three guys in May (against 14 strikeouts) and has converted ten straight save opportunities with a couple holds mixed in. Another week and he'll make it out of the grotto.

  • We've been talking about Joakim Soria for weeks now, and the ending came suddenly. After blowing his third straight save on Monday night, the decision was made. Closer of the Future Aaron Crow is now the closer and Soria will work on getting right in middle relief. The thing is, the team has every reason to root for him, even if the only outcome is trading him for value before he walks in the offseason. He could close again, if only for a little while before being traded, or he could hit the DL and spend the year looking for what he lost. It's a riddle wrapped in a conundrum on top of an enigma.

  • In Philadelphia, we'll just have to wait to see what a healthy Brad Lidge can do this year before we know more about that potential battle with Ryan Madson. But the situation in Baltimore could come to a head at any moment. In his last four appearances, Kevin Gregg has six walks against one strikeout. Sure, he's only given up two runs, and he's even converted a save, but your closer is not supposed to have 18 walks against 15 strikeouts. Not while the setup man has only five walks against his 28 strikeouts and has been a successful closer in the past.

  • Mark Melancon has one walk in May and has only blown one save since becoming the closer in Houston. He's probably in no danger from Wilton Lopez, who has six walks against four strikeouts in his last six appearances. At least Lopez has his groundball rate back, and if Melancon blows up, it'll be Lopez cleaning up.

  • No-one really knows what's going on in Toronto right now. Frank Francisco blew two saves in a row and was removed from the role, but the trouble was a little while in coming. In May, he's given up three home runs and has looked hittable despite managing 17 strikeouts in his 14 2/3 innings so far this year. He's always been a fly-baller (not a fly baller), so maybe he's not a great mix for the Toronto stadium. On the other hand, he was fine in Texas and could easily find it again. Consider this: 10% of all fly balls leave the park across baseball - and basically a quarter of Francisco's fly balls have gone yard. He's still got the best stuff of the bunch. He's got more punch than Jon Rauch, who might be the closer right now since he got the team's last save. Rauch has 14 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings. It could be Jason Frasor, too, since he has decent overall rates.

  • We know even less about the situation in Los Angeles. The best overall pitcher in the pen right now might be recently called up prospect Rubby De La Rosa, who now has five strikeouts in his first five innings as a result of his knockout stuff. But the 21-year-old Dominican might need to return to starting at some point, and it's Javy Guerra who got the last save for the Dodgers. Guerra pairs a 94-MPH fastball with a good slider, but he's had control problems in the minor leagues that could resurface at any time. Matt Guerrier is still doing his steady-eddy, but five walks against four strikeouts in his last seven appearances is not impressive. Call De La Rosa the dark horse, Guerra the flavor of the moment, and Guerrier the bland backup plan. Oh and Vicente Padilla should be back Friday to make this even harder to parse.


  • * * * * * * * * * *



    Injured


    David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners (hip surgery)
    Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies (shoulder)
    Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers (elbow)
    Brandon Lyon, Houston Astros (shoulder)
    Vicente Padilla, Los Angeles Dodgers (forearm)
    Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins (elbow)

    Comment:
  • Jose Contreras returned from the DL a setup man. So did Andrew Bailey, but it's Bailey that will close again soon.

  • Brad Lidge, on the other hand, only touched 87 MPH in extended spring training Tuesday so he's got a ways to go. Joe Nathan ended up back on the DL with elbow soreness that Twins' doctors say is common in Tommy John returners. He's working out but not throwing and should be back in June. The DL is the perfect place to stash Nathan until he finds it.


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

  • Fernando Rodney got a save! Jordan Walden needed the day off. Ryan Franklin struck out three in a scoreless eighth inning! That's bigger news, potentially.


  • * * * * * * * * * *


    The Steals Department

  • Nyjer Morgan is a hot-head. And, sure, he strikes out a bit much and is probably more of a .275-.285 hitter going forward. But in full seasons, he's averaged 38 steals per, and he plays a good enough center field that the Brewers can sit the glove-only Carlos Gomez most days. In fact, the only time Gomez will probably start is when the Brewers face lefties. So, even if you don't like him, pick up Morgan if you need speed.


  • Tony Campana caught the attention of Cubs fans and fantasy players alike when he stole four bases Monday - on one hit and one walk. The lefty might not play against lefties, and he has absolutely no power. He doesn't really walk a ton either. But it's either him or Lou Montanez (another flawed player) in center field for the Cubs these days after Alfonso Soriano joined Marlon Byrd, Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson on the DL. A decimated outfield might just be your shot at a few saves in a short time. Like, say, four stolen bases in one game.


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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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