Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Which Way Will You Go, Sergio?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (6) (AKA: The "Did Matt Holliday touch the plate" Tier.)

1st Chair: Joakim Soria, 2nd Chair: Aaron Crow, Kansas City Royals
1st Chair: Ryan Madson, 2nd Chair: Jose Contreras, Philadelphia Phillies
1st Chair: Kevin Gregg, 2nd Chair: Koji Uehara, Baltimore Orioles
1st Chair: Jon Rauch, 2nd Chair: Frank Francisco, Toronto Blue Jays
1st Chair: Mark Melancon, 2nd Chair: Brandon Lyon, Houston Astros
1st Chair: Javy Guerra, 2nd Chair: Blake Hawksworth, Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Do you think Matt Holliday touched the plate? Or are you sure he didn't? We can't blow up the umpire too badly if we haven't all decided what happened.

  • Don't mistake the lack of arrows for a lack of activity here in the bottom tier. Joakim Soria regained his job and successfully converted three save opportunities in the last week. His velocity has also shown some life in his most recent outings. He now has six strikeouts in his last four innings, which might be the best sign of 'em all. With the contract options in the Royals' back pocket, it's hard to see what happens here. He could recover and remain the closer for the next three years, even. He'll move up the rankings with another good week.

  • On talent alone, Ryan Madson deserves to be higher in the rankings. But with the negativity that Madson used to inspire in Philadelphia, it's worth being cautious with his place in the tiers. Brad Lidge is still rehabbing with mixed results, and with every blown save, Madson's detractors wish for their old closer back. And Madson blew one this week by allowing a ninth-inning home run to Geovany Soto.

  • Kevin Gregg bettered his control the week before last, and then he blew his fourth save of the season in Tampa. Still, he finally has his strikeout-to-walk ratio above one for the season and he's only allowed one run in June. Could he be an ugly-but-effective closer all year? Maybe. Koji Uehara is still a better pitcher.

  • The difference between the two candidates in Toronto is not huge. Jon Rauch is the closer now, and he has good control but lacks the strikeout punch of your normal closer. Frank Francisco is in the dog house now, and does have a home-run problem, but he has the strikeout punch of a closer. The bet is still that Frankie Frank gets the job back once fewer balls leave the park, and buying low on him presents one of the better opportunities for cheap saves on this list right now.

  • No mincing words about it: Brandon Lyon's return has gone terribly for the mediocre pitcher. In three outings since returning, he's given up eight runs. He's only struck out one batter since returning, against two walks and three home runs. He says he's healthy, his manager says he's healthy, but the numbers do not, and nor does the radar gun. He might end up on the DL again. Mark Melancon is probably a better pitcher anyway. Don't drop M&M yet.

  • Only one pitcher has notched a save in Los Angeles over the past week, and it wasn't one of the front-runners for the closing job. Scott Elbert's save on Sunday was a product of the fact that he was a lefty and a lefty was needed. He replaced Blake Hawksworth, who may now be in the mix for saves. Javy Guerra pitched the ninth in a four-run win on Saturday. Matt Guerrier seems to be the "setup man." All of this may change tomorrow.

  • * * * * * * * * * *


    David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners (elbow)
    Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies (shoulder)
    Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers (elbow)
    Vicente Padilla, Los Angeles Dodgers (neck)
    Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins (elbow)

  • David Aardsma threw some! We should know more in the next week-plus. Brad Lidge will also provide news soon. He's scheduled to play catch Wednesday. Joe Nathan will throw batting practice on Wednesday, too. Hey! Even Jonathan Broxton is going to throw a bullpen this week. He could even return to closing, since Vicente Padilla is going to have neck surgery and will be out for an 'extended period of time.'

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

  • Expect Brandon Lyon shortly.

  • * * * * * * * * * *

    The Steals Department

  • It's time to talk about Ben Revere. His game is not without flaws. He has no power at all and might not even hit one home run all year. He needs to walk a little more. Right now he's getting on base at a sub-par rate for a guy that builds his value on his legs. But what Revere does well, he does extremely well. He's stolen five bases in six attempts and should have the green light on the basepaths after topping 40 steals three straight years in the minors. He also plays an excellent center field, which is important. Denard Span's defense in center is not great, so even when he returns from his concussion symptoms he could slide to the corners. Jason Kubel and Jim Thome returning will squeeze Revere's time some - but those two are extreme candidates for mid-season trades. Someone could use them and the Twins need to focus on next year.

  • Charlie Blackmon is not Dexter Fowler. He does not have the same physical tools. He does not switch-hit and he does not have blazing speed. Then again, Charlie Blackmon also does not have a problem making contact. He can take a walk (though he hasn't yet in the majors), but most importantly he won't strike out a lot. He does have good speed (he's stolen four bases already this year), and he has some power. He's polished and ready to go. And now Dexter Fowler is supposedly going to take his time rehabbing in order to figure out his approach at the plate. He might even stop switch-hitting. There's a chance Blackmon sticks.

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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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