Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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The Rise of the Kimbrel

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (5) (AKA: The "The Meters Fire on the Bayou into Pinback Good to Sea" Tier.)

1st Chair: Kevin Gregg, 2nd Chair: Koji Uehara, Baltimore Orioles
1st Chair: Frank Francisco, 2nd Chair: Jon Rauch, Toronto Blue Jays
1st Chair: Mark Melancon, 2nd Chair: Wilton Lopez, Houston Astros
1st Chair: Fernando Salas, 2nd Chair: Jason Motte, St. Louis Cardinals
1st Chair: Antonio Bastardo, 2nd Chair: , Philadelphia Phillies
1st Chair:
Javy Guerra, 2nd Chair: Blake Hawksworth, Los Angeles Dodgers

  • This is one of those shuffles that might make you think for a second. Funk is not supposed to mesh seamlessly with alternative rock. But, there's something there. It's not a terrible juxtaposition. Like some of these closer battles, it's a pick 'em.

  • The first three closer situations in this tier are significantly more settled than the rest. As bad as Kevin Gregg has been at times, his control has gotten much bettering June (one walk all month), and even his 'bad' games have been okay (three one-run innings this month). Frank Francisco has overcome his home run issues and hasn't given up a donger this month either. He's the closer until gopheritis returns. And Mark Melancon has upped his strikeout rate recently and has been pretty solid as the Astros closer. Then he gave up five runs against Tampa and besmirched his record to date. Still, there's not much else in that pen and he's got a little more leash.

  • Fernando Salas didn't last long in the fourth tier. Even though his overall rates and ratios look okay, he's hit enough of a bad stretch that his owners should be worried. He's allowed seven runs in his last ten outings. He has no strikeouts in his last three. He's given up home runs in three of his last five appearances. He's lost or blown the save in four of those games. He was also used for one out in a blowout… before Jason Motte pitched the ninth. He could still be the guy, but Motte is suddenly interesting again.

  • Ryan Madson was placed on the disabled list with a bruised hand, but the team did so retroactively, so he will be eligible to return as soon as the weekend of July 4th. Then again, he's feeling numbness in his hand, and Brad Lidge is still out another couple of weeks. Jose Contreras is not even throwing for two more weeks. And the Phillies are rumored to interested in trading for relief help. This is why we didn't move Madson up in the rankings despite his excellent work so far. There's risk here.

  • Last in the closing tiers, and featuring an owner that is last in our hearts, the Dodgers situation almost feels uninteresting at this point. They had two saves as a team in the all of June! So, yeah, Javy Guerra is probably the guy still despite his wonky control and iffy stuff. Jonathan Broxton was supposed to be back soon to be the closer, and now he's not. Kenley Jansen could be closing by the end of the year if he shows better control and Broxton ends up out for the rest of the year. This may not even be worth the trouble.

  • * * * * * * * * * *


    David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners (elbow)
    Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies (shoulder)
    Ryan Madson, Philadephia Phillies (hand)
    Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers (elbow)
    Vicente Padilla, Los Angeles Dodgers (neck)

  • Brad Lidge threw a successful bullpen! After a cortisone injection, he seems ready to go out on rehab this week. He could be back before the All-Star break even. It's worth checking your waiver wires for him at least, especially with Madson out with a phantom hand injury. Jonathan Broxton was picked back up in many leagues when his manager said he'd return as the closer, and then dropped again when they had to go find the extra large MRI machine again. Now he's going to be shut down for three weeks before doing anything.

  • The Deposed:
    Fernando Rodney, Los Angeles
    Ryan Franklin, St. Louis
    Brandon Lyon, Houston
    Matt Thornton, Chicago A.L.

  • Is Fernando Salas on the way? Should Jon Rauch qualify for this list? Which current White Sox reliever should be on here? Deep questions.

  • * * * * * * * * * *

    The Steals Department

  • Angel Pagan is owned in less than half of the leagues on most platforms. How does this make any sense? Sure his batting average doesn't look good, but he's hitting about .270 on balls in play (BABIP). Give him a .300 BABIP, and he'd have close to a .270 batting average. But Pagan has also hit more ground balls in the past, and he's a speedy guy. If he hits a few more on the ground and beats out a few more throws, he could easily expect a BABIP above .300. So now we're talking about a playable batting average. We know he has wheels - he stole 37 bags last year, after all. He doesn't have great power, but league-average power, with wheels, and a playable batting average -- that's useful. Look bast the current batting average, do a ritual, and go Pagan for speed.

  • Desmond Jennings is owned in 10% of leagues, so he's gone in your deepest of leagues. But if you're in a league that's any deeper than your standard 12-teamer, and he's out there, it's time for the good old speculative play. Sure, he's in the minor leagues. But he's also putting up an excellent .280/.373/.459 line in Triple-A (with 15 stolen bases and one caught stealing), and at 24, he's as polished as he'll ever be. He's faced enough inferior competition. And speaking of inferior competition, Sam Fuld and Justin Ruggiano have helped Tampa Bay left fielders put up an underwhelming .271/.331/.412 line so far this year. That team could use an offensive boost, too, by moving parts around on the diamond. Jennings is past the super-Two threshold, so there would be no arbitration-related issues for keeping him in the minor leagues. He has some power and a lot of speed, and if he is as polished as he seems to be -- he's played over 200 games at Triple-A -- he could even outproduce Angel Pagan. Possibly.

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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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