Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Skills to find the Tools

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (6) (AKA: The "Will Venable and Chase Headley" Tier.)

Heath Bell (first chair), Steve Cishek (second chair), Edward Mujica (third chair), Miami Marlins
Chris Perez (first chair), Vinnie Pestano (second chair), Cleveland Indians
Alfredo Aceves (first chair), Franklin Morales? (second chair), Boston Red Sox
Hector Santiago (first chair), Matt Thornton (second chair), Addison Reed (third chair), Chicago White Sox
Carlos Marmol (first chair), Rafael Dolis (second chair), Chicago Cubs
Scott Downs (first chair), Jordan Walden (second chair), Los Angeles Angels


How about another set of teammates? Venable has tools for years, and in his defense, he's got a pretty good success rate so far (79%). But this year, he's been caught five times against three stolen bases. And he's struck out so much over his career that there is a little bit of the taste of "toolsy, needs seasoning" to him. Headley was supposed to be more of a power and patience corner infielder, but PetCo killed his power stroke. So he started hitting ground balls and using his wheels. That's lead to an 82% success rate and years like last year when he stole 13 and was caught twice. Unfortunately, if you play too long in this tier, you'll get caught.


Heath Bell might claw his way back out of here before long. He looked much better against the Giants on Tuesday night, at least in terms of results. But if you look closer, you'll see that he still only got one strike on four curveballs (he's been bouncing them), didn't get a whiff (it's been a problem), and hit 91.8 MPH max on his fastball (his velocity is down big. With new research suggesting that relievers lose gas quicker with age than starters, Bell is looking like a poor investment in real life and fantasy these days. Steve Cishek is always the guy warming up right before or during Bell's blowups, so he's probably next.


Maybe Chris Perez and Alfredo Aceves will just do the job ugly all year. The Indians might be saber-savvy enough to know that the biggest inning is not always the ninth, so maybe they don't mind that Vinnie Pestano is the better pitcher. The Red Sox? Right now they don't have a better option. Aaron Cook is up in the bullpen, but that's because of a contractually negotiated requirement. Otherwise, it might still be the more exciting Junichi Tazawa. Franklin Morales is a lefty and probably won't close. It's a game of 'nose' that Aceves lost.


Hector Santiago is still the White Sox closer, or so says his coach. He came into the game in a non-save situation last night, though, and gave up baserunners like nobody's business. None scored, but it has to worry his owners. Matt Thornton got a save in the interim and could be next, but it's still Addison Reed that has next next.


Carlos Marmol always had the walks problem. This year, his strikeout rate (and swinging strike rate) have disappeared, making him a pumpkin. He's probably only still in the role because Rafael Dolis is no great shakes, with control problems of his own and only ground balls to counter them with. The Cubs are also staying patient because they'll want some sort of compensation when Marmol finally walks, or at least out of his remaining contract, and the only way they can do that is if Marmol finds it again in the closer's role. Another situation that should remain ugly all year.


The Angels claim that moving Jordan Walden to the setup role was temporary, and that the elder statesmen and lefty Scott Downs is only keeping the seat warm. But now the team is rumored to have discussed Brandon League, Grant Balfour and Joel Hanrahan in trades. That sounds like a team that's more nervous about Walden then they want to publicly let on. Don't drop the young fireballer yet, but if you can get another potential closer on your team somehow, now's the time to mitigate your risk. Walden had this control problem before, but it was as a starter. We all thought that moving to the pen and a little seasoning might halt that control problem. Maybe it's just the jump-step delivery that hurts him in that arena. He's still got gas, and the potential to get back in that role -- managers don't usually like lefties as closers -- but it's a waiting game now.


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Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox
Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
Sergio Santos, Toronto Blue Jays


Kyle Farnsworth was just pushed to the 60-day DL, meaning June 5th is about the earliest you'll see him. That makes Fernando Rodney a little tastier. Drew Storen, on the other hand, feels like he's ahead of schedule, which would have him back before the All-Star break anyway. Makes wild thing O Henry Rodriguez a little less tasty. Sergio Santos is still due back around the end of May.


The Deposed


None… yet. Maybe Jordan Walden.


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The Steals Department

How about a trio of guys that are all about the same for you mixed-leaguers? One of them should be unowned in your league, and they are all about the same. Denard Span is the guy that's owned in the most leagues. He's finally playing regularly and has stolen a few bases. In a good year, given his contact-heavy approach and decent wheels, he could hit .280 with 20+ steals. Alex Presley is playing semi-regularly in the Pirates' outfield. He doesn't make as much contact, but given his ground-ball heavy approach, and decent wheels, he could hit .280 with 20+ steals from here on out. Michael Brantley is the least-owned, but he's the regular center fielder in Cleveland. Given his contact-heavy approach.. you get the picture. He could hit .280 with 20+ steals. Presley might have the best power of the bunch, but he wouldn't out-homer either Brantley or Span by much more than a handful, so that shouldn't make up your mind. You could even play the matchups if all three were available and you really wanted to comb through the catchers on the teams they are facing -- some catchers get run on.


Tony Campana sure went on a tear, didn't he? This week's deep leaguer probably won't steal a ton of bases right off the bat. And in fact, Brian Bogusevic just saw his playing time take a hit -- Travis Buck is back and stealing some time from him in the outfield now. But Bogusevic is the left-hander, and that means he's going to get more of the at-bats against right-handers, and there are more right-handers in the world. (As a comparison, Carlos Gomez has been a popular question on twitter, and he's a right-hander who gets platooned against left-handers more often, which means fewer plate appearances for him.) Bogusevic has also been showing great plate discipline, which fits with his background. The former pitcher has always been patient. That puts him on base more, and in the Minor Leagues he was a high-success base stealer (74 stolen bases against eight caught stealing). He could hit .250 and steal 15-20 bases over the rest of the year, and with a little batted-ball luck, the batting average could look nicer. And now starting center fielder Jordan Schafer has an oblique strain -- that could mean more PAs for Bogusevic.

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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