Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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New York, New York

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (8) (AKA: The "The Subway" Tier.)


Addison Reed (first chair), Matt Thornton (second chair), Hector Santiago (third chair), Chicago White Sox
Henry Rodriguez (first chair), Tyler Clippard (second chair), Washington Nationals
Heath Bell (first chair), Steve Cishek (second chair), Edward Mujica (third chair), Miami Marlins
Brian Fuentes (first chair), Grant Balfour (second chair), Oakland Athletics
Scott Downs (first chair), Ernesto Frieri (second chair), Jordan Walden (third chair), Los Angeles Angels
Dale Thayer (first chair), Andrew Cashner (second chair), Luke Gregerson (third chair), San Diego Padres
Rafael Dolis (first chair), Kerry Wood (second chair), Michael Bowden (third chair), Chicago Cubs
Casey Janssen (first chair), Francisco Cordero (second chair), Jason Frasor (third chair), Toronto Blue Jays


There's practically no upside whatsoever to the subway experience -- okay, riding over the Manhattan Bridge during sunset can be pretty sweet -- but the subway does get you somewhere. In an extremely uncomfortable fashion during the summer. Sweat sticking to plastic, terrible smells emitting from the other passengers, and sauna-like conditions even in the middle of the night make this the tier full of uncomfortable closers.


Sometimes the closer situation in Chicago seems overwhelming, but there's a simple test that can put the whole thing in perspective -- who's actually getting the saves? Addison Reed has three saves in May, which is three more than anyone else. He's the closer! Hector Santiago is pitching earlier in games, and Matt Thornton blew a game. Addison Reed is the new Kenley Jansen -- the pitcher that was finally rewarded for his excellence. I doubt he's on your wire any more, but if he is, go for broke. And you might want to drop the other guys to hunt for saves elsewhere.


Heath Bell supposedly got his job back last week, but the only time he's pitched since, he blew a game wide open. He allowed two hits and one unintentional walk, and he still can't corral the curve. Until he stops bouncing the pitch, he doesn't have anything but (reduced) gas. Steve Cishek is a better pitcher right now, but he doesn't have the same contract. This might take a while to settle down.


Brian Fuentes is the new closer in Oakland, but those with longer memories might remember that he once upset the team's entire management with his comments about the manager. He has barely above (league) average strikeout stuff these days, doesn't get ground balls, and is surviving on a walk rate that is about a third of his career rate. The lefty's platoon splits are okay, even though his strikeout-to-walk ratio halves against righties, but they were getting worse in recent years. Even the manager agrees that Grant Balfour might get his job back.


In Los Angeles of Anaheim, there's still a fierce war being waged. Scott Downs is the nominal closer, but he's a lefty, and it's no good to have your closer be worse against righties -- the league is three-quarters right-handed. Jordan Walden is the incumbent, but his jump-step delivery used to lead to bad control in the minor leagues, so it's no surprise that it's doing so today. Ernesto Frieri is the guy that should own the job based on his peripherals, but he's also the newest guy. Based on usage, Frieri is the setup man and now next in line. He should be owned by all saves hawks.


Dale Thayer, huh? Thayer is a journeyman who never showed strikeout stuff like this. Well, his stuff hasn't changed, but by eschewing the fastball for more sliders, his strikeout rate has. He's always had decent control and he should avoid the home run, so he'll keep the job while Huston Street is out. The only question is how long that will be.


Rafael Dolis is the worst closer in baseball. There, I said it. He does get groundballs, but he's no Jim Johnson. Or Brandon League. Heck, he's not even as good as Wilton Lopez. Because he has terrible control and a poor, unrepeatable delivery. To top it off, he is striking out fewer guys than he's walking. If that team had a better option -- and it might still be Michael Bowden long term -- they'd be using him. Kerry Wood apparently has too shaky of an injury history to trust. Carlos Marmol could close again this year. Dolis is the equivalent of a long subway ride to work in August, when your suit is already sticking to you before you even start your day, but some will find him a necessarily evil just the same.


Casey Janssen is a better pitcher, but he's in a worse situation. Sergio Santos is throwing, and Janssen's expiration date is rapidly approaching. In the meantime, enjoy your part-time closer. A short subway ride is better than a long one in some cases.


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Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox
Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
Sergio Santos, Toronto Blue Jays
Huston Street, San Diego Padres
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs


Andrew Bailey is going to see the doctor this week and hopes to be cleared to throw. He says he feels good and could make it back by the All-Star break. If the news is positive, and he's on your wire, and you've been fortunate enough to avoid injury, he might make a good stash. Drew Storen threw Monday and felt great. He's still on track to start rehab sometime late this month. Trade Henry Rodriguez if you can. Sergio Santos is throwing on flat ground and is on track to return sometime around the end of the month. Carlos Marmol's MRI showed minimal damage to his hamstring, and the team is still looking to trade him if just to save a buck on his contract. He could close again once healthy. We'll see if Jose Valverde ends up here.


The Deposed


Heath Bell, Miami Marlins
Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
Hector Santiago, Chicago White Sox


Hector Santiago is pitching earlier and earlier in games, Carlos Marmol is deposed AND injured, Jordan Walden is part of a three-man scruffiest, and Heath Bell still can't control his curveball. Bell's still the best bet to return to the role -- he supposedly has it right now -- but that doesn't mean he's a great own right now.


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The Steals Department


Tony Gwynn Jr.is the Dodgers' starting center fielder while Matt Kemp is out. Never mind the fact that he's not the greatest defensive center fielder. Never mind the fact that he strikes out just a tad too much to have a great batting average. Never mind the fact that he has no power. Just mind the fact that he has 40-stolen-base speed and has a regular job. He's a great churn-and-burn speedster for you mixed league head-to-head guys.


Another injury replacement stars in the deep league portion of our steals performance today. With Evan Longoria out in Tampa Bay, Eliot Johnson is taking most of the playing time. He's almost a full-time player, and he has some wheels -- he stole 30 bases in Triple-A in 2010 before losing much of 2011 to injury. He strikes out too much to show a good batting average long-term (think more like .250), but he has just under league average pop and could steal as many as ten bags while Longo is out.

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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