Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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It's the Same Every Year

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (7) (AKA: The "Erik Bedard" Tier.)


Heath Bell (first chair), Steve Cishek (second chair), Edward Mujica (third chair), Miami Marlins
Brian Fuentes (first chair), Ryan Cook (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
Henry Rodriguez (first chair), Tyler Clippard (second chair), Sean Burnett (third chair), Washington Nationals
Casey Janssen (first chair), Francisco Cordero (second chair), Jason Frasor (third chair), Toronto Blue Jays
Rafael Dolis (first chair), James Russell (second chair), Michael Bowden (third chair), Chicago Cubs


What? You just got Erik Bedard off the waiver wire, and you just got Dale Thayer off the waiver wire. Makes sense to pair them then. Even though there aren't any arrows in this tier today, call it a respite from the storm. There will be movement soon, and you can get ahead of it with some shrewd moves.


You couldn't get much for Heath Bell in a trade, but maybe you could go get Bell for cheap if you believe in him. The velocity is back up to (mostly) his career level, but his walk rate is terrible and the curveball doesn't seem right. He's not getting whiffs. It just seems too risky to buy into.


Brian Fuentes is the nominal closer in Oakland, but he's a lefty. Grant Balfour is pitching the seventh innings now. Who's that lights-out setup man nobody's heard of? Ryan Cook. He came over from Arizona in the Trevor Cahill trade and has legitimate strikeout stuff. The walk rate has been the issue with him -- and at over four per nine now, it's not quite great -- but right now he's got a zero ERA thanks to those strikeouts and a lot of luck. He's already a holds superstar, he might start netting saves. After a week without arrows in the bottom tier, he could be part of the chaos next week. 


When C.J. Wilson threw eight one-hit shutout innings Tuesday night, the Angels turned to Ernesto Frieri to lock down the game. It was a five-run lead, but it was also a big game, and it was also the ninth inning. Scott Downs is still a lefty (and managers don't love giving up the platoon advantage to 3/4 of the league in the ninth inning), and Jordan Walden still has his jump-step and control problems. Frieri is one of the better pickups if you're trolling for saves.


Andrew Cashner did get a save opportunity, finally, but then he blew it. He's throwing 99 MPH gas out there right now, and has a great strikeout rate and a good ground-ball rate. He just doesn't know where the plate is, and Dale Thayer -- who had an unimpressive resume going into this season -- is riding his slider and plus control into a safe position as the interim closer.


Henry Rodriguez throws darts against the side of the barn like he needs Lasik surgery. Sean Burnett is a lefty. Tyler Clippard wasn't supposed to be a closer. Now all of them are closers after Clippard got the last one and their manager admitted that it's a committee. Whatever, they're all just keeping the seat warm for Drew Storen, who's due back in about a month.


It says a lot about Rafael Dolis that he's behind a committee. But, yeah, he's pretty terrible. He's still got that ground-ball rate, sure, but he's also still got that bad control and absolute lack of strikeouts. Right now, he's getting lucky on batted balls. When that luck runs out, he'll be a high-fours ERA guy, and he probably won't be the closer. James Russell right now has even worse control -- but at least he has a career track record of better control. The bigger problem for him is that he's a lefty with a platoon split. Michael Bowden is not wowing anyone, and really doesn't have one elite skill, and anyway he's only pitching when the team is losing right now. It's a mess, and Carlos Marmol is still not totally out of the picture.


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


Andrew Bailey is going to start a throwing program sometime this week. The doctor said he made good progress and is ready. Drew Storen is still on track to return to his team around the All-Star break. Sergio Santos is throwing and wants to long-toss by the end of the week, and throw from a mound next week. Early June seems reasonable. Huston Street played catch with no side effects (pun intended), and he should be back by early June as well. Carlos Marmol is already headed on out on his rehab assignment. He's not the worst saves pickup if he's out there, given Rafael Dolis.


The Deposed


Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
Hector Santiago, Chicago White Sox
Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics
Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sean Marshall, Cincinnati Reds 


Heath Bell got up off this list. Carlos Marmol might, too. Strange to see such a (relatively) small list of deposed, but most in-flux bullpens are so in-flux that it's hard to count anyone out.


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The Steals Department


Ben Revere is back up with the Twins. Yes, he's a flawed player -- he's got no power and very little patience -- but he does have elite wheels. And the Twins do have a pretty bad outfield right now. Well, Josh Willingham is fine -- but due for an injury or two every year -- and Denard Span has some ability. But Darin Mastroianni, Erik Komatsu and Trevor Plouffe are not really starting-quality outfielders. Revere might be able to threaten league average production, and he's started every game since he was called up. He's got way more speed than a Jose Tabata or Michael Brantley, for example, so if you're looking for stolen bases, there are worse moves out there.


Like, for example, you could pick up Scott Podsednik. That would be a worse move if you had better options. But in deep leagues, Podsednik could still have 30-stolen-base wheels and the ability to put up fantasy-league-average batting average. Of course, he has no power and little patience, and his glove is now below-average (at best) in the corner outfield… and that's not really the profile you'd think the saber-savvy Red Sox would turn to for their outfield needs. And they might not -- on the day that Podsednik was called up, the Sawx put Adrian Gonzalez in right field. Carl Crawford is doing baseball activities, Jacoby Ellsbury is still trying to come back around the All-Star break, and the Sawx have like four no-names trying to fill left field and platoon with Ryan Sweeney in right. Marlon Byrd is the only every-day guy right now, and that's just sad. But, oh, yeah, Podsednik -- treat him like the dirty work you have to do just to scrape a few steals together, and no better.

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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