Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Age in a Young Man's Game

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (7) (AKA: The "Pete Rose" Tier.)


Scott Downs (co-first chair), Ernesto Frieri (co-first chair), Jordan Walden (third chair), Los Angeles Angels
Brian Fuentes (first chair), Ryan Cook (second chair), Oakland Athletics
Tom Wilhelmsen (first chair), Lucas Luetge (second chair), Steve Delabar (third chair), Seattle Mariners
Dale Thayer (first chair), Andrew Cashner (second chair), Luke Gregerson (third chair), San Diego Padres
Tyler Clippard (first chair), Sean Burnett (second chair), Henry Rodriguez (third chair), Washington Nationals
Casey Janssen (first chair), Francisco Cordero (second chair), Jason Frasor (third chair), Toronto Blue Jays
Shawn Camp (first chair), James Russell (second chair), Michael Bowden (third chair), Chicago Cubs


In 1982 Pete Rose got 720 plate appearances, the record for a man over 40.  He hit .271 and scored 80 runs. But he was terrible in the field, didn't really show any power (three home runs that year), and generally hit like a middle infielder while playing first base. That's how you go to the plate 720 times and don't offer any value above a replacement player. In 1983, he came to the plate 555 times. This time he hit .245 without any power -- not a single home run -- and walked even less. That's how you go to the plate 555 times and cost your team more than a win and a half at the plate. Rose was probably the opposite of a graceful ager.


The Angels situation might be too close to call. Both Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri can save any given game depending on the matchups at the end of the game. You can be tempted to check Tuesday night's box score and see that Frieri pitched in the ninth, and Downs in the eighth, but it was a five-run game and nobody got a save. Frieri is awesome and has an intense strikeout rate (43 in 23 2/3 innings). Downs hasn't given up a run this year. Frieri had a save on the 23rd and the 26th. Downs got the save on the 27th. This one is a tough one to suss, but both should be owned at all costs right now, and it looks like Frieri has the rates to take it.


Brian Fuentes blew a game last week, but Ryan Cook picked an interesting time to start showing his wildness again. He himself blew a save last week. And he has six walks against four strikeouts in his last six appearances. Cook has good stuff, but his control might keep the veteran in the job.


We knew Brandon League might lose his job eventually -- but we thought maybe the team would try to get him on track so they could trade him. But here we are, and League is out of the role. The manager says they will try many guys, but Tom Wilhelmsen is the get. The former prospect was out of baseball for a while, wandered about the country in a youthful state, and then found himself wondering what would have happened if he'd stuck with baseball. He tried out for the Mariners, they saw his gas and incredible hook, and looked past the inconsistent control. Of course, the control is still inconsistent, but he seems to have found the zone. He's the one with closers stuff in that pen. The rest are interesting, but they're either young (Steve Delabar), left-handed (Charlie Furbush), or both (Lucas Luetge). Go with the setup-man, since roles are often more important than skills.


It kinda looks like Tyler Clippard is the man in Washington right now, but Drew Storen is on his way back. I traded Henry Rodriguez twice before he lost his job, and that seems to be the way to go with Clippard, too.


Told you so. Rafael Dolis was the worst closer in the bigs, and now he's just a mediocre reliever. James Russell got one of the first post-Dolis saves, but he's got a wicked platoon split, and as a lefty was not the preferred option anyway. Shawn Camp might keep this all year. He's okay, and that's an achievement in that Cubs pen. Next on the list is probably a healthy Carlos Marmol, who just returned from his rehab assignment. He needs to recover some trade value, and organizational needs sometimes do factor into these things. He's a decent pickup, even if you keep him on the bench until he closes.


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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 is back, but the rest of this list is still pretty far away. Andrew Bailey is throwing, but not even long-tossing yet. Kyle Farnsworth threw fastballs off the mound and wants to return late in June. Drew Storen threw and is aiming to return by the All-Star break. It seems like Sergio Santos has had a setback, but it's not termed as such. So far, he's just not long-tossing yet. It might be another month-plus for him. Huston Street, on the other hand, is ready to start his rehab assignment any day.


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  
Henry Rodriguez, Washington Nationals
Brandon League, Seattle Mariners
Rafael Dolis, Chicago Cubs


Carlos Marmol has a chance to get up off this list. Jordan Walden has been better, but Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs have been lights-out.


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The Steals Department


Hey look who's healthy. Coco Crisp. He's not rocking the afro any more, but he's back. With the power he's been putting up in Oakland, and considering the 32-year-old is in the latter half of his career, it's probably not right to expect another year like last year. But take the batting average, shave a few stolen bases off, and you could expect a .260 average and 20+ steals the rest of the way. That's rosterable and useful. It's worth mentioning, though, that Michael Brantley is younger, playing well, and has a tiny bit more upside the rest of the way.


There's a pair of possible pickups in San Diego's middle infield, but both have limited upside. Alexi Amarista, freshly acquired from Anaheim of Los Angeles, is younger, but that doesn't mean he has a ton more ceiling to him. Right now, he's whiffing too much and showing too little power to have a nice batting average. He might whiff less, but he'll always lack power. He stole 38 bases in 2009, but he was caught 20 times and hasn't topped 25 in a season since. He also doesn't walk a ton. Best-case scenario, he hits around .260 and steals another ten to fifteen bases while playing second base for the Padres. Everth Cabrera, we've seen before. He had that one strong year when he hit .255 with 25 stolen bases, but even that came with a little batted ball luck. With his strikeout rate (and lack of power, again), he's probably good for a batting average at his career rate (.235) and another 15 to 20 steals. You'll pay dearly for your steals if you pick these guys up.

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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