Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Birthing New Closers

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (6) (AKA: The "Two Years" Tier.)


Francisco Rodriguez (first chair), John Axford (second chair), Milwaukee Brewers
Steve Cishek (first chair), Heath Bell (second chair), Mike Dunn (third chair), Miami Marlins
Carlos Marmol (first chair), Shawn Camp (second chair), Chicago Cubs
Brett Myers (first chair) Brandon Lyon (second chair), Wilton Lopez (third chair), Houston Astros
Jared Burton (first chair), Glen Perkins (second chair), Minnesota Twins
Bobby Parnell (first chair), Jon Rauch (second chair), Miguel Batista (third chair), New York Mets


Depending on the baby, you might be getting new teeth, dealing with leaving the home for school for the first time, skinned knees, unfulfillable desires, or the whys. The whys look like they could be some fun, at first. At some point it's not fun anymore and then come the becauses.


Looks like Francisco Rodriguez is the new closer in Milwaukee. Why? Because he got the save Tuesday night. Why? Because John Axford couldn't find the zone? Why? Mostly because he didn't throw first-pitch strikes. Why? Well you'd have to ask him. Why? Because I don't know. Why? Because I don't know everything. Why? Because. What I do know is that John Axford is still under team control for about five years longer than Francisco Rodriguez. So after a little while, if Ax finds the zone, it will be very tempting for the Brew Crew to move him back into the role. Why? Because it makes economic sense to do so.


Mike Dunn got the save the other night in Miami, but he's probably the third fiddle. And he's not playing behind Juan Carlos Oviedo, because Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez), now has elbow issues in the minors. He's got to mend before he can contend. Heath Bell is still there, and Steve Cishek is the sexy new own. Dunn's much better against lefties, and Cishek was sick the night they went to Dunn, so that makes him the situational guy (although maybe he should be second).


Carlos Marmol is the closer in Chicago, and with his almost ten-per-nine walk rate, he's probably not going to attract much trade interest. The other men in his pen are worse than he is, probably, and his velocity has been up since he returned from the DL this latest time. He's a sneaky buy-low? He actually could be. If you can stomach the WHIP being around 1.4 going forward.


This is a big deal. Matt Capps has rotator cuff problems, and those are a big deal. He came off the DL and went right back on it, which is almost always a big deal. Which means that there might actually be a legitimate, long-term closer role up for grabs in Minnesota. Glen Perkins is still the better pitcher, but Jared Burton got the save Tuesday night, and throws with his right hand. Managers are about half as likely as they should be to pick a lefty closer. So even though Perkins has a great strikeout rate, a better-than-average walk rate, and batted ball luck that should turn in his favor soon, and even though Jared Burton is doing it more with good batted ball luck and better control -- bet on the righty that got the last save. Ever since he started throwing his changeup almost 40% of the time, Burton has been much better. Own both if you can or choose the available one if the other is gone, of course, but pick Burton if you have to choose.


Bobby Parnell stays in the first chair because Jon Rauch is just as liable to pitch the seventh as the eighth, Miguel Batista is needed in the starting rotation, and Frank Francisco felt a twinge. But now Jonathan Broxton is rumored to be headed to New York, and that would throw the whole thing out of whack -- Broxton could even close over Francisco, even though Broxton's swinging strike rate is inferior. You'd have to bet on the in-house closer if healthy, but Broxton would make this a pick'em pretty quickly.


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Andrew Bailey (thumb), Boston Red Sox
Drew Storen (elbow), Washington Nationals
Sergio Santos (shoulder), Toronto Blue Jays
Matt Capps (shoulder), Minnesota Twins
Frank Francisco (oblique), New York Mets


Oh boy. There goes Sergio. Shoulder injuries are the worst, and now Santos is in doubt for parts of next year. The claim is that his cuff was fine and he might be fine, but labrum tears are terrible, and they end careers. He might even be a dropper in dynasties and keepers, depending on your format. The rest of this list was supposed to be healthy by now. But Matt Capps is back on the DL with rotator cuff issues now, Frank Francisco felt a twinge, Andrew Bailey might go on rehab next week, and Drew Storen got lit up in the minor leagues on his rehab assignment. There might not be a bargain in this bin. 


The Deposed


Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels
Hector Santiago, Chicago White Sox
Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics
Brian Fuentes, Oakland Athletics
Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sean Marshall, Cincinnati Reds  
Henry Rodriguez, Washington Nationals
Brandon League, Seattle Mariners
Rafael Dolis, Chicago Cubs
Sergio Santos, Toronto Blue Jays


Heath Bell is… very… slowly… walking… this… way. Sergio Santos took the knife and ends up here because of it. Drew Storen is still a question mark. 


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The Steals Department


Of course Carl Crawford is probably not on your waiver wire right now, but those three steals Tuesday night should probably be enough for you to make sure that he isn't. He's still a threat to steal 20+ over the second half, and in that lineup, he'll be a runs machine. Alexei Ramirez is probably also gone off your wire, but he's begun stealing bases again (two in his last five, with an unsuccessful attempt three games before that) and power takes the longest to stabilize. With just a little boost, he could hit six or seven homers and steal another six or seven. And he's a shortstop! Last on the shallower-league list is Lorenzo Cain, who's back in the big leagues and even hit a pinch-hit homer run Tuesday night. Sure, he hasn't attempted a steal and doesn't have Jarrod Dyson-like speed, and sure, he hasn't started two of the five games he's seen since he returned, but he's still interesting and could steal more than 10 with a little bit of pop in the second half.


For deeper leagues, let's look at some middle infielders. Jed Lowrie went down with a nerve issue in his leg (after being slid into, which is just strange, but about par for the course for the oft-injured shortstop) and now there's time for Marwin Gonzalez to play some. He's not really a long-term option, nor is he really a three-hundred-hitter, and he doesn't really have a lot of speed. But he'll play every day for a month-plus and could steal three-to-five without killing your batting average. Or maybe you could go with former Saves and Stealer Alexi Amarista, who has more speed but less obvious playing time. Maybe someone dropped him after he didn't start a game, but Amarista is the new utility man extraordinaire in San Diego, and he's been playing at shortstop, which might just be where he ends up full time. Everth Cabrera has his faults, after all.

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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