Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Stay the Course

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (6) (AKA: The "Fantasy Fishing" Tier.)


Wilton Lopez (first chair), Wesley Wright (second chair), Houston Astros
Sergio Romo (first chair), Javier Lopez (second chair), Jeremy Affeldt (third chair), San Francisco Giants
John Axford (first chair), Jim Henderson (second chair), Milwaukee Brewers
Dale Thayer (first chair), Luke Gregerson (second chair), San Diego Padres
Glen Perkins (first chair), Jared Burton (second chair), Minnesota Twins
Frank Francisco (first chair), Jon Rauch (second chair),  Bobby Parnell (third chair), New York Mets


There was a second where I thought maybe Fantasy College Football should go here -- talk about a ridiculous player universe -- but instead I'll take the low-hanging fruit. Fishing is okay, I've enjoyed it. You get a six pack of a nice beverage, a good friend or family member, and you kill a day in the sun just chilling. Watch it on television? Maybe if it's the dudes catching fish with their hands. Watch it on television and somehow figure out a strategy to determine who the best fisher is before other people do? Or a strategy to figure out what the best fishing/fisher matchups are? I don't get that.


I do get what's going on in San Francisco, or at least hope I get it. It seems like a straight platoon, with righty Sergio Romo and lefty Javier Lopez splitting save opportunities depending on the situation. It actually suits their respective arsenals perfectly. As much as it's tempting to give Romo the lion's share of the saves, since there are more righties than lefties in baseball, the last two games in Los Angeles prove one thing: there's always a lefty in the lineup somewhere, and if he comes up at the right time, the save will go to the LOOGY. So, it's a crapshoot really.


Who has any idea what's going on in Milwaukee. You can't use the fact that the team is looking to the future to decide between John Axford and Jim Henderson -- both are under team control for a while. You can't really use career stats to decide -- both have underwhelming minor league histories full of spotty control. Who got the last save? That works best in times like this, and it was John Axford that came out and shut the door after Manny Parra allowed some base runners and Jim Henderson allowed a couple of them to score. So it's John Axford? Seems like it.


Dale Thayer was doing fine as the interim closer in San Diego, and Luke Gregerson still has that Romo-esque problem with all the sliders, the platoon split, and the iffy control. But Tuesday night, Thayer gave up a long home run to center to Garret Jones, while Gregerson struck out one in his clean inning in the eighth. Doesn't matter, his sliders weren't all biting just right despite the box score, and Thayer is probably still the guy until Huston Street's calf gets right.


Frank Francisco and Glen Perkins might be the respective closers of the Mets and Twins, but you'd barely know it. Those teams have nine combined saves in August, but the player-high for either team is two. Two saves this month. They're ownable, but not bank-able.


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Sergio Santos (shoulder), Toronto Blue Jays
Matt Capps (shoulder), Minnesota Twins
Huston Street (calf), San Diego Padres


Matt Capps is still not close to resuming throwing. It's mid-August. He won't factor in this year. Huston Street says his calf feels much better and he's riding a bike. He'll be back in early September.


The Deposed


Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels
Hector Santiago, Chicago White Sox
Brian Fuentes, St. Louis Cardinals
Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sean Marshall, Cincinnati Reds  
Henry Rodriguez, Washington Nationals
Brandon League, Seattle Mariners
Rafael Dolis, Chicago Cubs
Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals
Ryan Cook, Oakland Athletics.


Ryan Cook replaces Grant Balfour on this list, but Ryan Cook will probably factor into saves in Oakland next season, so he's a name to remember.


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The Steals Department


It might be time to stream for steals. With fewer than six weeks left in the season, you might be able to work the matchups to find those extra stolen bases you need. I don't recommend going after specific batteries on a day-by-day basis: that's too much work, and besides, lineups change. If you picked up a speedster because he was going to face a certain catcher and then that catcher got a foul ball off the thumb that night, your fortunes might change some. If you instead think of the world in series, and think of teams as a whole, you can glean some useful knowledge and stream for steals -- without your league-mates noticing even.


There's even a way to think of the rest of the season as a monolith. September is for divisional matchups, as the schedule is weighted in a way as to create exciting divisional races down the stretch. The NL West will face the NL West, and that's a good thing, given how close that division is. Let's say you were thinking of picking up Everth Cabrera or Alexi Amarista for their steals right now -- that might not be a great idea. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Colorado are all above average, and Arizona is the best at preventing the stolen base in the major leagues. Then the Padres have three games against St. Louis (second in caught stealing percentage) and Atlanta (tenth). Looks like those Padres aren't your best pickups.


Move to the bottom of the list, and you'll find some of the National League Central hanging out: Pittsburgh is last in the league, having given up 100 stolen bases against ten caught stealing, Houston and Chicago are bad, and Milwaukee is below-average. You'll just have to avoid St. Louis, but if you're considering picking up Jon Jay, that's not a problem.


If you're willing to go in three-game chunks, it gets easier. Try to find guys that are facing Minnesota, Washington, or Pittsburgh, and you're giving your speedster a good chance. Anaheim, San Diego, Houston and Cleveland join Pittsburgh in having allowed 100+ stolen bases this year, so they look vulnerable too. No matter what, the schedule and this leaderboard is worth a look before you make your next pickup as you hunt for steals.

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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