Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Valuing Relief Correctly

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Tier 4: Question marks (6) (AKA: The "Jose Valverde (#22) and John Axford (#26)" Tier.)


Andrew Bailey, Red Sox
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics
Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
Wilton Lopez, Houston Astros


Just a year ago, these two dudes were second-tier closers. Sure, it was obvious that Jose Valverde was in a decline, as long as you looked past his saves streak and to the peripheral numbers. And yeah, we always knew that John Axford's secret was his terrible control in the minors. So maybe there were some lessons to learn -- keeping closers is painful, and any whiff of an issue should be considered -- but what can we do now but groan.


Grant Balfour falls a tier with his no-out, two-run, two-walk, two-hit hit job Tuesday night, but it's not just on his work alone. The valuations love Ryan Cook's sterling strikeout rates and have him at 16th overall so far this year. You can also see that Cookie only has four walks since August first and has seemingly righted ship. He's getting holds and saves now, and could be back in the job as soon as tomorrow. The A's need every win desperately. 


Wilton Lopez got a save! His fourth. He even struck two guys out. His team scored one run and won somehow. Oh… they played the Cubs.


Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (5) (AKA: The "Wilton Lopez (#28) and Jonathan Broxton (#27)" Tier.)


Sergio Romo (first chair), Javier Lopez (second chair), Santiago Casilla (third chair), San Francisco Giants
Frank Francisco (first chair), Bobby Parnell (second chair),  Jon Rauch (third chair), New York Mets
Glen Perkins (first chair), Jared Burton (second chair), Minnesota Twins
Ronald Belisario (first chair), Brandon League (second chair), Los Angeles Dodgers
Luke Gregerson (first chair), Dale Thayer (second chair), San Diego Padres


Well at least these two guys that gave this tier their name are currently relevant? Broxton hasn't actually recovered this season, as evidenced by his career-worst strikeout rate and swinging strike rate, but at least he's showing the second-best control of his career. Then again, people are centering the ball off of him, his line drive rate is up… never mind. He's hopefully just filling in for a week or so at most. Wilton Lopez? He's 2015's Jim Johnson. Only with more strikeouts. Who am I kidding? Will the Astros ever be good again?


The rest of these dudes? Not sure we learned a thing this week about any of them.


Okay, Javier Lopez came in way too early in a couple games early this week, so maybe he's not in the co-chair with Sergio Romo anymore. Except that Lopez just got a one-out save Tuesday night. And Santiago Casilla keeps getting high-leverage work, maybe someone should notice that. Wait, did we learn anything in San Francisco this week?


In New York, the team offense and bullpen are still terrible, even if Jon Rauch and Captain Fastball Bobby Parnell have been okay at times. In Minnesota, the bullpen is okay, but the team just isn't winning. Los Angeles is a problem, and Kenley Jansen is on his way back next week. Huston Street is even closer to the closer role.


Still a muddy group down here.


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Sergio Santos (shoulder), Toronto Blue Jays
Matt Capps (shoulder), Minnesota Twins
Huston Street (calf), San Diego Padres
Kenley Jansen (heart), Los Angeles Dodgers


Huston Street is still doing everything but running. Kenley Jansen is still on track to be back next week.


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
Ryan Cook, Oakland Athletics.
Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants


Ryan Cook? Santiago Casilla? Could they return to glory? Oh, and we took Jonathan Broxton off the list for one week.


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The Steals Department


Let's just continue to do streaming updates. No sense in looking at anything but the schedule right in front of you when you're in the midst of a dogfight in a category or a head-to-head playoff. Pittsburgh is once again facing Chicago, which is just silly because I really don't want to recommend Darwin Barney again. But just look at the Pirates' box scores and you can see teams are running wild on them. Maybe a deep leaguer wants to take a chance on Brett Jackson. The Indians are also bad against the run, and they've got Detroit in town. That means Omar Infante is a great play in any league, especially since you can plug him in around your infield. At least he won't hurt you.


Deep leaguers might want to look at the Atlanta-Washington series, since Washington is also bad at catching basestealers. Andrelton Simmons is back and has legit speed, he might be a good pickup. Deep leaguers can consider Jose Constanza, who's really the heavy side of the platoon in left field these days. Texas -- even with Geovany Soto behind the plate, since he is just as bad at throwing out runners than anyone else in that tandem -- provides opportunity with Seattle in town. Mostly deep leaguers (Brendan Ryan, Franklin Gutierrez), but shallow leaguers might want to plug in Kyle Seager around the diamond. The last team that's separated itself (in a bad way) from the pack is Minnesota. They get the White Sox this weekend, so maybe it's time to pick up Alejandro De Aza or Alexei Ramirez. Deep leaguers? DeWayne Wise?


Good luck hunting.

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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