"Yo MDS, what's up with Dennis Eckersley's mullet? What a freak."
We're ranking Closers based on job security, looking at those who have none, poking the injured with a stick and running down recent ninth inning news. Plus I provide an intense, play-by-play recap of the time I closed my hotmail account. Four of those five are true, find out which after the jump.
1. Mariano Rivera, NYY
2. Neftali Feliz, Tex
3. Joakim Soria, KC
4. Francisco Rodriguez, NYM
5. Carlos Marmol, ChC
6. Matt Thornton, ChW
7. Jonathan Papelbon, Bos
8. Chris Perez, Cle
9. Jose Valverde, Det
10. J.J. Putz, Ari
11. Huston Street, Col
12. Craig Kimbrel, ATL
13. Ryan Franklin, StL
14. Francisco Cordero, Cin
15. Leo Nunez, Fla
16. Joel Hanrahan, Pit
17. Jonathan Broxton, LAD
18. John Axford, Mil
Questions: Did you expect anyone else at No. 1? When will the Royals trade Joakim Soria? Will Carlos Marmol (6.0 BB/9 in '10) implode? Anyone think Daniel Bard is closing games for BOS this season? Will Jose Valverde's elbow stay intact? Does anyone remember when we expected Jonny Venters to get Saves? Why does Dusty Baker love Francisco Cordero so much? Why doesn't Florida like Leo Nunez? Will Joel Hanrahan keep the title of Closer when he is inevitably traded this summer? How happy are John Axford owners that Takashi Saito hasn't pitched well?
Closer Hot Seat
Brandon Lyon, Hou is no stranger to the Closer Hot Seat. He eats, sleeps, breathes and lives on the Hot Seat. Blowing Saves is nothing for Brandon Lyon, he doesn't even break a sweat doing it. He gave up six Hits and recorded only one out in his first appearance and he's still the Closer. He's ice cold brother. Wilton Lopez is the popular add, he's owned in 3% of Y! leagues. Lopez is not the protypical Closer with his (career) 92.1 mph Fastball and 6.11 K/9. Mark Melancon is another who could tame the Lyon. The former Yankees prospect generates plenty of Whiffs and there is reason to believe the Walks will not be an issue. Lopez pitched the 8th Inning before Lyon's Blowout Sale so he the early favorite. I like underdogs, strikeouts and potential so I'm rooting for Melancon.
Drew Storen, Was is the Nationals Closer of the Future, but Sean Burnett is the Nationals Closer of Now. We went from reading about rumors of a committee to watching Drew Storen give up Runs to hearing Jim Riggleman name Sean Burnett his favorite option in the ninth. Storen may eventually claim the role, but right now Sean Burnett is the reliever to own. He's available in over half of Y! leagues.
Joe Nathan, Min still needs to prove he can pitch back-to-back days as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery. Matt Capps saved 16 games as the Closer for the Twins in '10, but he'll share those duties with Joe Nathan early this season. The plan is for the two to share the role until Nathan is back to full strength. Joe already has two Saves (to Capps' zero); the first was messy (2 H, 2 BB, 0 K, IP), but the second was clean (0 H, 0 BB, K, IP).
Kevin Gregg, Bal picked up the first Save for Baltimore. Koji Uehara is the preferred choice to close games for the Orioles, but he's not strong enough to throw in back-to-back appearances. Gregg will get the early opportunities, but he'll always be on the hot seat because he's not a dominant pitcher (to put it nicely). Remember though, Gregg does lay claim to over 120 Saves during the past four seasons. I think he's a solid bet for 20-25 this year, maybe more depending on Koji's health. Gregg isn't a great pitcher, but he's not Fernando Rodney bad.
Kyle Farnsworth, TB will compete with Joel Peralta, Jake McGee and possibly Juan Cruz for Saves in Tampa. There are rumors of a committee and the popular choice among the fantasy community is rookie Jake McGee. Others, who enjoy self-inflicted pain, are cheering for the newly signed Kyle Farnsworth. However, Joel Peralta is pitching the Ninth Inning in recent games. His 9.00 K/9 and 1.65 BB/9 from '10 were excellent and he had a solid Spring (early trust). The popular story line would call for Farnsworth giving way to McGee after a spectacular implosion, but I think Peralta gets the early chances and runs with it.
Fernando Rodney, LAA has been stripped of his title. They say it's a temporary move while Fernando works on his mechanics, as if there is something that can be done to make Rodney a dominant pitcher. I fear it's over for Rodney. Scott Downs is out with a toe injury (that's what he gets for spending time with his kids), so it's time to usher in the Jordan Walden era. The young fireballer punches out many a batter with his Fastball-Slider, 1-2 combo. If he can keep the Walks under control, which he did in Spring and his early appearances of '11, he should have no problems staving off The Return of Fernando Rodney (a good name for a band).
Disabled List Detainees
Brian Wilson, SF is on his way back! The rumors have him returning as soon as Wednesday. Sergio Romo was the favorite to pick up the slack while Wilson was out, but no Save opportunities arose. Romo is worth holding onto based on his K/9, WHIP and ERA and he's a must own in leagues that count Holds. Putting Romo on the trade block may not entice any action, but offering him to the Brian Wilson owner in your league may pay off. Use the word "setback" in the comments box, that's our trigger word for the sales pitch.
Andrew Bailey, Oak is reportedly playing catch (long toss) and looks good doing so. I hope you're starting him in your fantasy long toss leagues. The optimistic plan calls for a Mid-April return. I'm already making plans for the next Closer Gold Rush in Oakland. Prospectors lost money in the Brian Fuentes mine, same with those who dug up Grant Balfour. I think Oakland still wants Brian Fuentes to give up two Runs per Save attempt until Bailey hobbles back onto the mound.
Brad Lidge, Phi shouldn't be on your team. He's not aging well. His right posterior rotator cuff has him kicking dirt on the DL, this is his sixth trip since 2007. Besides the injuries he's losing velocity and struggling with his command. He's going to be out for awhile (3-6 weeks), in which time Jose Contreras will likely hopefully steal his job. Jose Contreras is the man to own here, not Ryan Madson.
Frank Francisco, Tor could be back in less than two weeks if his rehab assignment goes well. Franky Two Times is another oft-injured reliever, hanging onto Jon Rauch may be a good idea. Octavio Dotel could also wiggle into the Save picture in the event of Franky getting fractured. If you're desperate for Saves, you'll want to keep close tabs on the Toronto bullpen.
David Aardsma, Sea is the Brad Lidge of the West. You don't want to mess with Aardsma. Recent reports on his hip are good, but who wants a pitcher with a fake hip? Aardsma also has control problems (5.05 career BB/9) and is the subject of trade rumors so we have issues on multiple fronts. Aardsma is not the type of pitcher who keeps the title of Closer after a trade. He will relinquish the title at some point this season and Seattle will host a tournament to decide the new champion of the final frame, likely Brandon League. Chris Ray may have a shot, but the Mariners will want to give League a bunch of Saves while Brandon Morrow turns into an ace for Toronto.
Recent Ninth Inning News
4/5 Tue Jordan Walden records his first of many Saves
4/5 Tue Drew Storen takes the loss (2 BB, H, R, 0 ER, IP)
4/5 Tue Joe Nathan records clean Save (2) (K, IP)
4/5 Tue Joel Peralta pitches the 9th against for TB (K, IP)
4/5 Tue Grant Balfour 10th Inning Blown Save (2 H, 2 ER, 0 IP)
4/5 Tue Off day for Marmol, Wood. Sean Marshall records Save
4/4 Mon Craig Kimbrel strikes out all three batters for Save No.2
4/3 Sun Fernando Rodney Blown Save (3 BB, H, 2 ER, 0.1 IP)
4/3 Sun Jonathan Broxton records shaky Save (2 H, HR, ER, IP)
4/3 Sun Carlos Marmol Blown Save (2 H, BB, 2 ER, IP)
4/3 Sun Joe Nathan records first Save in MIN (2 H, 2 BB, ER, IP)
4/2 Sat Sean Burnett records first Save in WAS (1.1 IP)
4/2 Sat Drew Storen allows a HR in the 8th Inning (HR, K, 0.2 IP)
4/2 Sat Brian Fuentes takes the loss in the 9th (3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, IP)
4/2 Sat Kevin Gregg records first Save in BAL (H, BB, K, IP)
4/2 Sat Francisco Cordero allows ER (2 H), but records Save (1)
4/2 Sat Huston Street records ugly Save (2 H, BB, ER, K, IP)
4/2 Sat Francisco Rodriguez Blown Save (3 H, BB, ER, K, IP)
4/2 Sat Blaine Boyer records 10th Inning Save for NYM (2 H, ER, IP)
4/2 Sat Joel Peralta pitches the 9th Inning for TB (K, IP)
4/1 Fri Brandon Lyon Blown Save @PHI (6 H, 3 ER, 0.1 IP)
4/1 Fri Jonathan Broxton clean Save (K, IP)
4/1 Fri J.J. Putz records Save (2 K, IP)
3/31 Thu Craig Kimbrel records first Save in ATL (2 K, IP)
3/31 Thu Jonathan Broxton allows solo HR, but records Save (1)
3/31 Thu John Axford Blown Save @CIN (2 H, BB, HR, 4 ER, K, 0.2 IP)
3/31 Thu Ryan Franklin Blown Save vs SD (HR, IP)