Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Closer Review: National League

Last night, I glanced at the closers and (perhaps) closers-to-be in the American League. Tonight, I'll look at the far more volatile National League.

Braves: I bought Jonny Venters for $8 in my home league thinking that Craig Kimbrel was going to walk every batter he faced, the ushers, the popcorn guy, and that couple walking past the stadium that weren't even going to the game. But Kimbrel's been tremendous, and arguably the best closer in the bigs thus far. You can't cry if you bought Venters around that price, as his numbers have been solid. But Kimbrel is the man without a doubt.

Marlins: Leo Nunez was another guy owners were a little wary of heading into this season. But he's been fine for Florida. His peripherals show that he's due a moderate course correction, but his job is safe for now. The next in line is where things a slightly interesting here. Clay Hensley has looked very hittable his last two times out while Edward Mujica and Brian Sanches have pitched well. If Nunez needs a rest, Hensley no longer is necessarily the logical choice to get the cheap save.

Mets: Francisco Rodriguez ended last year in such an ignominious way off the field that his stock was down entering auctions this spring. But after a slightly shaky start, K-Rod's been solid, and has gone from being overrated by some to underrated by some. Bobby Parnell's CIW status is likely in doubt because of his poor start, but it turns out he's been battling a minor injury. The whiffs are still there, making me think he'll be a fine N.L.-only 5x5 option if health isn't an issue. Taylor Buchholz is quietly worth owning in 5x5 K leagues as well.

Phillies: First Brad Lidge, then Jose Contreras gets bit by the injury bug. That leaves Ryan Madson as the closer-by-default. Madson has actually outpitched Contreras thus far this year and while he is never Charlie Manuel's first choice, should be fine in the role. Antonio Bastardo looks like the fall back right now, and even if he doesn't get a save is striking out a ton of batters.

Nationals: I hope you didn't overemphasize Spring Training stats and overpay for Sean Burnett. Burnett got the Nats first three save ops, but Drew Storen has picked up the last three and is probably the closer from here on out. Tyler Clippard has been the best reliever in the pen but seems destined to pitch in the 7th and 8th forever.

Cubs: Carlos Marmol is the great closer whose walks will always have him within view of the razor's edge. Six walks per nine is acceptable with those strikeouts; anything past that puts him in jeopardy no matter what his other numbers look like. Kerry Wood is the guy the traditional baseball guys like, but Sean Marshall got the save when Marmol needed a rest earlier this year and has outpitched Wood thus far. Marshall falls into the Clippard category, though: he's almost too good for a smart manager to waste on three pre-defined outs in the 9th when he can be better used anytime between the fifth through the eighth innings.

Reds: I'm not a Francisco Cordero fan but he has been his usual, capable self. Aroldis Chapman scared us with his sudden drop in velocity but seems fine now and would probably close if something happened to Cordero.

Astros: Brandon Lyon's terrible outing to start the year against the Phillies made some think he'd be the first to lose his job. But there he is: looking adequate and saving games. He's allowed runs in his last two outings, but doesn't seem in danger in the short-term of losing his job. Even so, he's one of the weakest Roto closing options in baseball. Mark Melancon is the guy who gets the ball here if Lyon gets yanked.

Brewers: John Axford's horrible 2011 debut led to a great deal of premature talk about how he was going to lose the gig right out of the gate. Such talk was ridiculous. Axford is Carlos Marmol-lite. He walks too many and doesn't strike out quite enough to be considered an elite option, but he generally is solid. Takashi Saito was the sexy CIW pick here on Opening Day and every tout loves Zack Braddock, but Kameron Loe is the go-to guy in the 8th for Milwaukee and is the next guy in line at the moment.

Pirates: Joel Hanrahan made some nervous entering 2011 but has been dynamite thus far, converting all six of his save ops. Evan Meek was the logical closer in waiting, but his struggles make him less of a sure thing as Hanrahan's back up.

Cardinals: Ryan Franklin got yanked here after blowing four of his first five saves. The bigger issue was the lack of strikeouts and the fact that he looked incredibly hittable. A lot of hay was made of the fact that Mitchell Boggs blew a save, but he's been very strong otherwise and definitely has the job in the short-term.

Diamondbacks. J.J. Putz looks healthy and has pitched well. The biggest issue here is whether or not he gets swapped in July. Juan Gutierrez has a high ERA but his peripherals are better than that and he seems like the logical next in line if Putz gets moved.

Rockies: Huston Street has nine saves. This has led to Street needing some days off early. I like Rafael Betancourt behind Street but then I don't manage the Rockies. Matt Lindstrom is the guy here when Street can't go.

Dodgers: This needs an entire separate post. Reports yesterday said that Jonathan Broxton was out as the closer, with Vicente Padilla replacing him. Reports immediately after that said, not so fast, Broxton's still closer. Then Padilla gets a save today. What? Turns out Broxton just needed a break. Then it turns out Broxton had a sore elbow. I'd grab Padilla if he's available. Even if Broxton avoids the DL, his velocity is down, the whiffs are down, and he hasn't looked good. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Broxton doesn't crack 15 saves this year.

Padres: Heath Bell has been great. However, I see a few warning signs. The strikeouts are down and he's a little lucky on BABIP. His extremely high ground ball rate negates this, but that could be the product of the small sample size. If the G/F drops, then Bell is going to be more like a 3.20-3.40 ERA guy. He'd still be very good but not quite elite. Mike Adams is awesome whether he's closing or not, so he's probably owned in your deep N.L.-only. Same goes for Luke Gregerson.

Giants: Brian Wilson stumbled a little bit after he came back from his injury, then was fine, then got hit hard in a non-save situation over the weekend. Wilson has a long leash and this is probably just him shaking off the rust. If the Giants did want to rest him, there is a whole host of options behind him in a strong bullpen. All of these guys are worth owning for their non-save stats, but it's hard to guess right now who would be the "sure" closer if Wilson couldn't go.


Gypsy Soul said...

Hey Mike, how goes it? So, if you had Broxton as your only real closer, if he's real that is, at $16 in a 5x5 keeper league, would you roll the dice and drop him for Padilla? It seems you are saying you would. Grazie.

zucchiniboy said...

Hey Mike. Similar question - keep Franklin or drop him?