Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Coffee's for closers

Closer is a unique position; where should they go in a draft? How heavily should one invest in closers? How does one soften the blow he or she takes when selecting a closer with marginal ratios? (I call this ratio profiling).

Wait on the position. That's my advice. Typically closer runs start in the seventh or eighth, and later in experts drafts. There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, so if you're playing in a 12-team league, gun for three closers. If it's a 15-team league, make your move a little earlier (you don't want to be the guy with one closer; that limits your ability to advance in the standings).

Of course, the importance of a closer, first and foremost, is tied to the save. The common belief is that winning teams produce more save opportunities and thus, hold a much greater significance. Well, yes. However, in the roto game it goes beyond that. Every team in the majors can produce a capable 30-save closer. That's the reality. For crying out loud, Mike MacDougal notched 20 saves for the 59-win Nationals last season. That's surprising on two fronts: 1) They rotated him in and out of the role at least twice, and 2) It's Mike MacDougal. The guy owns a career WHIP over 1.50. How he claims such a vital role is beyond me.

Every year, without fail, roughly half the league undergoes changes at closer. In one sense, that makes Papelbon, Mariano and Broxton that much more attractive; in a roto sense, however, that spells opportunity. Opportunity to extract considerable value. Investing a sixth-rounder in Papelbon is ludicrous; why play for one category when a Bobby Abreu plays for four?

Yes, when you point-and-click on Matt Capps' name, you'll probably hate youself for the rest of the evening, but pair him with an effective middle reliever with exceptional ratios and closer-in-waiting status and suddenly, things aren't so bad. (This is a roto strategy, mind you). Think about it. Suppose Kevin Gregg or whoever is closing for Toronto allows two runs per one inning. If your starters go out and pitch 20 innings giving up seven, you finish the night with a competitive 3.86 ERA. And if you have a middle reliever that goes two scoreless, you're down to 3.52. Certainly not anything to write home about, but it keeps you in the mix.

Starters go six and seven and eight; closers, one. Why, then, is Broxton's value greater than Beckett's, who delivers in four cats?

Off the top of my head, closers who emerged last season include Ryan Franklin (debatable but he was battling Motte and Perez), Howell, Aardsma, Bailey, Sherrill, Jim Johnson, Soria, Downs/Frasor, and the plethora of closers Washington kept churning out.

Sometimes, the steak knives come in handy.

Here's a rundown of closers on a team-by-team basis and their respective ADPs:

NYY - Rivera (71.58)
BoSox - Papelbon (71.00)
Rays - Soriano (155.25)
T.O. - Gregg (328.16), Frasor (323.11), Downs (311.04). Being familiar with the Jays bullpen, I can tell you Frasor is a solid reliever. He did an adequate job relieving Downs last season. That stated, there has to be a reason Gregg was brought in and I think it goes beyond solidifying the bullpen.
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez, until he blows his arm out, then Jim Johnson. (198.48)

Twins - Nathan (75.31)
Tigers - Valverde (133.13)
White Sox - Jenks (161.26)
Royals - Soria (100.00)
Indians - Wood (240.18)

LAA - Fuentes (115.27)
TX - Francisco (202.79). Rank seems unjustifiably low.
Mariners - Aardsma (152.08)
Athletics - Bailey (125.75)

Phillies - Lidge (232.23)
FLA - Nunez (251.92). Encouraging words from the Marlin's skipper. With Lindstrom jettisoned and no real competition, expect Nunez to exceed his current ADP by quite a bit.
ATL - Wagner. No faith in him whatsoever. This has blown arm written all over it. (151.29). Even if he does post a brilliant line, it's a bad selection on the drafter's part with all the risk attached.
NYM - K-Rod (87.40)
Nats - Capps (229.39)

STL - Franklin (146.26)
Cubs - Marmol (142.31). Dead to me.
Brewers - Hoffman (163.90)
Reds - Franky Cordero (107.34)
Houston - Lindstrom (289.16)
Pirates - Dotel (303.86)

LAD - Broxton (71.81)
Rockies - Street (151.47)
Giants - Wilson (138.26)
SD - Bell (100.34)
D'Backs - Qualls (255.97)

Tread carefully, because I promise you things will shake up much differently come May's end.

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