Rotoprofessor’s Closer Report: American League
Last week we checked out the National League closers (click here to view), so this week we turn to the American League (all stats given are through Wednesday):
Baltimore Orioles – George Sherrill - He had been tremendous, of course until his last outing when the Red Sox got to him for 2 earned runs in 0.2 innings. He had allowed just one earned run over his previous 21 innings, so this one game clearly shouldn’t worry you much. His job appears 100% safe, unless the Orioles do ship him out at the deadline (as has been rumored). There’s no clear replacement if that was to happen, so we’d just have to wait and see.
Boston Red Sox – Jonathan Papelbon - He’s one of the best closer’s in the game, and we all know it. There’s not much analysis needed here. His 1.80 ERA and 20 saves say it all.
Chicago White Sox – Bobby Jenks - Every time we do an AL Closer’s Report, I feel like the same thing is said about Jenks, his job is among the safest in baseball. It’s not that the White Sox don’t have other options, with both Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel setting up for him, it’s just that he continues to excel. He has 18 saves to go with a 3.21 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. The only way he’s not closing games would be an injury, that’s about it.
Cleveland Indians – Kerry Wood - While newly acquired Chris Perez could be the long-term solution in Cleveland, Wood is the present, albeit one that unfortunately doesn’t offer much for fantasy owners right now. The Indians are struggling, not offering many save opportunities to anyone. The ones that Wood has gotten, haven’t gone all that well recently. In the past 4 weeks, he has just one save while blowing two. Since he’s the closer, he’s still a fantasy option, but a low-end one for now.
Detroit Tigers – Fernando Rodney - Here is a closer with a 4.36 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. Yet, he has 17 saves and a job that is relatively safe at the moment. Where are they going to go? The man everyone wants to see, Joel Zumaya, has a WHIP of 1.59. Brandon Lyon has been equally unspectacular, with a 4.03 ERA, though a much better 1.21 WHIP. He is the likely next in line, but a change really is unlikely at the moment. Rodney is not a top option, but he’s usable.
Kansas City Royals – Joakim Soria - He’s started to get going, finally. In his last four times to the mound he’s picked up 3 saves and a win (albeit it one that was a gift from his teammates after he allowed a run). He has at least one strikeout in each of his past 8 outings, totaling 12 over 8.1 innings. He has the potential to be among the games elite closers, all he needs is opportunity to get there.
Los Angeles Angels – Brian Fuentes - For a while it looked like they may really regret letting Francisco Rodriguez bolt to New York, but Fuentes has rebounded in a big way. He did not allow a run in June over 8.2 innings, picking up 9 saves in the process. In fact, he allowed just 3 hits and 3 walks, striking out 11. The Angels are likely to continue to offer him ample opportunity to rack up the saves, making him that much more valuable.
Minnesota Twins – Joe Nathan - The last time he posted a WHIP of over 1.06 was in 2000 when he was a starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. Does that tell you enough about him? He just continues to perform like one of the elite in the game, and that’s exactly what he is. He’s on his way towards another 35+ save season. There just is no reason to comment on the rest of the bullpen.
New York Yankees – Mariano Rivera - He recently recorded save #500, just cementing his place in history. Everyone continues to wait for the league to figure him out, but they really haven’t shown any signs of being able to do so. He’s been tremendous once again, with a 2.76 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 40 K and 20 saves in just 32.2 innings. He remains one of the elite closers in the game at 39-years old.
Oakland Athletics – Andrew Bailey - He’s not a top option, no matter how well he’s been pitching. He’s tossed 9 consecutive scoreless innings, but hasn’t had a save since June 20, thanks in part to the A’s struggles. Brad Ziegler has also gotten extremely hot, not allowing a run in his last six outings (6.2 innings), allowing 4 hits and 1 walk, including getting a 6-out save. Could he make a push to reclaim the job? Absolutely. Bailey is far from a safe closer, and any little stumble could lead to a switch. If you are desperate for saves, Ziegler is certainly worth stashing, just in case.
Seattle Mariners – David Aardsma - He has been fantastic thus far, and with Brandon Morrow in the rotation, he is clearly the man in Seattle. However, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that he can continue his success. The biggest thing is his HR/9, currently sitting at 0.25, despite the fact that he’s seen his fly ball rate, which is at 43.1% for his career, jump all the way to 56.4%. Something there has got to give, and when the balls start to carry over the fences, his sparkling 1.49 ERA is going to take a hit. Yes, I would be using him, but if you could sell high, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Tampa Bay Rays – J.P. Howell - No, he hasn’t been dubbed the full-time closer, but he’s clearly performing like he deserves the job. He hasn’t allowed an earned run since 5/23, spanning 17.2 innings. In fact, he has 4 wins and 4 saves during that span, while allowing just 7 hits and 8 walks. He has saves in his last two appearances. While Dan Wheeler or Randy Choate or some other miscellaneous reliever could get an opportunity here or there, I’d expect him to start seeing more and more chances.
Texas Rangers – Frank Francisco - They had been easing him back into the closer’s role since returning from the DL, and of course he got bombed last night to the tune of 3 earned runs on 2 hits and 2 walks to blow the save. Of course, he was rewarded with a victory in the end, softening the blow for fantasy owners, but having allowed 5 earned runs over his last 2 innings is certainly not a good sign. C.J. Wilson could continue to see a few opportunities, but unless Francisco really continues to struggle, I don’t see a permanent move being made. Francisco should still be seen as a #2 option at this point.
Toronto Blue Jays – Jason Frasor - He’s a placeholder for Scott Downs, but I’m still a little bit surprised that it isn’t B.J. Ryan getting the opportunity. Maybe they are trying to avoid any potential controversy. Frasor has only picked up one save since Downs went down, so I certainly wouldn’t consider him a top option by any stretch. Either way, Downs is the long-term answer, so Frasor is just a short-term fill-in for the Blue Jays and your fantasy roster.
What do you think? Which American League closer is most likely to lose his job next?
Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.