StrategyMay 23, 2012

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Bottom of the 9th: Big Red Machine

By R.J. White

Before we get to the Angel and National bullpens, let’s talk about the Reds. Sean Marshall has been a very good reliever this season, striking out 22 batters in 15 innings while walking only three. However, he’s been just a bit too hittable, and the Reds happen to have one of the most talented arms in the majors in their bullpen. A move was only logical, and now Aroldis Chapman owners will get to enjoy saves along with typical low ratios and monster K totals.

How good has Chapman been? He has 41 Ks in 23 innings, good for a tie for 38th in the National League despite pitching only in relief! He’s currently ahead of Madison Bumgarner and Cliff Lee in that category. Mind, blown. He’s yet to allow an earned run in 19 appearances while posting a 0.60 WHIP. To boil it down, meet the majors’ best closer. If you can get him for anything lower than a Tier 1 closer price, do it immediately.


ATL Craig Kimbrel
BAL Jim Johnson
CIN Aroldis Chapman
CLE Chris Perez
COL Rafael Betancourt
HOU Brett Myers
LAD Kenley Jansen
MIL John Axford
PHI Jonathan Papelbon
PIT Joel Hanrahan
SF Santiago Casilla
STL Jason Motte
TB Fernando Rodney
TEX Joe Nathan

Safe … For Now

ARI J.J. Putz
BOS Alfredo Aceves
CHC Rafael Dolis
CHW Addison Reed
DET Jose Valverde
KC Jonathan Broxton
MIA Heath Bell
MIN Matt Capps
OAK Brian Fuentes
NYM Frank Francisco
NYY Rafael Soriano
SD Dale Thayer
SEA Brandon League
TOR Casey Janssen

Now Closing

LAA Ernesto Frieri
The Angels brought Scott Downs in to pitch the eighth inning of a 4-2 game Friday while Frieri warmed up to pitch the ninth. While three Angel runs turned Frieri’s appearance into a non-save situation, the move fueled speculation that the electric righty was headed for a permanent role as the closer. It seems odd to remove Downs from the role when he hasn’t allowed a run this year, but remember that the team’s only other left-handed reliever is Hisanori Takahashi. Mike Scioscia’s best move is to deploy Downs earlier in the game if needed, and should open the door for Frieri and his oodles of Ks to run away with the job.

WAS Tyler Clippard
Henry Rodriguez has wild pitched himself out of the closer role, and the Nationals have announced that they’re forming a committee to do the job for now. Clippard got the first crack at a 1-2-3 save on Tuesday, and he succeeded. He’s likely to earn the bulk of the opportunities as long as he keeps pitching to his talent, but lefty Sean Burnett or multi-inning asset Craig Stammen could also factor in, at least until Brad Lidge returns in mid-June and perhaps until Drew Storen comes back, which should be sometime in July.

Save Speculation

ARI David Hernandez
J.J. Putz has been extremely hittable this season, and he’s suddenly developed a little problem with walks over the past week. Hernandez has a 27/7 K/BB ratio and experience closing from last year. He would be the favorite for saves over Bryan Shaw should management decide Putz needs a break.

CHC Carlos Marmol
The Cubs have dropped eight straight games, so Rafael Dolis hasn’t had a lot of save opportunities come his way lately. However, he’s allowed runs in three of his last four outings. Marmol is on a rehab assignment though he hasn’t pitched yet, and we could see him back closing soon if Dolis can’t keep runs off the scoreboard.

DET Joaquin Benoit
Jose Valverde is ready to return after missing a week with a back injury, but that doesn’t change the fact he’s been very mediocre this year, with a 14/12 K/BB ratio in 16.1 innings. Benoit, on the other hand, has a 27/11 K/BB ratio and has been particularly dominant in May (2.16 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 11/2 K/BB ratio in 8.1 innings).

SEA Tom Wilhelmsen
Brandon League has posted back-to-back ugly outings, so there’s a shot Wilhelmsen could sneak into the role soon. He has a nice 27/8 K/BB ratio in 22.1 innings, and he could be a great long-term fantasy pickup as League is thought to be on the trade block.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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