StrategyMay 31, 2012

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Bottom of the 9th: Seattle Who?

By R.J. White

Your new Seattle closer is … Hisashi Iwakuma? The Japanese-imported rookie picked up the M’s first post-League save on Wednesday. Should you run out and grab him? Short answer: no. Long answer: Iwakuma’s save came as a result of pitching the last three innings of the game, in which he gave up three runs as the Mariners coasted to a 21-8 win. (Yes, the Rangers went for two.) The expected closer is a guy we discussed in the Save Speculation section of last week’s Bottom of the 9th: Tom Wilhelmsen.

Sure, Wilhelmsen’s 4.26 ERA and 1.38 WHIP don’t look all that hot, but he does have a nice 30/9 K/BB ratio in 25.1 innings this year. He’s also managed seven holds for the Mariners, more than the rest of the current bullpen combined, as a result of being the eighth-inning man. He should be owned in all leagues now while we await the Mariners’ first real save opportunity of the year. Shawn Kelly and Lucas Luetge could factor in, as could really anyone whenever the M’s are up in a close game. I wouldn’t drop League yet, as he should be back in the saddle at some point.


ATL Craig Kimbrel
BAL Jim Johnson
BOS Alfredo Aceves
CHW Addison Reed
CLE Chris Perez
COL Rafael Betancourt
HOU Brett Myers
KC Jonathan Broxton
LAD Kenley Jansen
MIL John Axford
PHI Jonathan Papelbon
PIT Joel Hanrahan
SF Santiago Casilla
TB Fernando Rodney
TEX Joe Nathan

Safe … For Now

ARI J.J. Putz
CIN Aroldis Chapman
DET Jose Valverde
MIA Heath Bell
MIN Matt Capps
NYM Frank Francisco
NYY Rafael Soriano
OAK Brian Fuentes
SD Dale Thayer
STL Jason Motte
TOR Casey Janssen
WAS Tyler Clippard

Now Closing

CHC James Russell
The Cubs finally broke a 12-game losing streak by sweeping the Padres, but Rafael Dolis didn’t survive the dozen downers — he was sent to the minors to work on his stuff. Meanwhile, Carlos Marmol is back in the majors but being kept away from important innings (for now). Russell spent the sweep pitching the eighth of an 11-7 opener, earning a two-out save on Tuesday and picking up a win after pitching the ninth of a 6-6 game Wednesday. He looks like the closer to me, though I don’t see him as the closer for the rest of the year; I think Marmol and his big contract make their way back to the ninth before long. Russell and Shawn Camp should be good for a few saves for now.

LAA Ernesto Frieri & Scott Downs
Neither of these guys have allowed runs for the Halos this year, so Mike Scioscia seems pretty content playing matchup with these co-closers. They’ve traded each of the Angels’ last four save opportunities over the past eight days, and we should expect the rotation to continue. If anyone is running away with the job, it’s Frieri, who has a 43/14 K/BB ratio in 23.2 innings this season. If you’re still holding on to Jordan Walden hoping for saves down the line, it’s time to cash in your chips and speculate somewhere else.

Save Speculation

CIN Sean Marshall
First he gets ticketed for going 93 MPH while having a suspended license, and now Aroldis Chapman’s hotel room was robbed Tuesday night. Oh, and a women was found tied up in the room. It doesn’t look like it had anything to do with Chapman, but he’s certainly having quite the odd week. The scope of things that could break in the news about Chapman on any given day seems larger than normal; if he has to leave the team for some reason at some point, Marshall would slip right back into the ninth.

OAK Grant Balfour & Ryan Cook
Brian Fuentes blew a save opportunity Tuesday, giving him a 4.12 ERA this year. Balfour has settled down after losing the closer job, and he’s held batters hitless over 4.1 innings in his last four appearances. Of course, Balfour and/or Fuentes could eventually be traded, and it’s likely Ryan Cook could work himself into the situation. He gave up his first runs of the season on Monday in his 22nd appearance.

SD Huston Street
Now’s the time to check and see if Street is sitting on the wire in your league. He’s expected to begin a rehab assignment this weekend, meaning Dale Thayer’s days are numbered. Thayer certainly hasn’t been helping his own cause by getting rocked in a couple non-save situations this week. Don’t try and be sneaky and grag Andrew Cashner or Luke Gregerson for a cheap save or two while Street rehabs, as both those guys have been pitching poorly as well.

STL Mitchell Boggs
Jason Motte has given up two runs in back-to-back non-save outings. It could be nothing, or it could be … the beginning of the end. (Cue flash of lightning.) Anyway, Boggs has pitched well this year and has seven holds to his credit. He’s allowed just two hits and three walks in his last 5.2 innings, which were all scoreless. If Motte suddenly can’t buy a scoreless outing over the next week, Boggs could slide into fantasy relevancy.

WAS Sean Burnett & Brad Lidge
There’s nothing wrong with Tyler Clippard, but that doesn’t mean Burnett can’t sneak a save or two away from him while the Nationals wait for Drew Storen to return. Lidge could be back in two weeks or so, and the team may be interested in having him pitch the ninth with Burnett while Clippard returns to potentially higher-leverage situations in the seventh and eighth.

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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