StrategyAugust 3, 2012

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Bottom of the 9th: Mr. Holland’s New Job

By R.J. White

Last week, we said Jonathan Broxton was the only closer with a chance of being traded. On Tuesday, it happened, as he was sent to the Reds to bolster their already-scary bullpen and, in the process, to the fantasy scrap heap as well. As expected, Greg Holland was named closer in the wake of the trade. Although his 2012 performance doesn’t come close to matching last year’s stellar campaign, where he posted a 1.80 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 60 innings while striking out 74 batters, he’s been steadily improving, posting a 1.66 FIP and 2.54 xFIP in July, his best monthly splits in both categories.

In New York, Frank Francisco is expected to be activated Friday, and he’ll likely have to prove himself a few times before being shifted back to closer. Bobby Parnell did have a save on Wednesday and should count on remaining the closer throughout the weekend, but any slip up could accelerate the timetable on Francisco’s move to the ninth.

Now Closing

HOU Wilton Lopez
So, it turns out Francisco Cordero can’t close anymore. Who knew? Cordero is 0-3 in his last five appearances, giving up multiple runs in four of them. As of Thursday, he’s the no-so-proud owner of a 7.55 ERA and 2.01 WHIP in 39.1 innings. That’s opened the door for Lopez, who hasn’t pitched since July 29 because of a tight elbow, which doesn’t sound good at all. It’s supposed to be a minor injury, but the over/under on the number of saves he’ll pick up this year should be set very low, especially since the Astros won’t have many chances as the league’s worst team. Add him, but keep an eye on Wesley Wright, the only other halfway decent reliever in the bullpen. Even as the lefty, he’d have to get the next crack at closing if Lopez has to miss an extended period of time.

MIL John Axford
We’re back with the Brewers for another round after Francisco Rodriguez (a.k.a., BB-Rod) totally flopped in the closer role, posting 10 earned runs over a four-game stretch while walking eight guys in the process. That’s given Axford the chance to get his job back, and he was able to lock down a save on July 30, though it wasn’t a great performance on his part. It’s still a “committee,” but expect Axford to get the majority of save opportunities over the last two months.


ARI J.J. Putz
ATL Craig Kimbrel
BAL Jim Johnson
CHW Addison Reed
CIN Aroldis Chapman
CLE Chris Perez
COL Rafael Betancourt
DET Jose Valverde
LAA Ernesto Frieri
LAD Kenley Jansen
MIN Glen Perkins/Jared Burton
NYY Rafael Soriano
OAK Ryan Cook
PHI Jonathan Papelbon
PIT Joel Hanrahan
SD Huston Street
SEA Tom Wilhelmsen
STL Jason Motte
TB Fernando Rodney
TEX Joe Nathan
TOR Casey Janssen

Safe … For Now

BOS Alfredo Aceves
CHC Carlos Marmol
KC Greg Holland
MIA Steve Cishek
SF Santiago Casilla
WAS Tyler Clippard

Aceves will soon have to deal with Andrew Bailey’s return, and I expect Bailey to be the closer when the regular season ends. Marmol should be “Safe” by dint of the Cubs having no options behind him, but he hasn’t been good enough to earn the spot. Cishek should be “Safe” based on talent, but Heath Bell hasn’t allowed a run since July 8, and his salary should put him back in the ninth eventually. Casilla has been on shaky ground, and Jeremy Affeldt could form a committee with him before long. Clippard was a little shaky in his last save opportunity, and Drew Storen has been good over the past week — a change could be coming at some point, even if Clippard doesn’t deserve to be yanked.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. 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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