StrategyMay 22, 2013

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Bottom of the 9th: We’re Going to Use Everybody

By R.J. White

What is one of fantasy owners’ worst nightmares? Marlins manager Mike Redmond offered insight when answering a question about who his closer was. “We’re going to use everybody,” Redmond said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “We’re going to use (Steve) Cishek. We’ll use (Chad) Qualls. We haven’t had that many save opportunities. We need those guys to pitch. We need Cishek to go down there and log some innings. He’s still going to close games. Qualls might close some games. (Mike) Dunn might close some games. We need these guys to pitch we need them to stay sharp. They’re all going to contribute.”

Everybody? I guess that means it’s time for a top-to-bottom look at the Marlins bullpen.

Steve Cishek (RHP)

The closer at the beginning of the season, Cishek is still the de facto option for Marlins saves in fantasy baseball. He gained closing duties in 2012, recording 15 saves, with all but one coming in the second half of the year. He struggled with control in the first half, walking 18 batters in 37.1 innings and striking out 36. He also allowed three HRs. These are not the underlying stats of a closer-in-waiting, and yet he enjoyed a 4-1 record and 2.17 ERA. He improved in the second half, posting a 32:11 K:BB ratio in 26.1 innings and surrendering not a single home run. His ERA came back to reality a bit with a 3.42 mark, but he seemed to prove worthy of opening 2013 as the closer, especially when the Marlins didn’t add any other feasible options.

Unfortunately, bad Cishek has reared his ugly head once again this year. He’s 1-4 with five saves and owns a 4.91 ERA and 18:10 K:BB ratio in 18.1 innings. He’s shown extreme lefty/righty splits, letting lefties hit .333/.438/.564 off him in 48 plate appearances while limiting righties to a .111/.188/.111 line in 34 plate appearances. These splits are nothing new for Cishek, but they were nowhere near as extreme in 2012. The Diamondbacks exploited this on May 19, pulling righty Cody Ross for lefty Eric Chavez, who singled. After Cishek walked righty Martin Prado, he was pulled from the game with lefty Miguel Montero coming up.

We can expect Redmond to be similarly cautious with Cishek moving forward. The Marlins manager had Chad Qualls warming for a save situation Monday before the Marlins extended their lead to four runs. Their opponent had a lefty, righty and switch-hitter due up, making it clear that he didn’t want Cishek facing a lefty to lead off the ninth with a one-run lead.

Cishek is by no means droppable in fantasy leagues. As I said earlier, his splits haven’t been this extreme in the past, and he’s still likely to be the preferred option for the Marlins long-term. However, depending on the depth of each fantasy league, other Marlin relievers come into play.

Chad Qualls (RHP)

Qualls closed out that 5-1 win Monday, and since he appeared to be coming into the game no matter what the score was, he can be considered option 1A for saves in Miami. This is likely because he’s posted less concerning splits against lefties and righties this year. In fact, he’s actually been better against lefties, holding them to a .207/.258/.310 line in 31 plate appearances (versus .286/.324/.400 in 37 plate appearances against righties). However, his success against lefties seems unlikely to last — he has worse numbers against them than righties in his career and in 2012 allowed lefties to hit .337/.381/.607 in 98 plate appearances while being traded twice in July. I guess one man’s trash is another man’s closer.

The other shoe is going to drop for Qualls soon, and he really only seems worthy of an add in very deep leagues where every single save is key. He seems likely to get some save chances in the near future, but I hesitate to think he’ll emerge as a rest-of-season option for the Marlins and fantasy teams.

Mike Dunn (LHP)

After Cishek was removed on May 19 with a lefty coming to the plate and two men on, Dunn was summoned to the mound and picked up his first save of the season. He’s been the Marlins’ best reliever this season, posting a 1.74 ERA and 20:9 K:BB ratio in 20.2 innings. While that walk rate doesn’t look overly special, it sure is better than his walk rate last season, when Dunn surrendered 5.9 walks per nine innings. He also gave up 10 hits per nine innings last year, giving him a 1.77 WHIP and making any talk that he could land into a platoon situation for saves seem laughable. Yet here we are.

Dunn has excelled against lefties this season, holding them to a .211/.311/.263 line in 46 plate appearances and doing quite well against righties too. However, he was bad against everyone last season. His career splits show a pretty heavy difference between righties and lefties in about the same amount of plate appearances for each, and Dunn has let lefties hit just .231/.328/.333 in 324 plate appearances in his career.

A lefty-righty closer platoon of Dunn and Cishek could stick long-term for the Marlins, as long as 2012 Dunn doesn’t show back up. He’s worth an add in most leagues while he’s pitching well, as he could be good for a save a week as Redmond plays matchups.

Ryan Webb (RHP)

Webb has looked like the Marlins’ best right-hander on the surface, posting a 2.08 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 26 innings this season. However, most of the credit for those numbers can be given to a good-luck-maintaining-that .188 BABIP. Webb has managed just a 17:12 K:BB ratio on the year. If the BABIP gods continue to smile upon him, Webb could wind up with a few save opportunities here and there. However, he can be ignored in all fantasy leagues.

A.J. Ramos (RHP)

Dynasty leaguers, time to pay attention. Ramos has been solid this season, striking out over a batter an inning while limiting walks for the most part in posting a 24:10 K:BB ratio in 23.1 innings to go along with a 3.09 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. He did a solid job in his Marlins debut last year, but the excitement comes when you look at his minor-league numbers. Each of his four seasons in the minors has featured spectacular peripherals, culminating in a 11.7 K/9 rate, 2.8 BB/9 rate and 4.7 H/9 rate in Double-A over 68.2 innings last season. He throws a lot of different pitches and could be a breakout candidate if he can keep batters off-balance. If anyone is going to emerge as a lock-down closer from this group, it’s this guy.

Duane Below & Wade LeBlanc (LHP)

Below joined the Marlins when Jon Rauch was designated for assignment last week. LeBlanc was replaced in the rotation by Tom Koehler. Neither figure to be an option for saves, but the presence of both allows the Marlins the opportunity to move Dunn into the closer role full-time if they so choose. If one of these converted starters can serve as a capable setup man while the other fills the long-relief role, that would free Dunn to close exclusively, if that’s what Redmond eventually wants. This configuration makes Dunn all the more appealing in fantasy leagues, as the Marlins have no shortage of southpaws in the bullpen currently.

Jose Ceda (RHP)

Ceda missed most of last season due to Tommy John surgery, and though he looked like he may be an option for the opening-day bullpen this year, he was placed on the 60-day disabled list just before the season started. Those 60 days are almost up, and while it would be surprising to see him immediately placed in high-leverage situations, he has been a dominant strikeout pitcher in the minors while striking out more than a batter per inning in the majors. He has battled control issues in the past, but his last work in the minors shows his upside: 3-1, 24 saves, 1.36 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 53:13 K:BB ratio and one HR allowed in 39.2 innings for Triple-A New Orleans in 2011. If Tommy John surgery hasn’t derailed him completely, he could be a factor for saves in the second half. Keep him on your radar, but don’t bother adding in leagues just yet.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to's MLB Rumors blog. He 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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