StrategyAugust 7, 2013

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Bottom of the 9th: Injuries, Demotions and Committees

By R.J. White

The theme of this week’s Bottom of the 9th is turnover at closer. While some weeks feature virtually no actionable news for those looking to add saves to their fantasy lineups, this week has plenty of RPs getting snapped up in leagues, thanks to injuries, demotions, committees and whatever you call what Ernesto Frieri is doing.

A Bridge Too Farquhar

The Mariners finally had enough of Tom Wilhelmsen when he put four runners on base without recording an out in a non-save situation. Not only was he yanked from the closer role, he was sent to the minors to hone his craft. While his start for Triple-A Tacoma Tuesday generated buzz that the Mariners might be turning him into a starting pitcher, that’s as yet unclear. He could be back in Seattle closing games before you know it if he excels on the farm. Tuesday’s three-run effort doesn’t make the prospect of that very promising, though.

In his place, Danny Farquhar has taken control of the ninth inning for the Mariners. He converted each of his two save chances against the Orioles last weekend, striking out three while allowing no hits or walks in 2.1 innings. His 5.09 ERA might make him seem like a stay-away, but he’s performed well over the last week while proving capable of racking up strikeouts (53 in 35.1 innings). Since he’s the guy getting the saves, he needs to be owned in all leagues.

Disabled Met

Mets closer Bobby Parnell was placed on the disabled list this week with a neck injury, one that may keep him out for the remainder of the season if surgery is required. Parnell has been one the few bright spots for a disappointing team, converting 22 of 26 save opportunities while posting a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 44:12 K:BB ratio in 50 innings. With no one player looking like a suitable replacement, the Mets are likely to use a committee in the ninth inning to replace Parnell.

LaTroy Hawkins picked up the first post-Parnell save Tuesday, giving up two hits in a scoreless ninth inning. Hawkins isn’t a typical closer, with a high hit rate and low strikeout rate, but the fact that he earned Tuesday’s save makes him the de facto committee head for now. David Aardsma could be employed in the ninth as well; he has a much better strikeout rate and allows fewer hits, although his walk rate is far higher than that of Hawkins. Southpaw Scott Rice may pick up the occasional save thanks to a .167/.255/.229 line against lefties this season. I probably wouldn’t bother owning any of them.

Astro Carousel

Speaking of fantasy bullpens of which I want no part, the Astros picked up their first save since trading closer Jose Veras, and it went to Josh Fields, the guy we passed over in this week’s Cafe Pod. It’s curious that Fields was the team’s preferred option, considering he posted an 8.25 ERA while allowing five home runs and walking eight batters in 12 innings from June 25 through Aug. 4. Fields’ 9.9 K/9 rate is great, but every other stat suggests that him as a closer may be a bad idea.

However, it’s not like the Astros have much else with which to work. Jose Cisnero owns a 1.63 WHIP thanks to allowing a sub-replacement level amount of hits and walks. He’s not as homer prone as Fields, though you wouldn’t have known it by watching Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox, when he surrendered two home runs and a total of three earned runs in an inning of work. I picked him up in a few leagues before the Veras trade, and I’m sending him right back to the wire. I’d basically stay away from everyone in this bullpen — they’re likely to do more to hurt your team than help it.

Fallen Angels

Things haven’t been going so hot for Ernesto Frieri. Since the All-Star break, he’s made nine appearances, racking up four saves, two blown saves and three losses while posting a 17.05 ERA and watching batters hit .469/.564/.813 off him. While he owns an elite strikeout rate, nobody can survive at closer while giving up close to two earned runs per inning. And speaking of that strikeout rate, Frieri failed to strike out any of the nine batters he faced over his last two appearances, marking the first time this season he went two straight appearances without recording a strikeout.

Before the season started, fantasy owners may have been a bit iffy on Frieri’s season-long prospects in the closer role due to the signing of Ryan Madson, who seemed poised to return from his long rehab at some point early in the season. Alas, after complications galore, Madson has been released, leaving Dane De La Rosa as the guy who needs to be owned in most leagues. De La Rosa has given up his fair share of runs over the last couple weeks, but nothing close to Frieri’s meltdown. He’s been consistently used in key situations in recent days, picking up three holds and a win since July 27. I’d own Farquhar first out of all the guys we’ve discussed in this column, but De La Rosa would be a clear second.

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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