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(ESPN Insider) NL closers

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(ESPN Insider) NL closers

Postby jebatzel » Thu May 15, 2003 7:18 pm

"No category causes fantasy owners more angst than saves. With big-names closers carrying exorbitant price tags in trade talks, it pays to be aware of who is line for cheap saves. Here's a look at the closer hierarchy for all 16 NL teams.

Updated every Thursday

Arizona Diamondbacks

Matt Mantei
Security: High

5/8 - 5/14: 2 G, 2 IP, H, 0 ER, BB, 3 K, (0-0, 1 Sv)

Status: No worries here. Mantei's strikeout totals suggest he's completely recovered from two seasons of injury woe.

Fantasy Insurance: Mike Koplove. Koplove remains a fixture in set-up duty during close games. He allows nearly a hit an inning but has good strikeout numbers and doesn't walk many batters.

Other Options: Mike Myers is back on track, striking out four of the last six batters faced, but he's a situational lefty who probably isn't a candidate for full-time closing. Although he walks too many batters -- 18 in 28 innings -- Oscar Villarreal is a sleeper candidate as long as he remains in the bullpen. He has 22 strikeouts and opponents are hitting just .212 against him.

Atlanta Braves

John Smoltz
Security: High

5/8 - 5/14: 5 G, 5.1 IP, 5 H, ER, 0 BB, 5 K (0-0, 3 Sv).

Status: The Braves are keeping Smoltz busy, including both ends of a doubleheader on May 8. The new Eck is the closer as long as he's healthy.

Fantasy Insurance: Roberto Hernandez. Not much changes with Hernandez. He's far from perfect at this point in his career, but he's better than a lot of guys currently closing for other teams. If Smoltz goes down, he's a terrific fantasy addition.

Other Options: Despite getting shelled in an inning of work against San Francisco on May 9, Jung Bong continues to impress. The southpaw may be destined for the rotation, but he has closing potential. Veteran Ray King is a solid lefty option who has been tough this season against right-handed hitters, although walks are a concern.

Chicago Cubs

Joe Borowski
Security: Low

5/8 - 5/14: 2 G, 2 IP, H, ER, BB, 2 K (0-0, 1 BS).

Status: Borowski picked a lousy time for his first blown save, although the Cubs at least ended up winning the game on May 10 against St. Louis. His otherwise gaudy numbers ensure that outing won't cost him his job, but he can't afford many slips.

Fantasy Insurance: Antonio Alfonseca. The Cubs seem intent on proving Alfonseca is completely healthy, pitching him in seven straight games over a nine day period. And aside from shaky outing against St. Louis on May 9, he's been close to perfect. Trade bait or a threat to Borowski? Too soon to tell.

Other Options: Kyle Farnsworth has the strikeout totals that will probably earn him a shot at a closing job somewhere down the road, but for now he's a quality set-up pitcher with bouts of wildness. Mike Remlinger has rebounded after a slow start and remains a last-ditch closing option.

Cincinnati Reds

Scott Williamson
Security: High

5/8 - 5/14: 2 G, 2 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, 2 K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status: Williamson has battled back spasms, but appears capable of staying in the lineup for now. In terms of production, he's got complete job security.

Fantasy Insurance: There is no clear insurance for Williamson. Kent Mercker and Felix Heredia both have ERAs under 2.00, but Mercker's WHIP is 1.46 and Heredia has more walks than strikeouts. Right-handed hitters own Gabe White this season, making him an unlikely full-time candidate. Scott Sullivan is probably the best right-handed option, although he's shown some Mike Timlin/Steve Kline qualities this season.

Colorado Rockies

Jose Jimenez
Security: Medium

5/8 - 5/14: 4 G, 4 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K (0-0, 3 Sv).

Status: Opponents are hitting better than .400 against Jimenez -- lefties are hitting .510 in 51 at-bats -- but he's blown just one save in 11 opportunities. More odd numbers: 13 of the 15 runs he's allowed have come away from Coors Field. But through all of it, Jimenez appears in no immediate danger of losing his job.

Fantasy Insurance: Todd Jones. And here's why Jimenez is safe. The most obvious closing candidate after Jimenez, Jones has been terrible. He's allowed 10 runs in his last seven innings.

Other Options: Rookie Javier Lopez continues to impress in limited action, and makes for an intriguing darkhorse candidate. He hasn't allowed a hit in his last 4.2 innings. Lopez is raw and wasn't all that highly regarded, but he merits watching as a sleeper closer candidate. Veterans Steve Reed and Dan Micelli have some closing experience, but their numbers won't get anyone excited.

Florida Marlins

Braden Looper
Security: Medium

5/8 - 5/14: 3 G, 3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, 2 K (1-2, 0 Sv).

Status: It wasn't a great stretch for Looper, who didn't blow any saves but picked up a couple of losses by blowing tie scores. Still, he's in no danger of losing the job.

Fantasy Insurance: Tim Spooneybarger. Spooneybarger's 4.38 ERA isn't indicative of his recent outings. Opponents are hitting just .207 against him and his WHIP is 0.97. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 6.2 innings and remains a viable alternative if Looper falters.

Other Options: Lefty Armando Almanza has 26 strikeouts and just six walks in 22 innings, but right-handers are hitting him too well to consider him a closing option.

Houston Astros

Billy Wagner
Security: High

5/8 - 5/14: 3 G, 3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status: Wagner's job is as safe as any in baseball, and he's been as good as any closer in recent days.

Fantasy Insurance: Octavio Dotel. He might be the only guy pitching as well as Wagner. Dotel has allowed one hit and no runs in his last 5.2 innings, striking out eight. He's the most valuable pure set-up guy in fantasy and would make a great closer if Wagner got hurt.

Other Options: Rookie Brad Lidge bounced back well from his first poor outing. He hasn't allowed a hit in his last four appearances (3.1 innings), although his strikeout rate has started to fall. Ricky Stone, who pitched well in middle relief last season, is again getting the job done.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Eric Gagne
Security: High

5/8 - 5/14: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, BB, K (0-1, 1 Sv).

Status: What do you know, Gagne is mortal. Still no blown saves, but he took a pounding to earn a loss on May 12 against the Braves. He's still one of fantasy's two or three elite closers.

Fantasy Insurance: Paul Shuey. Given Shuey's history as a closer, more blown saves than saves, the Dodgers can only hope Gagne stays healthy. But Shuey pitched well in April, allowing just five hits in 13.1 innings. He's currently on the 15-day DL with a knee injury but should bounce back.

Other Options: Guillermo Mota continues to prove he's more than the guy who hit Mike Piazza. Mota has allowed just one hit and no runs in his last 8.1 innings, striking out five. He has no career saves, but would at least make an interesting sleeper if Gagne gets hurt. Also available is veteran middle reliever Paul Quantrill, 2.87 ERA the last two seasons.

Milwaukee Brewers

Mike DeJean
Security: Medium

5/8 - 5/14: 2 G, 2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K (0-0, 1 BS).

Status: DeJean blew his first save since Opening Day, but he has been good enough to earn a little slack. His job isn't in danger yet.

Fantasy Insurance: Curtis Leskanic. Just when Leskanic looks like he's going to get lit, he picks up his game. He's fanned four of the last five batters faced and hasn't allowed a hit in his last three appearances. He has closing experience if DeJean doesn't snap out of his funk.

Other Options: Southpaw Matt Ford hasn't allowed a hit in his last 5.1 innings. But as a 22-year-old rookie, he may not be ready for ninth inning duty. Luis Vizcaino is still around in the bullpen, but he's dropped off the closing radar.

Montreal Expos

Rocky Biddle
Security: Medium

5/8 - 5/14: 4 G, 4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (0-0, 3 Sv).

Status: Biddle gives up his share of runs -- 11 in 22.1 innings -- but he keeps getting the job done. Montreal used him for save opportunities three out of four games from May 10-13, suggesting he's locked in as the closer. He converted all three chances.

Fantasy Insurance: Scott Stewart. Biddle's stock was improved by Stewart's recent funk. Stewart has allowed seven hits and three earned runs in his last 3.2 innings. But the former closer has still been effective overall and remains the best fantasy insurance.

Other Options: Joey Eischen has allowed just 10 hits and one earned run in 13 innings. The veteran picked up a pair of saves last season for Montreal. T.J. Tucker has also been sharp and had four saves last season.

New York Mets

Armando Benitez
Security: High

5/8 - 5/14: 4 G, 4.1 IP, H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (0-0, 2 Sv).

Status: It's tough to feel confident about Benitez, but he has converted his last seven chances, while allowing just five hits in 12 innings. Count on him sticking as the closer.

Fantasy Insurance: Dave Weathers. Scott Strickland is on the 15-day DL with a groin strain, and Weathers has the kind of set-up resume you like to see in insurance closers.

Other Options: Even with Strickland out, there are plenty of bullpen options. Both Graeme Lloyd and Mike Stanton could conceivably step in and close games if necessary. Lloyd has been the better of the two this season.

Philadelphia Phillies

Jose Mesa
Security: High

5/8 - 5/14: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (0-1, Sv).

Status: Life is always interesting with Mesa, who showed off his combustible side in recent days. Still, the Phillies don't have many alternatives, and they know enough not to panic with Mesa. He is what he is, but he's also the closer.

Fantasy Insurance: Carlos Silva. The heir apparent, Silva has also been getting rocked lately.

Other Options: Rheal Cormier, anyone? Philadelphia's other options have all been around the block. But Cormier has pitched as well as anyone, allowing just 11 hits in 17.1 innings. Turk Wendell has also been effective, having not allowed a run in 13 innings.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Mike Williams
Security: Medium

5/8 - 5/14: 3 G, 2.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, K (0-1, 2 Sv).

Status: Williams is safe, for now. Despite a nasty ERA and some bad performances in recent weeks, he's converted all but two opportunities. But he does need to find some consistency.

Fantasy Insurance: Scott Sauerbeck. And here is why Williams is safe. Sauerbeck may be the next-best option, but that's not saying much.

Other Options: Lefty Joe Beimel or soft-throwing Brian Meadows are next in line. Beimel has been solid, but he's a converted starter who struggles against right-handed hitters.

St. Louis Cardinals

Cal Eldred
Security: None

5/8 - 5/14: 1 G, 1.1 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, K (0-1).

Status: We cheated and used the Cardinals' matinee from May 15, in which Eldred picked up his first save of the season. Does this mean he's the new closer? Nope. Expect Tony LaRussa to keep mixing and matching from Eldred, Dustin Hermanson, Jeff Fassero, Steve Kline and even Kiko Calero.

Fantasy Insurance: No such thing. There's not one guy worth having as the primary option, so it's tough to pick a secondary option. Pick up Jason Isringhausen and hope he makes it make in June.

Other Options: Fassero picked up a save on May 9, but it was his implosion (three hits and two earned runs in an inning) that created the save chance for Eldred on May 15. Calero was used in the second inning of a game on May 13, suggesting he's not a late-inning solution. Hermanson probably deserves a chance at some point in the near future, but his strikeout numbers suggest he's not the Hermanson of old.

San Diego Padres

Matt Herges
Security: Low

5/8 - 5/14: 3 G, 3.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 3 BB, 3 K (1-0, 0 Sv).

Status: This team just doesn't generate save chances, but Herges seems to be the top late-inning choice when they do find themselves in a close game. He picked up a win on May 13 after entering a tie game in the top of the 10th inning. He worked into the ninth of a 5-4 win against the Mets on May 9, but ceded the final out to Jesse Orosco. In other words he's not a full-time closer, but he's as close as there is on this team.

Fantasy Insurance: Jaret Wright. Wright hasn't done much right since picking up a save on April 24, and there's not much reason for fantasy owners to pick him up. There's a chance he could vulture another two or three saves, but he doesn't look like full-time material.

Other Options: Brandon Villafuerte has bounced around between middle and late-inning work, but could get as many chances as Wright. The venerable Jesse Orosco has two saves, but he's purely situational.

San Francisco Giants

Tim Worrell
Security: High

5/8 - 5/14: 2 G, 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, BB, 3 K, (0-0, Sv).

Status: After a very active stretch, Worrell has been getting some rest with the Giants on a losing streak. But he's firmly entrenched as the closer.

Fantasy Insurance: Felix Rodriguez. F-Rod's recent slide has continued, as he got hammered by Atlanta on May 11 and has given up runs in his last three appearances. But he still has great stuff and the team's other insurance options have also struggled recently.

Other Options: So much for Joe Nathan's great start. Nathan didn't allow a run for more than 20 innings, but he's been touched for six in his last 3.1 innings. Not the end of the world, but probably enough to move him out of the closing mix. Any saves headed towards southpaw Scott Eyre will be strictly situational in nature."

hope his helps non-subscribers

if you want me to post the AL closers I will too

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Postby bleach168 » Thu May 15, 2003 7:48 pm

Thanks for posting this. Pretty interesting.
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Postby Guest » Thu May 15, 2003 7:50 pm

please do, this is fantastic info.

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Postby DGroundhog » Thu May 15, 2003 7:51 pm

Excellent post. Please post the AL version, as I'm curious what they say about a couple AL teams.

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All hail jebatzel!

Postby lifeform » Thu May 15, 2003 8:32 pm

jebatzel -- May good karma follow you and your fantasy baseball squad all season long.

All hail the man with the inside closer info! All hail jebatzel!
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Postby jebatzel » Thu May 15, 2003 8:44 pm


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Postby Madison » Fri May 16, 2003 5:11 am

Thanks for the posts Jebatzel. Closers have been tricky this year.
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Postby Guest » Fri May 16, 2003 2:08 pm

please post the American League. please

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Postby Juhlz » Fri May 16, 2003 2:40 pm

you da man, keep up the good work. Maybe you could post the AL???
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