Sunday, March 25, 2012

2012 Closer Strategies - Finding Cheap Saves

posted by Jon Williams
This week alone we have seen Joakim Soria, Royals Closer, go down needing Tommy John Surgery, Ryan Madson, Reds Closer, also need TJS, and Drew Storen, Nationals Closer, has inflammation in his elbow but apparently no structural damage, he may not be available for the start of the season. That is enough to make almost anyone question the decision to pay market rates for saves.

Why Paying Full Price (Dollars or Draft Picks) Is Dangerous

Closers get hurt and replaced constantly. Even when you think someone has settled into a role as a dominant closer, things can change very quickly. Carlos Marmol certainly is not as secure in the role of Cubs closer as he seemed this time a year ago. Many analysts are pointing at Marlins closer Heath Bell's declining K-Rate as a reason to be cautious when drafting him.New York's Mariano Rivera looks like a safe investment but the Yankees closer is 42-years old! I do not mean to come off like Fox News, but grabbing saves with early picks or top dollars is playing with a potential disaster.

The save category represents just ten percent of your potential points in the standings in a standard 5x5 roto league. But if you are spending fourth and fifth round picks or spending 20 to even 30 dollars on a closer you are spending nearly 12 percent on just one closer for one category. You will probably need two closers to finish at the top of the category. Look at it like this - if you spend 30 dollars on the right hitter, say Carlos Gonzalez, you'll get major contributions to five categories. Even spending 30 on a starter like Clayton Kershaw will get you four categories.

It probably sounds like I am advocating punting saves as a category, but that is not the case. I am not saying not to get saves, just not to pay so much for them. The average closer pitches fewer than 60 innings a season and a lot of them less than that. This really reduces their impact on ERA, Ratio, and Strikeouts. If you spend a good portion of the dollars dedicated to saves on improving your starters (get guys with lots of quality innings) you can even further reduce a closer's impact on the non-save categories. Why would you want to do that?

Drafting the Closers No One Else Wants

At first it probably seems like a plan bound to fail. However, it makes some sense. No further testimony is needed to see that no closer is safe. Even the most highly rated closer can get hurt or lose his job. By spending more of our pitching budget on quality starters we can lessen the impact a lower ranked closer's ERA or WHIP can have on your standings points. The following closers are at the bottom of most rankings but are fairly secure in their roles.

Frank Francisco, New York Mets
Brett Myers, Houston Astros
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles
Brandon League, Seattle Mariners

Pick the closers that have jobs but have analysts speculating on their job security. Any closer can be ineffective for a short period and then lose his job. It is even possible that despite the speculation the closer remains in the role for the entire season. The following closers have the closer role heading into the regular season but are not expected to hold onto the job.

Matt Thornton, Chicago White Sox - to be replaced by Addison Reed
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians - to be replaced by Vinne Pestano
Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers - to be replaced by Kenley Jansen
Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics - pick 'em: Brian Fuentes, Joey Devine, Fautino De Los Santos

These closers have an injury or a history of injury that may put their value into question.

Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers
Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals
Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals

Picking your closers from these groups will usually allow you to build a decent base of saves without spending nearly as much as you would drafting the best and safest options. The idea is to get them cheaply enough that the difference in cost allows you to improve your starting pitching.

If you get caught sleeping and miss out on all the closers draft one of these future closers. They aren't in any order.

Vinnie Pestano, Cleveland Indians
Addison Reed, Chicago White Sox
Glenn Perkins, Minnesota Twins
Rex Brothers, Colorado Rockies
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Mike Adams, Texas Rangers
Brad Brach, San Diego Padres
Ramon Ramirez, New York Mets

Good luck adding saves on the cheap.

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