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Baseball Analysis  Bart Ewing / The Fantasy Insider

March 2003


By Bart Ewing

Time to look at the closers. They command frequently the most of your dollars at auction and the wrong one or the dreaded injury (whoa to Hoffman owners) can sink a team fast. In 4 X 4 one has to be careful not to blow big money on risky finishers. In 5X5 it’s plain foolish to waste too much on a closer. In sim games the focus should be on skills leading to saves more than actual saves. This year there are fewer sure things due to injury, aging and open jobs. This means there is greater risk to kill your team with a wrong choice or make your team with a late steal. Below I break down the current closers by league. The National League going into spring had the more reliable closer list. The injury to Trevor Hoffman and the decision to move Byung-Hyun Kim to starter has created uncertainty for NL only owners. To be a closer 3 things have to happen. First you have to have skills to do the job. The best closers are usually power pitchers with excellent strikeout rates who also have the ability to not walk a tying or lead run. Good closers also don’t give up the long ball. The second thing is the manager has to put you in position to get the save. Some closers with ordinary skills are nailing 30-40 saves because they got the job over another pitcher on their team with a better skills set. The final factor is the team must be able to win games to create saves. John Smoltz on the Royals doesn’t save 50 games. So I break down each closer on these 3 factors along with listing the closer in waiting for each team. It’s always a good deal to protect your investment plus 3-4 of these guys will lose their jobs and someone is going to be this years Eric Gagne, Jorge Julio, Mike Dejean etc.

National League Closers Skills Situation Winning Back ups/Danger Points

Safe Pick Group:

1. E. Gagne-La A A B Quantril/Shuey- none

2. R. Nen - Sf A A B F Rodriguez - none

3. J. Smoltz - Atl A A B- Holmes/Hernandez team may lose more, starters are thinner and that great pen from last year is redone as well

4. B. Wagner- Hous A A- A Dotel - Dotel is so strong he steals a few saves and injury opens the door wide open for Octavio.

5. A. Benitez - NYM B A- B+ Strickland/Stanton - He’s pretty consistent despite the occasional gopher ball melt down. They have guys who could take over but he’s pretty safe in his job.

Solid but Some Risk

6. J. Mesa - Phi C+ A- A Silva/ Adams- Mesa has a firm grasp on job despite mediocre skills set. No one else stands out to threaten him. Yet, in Philly it’s a win now atmosphere and they will abandon him if he melts down.

7. J. Isringhausen - Stl B+ B B+ Kline/Crudale- He loses a few saves due to the way La Russa uses his pen, but his skills are solid.

8. J Jimenez - Col B- A C Jones/Speir/Cruz - He has a shaky reputation but he really is a decent fit for Colorado. He won’t have sexy numbers but he will rack up near 40 saves.

National League Closers Skills Situation Winning Back ups/Danger Points

Riskier but also potential bargains

9. S. Williamson- Cin B B- C Riedling/Graves - There’s no reason he shouldn’t be solid but anytime there is change the player has a shorter rope. Graves now starting but if he fails may return to pen, in a tough division to boot.

10. M. Williams - Pit C+ B+ D D Sanchez/Saurbeck/Lincoln

He gets it done. His skills are not as good as others on the staff but he’s safe as long as he keeps closing the door.

At risk to lose job

11. M. DeJean - Mil C- C D- Viscaino/deloSantos/Durocher

I just don’t see him holding job. There are decent arms behind him.

12. M. Mantei- Az C+ C C Kim/Koplove- He’s got the job if Kim starts. Coming off injury I don’t know if he can hold it, has poor command of pitches, and strikeout rate is down since injury. Can he pitch back to back games etc.? If Kim fails as a starter he closes. If Mantei can’t close Kim closes. I want Kim more than Mantei. Kim as closer in 2nd group. Watch Koplove has the skills to close.

13. S. Stewart- Mon B C+ C-/D+ Tucker- I actually like Stewart but not sure his manager wants him to close. ML skippers just don’t like LH closers. Tucker is next in line but I don’t think he has the skills. Watch ST and if he gets full job move him into next tier.

14. B. Looper - Fl C- C- C- Nunez/Spooneybarger/Neal -

Split the job last year and his wildness may get him plus LH‘s hit him hard. The trade for Spoons may be to eventually replace Looper.

15. A Alphonseca - Chc D+ C- B Veres/Remlinger/Farnsworth/

Borowski- lots of good arms and the Cub starters could give plenty of save opportunities. He’ll save a few early but as the Cubs contend for a title, they will replace him by All-Star break.

16. Witasick - San B D- C+ Villafuerte/others- He has the ability, just not the job. If he gets the job move him up obviously. Early on as we called it first in Guru commentary (check archives for daily info) look for a committee with someone eventually emerging.

American League Closers Skills Situation Winning Back ups/Danger Points

Safe Bets

1. Guardado - Min A- A A- Romero - Twins with easy road in Central gives him a lot of saves. He’s for real.

2. K Sasaki - Sea A A- C+ Rhodes/Nelson- He’s a stud but a little worried about the team slipping, tough division and runs could be scarce.

3. M. Rivera - NYY B+ A A Osuna/Karsay - Was last year the beginning of decline or a minor speed bump. There is some risk, just protect yourself, as The Yanks are always a save gold mine with those aging pitchers. Contreras lurking around seeking a role as well.

4. Foulke - Oak B A B+ Mecir/Bradford - His numbers don’t compare to Koch’s on the surface but the A’s aren’t stupid, he’ll be fine.

American League Closers Skills Situation Winning Back ups/Danger Points

5. U. Urbina - Tex A- B C Yan/Cordero- He is under-rated often by a lot but always gets it done. His role seems secure but between durability and salary/trade temptation for greater needs there exists some risk. Don’t fear Yan lurking in background, Cordero is the one to watch.

Some risk

6. T. Percival - Ana B+ B- B K Rod - Sometimes karma can drag a guy down all by itself. As long as K-Rod is there Percy will lose at least a few saves and maybe a lot. Use it or lose it factor.

7. B. Koch - Chw C+ B+ B Marte- I think this guy is more image than skill. He won 11 games last year, which is phenomenal for a closer. Then you realize he blew 11 games to get them and 4 more he lost. No such luck this year. Marte is a better pitcher. If the Sox don’t win early they will dump salary.

8. J. Julio - Bal B- A D+ Groom/Ligtenberg - No reason why he won’t continue as last year. It is Baltimore though-anything can happen.

9. K. Escobar Tor C+ C+ C- Politte/Tam- concerns- he walks a bit too many, gives up the gopher ball and they keep trying to trade him. He’s not bad seems vulnerable on a team looking for direction. Politte a good option but a lefty.

High Risk/High Reward

10. M. McDougal - KC B- B- F Bukvich/Grimsley/Hill

Yes, he’s wild wild wild and unproven. But, he throws 103 mph and showed improved control in winter ball. The job is his right now despite what you read elsewhere. I like him a lot especially in keeper leagues. He’s a great 2nd closer and I think 20+ saves is happening. Did I mention he hit 103 this spring!

11. D. Baez - Cle C B+ D+/C- Wohlers? - Hard to read this guy. I thought he did well as a starter. There are no real challengers to the job if he falters a bit. He needs to improve control and command but a decent bet to find success.

12. A. Embree - Bos B F B+ Howry/Mendoza/Timlin/Fox

Right now it looks like a true committee. Embree can do the job but so could 3-4 other guys there. The worst of the option is Timlin who probably gets 2nd shot at saves. He’s left-handed but Boston has show they are thinking out of the box this year. Watch those ST box scores.

Yuck List

13. M. Anderson - Det C- D+ D- F. German - He’s not that good, the hot rookie is there and they won’t win games. Any questions?

14. T. Harper - Tam D D- F L. Carter/T. Phelps/Colome

He’s ranked behind Anderson if that tells you anything. I see no one else to step in either. If it were me, I’d go Phelps I guess. To his credit as a starter last year - 8.33 ERA, as a reliever 3.81. So maybe Piniella can find some magic. Keep the eyes open.

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