Monday, April 28, 2008

Week 4 Closer Report - Top 10 Closers, Injury Updates & Next In Line

Every 2 weeks, FSE takes a look at the closers around the majors breaking down the top 10 as well as guys that are struggling, injured and next in line to close. Note: Stats are up to date through the games of 4/27. 

Top 10 Closers

#1 Jonathon Papelbon - 0-0, 8 S/0 BS, 18 K, 1 BB, 2.45 ERA, 0.82 WHIP
Week Two Rank: 4
Papelbon stands atop our closer rankings after week 4 after a sizzling start to the season. Paps is third in the league in saves but leads all closers in strikeouts and will get a ton of save chances pitching for the defending World Series champs.

#2 Francisco Rodriguez - 0-0, 10 S/1 BS, 9 K, 7 BB, 4.22 ERA, 1.50 WHIP 
Week Two Rank: unranked
K-Rod has really come on fast over the last two weeks to take the major league lead in saves with 10. Since returning from injury on April 13, Rodriguez has 7 saves and has allowed only 2 earned runs in 7.1 innings of work. The Angels are a contender and play a lot of close games so another 40 save season looks like a distinct probability for Rodriguez as long as he can stay on the field.

#3 George Sherrill - 1-0, 9 S/0 BS, 8 K, 5 BB, 4.66 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Week Two Rank: 1
Sherrill continues to pile up the saves as the Orioles continue to beat the odds and play good baseball. Sherrill has shown he is a legitimate major league closer, however, the Orioles are destined to come down to Earth soon which will hurt their closer's value. We said week 2 and we'll say it again here in week 4 - time to sell high.

#4 Joe Nathan - 0-0, 7 S/0 BS, 8 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA, 0.88 WHIP
Week Two Rank: 3
Nathan has yet to allow a run or a walk in 8 innings of work this season and has notched 7 saves in the process. Nathan's success comes as the Twins are playing poor baseball and clearly better time are ahead in Minny this season. Nathan may end up 2008's finest closer when all is said and done.

#5 Brian Wilson - 0-0, 8 S/1 BS, 8 K, 6 BB, 3.48 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
Week Two Rank: unranked
Wilson leads the NL in saves with 8 and has pitched very well of late locking down 6 saves over the past two weeks. Like George Sherrill, he pitches for a team that is playing well now but should finish among worst in baseball. Thus, save opportunities may become scarce at certain stretches in the season. Wilson is another sell high candidate. 

#6 Joakim Soria - 0-0, 6 S/0 BS, 11 K, 0 BB, 0.00, 0.33 WHIP
Week Two Rank: 7
Soria has been about as dominant as you can be possibly be thus far. In 10 innings he has yet to allow a run or walk and has struck out 11 on his way to notching 6 saves. The Royals are definately a team on the rise, but they will struggle for extended periods this season playing in the tough AL Central. Regardless, Soria is quickly establishing himself as an elite closer.

#7 Mariano Rivera - 0-0, 7 S/0 BS, 8 K, 0 BB, 0.00 ERA, 0.40 WHIP
Week Two Rank: 7
Rivera has quietly been dominating American League batters. He has pitched 9 scoreless innings to open the season and has allowed only 4 batters to reach base; none of those coming on walks. With a new contract in hand, Rivera seems poised for a throwback dominant season.

#8 Brad Lidge - 0-0, 6 S/0 BS, 12 K, 6 BB 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Week Two Rank: unranked
Lidge looks right at home in Philly, opening the season by throwing 11 scoreless innings and notching 6 saves. The former Astro is also putting up nice strikeout totals, an added bonus for fantasy owners.

#9 Billy Wagner - 0-0, 6 S/ 0 BS, 9 K, 2 BB 0.00 ERA, 0.30 WHIP
Week Two Rank: unranked
Wagner has yet to allow a run or a hit this season in 9 innings of work. The Mets play a lot of close games and Willie Randolph is not shy about using his bullpen so Wagner should get plenty of save chances before all is said and done.

#10 Matt Capps - 0-0, 6 S/0 BS,  8 K, 2 BB, 2.31 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
Week Two Rank: 10
Capps remains in the 10 spot and has been solid the last two weeks, pitching 5 scoreless innings and locking down 3 saves. Capps has now gone 11 innings without allowing a run dating back to his first outing of the season where he was touched up for 3 earned runs in only 2/3 of an inning. The fact he plays for a poor Pittsburgh team hurts his value, but make no mistake, Capps has elite stuff and is a solid fantasy closer.

On The Rise

Brandon Lyon - After a rough start and rumors that Lyon was going to lose his closing job in Arizona, Lyon has come on strong over the past two weeks. Since April 15th, Lyon has thrown 8 straight scoreless innings notching 5 saves over that span. Lyon remains an injury risk with more than capable closing options in Tony Pena and Chad Qualls lurking behind him. However, as of right now, his job is safe. 

Rafael Betancourt - After not seeing a save chance in his first week as the Indians' closer, Betancourt closed out two games last week. Betancourt has now pitched 4 scoreless innings, allowing only 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 5 since being named closer following an injury to the ineffective Joe Borowski. It's becoming clear that Joe Borowski's days of closing in Cleveland are over and Betancourt will be the man in ninth inning going forward.

Shaky Closers & Next In Line

#1 Jason Isringhausen - Rough week for Izzy as he blew two saves to division foes Houston and Milwaukee. Izzy has been used a ton early in the season and it may be catching up with him a bit. He just didn't have his best stuff Friday night, giving up 3 ER in one inning of work. On the bright side, Izzy did also save two games so it was not a lost week for his owners. Kyle McClellan worked 3 perfect innings Sunday to close out the game against Houston giving Izzy a rest. He or Ryan Franklin would most likely be the next in line should Izzy go down.
Next In Line - Kyle McClellan or Ryan Franklin

#2 Eric Gagne - Gagne has now blown 4 saves in Milwaukee but at the same time he has 7 saves and has looked good in his last 3 outings. The Brewers bullpen has been a bit of a disaster thus far and there aren't any other great closing options available to Ned Yost right now. He will ride or die with Gagne at this juncture.
Next In Line - Derrick Turnbow

#3 Jose Valverde - After a poor week 3, Valverde has begun to turn the corner putting together four scoreless outings with 3 saves and a win over that time. You certainly can't trust Valverde yet, but Valverde owners have to be feeling a lot better about their closer. Doug Brocail remains the top fallback option, but he too has struggled a bit lately. 
Next In Line - Doug Brocail 

#4 Takashi Saito - The ageless wonder hasn't been his usual dominant self thus far in 2008. He has only blown 1 save but his WHIP of 1.35 is high compared to the numbers we've seen over the past two years from the Dodgers closer. Saito should get it together but if he doesn't, future stud closer Jonathon Broxton is ready to work the ninth in LA.
Next In Line - Jonathon Broxton

Closer News

Brian Fuentes Replaces Manny Corpas As The Closer In Colorado

Click here for our full analysis.

JJ Putz Returns

Putz returned on April 22nd and has posted mixed results since. In his first outing he pitched a scoreless ninth to lock down his second save of the season. However, in his second outing Saturday, Putz allowed 2 earned runs and walked 3 in an inning of work. Putz is one of the elite closers in baseball and is just shaking off some rust after missing nearly 3 weeks with a ribcage injury. He will be fine.

Injury Updates

Rafael Soriano - Soriano experienced soreness in his elbow after a bullpen session on Sunday, pushing his return back another week at least. Bobby Cox said that he wants two pain free bullpen sessions from Soriano before he will return to the closer role.   

Fantasy Impact: With Soriano out, Manny Acosta will continue to close games in Atlanta. Also, keep an eye out for Mike Gonzalez who should return from the DL in mid-may and could vulture some saves.

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