Results tagged ‘ Closers ’

Tea Leaves

If you have a fantasy league team – or just like to play Closer Roulette – there is nothing more perversely fascinating than to watch an actual big league club suddenly go to Bullpen Plan B, or even Plans C and D, seven weeks into the season.

Such a scenario seems to be playing out in Milwaukee where future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman may have finally taken a curve he can’t handle. Carlos Villanueva was handed the keys and wound up on the sidewalk, too. And suddenly it was rookie John Axford successfully stanching the flow in Minnesota Sunday, with his fellow freshman Zach Braddock setting up.
The key for reading signs in Milwaukee was Tuesday’s game, and with the Brewers up 2-0 on Houston in the seventh it seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out what Ken Macha had in mind. Then the Brewers scored four and suddenly there was nothing to be gauged by the exercise innings of Villanueva and Todd Coffey in the 8th and 9th.
Maybe there was. While it was still 2-0, Macha had Villanueva warming up to pitch the 8th, putting the lie to the presumption that Axford had pitched Sunday only because Villanueva was overworked. We will never know who Macha would have used in a save situation, but it clearly wasn’t going to be Carlos.
Brewer management, incidentally, is giddy over the power arms of the two rookies. It is always sad to see the possible end for a class act and nearly unbeatable performer like Hoffman (and make no mistake about it, this could easily be the end), and it seems a little cruel to hear of two guys who combined don’t have a week invested in the pension plan drawing drools, but such is baseball life.
All of which reminds me somehow of one of those rare instances in which Rotisserie can speak volumes about reality. I am in my fourth year with a bunch of actors in an NL-only league. Among the ten of us, and counting 12 guys on our two-man disabled lists, we “own” 262 National League players. Only ten of them are Pittsburgh Pirates and it’s only that high because somebody just took a flier on Neil Walker (the other nine are Doumit, Cedeno, LaRoche, Jones, McCutchen, Milledge; Dotel, Hanrahan, and Meek – we count Holds).

Closing Argument

If you ever needed a freeze frame on the volatility of closers, you’re seeing it in Washington right now. Joel Hanrahan lost the job quickly, but not as fast as Manny Acta’s closer-in-waiting Garrett Mock. Instead we are told to expect a committee consisting of Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells. Until next week when Joe Beimel will come off the disabled list and either “join the mix,” or supplant those co-closers. And don’t forget that a year ago today, Chad Cordero was still active and supposed to eventually swap jobs with his impermanent replacement Jon Rauch.

It is not just franchises in chaos that remind us of how, if all managers are interim, then all closers (except, perhaps, Mariano Rivera) are temporary. Since Bobby Cox returned to the helm in Atlanta in 1990, this has been the succession (and I’m deliberately ignoring a couple of “closers for a week” like Joe Hesketh).

1. Joe Boever, 1990
2. Mark Grant and Kent Mercker, 1990
3. Mercker and Juan Berenguer, 1991
4. Alejandro Pena, 1991-92
5. Jeff Reardon, 1992
6. Mike Stanton, 1993
7. Greg McMichael, 1994-95
8. Brad Clontz, 1995
9. Mark Wohlers, 1995-98
10. Kerry Ligtenberg, 1998
11. John Rocker, 1999
12. Ligtenberg and Mike Remlinger, 2000
13. Rocker, 2000-01
14. Steve Karsay, 2001
15. John Smoltz, 2001-04
16. Danny Kolb, 2005
17. Chris Reitsma, 2005
18. Kyle Farnsworth, 2005
19. Reitsma, 2006
20. Ken Ray, 2006
21. Bob Wickman, 2006-07
22. Rafael Soriano, 2008
23. Manny Acosta, 2008
24. John Smoltz, 2008
25. Soriano, 2008
26. Mike Gonzalez, 2008-09

And they won stuff during that merry-go-round. Moreover, Gonzalez is formally Cox’s closer at the moment. Yet only last night did he pull out of a tie with Soriano for the team lead.

LOOK-ALIKES

Well here’s the oldest time-waster by a blogger: ballplayers who look like actors. But I think three of these are new; certainly two of them are bizarre.

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Khalil Greene and Sean Penn as Spicoli from  “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” – observed first, I think, long before Greene made the majors.

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But what about Rocco Baldelli of the Red Sox and the actor Aidan Quinn?

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This one jumped off the scoreboard at the Mets-Nats game Saturday. The new official publicity photo of Adam Dunn, and Will Ferrell?

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And my favorite, applying only when he has that lip-curl snarl while at bat, somewhat enhanced by the Yankee colors: Mark Teixeira and Little Steven Van Zandt in his “Sopranos” role of Silvio Dante?

MEANWHILE, WHAT I LOOK LIKE:

A maroon.

I have been pleading for a week for somebody to identify the “classical music” used by the Yankees during their otherwise tedious scoreboard “Great Subway Race.”

Did you know Danny Elfman was a famous 17th century classical composer?

I knew I’d heard it in the Pee Wee Herman movie. That’s because it’s part of the soundtrack of the Pee Wee Herman movie.

It’s “Breakfast Machine.”
 
Well thank goodness that’s over.

National League Fantasy, and Closers

Promised a few National League notes for anybody still drafting, as soon as my league was set, and here they are (the American League auctions next Sunday, so I doubt that will be of any use to anybody, but I’ll try to put in some abridged notes then, too).

Nothing drives me more nuts than hearing a Rookie Of The Year candidate described as a sleeper, so let’s just describe a few guys in terms of how seriously you should take them when compared to more proven commodities. I believe in Cameron Maybin (didn’t draft him only because Beltran, Chris Young, Bruce, and Upton were all available in the first 71 picks) and would expect he will outperform the likes of Andre Ethier and Mike Cameron.
Another guy I can’t praise too much is Daniel Murphy (again, had to go and fill out a pitching staff after the primo guys fell into my lap unexpectedly and late). There’s the potential for a batting champion in there – plate discipline that is all but lost in the 21st century game. Fernando Tatis will see a little work in leftfield, maybe Nick Evans too, against tougher righthanders but I would expect Murphy will get 450 or more plate appearances and is several times the player that some of the guys drafted ahead of him in our outfit are – Spilborghs, Fukudome, Byrnes. Right now, Murphy may be what Chase Headley is supposed to be.
Two outfielders could either shine this year or wind up in AAA and I took chances on both of them in the later rounds. Two weeks ago Hal McRae told me the difference between a successful Colby Rasmus and the one who coughed it up in the minors last year, is how much he can talk himself out of swinging for the fences. There will be homers, but this is a line drive guy and this spring, Hal says, he’s been doing a great job of – cliche warning – staying within himself.
You should think long and hard about Jordan Schafer. The suspension last year, the limited experience in the minors, the youth, the presence behind him of Gorkys Hernandez, the usefulness of Josh Anderson ahead of him – these factors are irrelevant. It’s not a lock that he’s going to open the season in centerfield for them, but the Braves would be delighted if he did. This is the real deal and he’s ready to play in the bigs today. If you are drafting this week, and he hasn’t been sent out, and it’s round 20 and your choice is between him and a Hairston brother – take the kid, then take the Hairston brother later if you have to (alter the analogy as needed for keeper leagues, reserve drafts, auctions, etc.)
And if you like redemption stories, one of the top prospects of 2007 may have finally straightened himself out. The Pirates think they’ve leveled both Andy LaRoche’s swing and his mentality. Too many people know about Travis Ishikawa’s homer-happy spring to make him the guy you sneak in to your 1B/3B slot – try LaRoche.
Let’s wrap this up with that most vexing of dilemmas: the Closer follies. Here’s all I know, culled from a variety of sources (and if you think these people annoy you, consider my plight – our league also counts Holds – try figuring them out in advance).
Arizona: Qualls is set. Pena is the alternative, but I don’t think it’ll come to that. Do not listen to any Max Scherzer rumors – he’ll open on the DL, then start.
Atlanta: This too is surprisingly clear. Moylan (when he gets off the DL 4/15 or so) and Soriano will set up Mike Gonzalez. The problem here isn’t with the intent, it’s with the curse. The list of Bobby Cox’s closers since he returned to manage the Bravos 19 years ago is now about 30 guys long. They change often, and usually after big messy explosions and injuries. For crying out loud, he literally had a closer for one day last year in Smoltz.
Chicago: I love and respect Lou Piniella but this announcement tonight about Kevin Gregg neither makes any sense nor will it last. Gregg barely hung on to the job in Florida and will not repeat the trick at loftier atmospheres. This makes Marmol more of a risk, but it’s a risk I’d take – he seems really (and appropriately) steamed. Another reason the Cubs are a lot more vulnerable than they, or most fans, think.
Cincinnati: Cordero has gotten lit up like Christmas this spring, but as we saw last year with Eric Gagne, a lot of money in a small market means you can blow about 10 saves before the manager dares to switch off. And to whom? Weathers?
Colorado: No freaking clue. Street pitched well, terribly, well. Corpas pitched well, but it’s as if he’s waiting, waiting for you to rely on him.
Florida: No information to back this up but any time they say “oh, we’re just going to let our closer sit out the rest of spring training but he’ll be fine come Opening Day,” I tend towards disbelief. I would guess Lindstrom is in far rockier shape than they are letting on – or know. The backup here was Scott Proctor, but he is officially hurt. Behind him is Leonel Nunez. Good luck sorting that out.
Houston: Valverde. As long as you don’t have to watch him pitch in person or have your job or your health depend on him, he’s fine.
Los Angeles: Broxton. Up and down but certainly the best arm of any of the closers or would-be’s in the NL and Joe Torre doesn’t have a second option.
Milwaukee: Florida, only colder. Hoffman is hurt, they’re being coy with the information, and Ken Macha says the sub could be Seth McClung. Or Carlos Villanueva. Or Todd Coffey for crying out loud. McClung of course is also a possible starter, long man, and 8th Inning guy. He’ll be busy.
New York: K-Rod, obviously. Putz in the 8th. Some suggestion Feliciano may move back to a full-time 7th Inning guy rather than a specialist against lefty batters.
Philadelphia: Lidge, period. As unambiguous as New York. Unless his saves streak ends with three or four in a row and then… who knows? There’s a Peter Pan quality to his stardom.
Pittsburgh: Capps, although there are fears that last year’s injury might return.
St. Louis: I think it’s going to be Motte as evidently he’s been given nearly all the pseudo-save situations in camp. The latest crystal ball readings suggest Chris Perez is going back to AAA. I don’t think McClellan or Franklin are options.
San Diego: It’s Heath Bell and I think he’ll do okay. Then again he might get fewer than 30 save opportunities. It’s not a robust ballclub.
San Francisco: Brian Wilson, and he has a touch of Valverde in him, but unless you subtract blown saves from counted ones, that’s not your problem.
Washington: Joel Hanrahan, in circumstances not unlike Wilson.
So to rank them:
1 K-Rod
2 Lidge
3 Broxton
4 Qualls
5 Cordero
6 Valverde
7 Wilson
8 Marmol
9 Hoffman
10 Bell
11 Capps
12 Gonzalez
13 Hanrahan
14 Motte
15 Gregg
16 Lindstrom
17 Corpas
18 Street
19 Villanueva
20 Nunez
21 C. Perez
22 Soriano (for Gonzalez, if the curse hits him afresh)
23 Moylan (for Soriano, if it then gets him)
24 Kerry Ligtenberg (if they lose the first three, it might as well be him or Schafer, or maybe it’s Stephen Marek)
Lastly, we all do this. Comes the fourteenth round, Jose Reyes having long since been the overall first pic
k (mine), my offense rounding out nicely, but my bullpen – in a Saves and Holds league – empty except for Broxton. And I pick… Edgar Renteria. I do not know what I was thinking.
Nevertheless, I was topped in the 23rd round (of 25) when my buddy the Commissioner, worried that Ramon Hernandez would be insufficient in a one-catcher league, taps… Sal Fasano, who was in camp with the Rockies this year. He apparently had him briefly in ’06 when Fasano was with the Phillies (he thought it was last year) and he hit a home run or something. So my Commish remembered his home run fondly. And his mustache.
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