“Saved by the Bell”. Heath Bell, That is.

Image taken from Zimbio

“Don’t pay for saves”. We’ve all heard it. Going into any fantasy season, there are always reasons to avoid taking closers early. After all, they only contribute in one category, right? They can’t be depended upon to hold onto their jobs. Injuries are a risk, etc etc etc.
These are facts that also affect each and every fantasy position, so the key is to determine who the best bets are and ride them to victory. ‘High risk, high return’ players are always worth their weight in gold…. if they pan out. However, the safe bets win you the opportunity to take gambles elsewhere in your line up and gambling on saves is a near impossible task prior to any baseball season.
Maybe it’s time we took a look at valuing closers a little higher on the overall fantasy depth chart. Well, at least reliable closers, that is. The argument can be made (and often is) that it is safer to take more reliable position players and stud pitchers before selecting closers to make up your fantasy roster. Since the position of ‘closer’ is often in flux on any real Major League team, the general rule is to avoid putting too much stock in closers. But what about those that are as close to a ‘sure thing’ as you can get? I say they are worth every penny.
Closers are the only position on your fantasy roster that are the sole contributor to an ENTIRE CATEGORY. The argument is often made that this makes them limited in their contributions. However, if a closer is effective, he will also contribute to ERA and WHIP on a regular basis. In addition, they can often chip in the occasional win or two and best of all they usually can give you some Ks along the way. Think about it this way… if your closer has 2-3 appearances in a week, the chance of contributing 4-6 Ks is very realistic. That can be as good (or better) than some of your back end (or streaming) starters.
The fact that many teams have a revolving door in their bullpen (especially in regard to the 9th inning) is all the more reason to seek out the closers that have proven to be reliable. Let’s look at a few teams that have shown some instability in the 9th lately:
St. Louis
Ryan Franklin had the job coming into 2011. La Russa has been playing musical chairs ever since. Boggs? Motte? Your guess is as good as mine.
Chicago White Sox
Wasn’t Matt Thornton a sure thing to move from set-up man to closer with the departure of Bobby Jenks entering 2011? 4 straight blown saves killed that notion in a hurry.
Brad Lidge rebounded from an atrocious 2009. Then he got injured. Contreras stepped in. Then he got injured. Madson stepped in. Is Bastardo next? Bastardo? Really?
Los Angeles Dodgers
Jonathan Broxton is the man. No, it’s Kuo. No, it’s Padilla. No, it’s Broxton. Donnie Ballgame, help us out! We’re confused.
Now, for the stable picks. Due to several reasons, there are a few closers out there that are reliable and worth every penny if you can get them. Mariano Rivera (NYY) goes without saying. The only factor is Father Time. Joakim Soria (KC) is nicknamed the “Mexicutioner” and is like pesos in the bank. Brian Wilson (SF) suffered a spring injury but has recovered to deliver the saves. Of course, there is always my favourite, Heath Bell (SD). He’s a machine. He’s also saved my fantasy team 2 years running.
The lesson to be learned? Stick with the proven guys. You don’t have to carry them over in keeper leagues, just identify the closers that produce and get them. Since the season has already started, go get them in a trade. If your fellow GMs feel the same as the majority, you just might walk away with a bargain.
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