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Aceves, Belisle & Mujica: Vulture Wins

We’re starting to approach fantasy crunch time, so those of us in roto leagues are beginning to scrounge for ways to boost whatever categories we’ve fallen behind in. Pitcher wins is always a popular category, and stocking up on middle relievers that have the potential to steal a few wins down the stretch is a viable strategy. Here’s three guys in a position to vulture some wins during the final seven weeks of the season.

Alfredo Aceves | 8-1 | SP, RP | Red Sox | Ownership: 5% Yahoo!, 2.6% ESPN

Aceves is the king of the vulture save. He won ten games in relief with the Yankees in 2009, won three in a little more than a month in 2010 (back injury ended his season in May), and he’s already got seven for the Red Sox in 2011. All told, the guy is 22-2 in his career because he has a knack for throwing up zeroes and being in the game at the right time. Aceves’ peripheral stats actually aren’t all that great this season – 1.67 K/BB (135th out of 161 pitchers with 50 IP), 4.96 xFIP (157th), and 4.34 SIERA (133rd) – but he’s getting some BABIP love (.234) because he’s a fly ball guy (just 41% grounders) with a pretty good outfield defense behind him (24.7 UZR as a unit, second best in baseball). The Red Sox are going to win a ton of games down the stretch, and Aceves will certainly steal a few of them by working the middle innings between the starter and Daniel Bard/Jonathan Papelbon at the end game.

Matt Belisle | 6-4 | RP | Rockies | Ownership: 2% Yahoo!, 0.1% ESPN

The last month or so hasn’t been very kind to Belisle (7.80 ERA, .913 OPS against sine July 1st), but he’s established himself as Jim Tracy‘s go to guy in the middle innings of close games. His strikeout (7.91 K/9) and walk (1.89 BB/9, 1.55 if you take out IBBs) numbers are very good but not as great as they were last season (8.90 and 1.57, respectively), and his ground ball rate (50%) has increased. That’s resulted in some more hits allowed and a little bit lower of a strand rate (70.2%) than we’d maybe expect. Colorado is pretty much out of the race but they have made some big September runs in recent years, and Belisle figures to be in position to get some of those W’s via middle relief.

Edward Mujica | 8-3 | RP | Marlins | Ownership: 6% Yahoo!, 2.0% ESPN

Mujica was in line to take over as closer had the Fish traded Leo Nunez before the deadline, but instead he’ll continue to serve as Jack McKeon’s top setup reliever. Seventeen of the last 20 games he’s appeared in were within three runs (either way, up or down), so he’s certainly seeing plenty of action in close games. Mujica has only walked six of the 207 batters he’s faced this season (0.97 BB/9), though his strikeout rate (6.95 K/9) is down considerably from last season (9.30). He’s a fly ball pitcher (42.5% grounders) with a huge home park, so that certainly helps keep the BABIP (.238) and ERA (2.75) down. Mujica’s a workhorse out of the pen, so he’ll have plenty of chances to steal some wins away from his teammates.