AL Closer Report: June 11

There is currently a four-way tie for the most saves at the top of the American League. There are 11 pitchers that have 10 or more saves.

Strong Performers

Rafael Soriano | Tampa Bay Rays
The Comments: Not only did the Braves organization give away its 2010 first round draft pick to sign Billy Wagner, it basically gave away Rafael Soriano, who has basically been just as valuable this season (from a 5X5 fantasy perspective). Soriano is currently the top ranked reliever in the AL and has yet to blow a save this season in 15 tries. He pitched just one-third of an inning this past week.

Jose Valverde | Detroit Tigers
The Comments: Valverde is currently the second most valuable reliever is standard 5X5 leagues despite pedestrian strikeout numbers; he’s aided by an outstanding ERA and a strong WHIP. His xFIP sits at 3.56, and he’s been helped by a .136 BABIP and 96.6 LOB%.

Mariano Rivera | New York Yankees
The Comments: Rivera has come on strong as of late and now has 14 saves – and he’s 7-for-7 in saves since May 21. That’s also the last time he allowed an earned run.

Neftali Feliz | Texas Rangers
The Comments: Feliz is tied for the league lead in saves and he’s been the third most valuable AL closer so far this season. After being worked pretty hard recently, Feliz appeared in just two games this past week and recorded one save.

Joakim Soria | Kansas City Royals
The Comments: Soria continues to put up strong numbers. His K/BB rate sits at 5.00 and he has an 11.91 K/9 strikeout rate. Soria went 1-for-1 in save opportunities this past week but he was touched up for two runs against Minnesota on June 10.

Jon Rauch | Minnesota Twins
The Comments: Although he sits atop the league in saves, Rauch is a little ways down the chart in terms of overall fantasy value. This comes as a result of his low strikeout rate, as well as a modest WHIP and ERA. He went 2-for-2 this past week in save opportunities.

Steady Performers

Andrew Bailey | Oakland Athletics
The Comments: Bailey’s save numbers have improved but something is going to give unless he improves these three numbers: 5.76 K/9, 38.7 GB%, and .227 BABIP. He’s putting a lot of balls in play and a lot of those are in the air; so far, though, the home run ball has not hurt him. Bailey did not record a save this past week and he took a loss against the Twins on June 4.

Jonathan Papelbon | Boston Red Sox
The Comments: You have to wonder is Papelbon is hurting. The right-handed veteran reliever has a career strikeout rate of 10.20 but it currently sits at 7.13 K/9. As well, his walk rate has gone from 1.04 in ’08 to 3.18 to 4.50 BB/9 in ’10. He’s struggled mightily with his previously plus fastball, and his numbers have been helped significantly by a .198 BABIP. His xFIP sits at 5.02.

Bobby Jenks | Chicago White Sox
The Comments: Jenks went 2-for-2 in save opportunities this past week and did not allow a run. He also hasn’t given up a walk in five games, and his strikeout rate remains strong at 11.05 K/9.

Fallen on Hard Times

Kerry Wood | Cleveland Indians
The Comments: Things just aren’t looking good for Wood, who has a 9.58 ERA and a walk rate of 6.10 BB/9. He went 1-for-2 in save opportunities this past week. Cleveland clearly needs to try something different, which could include handing the save opportunities back to Chris Perez.

David Aardsma | Seattle Mariners
The Comments: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. On of the closer leaders for much of April and into May, Aardsma has fallen on hard times and his ERA is up to 5.21. He was touched up again on June 6 by the Angels for three runs in two-thirds of an inning. Aardsma has recorded just one save since May 26.

Brian Fuentes | Los Angeles Angels
The Comments: The Angels’ closer has had a rough year. He’s blown three saves in 11 tries and his ERA currently sits a 5.52. Fuentes also has an incredibly-low 18.9% ground-ball rate, which has led to some fairly pronounced home-run issues (3.07 HR/9). However, he’s currently posting one of the highest strikeout rates of his career (11.66 K/9).

Kevin Gregg | Toronto Blue Jays
The Comments: The walk rate has spiked all the way up to 5.88 BB/9 and Gregg cannot make it through an inning without putting at least two base runners on (each of his past four appearances) but went 1-for-1 in save opportunities this past week. Interestingly, almost all of his struggles this season have come against the best teams in the league (Tampa Bay, New York, Boston… and then Seattle).

New to the Job

David Hernandez | Baltimore Orioles
The Comments: The game of musical closer chairs continues, although the organization may have finally gotten it right this time. I’m one of the bigger David Hernandez fans out there and I think interim manager Juan Samuel has made a smart decision; Hernandez has always appeared well-suited for a relief role.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

One Response to “AL Closer Report: June 11”

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  1. J says:

    how does brandon league look as a speculative add to take over for Aardsma?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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