It’s Friday afternoon, so let’s look at a pair of former closers coming back from major arm injuries…
Jason Isringhausen | Mets | Ownership: 4% Yahoo!, 0.0% ESPN
Holds are probably the toughest fantasy category to predict, but it was still kind of surprising to see that Izzy has more holds than any non-Rafael Betancourt reliever this year (ten). The 38-year-old is having a nice rebound year after (his second) Tommy John surgery forced him to miss all of 2010, posting decent peripherals for a team that’s played a number of close guys. Isringhausen has struck out 7.07 men per nine inning while unintentionally walking 3.86 per nine, though it’s a small sample of just 53 batters faced. Those numbers are in line with his career rates (7.42 and 3.87, respectively), though his ground ball rate (32.4%) has cratered (46.2% career).
The Mets have gone out of their way to make sure the Izzy isn’t overworked, which is understandable but not necessarily enjoyable from a fantasy perspective. The underlying performance is good but not great, so he’s a pure holds grab in deeper leagues right now. If Francisco Rodriguez gets traded though, Isringhausen is a natural temporary replacement in the ninth inning.
J.P. Howell | Rays | Ownership: 2% Yahoo!, 0.1% ESPN
After missing the end of 2009, all of 2010, and early 2011 with a major shoulder injury, Howell is back in the bullpen for the Rays after being activated off the disabled list today. The shoulder injury isn’t likely to hinder him much going forward, Howell was never a hard thrower and instead relied on three pitches (heat, curve, change) to keep hitters off balance. He was a high-strikeout (9.87 K/9), high ground ball (51.8%), high walk (4.15 BB/9) reliever from 2008-2009, and until we see him get some innings under his belt, we should probably just assume the same is true.
Kyle Farnsworth has settled into the closer’s role and Joel Peralta is doing a fine of setting him up, so Joe Maddon has the luxury of easing Howell back into things before throwing him into high leverage spots. Given the high strikeout tendencies he displayed before the injury, he’s a great option in a holds lead and he could find himself in save spots later in the year. There’s definite risk involved, but also definite upside.