Kicking Rocks: Closer Frustrations & Injuries

As much joy as the game of fantasy baseball brings to most of us, it can also bring an enormous amount of frustration and anxiety.  They say you shouldn’t keep that sort of stuff bottled up inside you, unless, of course, you enjoy the taste of bile and all the other stomach acids that a bleeding ulcer provides.  You need to get it out.  But what are you going to do, bitch to your girlfriend?  Try to gain sympathy from your fellow owners?  Doubtful.   Her level of care is reciprocal to your level of interest in her best friend’s latest relationship disaster and deep down, your fellow owners are wishing this kind of stuff on you.

But not us.  We’re here for you.  Kicking Rocks is a new weekly column dedicated to the venting of your fantasy lamentations.  Aggravated by a manager’s choice to suddenly platoon one of your outfielders?  Frustrated that a particular strategy hasn’t worked in your favor?  Ended up with the short end of the stick in a trade?  Whatever the case may be, bring it to the table here and hopefully we’ll be able to get you through it.  Consider it your fantasy support group.

But since the season has yet to begin and there hasn’t been time for much in the way of regrets, I’m going to start things off by venting my frustration over something that is causing many of us some serious angst.  Whether you’ve already drafted or you’re about to, the abundance of unsettled closer situations and late Spring Training bullpen injuries are killing us.  You’re either spending far to much time re-working your draft day depth charts, or worse, you’re already scouring the waiver wire looking for replacements when there hasn’t been a single regular season game played. It’s like a nightmare, isn’t it?  And it just keeps getting worse and worse.

Take the situation in Washington right now.  Most expected Drew Storen to be the Nationals go-to guy, but with a sub par Spring, we’re now looking at a committee that includes him, Tyler Clippard, and Sean Burnett.  Sure, there are some advantages to holding a middle reliever or two on your roster, but how many roster spots are you going to hold to glom the saves from one team?  Most competitive leagues have a very limited bench and your reserve spots are are likely to be more useful if they supply better depth at other positions.

RotoGraph’s writer Mike Axisa pointed out the equally frustrating situation in Atlanta the other day, and Mike Podhorzer and I have yet to find common ground on the Tampa Bay situation.  He likes Joel Peralta, I like Jake McGee, and both of us are going to be forced into using up roster spots on handcuffs if we need to use the Rays bullpen.  And let’s not forget about the Kevin Gregg/Koji Uehara debate or the “up in the air” status of Neftali Feliz.  Both are equally aggravating this close to the season.

Then there are the injuries that are biting us in the ass.  There’s the Frank Francisco injury that opens the door for Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel, Brad Lidge’s biceps, Andrew Bailey’s forearm, and now Brian Wilson’s oblique.  With each bump, bruise, strain, and tear, bulging veins are popping out of foreheads everywhere.

What’s worse is that, due to all of this, your options become extremely limited.  If you’ve already drafted, you can either ride out your situation or resign yourself to a season of wasted waiver priorities and spending far too much of your free agent dollars on short term solutions trying a patch together a bullpen.  If not, then you either have to assume that you’re going to either go through the same revolving door of free agents or be forced into investing more than you’d like on a closer you can only assume will have better job security and/or health.  People who don’t want to struggle with relievers all year are now starting to drive up the prices on players like Carlos Marmol, Mariano Rivera, Joakim Soria, and Heath Bell and it’s taking up more and more of your budget to land someone that comes with less of a headache.  Either way you go, the closer situation is becoming far more tenuous than it has been in the past and is causing some serious fantasy agita.

How about for you?  What’s driving you crazy already?  Chase Utley’s knee?  The 1B platoon situation in Arizona?  Your rookie sleeper heading back to the minors?  Let us know here and we’ll try to help you get through it

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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

32 Responses to “Kicking Rocks: Closer Frustrations & Injuries”

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  1. Rob says:

    The Brandon Morrow injury really buggered me over.

    In the 24 hours before his injury was announced, I was approached by another owner in the league wanting to acquire Morrow from me. After some minor haggling, I agreed to give up Morrow and Axford for Alex Rios. Great deal, right? The trade went up for league review over the next 2 days.

    As the guy who got the label of “cutthroat” about 10 years ago in our fantasy league (for reasons I still don’t understand), I know everybody is assuming I knew about Morrow’s injury and frantically searched out for another owner to take him before the information became public. The situation is further compounded by the fact the other owner is a friggin saint.

    Really, the deal should go through… but I know the odds of that are very low now. And instead of making a nice little deal for Alex Rios, instead I’m gonna end up with Brandon Morrow jumping back and forth between the DL all season long.

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    • AA says:

      He wouldnt be back and forth. A forearm strain that Morrow said was very minor and told the pitching staff just to be safe. A little inflammation does not mean something drastically horrible at all. He was going to have an innings cap of 170-175 innings anyways (roughly 20% more than last year) and this just means that instead of shutting him down earlier, we are able to let him pitch later in the season. The DL stint is being backdated to March 22nd and this means he is only missing one start (or else why backdate it). He was trying to convince me that he was good to go and we didn’t need to put him on the DL but we are just being safe and cautious (we do have the depth to do so). If it were a playoff game or an important one, I already mentioned to the National Post that he would have pitched.

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      • AA says:

        “I was a little tight after my bullpen session and I was being safe and let them know about it,” Morrow said. “It sucks because I think I can go. I didn’t think that we needed a DL stint.

        “It feels fine but that’s not what they’re going off of.”

        “I was surprised because I didn’t think we’d need to go on the DL, that’s for sure,” he said. “I thought maybe we’d take a couple of days, throw a bullpen, then make my scheduled start on Monday.

        “My elbow feels all right. I’ve got full extension. It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s fine. I didn’t have any concerns before the MRI and it showed that there wasn’t any serious problems, like with a ligament or anything, just a little inflammation.”

        “We took the decision out of his hands,” Anthopoulos said.

        Manager John Farrell stressed that Morrow was shelved as “a precautionary move” and was “clearly the right thing to do for Brandon.”

        Anthopoulos said the decision was not difficult, especially since Morrow will face a yet-unspecified innings limit this season because of his relative inexperience as a starter.

        “It’s one of those things where we’re being extra cautious,” Anthopoulos said of the Morrow decision. “Really, we’re talking about him missing a start. He is adamant that he can go. We just want to let everything (in his elbow) calm down for four or five days. Why try to rush when it’s only one start.”

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    • Aaron says:

      One way to get some objectivity into the whole trade veto question is to post the trade at The community votes on the trade rather than the managers who are in your league (and therefore invested in the outcome.)

      Cool new site and could definitely help with situations like this.

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  2. Kris says:

    I’m pretty upset that this column maintained a semblance of sanity rather than resorting to the Louis Black or even Dennis Miller style of humour. You basically lost me somewhere between venting (yaaaay!) and lamentations (booooo!)

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    • Howard Bender says:

      stick around Kris…’s gonna get a whole lot uglier as the season progresses. I’ve got 3 VERY important drafts coming up this weekend and am going to have PLENTY to bitch about come next week…

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      • Kris says:

        Does this have to be specifically about closers? Analogies and metaphors should not be limited. My personal favorite is the analogy that’s long, drawn-out, and only moderately funny, but then kicked into high-gear by an even longer-winded explanation. Pandering to my distinct sense of humor may get your writing privileges revoked, however.

        Here’s an example:

        Colby Rasmus has been whiffing like a phoenix-native that spent the last 3 weeks saving up enough money to purchase vast quantities of malt-liqour and a pinata to celebrate cinqo de mayo with these three smokin’ Mexican chicks he met outside of the steak & shake a month ago but hadn’t called yet. He was totally into these chicks – we’re talking hourglass figures — but like many middle-aged caucasians, he suffered from social anxiety which could only be quelled with booze, specifically, malt liquor. Needless to say, the booze helped his confidence but greatly hindered his ability to make contact and he whiffed repeatedly. He struck one of the women in the face actually. Assault charges are pending. Yah, that’s what Colby Rasmus’ swing looks like lately and he’s got to hit a baseball going 90+ mph, not just a pinata.

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  3. DominicanRepublican says:

    Mike Minor to the minors. How did I not see that coming… agh…

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  4. Thedo says:

    For me it’s more like closer celebration because I have ample opportunity to correct my closer-drafting-mistake where I ended with only one (Joe Nathan, of all choices). For now I’ve picked up Rauch but I’m certainly paying close attention to Philly, Texas, Oakland, and Tampa.

    Though during the draft I had some amount of frustration when I saw Kimbrel/Venters and McGee go far earlier than I would have imagined, so I appreciate this column idea!

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  5. Dale says:

    I hate those punting guys- you are in for a balanced draft in H2H (5×5) and there comes that guy who’s drafting Pitcher after Pitcher in the first rounds and adding some speed guys to the roster and says- “he will win this league in a heartbeat with his SB,R, Ks, ERAs,WHIPs, SV….” and you only can gasp- it looks like he will…

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    • Howard Bender says:

      Make an appointment for his team at Dr. James Andrews’ office….

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    • Tom B says:

      You hate people that understand how H2H leagues work?

      I don’t like H2H in general, but trying to win every category is a sure way to lose. I don’t feel like it gets enough talk on most expert sites, but it is so incredibly effective to focus on a subset of categories (usually counting stats) that will have you “win by 1″ every week.

      Planning around what the other managers are focusing on during the draft and keeping an eye on someone “stacking up” on a particular set of stats is… the entire game.

      I hold a disdain for H2H leagues largely because I don’t like 5 1/2 months of work coming down to getting lucky one random week in September… but H2H leagues are also generally a cesspool of shady tactics and rule bending maneuvers like the one you mentioned.

      Try winning a Roto league by punting a category… haha

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      • Dale says:

        Hey Tom,

        thx for the reply 1) I don’t hate him, I hate me for not having the same idea as him… :) 2) yeah, I should go from H2H to Roto but thr problem is, most of my friends playing just H2H (I love dynasty and you need to trust your teammates)-that’s why you stick to your “friends”.
        I should search for a dynasty Roto-League

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      • JoeC says:

        Why not? Especially punting Saves, at least during the draft.

        Sure, you condemn yourself to a season of watching every closer situation in a Hurt Locker-esque fashion, but we all know closers have the worst job security of any fantasy position and new ones are cropping up all the time.

        In a standard 5×5 roto league with 9 pitching slots, the 7/2 SP/RP split (or even 8/1) is a goldmine. Assuming you have any talent at all for drafting starting pitchers, what you lose in the Saves cat you easily make up for in Wins and Ks (with a little extra profit).

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  6. Aaron says:

    Sorry if this is a repeat but I love the idea of a forum for ranting. I’ve been bitten by Mike Minor and barely escaped the Frank Francisco situation so far.

    One way to bring some objectivity into the trade evaluation process is to post potential trades at Instead of just the managers in the league involved voting on the trade you get the whole community of impartial managers. It’s a great way to see what the market thinks of a trade as well as to research the kinds of reactions you might get from trade offers you’re considering.

    It would definitely be nice to get some numbers into the fantasy trading discussion instead of just hurling lopsided offers back and forth.

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  7. Chongo says:

    Our autodraft is tonite, in a 10×10 mixed. Tomorrow morning is like Christmas Day used to be, while instead of opening surprise presents, I am instead “opening” surprise players who are on my team. Yippeeee!

    I have a general gripe. Late last season, my pitcher Ted Lilly was pitching a gem against the Astros; he was about to finish the sixth inning and secure me a QS and hopefully a W. Had two strikes on the hitter, and tossed a pitch that freezes the batter for strike 3. Only the ump called it a ball, and the next pitch the hitter hits it over the fence for a multiple run homer. This still hurts, obviously, and I blame the ump.

    I have no doubt that the individuals who umpire MLB do it to their best ability, and nobody else could do better. But technology could do better. Why do we find the status quo to be so readily acceptable (the arbitrariness of the strike zone)?

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  8. wallywojo says:

    nice Color of Money refererence

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  9. ShawnC says:

    I dont have much to gripe about since I won my league last year in only my second season as an owner. Thanks to Votto. This year the league isnt drafting until April 2 which is 3 days into the season. Reason being that iy is a live draft and some people couldnt make it on earlier days. But WHAT THE HELL?? Values are going to be totally different, if ARod hits 3 bombs in 2 days he might go for an extra $5 etc…I dont necessarily want him, but you get the point. I reeeally dont like drafting post openning day, even if it is only 3 days. Pissed.

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    • Chongo says:

      In my league in the 1990s, we always drafted a week after Opening Day. Then you would have owners blowing money on whoever was hot that first week- the Tuffy Rhodes and Chris Sheltons- while you slyly picked the real players. You also dealt with finalized rosters.

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  10. shibboleth says:

    I predict Uehara gets the nod over Gregg, or will take the reins as soon as Gregg gets inconsistent.

    Showalter is in this to win, and he’s going to want the closer with the best skills. I believe Uehara fits the description when healthy.

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    • JoeC says:

      Uehara may get the nod and is likely the better closer, but I think Gregg gets the job eventually when Uehara goes down with his usual injury.

      Gregg is not a great closer, but A) anybody can close successfully and B) he’s the opposite of injury-prone.

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  11. Tebucky says:

    This column idea roolz, will be following it all year. I was kicking around adding Jake McGee this morning but didn’t cuz I’ve been pulling my hair out about ww closers all through stupid spring training. I’m gonna let these guys start to actually GET SAVES then try and pounce!

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  12. Brett says:

    I think Chase Utely has pissed me off the most for two reasons. 1. The injury news comes out after our 3/1 keeper deadline. 2. They are giving no time table for his return which always scares me.

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  13. batpig says:

    Since this is a fantasy support group, I would like to retroactively bitch about Geovany Soto’s handling by dumb-Lou Piniella last year. Really? You could only squeeze in 387 PA for a guy with a near 900 OPS???? FAIL. Thanks Lou for ruining my shot at 1st place in my keeper league last year.

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  14. David Lynch says:

    I almost had such an “uh-oh” moment last week with Shaun Marcum. I’m in a 12 team 5X5 roto leage with 28 roster spots and 2 DL’s. As such, good talent on the FA wire becomes scarce a month into the season. We’re allowed a max of 6 keepers. You can keep a player for a max of 3 seasons including the year they were drafted and they cost you a pick 3 rounds up from where they were drafted the year before. Example, I drafted Marcum in the 19th rnd last year, so he costs me a 16th rnd pick this year. Not PHENOMENAL value, but good enough for a guy who is moving from a stacked AL East to a middling NL Central. Plus, he was my 6th, or worst keeper on my team.

    Our keepers were due yesterday, but when the news came out last Friday (3/18) that he was having shoulder stiffness and Buster Olney from ESPN reporting his velocity dropping and hitting 86 mph, I freaked… I thought, oh no, sudden drop in velocity coupled with shoulder stiffness? Sounds like Erik Bedard, Johan Santana and Brandon Webb… “PASS,” I thought to myself… Then I did some research on Marcum. His Average FB velocity last season was about 87 MPH and typcially ranges from 86-88. He is successful because he works both sides of the plate well, and manages lefties with a nice cutter. He also has good control and has a good 4 seamer, slider and change, all of which he can locate well. Then the news comes back that he’s just missing 1 pre-season start and his shoulder was moving around fine with no pain in the training room… What a TERRIBLE job by Buster Olney! Thanks for making me worry about NOTHING! Check your facts next time BUSTER! Thankfully, CRISIS averted! I’d rather have him in the 16th than Wieters in the 10th.

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  15. R M says:

    This concept seems a little to me like communism. A good idea in practice, but once it’s implemented, what’s the plan going to be? Can it really last?

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  16. Fayld says:

    Honestly, the guy that hacked me off most was Kendry Morales. I am in a league where a guy kept the previous year comes into the season with the option of being kept for 10 additional dollars (only one guy can be kept this way) and topper rights (1 dollar over whatever the auction price is). I had intended to draft him at around 20ish the entire year and then his foot flares up and scares me off. I could have traded his topper rights for value weeks ago, but was left with nothing for the guy.

    As for the closer situation, I play it whichever way my draft is dictating. If there are a bunch of guys fighting over the top closers, then I will hold off. If it seems like everyone is holding off on closers, I will either buy or draft them earlier and get the top guys at around their value. I prefer option 2, but sometimes it is just better to go with option 1. I don’t consider it punting. It basically means that I will have to be on top of my game with closer situations the rest of the year.

    But let’s be honest here: if you are in a situation where you draft top shelf closers, you will have to do the same thing with starters or hitters the rest of the year too. Closers create a no-win situation found in no other fantasy sport. It is one of several aspects of fantasy baseball that make it more fun than the other sports.

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