Umm Wait, Who Got the Save?!

Ahhh, Opening Day! It was a lovely lunch break at work yesterday as I flipped on the Mets game and celebrated the first full day of baseball. While it was of little surprise that the Mets lost, there was no shortage of drama around the league. More specifically, it took all of half a day to remind fantasy owners how silly it is to invest too heavily in closers on draft day.

We start off on the south side of Chicago where it had been assumed all along that Nate Jones would replace Addison Reed as the White Sox closer. Presumed competitor for the job Matt Lindstrom battled a strained oblique for most of the spring and ended up pitching just three innings, while there hasn’t been a peep about rookie Daniel Webb potentially winning the job. So while no official announcement had been made, it seemed like Jones was pretty much a lock and he was drafted as such in leagues across the world.

Then as he has done in the past when he shocked us all by naming Hector Santiago the closer several years ago, manager Robin Ventura chose Lindstrom to handle the role. Who saw that coming? I sure didn’t and I’m still kicking myself for choosing to bid on Anthony Bass as a sleeper saves candidate in Houston instead of Lindstrom in AL Tout Wars.

So what’s a Jones owner to do and does Lindstrom have a chance at holding onto the job? Well, Lindstrom is a curious case as he throws gas, averaging 95 mph with his fastball, yet his strikeout rate sits below 20% for his career. He complements the fastball with a slider that only generates a slightly above average rate of whiffs. He induces lots of grounders though, so he seems somewhat similar to Jim Johnson. Essentially, he’s fine. A decent reliever and probably good enough to not blow a number of saves to lose him the job.

Sure, Jones is probably the better pitcher, but there’s more to choosing a closer than simply going with the best pitcher. At least that’s what managers are thinking. Lindstrom has the experience and although Jones’ underlying skills suggested much better, he did post a less than stellar 4.15 ERA last season. If you’re in a shallow league, it’s hard to justify holding onto Jones. It’s a much tougher decision in deeper leagues, but good middle relievers probably do still have value in such a league. So you might as well hold onto Jones and cross your fingers. But, I do think Lindstrom is capable of holding the job all year.

Perhaps in even more surprising is what happened in Milwaukee. Jim Henderson is coming off a fantastic 2013 campaign and entered the season as a high strikeout, middle tier closer. But who got the call to save the Brewers win instead? That pesky Francisco Rodriguez.

Word is that manager Ron Roenicke wasn’t happy with Henderson’s velocity, command and life on his pitches. So, in other words, Roenicke thinks that at this current moment, Henderson stinks. Until Henderson is able to regain his unstinky form, K-Rod will be the man in the cheese curd state.

This is a tougher situation to assess than the one in Chicago. What is wrong with Henderson? Is he hurt? Battling a dead arm phase? Rodriguez continues to flash strong skills and would have no problem holding the job on performance alone. One wonders what’s going to happen if and when Henderson’s stuff has returned if K-Rod has been dominating and converting all his save opportunities. For now, I’d hold onto Henderson in shallow leagues until we get a bit more color on his deal. But in a couple of weeks, it’s hard to reserve a precious bench spot for a middle reliever hoping he gets his closer job back.

Bonus: For you NL-Only and deep mixed leaguers with bench room, it’s worth a speculative move to grab Jose Valverde as Bobby Parnell‘s velocity is apparently down and the former is next in line.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


33 Responses to “Umm Wait, Who Got the Save?!”

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  1. Shauntell47 says:

    Who would you take if you had the choice between Lindstrom & KRod? Seems like Lindstrom has more security but doesn’t have the same stuff KRod has…

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  2. B says:

    Is K-Rod a better fantasy option than LaTroy Hawkins at this point?

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    • If your asking whether to drop Hawkins for K-Rod, I don’t see why you’d ever drop a closer. But in terms of ratio expectations, yeah krod is the better pitcher

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      • B says:

        Thanks for the response. I’m worried about Brothers taking over for Hawkins and K-Rod possibly keeping the job if he performs well (since we agree, K-Rod is a better pitcher skill-wise).

        I was seeing it more of drop 1 fringe-closer for another fringe-closer, but I guess that’s not really the case.

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  3. Hoplite says:

    I had a feeling Lindstrom would be named the closer in Chicago. For every save Jones gets, that’s another $10,000 the White Sox will have to pay him in arbitration.

    Considering dropping Henderson for Valverde after Valverde’s 3 K performance yesterday. Very active league so I have to stay ahead of the curve…

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    • Hoplite says:

      On second thought, I’ll hold tight. It sounds like Henderson could be back in the closer role within a week.

      “It appears manager Ron Roenicke plans to go with Francisco Rodriguez as his closer until further notice, relegating Henderson to a setup role for now, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. “We had a conversation about Henderson [on Sunday] and until we feel like he’s throwing the way he can and was last year, we’re going to put him in a role that we can give him a couple of outings to get his stuff back and his confidence going,” Roenicke said.”

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  4. MaizeAndBlue says:

    In a 16 team points league where Sv=5, IP=2.1 K=1 H/BB= -0.5, drop Jones for Valverde or Melancon or Benoit? Or hold steady?

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  5. JR Ewing says:

    I still wonder if Lindstrom is simply this year’s Santiago. Maybe Ventura believes starting a young guy out as the closer is bad and wants to wait a couple weeks until the grind of the season begins to install them as the closer and keep them from thinking too much?

    In my mind this makes me want K-Rod more than Linstrom because he’s getting the nod over another guy with experience.

    On a tangential note I just tossed out a Cishek+Fields for NJones+Henderson trade offer. Neither is a lock to get their jobs back by any means but I think it’s over 50% chance for each of them, so I’m betting on the come.

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    • Dave says:

      oh my Lord this is absolute insanity… I’d accept that without a second thought! Cishek is on the verge of establishing himself as a borderline elite closer… the guy is very solid with great stuff… he won’t lose that job.

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  6. JR Ewing says:

    Of course there’s always the CWS wanting to build up Lindstrom’s value for trade, which would have him keeping the job for a few months. :(

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  7. atoms says:

    The save rule is stupid and I hate it.

    /Henderson owner who dropped Lindstrom because obviously Nate Jones was the guy.

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    • Bobby says:

      I don’t think Ventura really ever said who the closer was going to be unitl yesterday. So I think this is a case of running with the ‘perts’ assumption. Shame on us for listening, I guess.

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      • atoms says:

        Oh, for sure. But the whole idea of scrambling to the waiver wire and stashing guys like Jose Valverde because he may accrue some almighty saves really strikes me as an asinine exercise. I get we want to incorporate relievers into the game, but why isn’t there some easy stat for reliever value that we can incorporate into fantasy that doesn’t rely on arbitrary manager decisions about who is a “closer”?

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      • Dave says:

        let’s not forget, Wins are largely arbitrary as well… I mean, a team’s offense shouldn’t really dictate a pitcher’s value, yet it does in this case. Chris Sale had a 3.07 ERA and 1.07 WHIP last season (CY Young contender type numbers) and yet his record was 11-14 because his team sucks… is this fair? Fantasy baseball isn’t fair… we don’t use the “correct” stats… if we did, we might not use ANY of the 5×5 categories.. we’d be using wOBA or OPS instead of AVG and iso instead of HR, xFIP/FIP/SIERA/etc instead of ERA… let’s not just go proclaiming one stat needs to be changed. I think trying to accommodate for “inaccurate” stats makes for a challenge and I enjoy it… I’m not gonna be in a wOBA xFIP league anytime soon… I’ll stick with the 5×5 roto game

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  8. Andre says:

    Is the Milwaukee situation mostly about salary arbitration??

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  9. Swfcdan says:

    The closer carousel has opened even earlier than usual this year due to added popularity!

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  10. Walkswith4Balls says:

    Ron Roenicke is officially on my shit list. Wasted pick on Henderson. No reports about his decreased velocity or anything for that matter.

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  11. Mel says:

    So I have Johnson, Reed, Melancon and Clippard. Who do I drop to pick up either Lindstrom or K Rod? Or do I stand pat…

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  12. Schide says:

    I’d like to start a campaign to abolish closer use in fantasy. Anyone with me?

    Also H2H. Screw H2H.

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    • Spud says:

      I prefer points leagues. You can deincentivize saves and make good relievers valuable. Also, who cares about saves as it’s own category? Roto is weird and I prefer to think about fantasy baseball like real baseball and value what’s important.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      H2H is fine as long as you don’t go into it expecting it to be the same as roto.

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  13. kyle says:

    Do i drop Jim Henderson for Jose Valverde?

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  14. Ron says:

    Which 2 would you choose at this moment – Veras, Valverde, K-Rod, Hoover?

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  15. Jeff says:

    Mike, who would you go with for saves- Qualls, Valverde or Lindstrom?

    If you want to answer a bunch of questions at once – do a quick reranking of closers #26-35, that should cover a bunch of questions regarding the current changes in closer landscape.

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