Posts tagged ‘Craig Kimbrel’

Friday: 01.25.2013

Top 10 RP – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host and human bobblehead (click that & also see below) Mitch Williams, and special guest to the series Bill James. The results were a bit annoying. For one, they did what I feared they might do: lean far too heavily on closers. One list had exactly zero middle relievers and the maker of said list is a huge surprise. I know these lists are for s’s & g’s and despite how it may read, I’m not getting that worked up over it, I’m just trying to have some fun as we move closer toward real baseball!

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Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10RPlists

The Shredder

I’ll say straight out front that The Shredder did much better with the relievers than with starters. I’ll also admit that Grant Balfour was a nice pick. I probably didn’t give him enough consideration. The dude hates letting guys hit the ball (4.9 H/9 last year), misses a good amount of bats (25% K rate), and Oakland has the perfect stadium for his flyball tendencies. That adds up to a helluva reliever. My love for strikeouts probably kept Jim Johnson and Eric O’Flaherty off of my list or it was just the overwhelming amount of depth at the position making it nearly impossible to whittle it down to 10. O’Flaherty has been insane the last four years with a 1.95 ERA and like a 2 million percent groundball rate. Seriously, it’s been 55-57-56-66(!!) percent the last four years meanwhile he has struck out 20% or more guys in three of the four years so he isn’t completely incapable of bat-missing. I was also impressed that The Shredder didn’t overrate Jonathan Papelbon and gave Koji Uehara some big love. All told, this was probably my favorite list because they gave middle relievers deserved love and their differences from my list were pretty strong. That said, Motte was a huge miss.

My inclusions he didn’t list: David Hernandez, Joe Nathan, David Robertson, and Jason Motte

Middle relievers: 4 (Kenley Jansen isn’t starting the year as the closer)

Bill James

Bill, Bill, Bill. You’re my dawg, but Papelbon #2?? No, just no. I pretty much blocked out everything else at that point: the inclusions of Motte and Nathan, the Rodney love, the Sergio Romo exclusion, all of it was forgotten for better or worse because the godfather of sabermetrics and objective analysis threw Jonathan Papelbon second on his list of relievers RIGHT NOW showing a clear bias toward his Red Sox (for whom Bill works as an advisor). John Axford was a little high for me, but his inclusion isn’t too problematic. This is a dude who fans 30% of the batters he’s faced for three years running. He gave up a quarter of his 2012 runs (36) in three games with a trio of three-run outings from June 10th to July 29th. And he was also saddled with a 19% HR/FB rate, it’s probably not a bad idea to bet on some improvement for 2013.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Uehara, Robertson, and Romo

Middle relievers: 1 (and maybe two if Ryan Madson closes for LAA) 

Mitch Williams

Everyone else worked under the assumption that Aroldis Champan is going to be a starter (primarily because he is), but not ol’ Bobbles. OK, so you’re trying to make a big call, but why not just work under the same conecit everyone else did and add a disclaimer that you have Chapman second and think he’ll be closing by Memorial Day or something? Apart from that, his list isn’t too bad despite five disagreements between us. It’d really only be four without the Chapman thing because as he mentioned in the video linked in the opening, Motte was his #11. Finally, someone gives Robertson some attention, which he richly deserves.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Nathan, Motte, Jansen, and Romo

Middle relievers: 3

Starting pitchers: 1

Brian Kenny

How could you do this to me, Brian? You’re my boy, blue! The critical thinker himself, Mr. Next Level Stats who firmly believes the closer mentality is garbage (I don’t fully agree, btw) chimes in with ZERO middle relievers in his list. Or maybe one with Ernesto Frieri, but he’s an assumed closer in many circles at this point. I’m not suggesting you should shoehorn non-closers in if you don’t think they belong, I’m just wondering how he thinks they don’t belong?! Papelbon at 4? Are Soriano and Johnson really better than all middle relievers? He pointed out multiple times how Mitch had more middle relievers than James only to come to the table with a goose egg himself. I was surprised for sure!

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Uehara, Robertson, and Jansen (all 4 of my MRs of course)

Middle relievers: 0

I’ll reiterate once more that I know these are just fun and any exasperation I show is reasoned exasperation. I’m not taking these lists too seriously or cultivating hate for any of the panelists. I truly enjoy this series quite a bit and I’ve had fun agonizing over my own lists.

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Friday: 01.18.2013

Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will air both the relief and starting pitcher shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

This is not a fantasy list!!

My guess is that MLBN will rely a bit too heavily on saves here and lean toward closers, but I’m going for the best relievers regardless of role. This was pretty tough because I could’ve made a legitimate case for quite a few guys who didn’t wind up on my 10. In fact, my honorable mention list could’ve run 10-15 deep. Instead, here are just a few.

Sean Marshall (CIN) – Since these lists stress the “Right Now” aspect, considering Marshall’s track record too heavily would go against the conceit of the lists. And since he is coming off of his worst year against righties (750 OPS), he lost out on a spot. He obliterates lefties (410 OPS) and has plenty of previous success against righties to avoid the LOOGY status, but his rough start likely cost him a spot here. He had a 4.15 ERA in 17.3 innings through May, but then just a 1.85 ERA the rest of the way in 43.7 innings.

Jonathan Papelbon (PHI) – He was hardly bad in 2012, but some chinks in the armor did pop up (namely the home runs and the margins are so thin here that any small ding could cost you a spot on the list. I will state clearly that this has nothing to do with my disdain for Papelbon. I want to make the best list possible and I ended choosing my #10 over Papelbon after a couple flips back-and-forth between the two.

Jake McGee (TB) – A lefty who throws 96? How the hell is that fair? To say he dominated right-handers last year is a gross understatement. They managed a .098/.157/.134 line–that’s a 291 OPS for those keeping score–all while striking out 36 percent of the time. With these honorable mentions, there really aren’t reasons why they didn’t make the list. The top 10 was just so rich that the runoff seems entirely snubbed given how deserving they are on their own merits.

Tyler Clippard (WAS) – Remember when he stranded 96 percent of runners in 2011? So sick. He’s still awesome, just not quite top 10 awesome. Hell, neither are his bullpen mates, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano.

Darren O’Day (BAL) – If we were doing A-Rod’s list, he might be number one. O’Day was 5th in win probability added for relievers last year while teammate Jim Johnson was tops by a good margin. O’Day just missed and Johnson wasn’t given much consideration ranking around 20 or so. It’s probably my whorishness for strikeouts. Sorry, Jimmy-J.

Sorry as well to: Jason Grilli (homers), Rafael Betancourt (drop in Ks), Al Alburquerque (innings), Kelvin Herrera (Ks didn’t stack up), Ernesto Frieri (walks), and Joel Peralta (homers).

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THE LIST

10. David Hernandez (ARI) – The D’Backs better not even consider giving the 8th inning to Heath Bell setting up J.J. Putz as Hernandez handled it masterfully last year and continues to get better each year. He is a flyball pitcher, but maintains a 0.5 HR/9 because 15 percent of his flyball stays in the infield. In the mortal division (non-Kimbrel & Aroldis), his 35 percent strikeout rate was good 5th while his 7.9 percent walk rate was best among those five.

9. Koji Uehara (BOS) – How does he only get $4.25 million from Boston this offseason? That is a steal, especially juxtaposed against the 2/$28 mil that Washington is paying Soriano (and I like Sori). Even missing two months, he deserved more than a $250,000 dollar raise for his work. He had a 14.3 K/BB! He hates walks. In fact, he hates walking. He moves briskly everywhere he goes often breaking into a trot or jog. He walked three batters in 36 innings last year. Carlos Marmol walked three batters in a game three times last year.

8. Joe Nathan (TEX) – Homers ate him up a bit at home (1.7 HR/9) or his sparkling numbers (2.80 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) would’ve been even better. And he was 37 years old.

7. Fernando Rodney (TB) – Who would have bet that Rodney would appear on a list like this… ever? Chalk one up for the “change of scenery” factor working and how. The Rays remade Rodney and he became one of baseball’s best relievers recapturing his strikeout-per-inning stuff while walking next to nobody (far and away a career-best 5 percent BB rate and 1.8 BB/9; previous best was 9 & 3.5). His velo even spiked a bit up to a career high 98.2 MPH on his four-seamer making his 83 MPH changeup that much more devastating.

6. David Robertson (NYY) – He experienced the worst timed injury ever going down in early May shortly after getting the closer’s role once Mariano Rivera went down. Robertson had been missing bats like crazy for four years, but it was always paired with a walk rate of 12 percent or worse. That changed last year when he cut it to just 7.7 percent with little cost to his strikeouts (dipped from an obscene 37 percent to a still-excellent 33 percent). He’s added a groundball element to his game the last two years only adding to his effectiveness.

5. Kenley Jansen (LAD) – An irregular heartbeat could barely tame Jansen, though it did cost him about half of September. He’s usually the one doling out irregular heartbeats, terrifying batters into submission with his filthy cutter which he throws almost exclusively (93 percent of the time). When a pitch is that good, why throw anything else? Sounds like another reliever we all know pretty well.

4. Jason Motte (StL) – Completely embraced the closer’s role en route his best across-the-board season yet in a career-high 72 innings. His 2.75 ERA was up from 2011’s 2.25, but the WHIP dropped from 0.96 to 0.92 while his strikeout rate spiked majorly to 31 percent without impacting his 6 percent walk rate. I think he is one of the more underrated relievers in the game, but that could just be my perception of him. I guess we’ll see tonight on the lists of those involved in the show.

3. Sergio Romo (SF) – While I’m constantly annoyed at how much the Giants baby Romo, I understand it. It’s probably not a surprise that he posted his best year in 2011 when they limited him to just 48 innings (1.50 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 40% K rate, 14.0 K/BB). I’m just being selfish because I want to see flat-out embarrass grown men with his NSFW slider, rated second best in the majors last year per pitch values. His arm may one day accompany the ball to the plate, but until then, enjoy this diminutive badass.

2. Mariano Rivera (NYY) – This was obviously the toughest ranking. He had to be included despite throwing just eight innings last year before tearing his ACL, but how high? It wasn’t a leg injury and he hasn’t seen his dominance diminish at all yet, so I felt comfortable slotting the 43-year old right here. He doesn’t have the same gaudy numbers as a lot of these guys, but he is still fanning a quarter of the batters he faces and his walk rate was actually on the decline from 4.8 in 2010 to 3.4 in 2011, though it ticked up a bit to 6.3 (still great) last year in his tiny sample.

1. Craig Kimbrel (ATL) – He’s on a different plane. If you put up his numbers in a video game, your friends would tell you to get real and up the difficulty. He’s doing it on All-Madden (mixed sport metaphors FTW!). His 40+ percent strikeout rate dropped our jaws, but he wasn’t satisfied so he dropped a 50 burger on our faces fanning precisely 50.2 percent of the batters he faced last year. Major league batters. And for good measure, he nearly sliced his walk rate in half dropping from 10.5 to 6.1 percent.

No one stood a prayer against him evidenced obviously by everything I’ve already shared, but also his .126 batting average against. His 19.2 swinging strike rate was tops in baseball to the surprise of absolutely nobody. He got 40 percent of his strikeouts on three pitches. If he got two strikes on a batter, they hit .068/.112/.105 and struck out 68 percent of the time. I could keep going, but I think you get the point. This was an easy choice.

Monday: 06.20.2011

Sunday Twidbits: June 19th

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s an exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.  Check the sidebar on the right for previous editions of Twidbits.

Det – Det bullpen had 6.03 ERA on 5/22; now at 4.65 after a rebuild. In June: 2.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 , 2 K/BB in 46 IP.

Col – Charlie Blackmon has shown speed right away w/5 SB in 12 G, but he has some pop as evidenced by .572 AAA SLG. Think Shane Victorino 07-09.

Pit – Garrett Jones is hitting .394 in June (13-33) & has started 6 of last 8 GP. Might finally have his job back; cheap pwr source

Pit2 – Why is Jones doing a French Stewart impersonation in his ESPN pic? http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/28763/garrett-jones

Cle – Carlos Carrasco is on fire the last month: 2.8 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.4 K/BB. High GB% mitigates low K. Also 7 K/9, 3.4 K/BB in last 3.

Tor – Since breaking his L-streak, Jo-Jo Reyes is 3-1 w/3.21 ERA. Don’t be fooled though, 1.32 WHIP & 1.5 K/BB thanks to ugly 4.8 K/9.

Tor2 – Reyes was better when he was losing: 6.8 K/9 and 2.9 K/BB in first 49 IP of season. Avoid for now.

Cin – Preached caution w/Johnny Cueto few wks back for a few reas. incl. low K/9. Still lucky, but 6.5 K/9 & 3 K/BB in last 4. Still sell, but less worried.

LAA – Angels have a league-worst 4 (!) HR in June so far. 28 players have 4+ HRs. It’s a small miracle that they’re even 5-10 this month.

NYM – Jonathon Niese has allowed >2 ER just once since April 14th (2.65 ERA in 71 IP, 6.9 K/9) after allowed 5+ in 2 of his first 3 starts.

NYM2 – Need a cheap RP fill-in? Bobby Parnell has been excellent since returning from the DL: 1.17 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 12.9 K/9, 5.5 K/BB in 8 IP.

Tex – Thru May Neftali Feliz had 9/14 K/BB in 19 IP w/10 SV. In June so far, he has 8 K, 1 BB in 7 IP w/4 SV. Appears to have course-corrected himself.

Atl – If you took both Jonny Venters & Craig Kimbrel to lock up ATL SVs, you’d have a 1.73 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 101 K, 6 W & 21 SV in 78 IP.

Atl2 – Vent/Kimb cont. That’s as many Ks as Tim Lincecum, better ERA than any SP, a WHIP equal to Dan Haren & 4th-most Ws… oh and most SVs in MLB.

Bal – Adam Jones is having a strong yr, but perennially wears down w/12 & 14 of his 19 HR the last 2 yrs in the 1st half. Has 10 so far. Sell?

Was – Michael Morse‘s Apr: .211/.253/.268 & cut in many lgs. Whoops!! Since: .364/.418/.729 w/12 HR, 33 RBI & 24 R. DON’T give up after 1 month.

Mil – Randy Wolf is the ultimate matchup guy w/8 starts of 65+ game scores & 6 sub-50s. Some of his best: Pit, Hou2x, Chc, Phi; worst: Cin, StL

Bos – Marco Scutaro is worth a pickup, espec. w/Jed Lowrie on the DL. He’s hitting .371/.421/.486 in June since returning. Nice Runs Scored option.

Flo – All but 3 regulars are at .254 or below in June for the Marlins; only 1 SP w/an ERA below 4.82 and that’s how you get a 1-17 record.

TB – Alex Cobb struggled in 1st 2 MLB starts w/7 ER & 8 BB in 11 IP, but he’s looked sharp since: 1.96 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.0 K/BB in 18 IP.

TB2 – Johnny Damon‘s pace of .277 AVG, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 16 SB, 74 R is somehow not good enough for Y! (54%) & CBS (80%) leaguers. Check your wire.

SD – I don’t care if he has 2 W all yr, how is Tim Stauffer so avail. (C 57%, Y! 40%, E 17%)? On pace for 207 IP w/7.1 K/9 & 3.2 K/BB. Buy NOW!

Min – No Twins pitcher w/5+ IP has an ERA over 3.27 in June. Francisco Liriano‘s last 33 IP (thru Sun.) 1.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 2.5 K/BB.

KC – Alcides Escobar is hitting .431/.453/.569 in last 14 G w/7 SB. Cheap speed at thin position if you need someone: E 47%, C 33%, Y! 19%.

StL – Since his Coors Collapse on 5/28, Jaime Garcia has 2.96 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 & 4.5 K/BB in 24 IP. In other words, it was a blip.

Hou – Wandy Rodriguez allowed 4-5-7 in 3 of 1st 5 GS (5.40 ERA). Since: 1.31 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 3.1 K/BB in 48 IP; 8 K/9 in last 26 IP.

Hou2 – Wandy (cont.) He’s not 100% rostered at any of major outlets, so don’t assume he’s owned in your league: E 95%, C 90%, Y! 77%

Hou3 – Not sure why Mark Melancon is so avail. He’s been great & Brandon Lyon is now out for yr: E 77%, Y! 50%, C 41%. Free saves!

LAD – Only 1 Dodgers SP has an ERA below 4.41 (Kuroda) & only 2 are below 5.52 (Lilly) thus a 5-11 June record for the tm.

LAD2 – One elite, one brand new, but I’d buy either Clayton Kershaw (5.95) & Rubby de la Rosa (5.52) if any was selling based on June swoon.

SF – Madison Bumgarner had a 7.79 ERA & 2.06 WHIP on 4/23. Since then he’s been among MLB’s best: 2.03 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 4 K/BB in 67 IP

SF2 – MadBum (cont.) Not 100% owned at 3 major outlets: E 92%, C 88%, Y! 67%. Check your lg to be sure. 3-8 W-L may offer discount via trade

Oak – A perennial 2H player, Coco Crisp is on pace for 47 SB along w/modest but useful 77 R, 50 RBI & 5 HR.

Oak2 – Crisp (cont.) Career .276 hitter, hit 8 HR in 75 G last yr. could surge in midsummer. Still available in many lgs. Buy even if just for the SBs.

Phi – Good SP is infectious as Vance Worley‘s 3.41 ERA is highest in the non-Blanton division of Philly SPs. Hamels-Halladay-Lee have 9+ K/9. Sick

Sea – Ichiro coming out biggest slump of his career? 7-game hitting streak w/6 multi-hit gms: .467/.484/.667 and 4 SBs. Could be in for absurd 2H.

CWS – Alexei Ramirez needed 6-for-13 rally at end of Apr. to finish .265/.318/.382. Rarely does well early. Since: .318/.380/.468.

CWS2 – Alexei (cont.) Know who you’re drafting. Career OPS in Apr: .580; only other month below .780 OPS is Sept at .705, he hates cold weather.

Ari – Daniel Hudson had 5.64 ERA in Apr; skills said much better. Skills win! Since: 7-1, 2.67 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 4.5 K/BB. 6+ IP every GS.

NYY – Curtis Granderson‘s career yr is fueled by improvements v. LHP: .277/.337/.651–career .221/.281/.376. 20 HR v. LHP in 1st 5 yrs; 9 in ’11.

Chc – Carlos Marmol since 6 ER in 0.3 IP disaster: 1.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 13 K/9, 4.3 K/BB in 9 IP. Was a blip, but nothing to worry about at all.

Chc2 – Is Doug Davis a home spot starter? 2.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 in 23 IP incl. start v. Yankees. The 3.9 BB/9 suggests some caution.

 

Thursday: 03.17.2011

2011 Closer Tiers

Here’s a look at my 2011 closer rankings.  I’m going to do my Middle Reliever article soon so the top 7th and 8th inning guys will get their coverage there.  I mentioned a few in here, but none of them are ranked unless they are in a committee to close.

Stat consideration in order of importance: Strikeouts, Saves, ERA, WHIP.  I would take a few less saves for a ridiculous strikeout rate.  Closers can impact ERA a decent bit (at the truly elite levels), but their WHIP impact is often insignificant (even at its worst, more on that later).

Tier 1

Joakim Soria – He has an incredibly rock solid skills profile over the past four seasons and yet he is still just 27 years old.  His inferior team hasn’t prevent him from two 40+ save seasons and in non-40 save season he struck out 69 in 53 innings (he wasn’t the full time closer in the first of his four seasons).

Carlos Marmol – Too many outlets greatly overrate the impact of a reliever’s WHIP (and ERA for that matter) on your team’s bottom line.  Take Marmol’s awful 1.46 WHIP in 2009 and add it to a standard team with 1250-1300 innings and it increases the WHIP by 0.01.  You can’t tell me that his otherworldly strikeout rates for a reliever don’t more than cancel out that negligible impact.

Heath Bell – Similar to Wilson, he’s on a team that can win, but when they do it’s close because they aren’t powered by offense.  This has led to 42 and 47 save seasons the last two years for Bell.  He’s also notching better than 10 strikeouts per nine with elite ERA and WHIP totals to boot.

Neftali Feliz – After a back-n-forth Spring Training and rampant speculation about whether or not he was going to start or close, he has finally been locked down as the closer again.  He was brilliant last year and I expect no different in 2011.  He has devastating starter’s stuff which plays pretty well in one-inning bursts.  Remember that with the tiers, I see everyone within a tier relatively similarly.  So if you wanted to take Feliz first in an AL-Only (or mixed for that matter), I support that.  I ranked them how I prefer them, but there’s little difference one to the next.

Mariano Rivera – He’s a freak, even at 41. The Ks dropped last year (6.8 K/9), but ratios remained absurd and I’m not betting against him.  K rate dropped to 6.6 in 2006 and then he reeled off three straight seasons above 9.0 at ages 37 through 39, so don’t let the 41 years make you believe he can’t bounce right back again.  He almost deserves his own second tier because there is a little risk with anyone his age, but I’ll give him the T1 respect.

Tier 2

Brian Wilson – He’s just on another level right now delivering near-Marmolian strikeout rates (10.3, 11.2 last two years) with great ratios and high save counts (on a team that wins, but not with offense meaning more close games).  Update: Injuries move him down, but still worth drafting pretty high.

J.J. Putz – Last year Putz looked a lot like the guy who notched 36 and 40 save seasons back in 2006 and 2007.  Once an elite closer, Putz quickly earned a closer’s role this offseason and there is no reason to believe he won’t once again become a big time stopper.  He’s being a little overlooked so far this draft season.  If you want to skip the first wave, jump on Putz a few rounds after.

Matt Thornton – Rightfully given the job to start the season, Thornton has been an elite reliever for three years now though many might not realize it as he has just 13 saves in that time.  Posted a ridiculous 12.0 strikeout rate last year, but even if he’s “only” at the 10.6 he averaged the two years before, he is still an excellent investment.

Jonathan Papelbon – For all his issues (ascending walk rate, ERA and WHIP; dropping save totals), his strikeout rate is actually ticking up yearly since 2008 (10.0, 10.1, 10.2) and at 29, he’s still well within in his prime.  As annoying as Papelbon can be personally, he could be an undervalued fantasy asset this year as his demise is being overrated.

Francisco Rodriguez – We are seeing a lot risk in this tier which says a lot about the state of closers in the 2011 preseason.  K-Rod is no different, but it’s hard to deny the talent.  The main concern is that if the Mets don’t trade him, they might game his playing time to avoid a vesting option for 2012 (needs to finish 55+ games).

Tier 3

Jonathan Broxton – He is inexplicably being written off for three bad months.  He was brilliant through June 26th with a sub-1.00 ERA and 48 Ks in 33 innings.  The wheels came off the next day with a 4-run outing and he was never the same the rest of the year.  No way I’m going to write off a 27-year old with as much talent as Broxton just yet.

Jose Valverde – An up and down season in 2010 that was essentially four great months and two horrible ones.  Elbow soreness likely caused some of the issues that led to 8.25 and 7.00 ERAs in July and August, but he bounced back with eight strong innings in September.  He looks good so far in Spring Training so I’d be comfortable investing in a standard Valverdian season.

Andrew Bailey – He might have crept into Tier 1 if it weren’t for the major injury scare a few days ago during a spring outing.  We are being told he’s fine for now and doesn’t need surgery, but the uncertainty of his elbow plus his injury track record make him a frightening investment.  Handcuff Brian Fuentes here.

Joe Nathan – He might ease into the role for a few weeks in April, but I think he will be the full-time closer no later than May given health.  Like Putz, I think we’ll see a quick return to form and Nathan will once again be a reliable premier asset.

Chris Perez – He came into his own last year and started paying dividends on his top 100 prospect status from 2008 (97) and 2009 (91).  Control is the missing element in his game to this point (4.3 BB/9 in 162 career IP), but at 25 years old there is still plenty of time.  His stuff is undeniable and he should feel secure in the job.  You should feel secure when investing.

Tier 4

Huston Street – The skills are there, always have been, but it’s hard to rely on him being there for you all season.  That lack of consistent health is why he has just two 35+ save seasons in his six years in the majors.  Each of the other four has yielded 23 or fewer.

John Axford – Burst onto the scene last year for a huge rookie season taking over for Trevor Hoffman with nearly 12 strikeouts per game and 24 saves in 27 chances.  His control needs work (4.2 BB/9), but that and a deep track record are the only missing ingredients for an elite closer.

Joel Hanrahan – You may be shocked to learn that Hanrahan has improved his strikeout rate each of his four seasons in the big leagues and had a career-best 3.4 BB/9 last year.  He’s been given the job for now, but Evan Meek looms if he fails.  The skills are there, but does he have the fortitude to closer?  I’d bet yes.

Leo Nunez – He had a career year in his first as the full-time closer which is enticing, but can it last?  He makes a strong secondary or tertiary closer on a team with a T1 in mixed leagues.  I also like him as a cheap option in an NL-Only if you don’t like investing a ton in saves.  I like him a lot more than most and I think he’s being a bit underrated.

Tier 5

Brad Lidge – A sore biceps tendon has caused a preseason scare, but Lidge asserts it’s something he has dealt with before and writes it off as no big deal.  Even still, he’s far from “Lights Out” these days despite the still impressive strikeout totals.  Tread cautiously. Update: Injuries also move him down as he’s now set to start the season on the DL.

Frank Francisco – He’s closed before and posted 3.2 K/BB rates or better each of the last three years, but a sore pectoral has cast some doubt over him, especially in light the depth of competition in Toronto.  If healthy, he could be a cheaper option that pans out very nicely.

Francisco Cordero – His eroding skillset belies the gaudy save totals (79 the last two years) as his strikeout rate has dropped in each of the last three seasons coming in below 8.0 each of the last two seasons.  Mix that in with his age (36) and legitimate competition behind him (Aroldis Chapman and Nick Masset) and Cordero becomes a risky proposition.

Craig Kimbrel/Jonny Venters – Listing them together because they are set to share the job for now.  I think one will emerge, but who knows who?  Venters was brilliant in 83 innings so it seems like he’d be more reliable, but Kimbrel really impressed with 40 strikeouts in 21 innings.  I wouldn’t be afraid to invest in either or both if the prices weren’t out of whack.  They only rate this low because saves are the guiding factor of these tiers.  From a pure skills standpoint, both can be elite relievers.

Kevin Gregg – Middling skills combined with legitimate competition on hand (namely Koji Uehara) make Gregg a risky option.  Throw in a mediocre at best team in the league’s toughest division and this could get ugly.  That said, he held on for 37 saves in the same division last year.

Ryan Franklin – Regression popped his ERA last year, but he tightened up the control a lot yielding an even better WHIP than 2009.  Still, I don’t like closers with lame strikeout rates especially if I can’t count on excellent ERA and WHIP.

Tier 6

Alexei Ogando – My main concern is that Ron Washington seems to lack much confidence in him and this whole Neftali Feliz melodrama might not be over yet, either.  Buying Ogando while things remain pretty uncertain could represent a nice bargain as I think he is the clear choice behind Feliz if he does end up a starter (which he should if Texas is smart… and they generally are…)

Jake McGee/Kyle Farnsworth – Manager Joe Maddon is firm on going with a committee marginalizing the value of both of these guys, who would otherwise be pretty valuable if they were the lone closer.  Their skills and team situation is better some of the other committees found in T6 so they still rate above them even as a tandem.

Fernando Rodney – I can’t envision a scenario where he keeps the job all year long.  Any one of Jordan Walden, Kevin Jepsen or Scott Downs would be better options.  Of course, they will probably get their shot in reverse order of how I listed them.  Downs is on the DL right now, but Rodney should at least hold it through April.

Brandon League/David Aardsma – League is a placeholder until Aardsma is healthy after having hip surgery in January.  I loved League heading into last year after his 2009 season, but he pretty much flopped and made his 2009 skills (9.2 K/9, 3.6 K/BB) look like an outlier.  Don’t buy both.  If you buy one, it should only be as a third option regardless of league format.

Drew Storen – A rough spring is putting his grasp on the job in serious doubt as manager Jim Riggleman obviously doesn’t realize how worthless Spring Training numbers are in the grand scheme.  Add in the myriad of options (none particularly good) behind Storen and he becomes a serious risk.

Brandon Lyon – A lesser version of Ryan Franklin on a much lesser team.  Wilton Lopez lingers, too, but I’m not sold he keeps the 0.7 BB/9 he displayed in 67 innings last year.