May 08, 2009

As you may have noticed from the by-line above, I am not Antonio D'Arcangelis. But don't fret, he'll be back next week.

Dan Kolb has always been a captivating case for me. The Illinois State graduate didn't distinguish himself much in his first four seasons in the majors. Then he got the opportunity to close for the Milwaukee Brewers halfway through 2003. After some success, he entered 2004 as the Brewers' closer and proceeded to have one crazy season.

Kolb piled up 39 saves and posted an ERA of 2.98 in 57.1 innings, all while somehow only striking out 21 batters. For those of you dusting off your calculators, I'll save you a couple of seconds. That's a K/9 of 3.30. Kolb's success that year still sticks in my mind as amazing considering how few batters he actually struck out. But Kolb was the anomaly, not the rule as far as useful fantasy closers go.

So who are the anti-Kolb's (Top 10 in K/9 among relievers) so far in 2009? Heading the class is Jonathan Broxton. Broxton leads all major league relievers in K/9, at 15.92. While the hefty righty won't keep sending batters away with their heads shaking quite that much, he does have a great chance to lead the majors in the category.

Trailing Broxton is Atlanta's Mike Gonzalez, who has a tenuous hold on the Braves' closer job. Rounding out the top three is the reformed Kerry Wood. Wood has seamlessly carried his strikeout punch to the bullpen. Brian Fuentes is managing a Top 10 K/9 rate even though his other numbers are pretty bad (He's new in town, so maybe he's still confused about that whole Los Angeles/Anaheim thing). Francisco Rodriguez earned the nickname "K-Rod" for a reason. Chad Qualls never had a season with a K/9 above 8.67 (it's 12.60 this season), so it seems a bit fluky. The rest of the top 10 is filled by non-closer relievers.

Saves are a product of many different things, some of which are out of a closer's control. The one thing that the above closers can consistently contribute to fantasy teams is strikeouts, so always value them as pitchers that bring a little extra punch.

Stats as of May 5.

Matt Lindstrom, FLA5-for-7 (71%), 10 IP, 9 Ks, 7.20 ERA, 1.80 WHIPNext in line: Leo NunezThird in line: Kiki Calero

Fernando Rodney, DET6-for-6 (100%), 10 IP, 7 Ks, 4.50 ERA, 1.10 WHIPNext in line: Brandon Lyon/Joel ZumayaThird in line: Ryan Perry (minors)

Brad Ziegler, OAK4-for-5 (80%), 11.1 IP, 9 Ks, 1.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIPNext in line: Andrew BaileyThird in line: Michael Wuertz

Kevin Gregg, CHI (NL)4-for-5 (80%), 12.2 IP, 14 Ks, 4.97 ERA, 1.82 WHIPNext in line: Carlos MármolThird in line: Aaron Heilman/Jeff Samardzija

Huston Street, COL3-for-3 (100%), 11.1 IP, 12 Ks, 5.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIPNext in line: Jason GrilliThird in line: Manny Corpas

Troy Percival, TB4-for-4 (100%), 7.2 IP, 4 Ks, 2.35 ERA, 1.43 WHIPNext in line: Dan WheelerThird in line: Grant Balfour

Scott Downs, TOR3-for-3 (100%), 15.1 IP, 20 K, 0.59 ERA, 0.51 WHIPNext in line: Jason FrasorThird in line: Jesse Carlson/B.J. Ryan (DL)

David Aardsma, SEA3-for-3 (100%), 11.1 IP, 10 Ks, 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIPNext in line: Mark LoweThird in line: Shawn Kelley

LaTroy Hawkins, HOU3-for-4 (75%), 12.1 IP, 11 Ks, 2.92 ERA, 1.30 WHIPNext in line: Doug BrocailThird in line: Chris Sampson

Matt Lindstrom has been solid after his seven-earned-run performance April 24. He's allowed one hit, two walks and no runs in the 3.1 innings since. Luckily for Lindstrom, there aren't any real threats to poach saves in the Marlins' bullpen. Despite solid numbers, Brad Ziegler seems to be on thin ice in Oakland. He's ready to resume closing duties after losing eight pounds with the flu, but there have been rumblings that Andrew Bailey will get a shot to close. We have a Huston Street sighting! Thanks to the ineptitude of Manny Corpas, Street has another chance to close in Colorado. Corpas, meanwhile, will be nowhere near a save opportunity in the near future and may even get demoted. In Toronto, it's B.J. who? Scott Downs has Blue Jays fans forgetting a certain high-priced lefty. Downs is sporting an ERA of 0.59 and has even provided 20 Ks in 15.1 innings. David Aardsma's time as closer is running out, as Brandon Morrow should return from the DL when he's eligible to return May 9. Aardsma hasn't been pretty this season (he has just two appearances with no hits or walks), but he's been somewhat effective in save situations. He isn't a threat to take any saves from a healthy Morrow. LaTroy Hawkins doesn't have the best career stats, but he's been effective lately, as Jose Valverde is getting his calf drained. Hawkins has five strikeouts and a save in his past 2.1 innings. Expect his 2.92 ERA to climb more toward his career figure of 4.62, but he's useful for save-hungry fantasy owners.

Brandon Morrow, SEAMorrow hit the DL with biceps tendinitis May 2 (retroactive to April 24) and is eligible to return May 9. He threw a pain-free bullpen session May 4 and didn't seem seriously hurt in the first place. Without a major setback, he should be ready to pitch the day he's eligible to return.

José Valverde, HOUAn MRI showed Valverde's calf had several hematomas. Doctors drained them and Valverde should take about three weeks to heal.

B.J. Ryan, TORRyan is set to start a minor league rehab stint this week. He'll pitch at least a few times in the minors before returning to the big league club, but it will be interesting to see if Ryan regains his closer role with Scott Downs going 3-for-3 on saves in his stead.

Joey Devine, OAKDevine underwent Tommy John surgery and is out for the remainder of 2009.

Mike González, ATL3-for-4 (75%), 9.2 IP, 16 Ks, 4.66 ERA, 1.45 WHIPNext in line: Rafael SorianoThird in line: Peter Moylan/Manny Acosta

George Sherrill, BAL4-for-6 (67%), 11.2 IP, 10 Ks, 4.63 ERA, 1.71 WHIPNext in line: Chris RayThird in line: Jim Johnson/Danys Baez

Julian Tavarez, WAS1-for-2 (50%), 10 IP, 13 Ks, 4.50 ERA, 1.30 WHIPNext in line: Kip Wells/Joe Beimel (DL)Third in line: Joel Hanrahan/Mike MacDougal

Mike Gonzalez could give way to Rafael Soriano any time now. He hasn't really done much (other than 0.0 innings, one earned run Tuesday) to deserve a demotion, Soriano is simply healthy for once. As a lefty, Gonzalez is better suited to be used based on matchups or in the eighth inning. Soriano has dynamite numbers this season, including 15 strikeouts in 11 innings. It seems Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has tired of George Sherrill's pulse-pounding ninth innings. Chris Ray hasn't been good either, so it's somewhat of a toss-up who will earn saves in Baltimore game-to-game. Shockingly, it turns out Julian Tavarez isn't the savior to Washington's bullpen. Tavarez has allowed eight runs (five earned) in his past two appearances (three of the runs were in Washington's May 5 game that was suspended against the Astros). You know things are bad when your team signs Mike MacDougal to add to the closer mix. Bad teams are usually an OK source of saves, but unless you're starved for saves you should stay away from the National mess until things clear up. With the caliber of pitchers available in D.C., it could be a while.

Jonathan Papelbon, BOS7-for-7 (100%), 12 IP, 13 Ks, 1.50 ERA, 1.42 WHIPNext in line: Takashi SaitoThird in line: Hideki Okajima/Manny Delcarmen

Mariano Rivera, NYY5-for-6 (83%), 9.2 IP, 13 Ks, 2.79 ERA, 1.24 WHIPNext in line: Edwar RamirezThird in line: Mark Melancon/Brian Bruney (DL)

Francisco Rodríguez, NYM7-for-7 (100%), 11.2 IP, 16 Ks, 1.54 ERA, 1.16 WHIPNext in line: J.J. PutzThird in line: Pedro Feliciano/Sean Green

Joe Nathan, MIN4-for-5 (80%), 9 IP, 8 Ks, 2.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIPNext in line: Matt GuerrierThird in line: Jesse Crain

Jonathan Broxton, LAD8-for-9 (89%), 14 IP, 25 Ks, 0.64 ERA, 0.43 WHIPNext in line: Cory WadeThird in line: Ramon Troncoso

Brad Lidge, PHI4-for-5 (80%), 10.2 IP, 13 Ks, 6.75 ERA, 1.78 WHIPNext in line: Ryan MadsonThird in line: Chad Durbin

Heath Bell, SD8-for-8 (100%), 10.2 IP, 13 Ks, 0.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIPNext in line: Cla MeredithThird in line: Edwin Moreno

Joakim Soria, KC6-for-6 (100%), 7.2 IP, 9 Ks, 1.17 ERA, 1.04 WHIPNext in line: Juan CruzThird in line: Kyle Farnsworth

Bobby Jenks, CWS6-for-6 (100%), 9 IP, 8 Ks, 2.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIPNext in line: Octavio DotelThird in line: Matt Thornton/Scott Linebrink

Kerry Wood, CLE5-for-6 (83%), 10 IP, 16 Ks, 7.20 ERA, 1.70 WHIPNext in line: Jensen LewisThird in line: Rafael Betancourt

Trevor Hoffman, MIL4-for-4 (100%), 5 IP, 5 Ks, 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIPNext in line: Carlos VillanuevaThird in line: Todd Coffey

Matt Capps, PIT5-for-6 (83%), 8.1 IP, 7 Ks, 7.56 ERA, 1.92 WHIPNext in line: John GrabowThird in line: Tyler Yates

Frank Francisco, TEX8-for-8 (100%), 13.2 IP, 11 Ks, 0.00 ERA, 0.68 WHIPNext in line: C.J. WilsonThird in line: Darren O'Day

Francisco Cordero, CIN7-for-7 (100%), 10 IP, 11 Ks, 2.70 ERA, 1.40 WHIPNext in line: David WeathersThird in line: Arthur Rhodes

Brian Wilson, SF6-for-7 (80%), 9.2 IP, 12 Ks, 3.72 ERA, 1.03 WHIPNext in line: Jeremy AffeldtThird in line: Bob Howry

Chad Qualls, ARI4-for-5 (86%), 13.1 IP, 16 Ks, 3.38 ERA, 1.20 WHIPNext in line: Tony PeñaThird in line: Tom Gordon

Ryan Franklin, STL7-for-7 (100%), 11.1 IP, 10 Ks, 0.00 ERA, 0.53 WHIPNext in line: Jason MotteThird in line: Kyle McClellan/Chris Pérez

Brian Fuentes, LAA7-for-9 (78%), 9.2 IP, 13 Ks, 6.52 ERA, 1.76 WHIPNext in line: Scot ShieldsThird in line: Jose Arredondo

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