The Golden State is home to five Major League Baseball teams, and lately, for three of them, life in the ninth inning has been anything but golden.
In Oakland, an All-Star's injury derailed the bullpen before the season even started. Andrew Bailey, a two-time All-Star and the 2009 Rookie of the Year, injured his forearm on March 22 and was subsequently placed on the DL. In his absence, Brian Fuentes, who saved 48 games in '09, inherited the role. Fuentes (4.71 ERA, nine saves and six losses) has been a disaster. Owners desperate for saves in AL-only leagues no doubt have stuck with him, but Bailey is scheduled to return by the end of the week, and Fuentes has no value as a middle reliever. It might take Bailey a couple appearances to shake off the rust, but when healthy, he's a top-tier closer.
Farther south, in Los Angeles, another former All-Star's absence has also led to calamity. Before landing on the DL on May 6, Jonathan Broxton (5.68 ERA and seven saves) was a shell of his former self. Vicente Padilla (4.15 ERA and three saves) was the first reliever to step up when Broxton went down, but now he, too, has been bitten by the injury bug. Free-agent import Matt Guerrier (3.42 ERA and 1.90 K/BB) has been solid but Kenley Jansen has the nastiest stuff (14.43 K/9). Both should be owned in NL-only leagues, and if Jansen can master his control (5.12 BB/9), his upside is 15 saves the rest of the way.
For the Los Angeles Angels, injuries haven't been a problem. Fernando Rodney (4.58 ERA and two saves) began the year as the stopper for Mike Scioscia's club, but he simply couldn't get the job done. Scioscia plugged rookie Jordan Walden into the role following Rodney's demotion, and the results have been largely positive. In April, Walden notched four saves with a miniscule 0.73 ERA. In May, things have gotten rockier for the rookie, with a 6.00 ERA and three blown saves. Despite the recent troubles, Walden has a firm grip on the ninth inning. He's got the best stuff (9.28 K/9) of anyone in the Angels' bullpen, and two consecutive saves over the weekend suggest his troubles are behind him. If he was dropped in your league, add him with confidence.
How did the rest of the major league bullpens fare this week? Let's take a look around the league:
Rodriguez was stellar in April and he's been even better in May. In 14 innings he's notched nine saves without giving up an earned run. He's reined in the sloppy play, too, with a tidy 1.14 WHIP.
What's wrong with Feliz? Since returning from the DL in early May, his peripherals have been atrocious (2.70 K/9 and 9.45 BB/9). The sample size is small (only 6.5 innings), but it's time to start worrying about the 2010 ROY. ... Phillies manager Charlie Manuel indicated Madson would hold on to the closer's role once Jose Contreras returns from injury, and the former set-up man deserves the vote of confidence. He boasts a 0.50 ERA, eight saves and an 11.7 K/9 rate. ... After a torrid start, Perez has slowed down in May. The reason? A lack of control. Perez boasts a 9.00 BB/9 rate in May, and for a closer that doesn't strike a lot of batters out (5.68 K/9) that's unacceptable. Sell high if you can.
After a crummy April, Axford has turned the corner. Since May 1, he's sporting a 13.09 K/9 rate and a stingy 1.64 BB/9 rate. A .452 BABIP has artificially inflated an already bloated ERA, making him a great buy-low candidate. ... In this space last week I
Melancon (1.93 ERA and three saves) converted two consecutive saves over the weekend to cement his role as the closer in Houston. The Astros aren't winning much this season (17-30), but Melancon should get the saves when they do. ... In 3.2 innings Francisco has given up four earned runs but has somehow also recorded three saves. Manager John Farrell trusts Francisco, but the closer needs to rein in the long ball (3.18 HR/9) if he wants to maintain that trust. ... League has turned in two straight scoreless appearances and the job is his to lose in Seattle. Add him if he was dropped in your AL-only league.
Bailey is scheduled for a rehab start this week and he's aiming to return from the disabled list by this weekend.
Backups who will ensure you're banking saves even if your closer goes down: