Results tagged ‘ Closers ’

Fantasy Baseball Strategy 2012 Edition

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

Every season a different strategy has to be utilized in fantasy baseball drafts in order to appropriately take into account positional depth and player rankings.  In general, a unique strategy can be utilized on a round-by-round basis.  Here’s a breakdown of Bloomberg Sports recommended Fantasy Baseball Strategy 2012 Edition:

 

In the early rounds, the focus is finding the best available player while also taking into account the disparity between the best player and the next best option at each position.  For example, there is a plateau in excellence for starting pitchers as Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw can all be claimed as the best of the bunch.  On the other hand, Troy Tulowitzki stands alone amongst fellow shortstops. 

 

If your fantasy league includes slugging percentage and on base percentage as statistical categories, there is no competition for Jose Bautista in the outfield while there are several stars at first base including Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto.  The best strategy is to pick up the best talent at a position where there is a large enough disparity that when the next player is drafted from that position there is a decisive advantage in your favor. 

 

In the early middle rounds, it’s not a bad idea to scoop up a fine hurler who has the potential to rank amongst the best.  Players such as Jered Weaver, CC Sabathia, and Danny Haren as well as Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg make sense in these rounds.  These hurlers have the ability to dominate and enjoy a Cy Young caliber season thanks to their enormous upside. 

 

Having two high potential and consistent hurlers is more valuable than having just one dominant ace.  Therefore, by drafting where there is greater disparity in the early rounds with a focus on position players, then nabbing a couple of pitchers with sky high potential fantasy managers can enjoy the best of both worlds. 

 

In the later middle rounds you can draft a closer and many of them.  Closers are often overrated in fantasy leagues since they only contribute 70 innings, which means saves are all that matters.  Second-tier closers still get the job done and players such as Joe Nathan could end up as bargains.  In fact, rather than selecting a Jonathan Papelbon in the sixth or seventh round, you can grab a Gio Gonzalez or a Drew Stubbs, someone who will have a much greater impact on your fantasy team. 

 

Then five rounds later go ahead and draft three closers in a row: Sergio Santos, Jason Motte, and Frank Francisco.  Plus, usually about 10 closers become available on the waiver wire each season.  In fact, all three of the pitchers just mentioned did not start the season as closers for their respective teams last season. 

 

Finally, in the later rounds, it’s not a bad idea to focus on young talents with great potential as well as players with multiple position eligibility.  This allows you to pick up some big time prospects while also enjoying depth.  Consider top prospects such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.  There is no telling if the precocious sluggers will develop into stars as soon as this season. 

 

On the other hand, drafting veteran players such as Ryan Raburn and Daniel Murphy is also a key strategy in the later rounds since they cover multiple positions, providing depth to your fantasy teams.  This way if a player on your team gets injured, a single bench player can fill multiple holes. 

 

For more fantasy insight turn to BloombergSports.com.

Thinking Ahead: The Trade Deadline and Bullpens

by Eno Sarris // 

The MLB trade deadline isn’t for another six weeks. That doesn’t mean that it won’t make waves in fantasy baseball sooner than that. There are a couple players in particular that are very likely to move. With these players, it makes sense for both teams to make the trade sooner rather than later in order to get the most value, whether it be in prospects or production.

The Padres are nine games out and at the bottom of the National League West division. Their closer, Heath Bell, is a one of the elite bullpen arms in baseball. He’s also a free agent at the end of the year and is already the highest-paid player on a cash-strapped team. Former GM Jim Bowden recently said that Bell is the player most likely to be traded, and with good reason it seems.

Behind Bell are a couple arms worth owning if he’s going to leave town. Most likely, Mike Adams is next in line. The righty is working on his fourth straight year with more than a strikeout per inning. He also has great control. That mix has produced a 1.71 ERA over that time span — he’s really good. There is one caveat with the 32-year-old, however: he’s only under team control for one more year. Luke Gregerson, on the other hand, is under control for three more years and is also excellent. He’s managed a strikeout per inning over the first three years of his career, and even if his ERA isn’t as pristine as Adams’ (3.14), he gets good ground balls (48.1% career) and has one of the best sliders in the game. If only he was healthy — a strained oblique has felled him at the wrong moment. Then again, Gregerson uses his slider almost twice as much as his fastball, and some of my recent research has shown that heavy slider usage can lead to injury. Adams is the safer pick overall.

In New York, the Mets are eight games back. Even if they only have two teams in front of them, one of them has an historic rotation and the other is stacked with young talent. Add in some much-publicized monetary issues, and it just doesn’t seem like the Mets need Francisco Rodriguez to stick around. The sticking point is a $17.5 million vesting option for next year, and a limited no-trade that allows him to block a trade to ten mystery teams. But if the Mets can find a team that’s not on the list and has an established closer (in order to keep his option from vesting), there’s an immediate match, and the team is highly motivated to make such a deal.

Behind Rodriguez, there isn’t an easy solution. Well, there is, but it isn’t very forward-looking. 38-year-old reclamation project Jason Isringhausen is the obvious set-up man and the team leader in holds. Some fans have hopes for Bobby Parnell as the closer of the future, but the flame-thrower has terrible control. No other reliever has stepped to the fore, although hometown hero Pedro Beato has an interesting pitching mix. He still doesn’t have the strikeout punch of a closer right now, though. Even with Isringhausen’s mediocre strikeout and walk rates, and advanced age, he’s probably the dude once K-Rod leaves town.

The trade deadline comes July 31st. By thinking ahead, you might just own two newly minted closers by then.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

What Jordan Walden, Closer, Can Tell Us

by Eno Sarris //

There’s a new closer in the greater Los Angeles / Anaheim area. Jordan Walden is young (23) and has a nice fastball (96 MPH+), and took over the role last night. What worked with him might tell us a little something about where to look for future closers.

What was wrong in front of Jordan Walden was Fernando Rodney. The veteran pitcher had never once put in a walk rate better than league average. Lately, he’d been inducing ground balls, but that caused his strikeout rate to fall even further. Mostly, the 33-year-old is in a decline off of a questionable peak.

So, first our future closer needs opportunity. Perhaps one of the worst closers in the league is Brandon Lyon – who has a bad strikeout rate (5.86 K/9 career) and supplements it with a flyball tendency in a home-run happy ball park (8.4% home runs above average park).  Ryan Franklin doesn’t really have a strikeout rate (5 K/9 career) or an elite groundball rate (around 44% the last three years, 40% is average). Recently, Francisco Cordero‘s strikeout rate has been falling and his walk rate has been rising.

Look behind these three guys and you might find a young, exciting pitcher. In Houston, Wilton Lopez doesn’t have the fastball (92+ MPH career), but he induces groundballs (56.1% career) and avoids the walk (1.32 BB/9 career). The Cardinals have Jason Motte, meaning they have a reliever with gas (95.9 MPH career on the fastball) that has fewer than 150 innings pitched in the major leagues. You’ve probably heard Aroldis Chapman.

In each of these cases, a weak veteran pitcher is in front of a young player with intriguing abilities. In each of these cases, the team would love to have a cost-controlled closer in their pen. In each of these cases, the young player should be on your team if you are looking for saves and need to get ahead of the pack.

So that the next Jordan Walden doesn’t end up already on some other team’s roster.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

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Targeting Closers Of Tomorrow

By Tommy Rancel //

The production from relief pitchers is volatile in nature. In addition to the uncertainty of the position, there are also health concerns in some bullpens. Just this spring we’ve seen a few closers (Brad Lidge and Brian Wilson) go down with injury. With all things considered: injury, ineffectiveness, fatigue, it is wise to keep one eye on the future when building a bullpen.  That said, here are a few names to keep tabs on as we enter the 2011 season.

Jake McGee:

Among the top arms in the Rays’ system, McGee will complete the transformation from starter to reliever that began late last season. As a left-handed pitcher who can hit the high 90′s with his fastball, you can literally see the appeal of McGee as a late-inning option. While he struggled developing his secondary pitches as a starter, he can now focus on his fastball and slider as a reliever.

McGee pitched out of the Rays’ pen just eight times last season, but showed the strikeout stuff you want to see from a shutdown reliever. Bloomberg Sports’ projects him for 60 innings this season with nearly a strikeout per inning. If McGee’s stuff translates as expected, that number could be even higher. Tampa Bay will start the season with a closer-by-committee, although veterans Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta are likely to get the early ninth inning opportunities. Meanwhile, if McGee can get batters out on both sides of the plate, he could find himself as Joe Maddon’s high-leverage relief ace of choice.

Jordan Walden:

Another former starter, Walden pitched exclusively in relief during the 2010 season. Surprisingly, his strikeout rate actually dipped as a reliever in the minors.  Upon his late-season promotion to the majors, his K-rate spiked. In 15.1 innings with the big league club, Walden punched out 23 batters. That translates to a K/9 of 13/5. Like most young pitchers, Walden struggles with control and command. That said, his fastball can touch the triple digits and his slider is a decent second option. The interesting thing to watch is his strikeout rate going forward. If he is getting swings and misses in bunches, the walks will become more tolerable.

Fernando Rodney will begin the season as the Angels’ closer; however after rumored interest in several high-profiled relievers this winter, Los Angeles does not seemed to be married to Rodney in the ninth. If Rodney struggles, set-up man Kevin Jepsen could get a look, but Walden has the goods to be the guy at some point this year.

Kenley Jansen:

Like the others named above, Jansen is also transitioning to the bullpen. However, he is a converted catcher and not starting pitcher. He spent the first four seasons of his professional career as a catcher in the Dodgers’ system and was behind the plate for the Netherlands during 2009 World Baseball Classic. Jansen began the transation to the mound during the 2009 season. With a high-90′s fastball and a really good slider, it did not take him long to shoot up through the system. In fact, he bypassed the Triple-A level altogether.

He made his big league debut in late June and was a key piece in the bullpen going forward. In 27 innings of work he allowed just two earned runs (0.67) and racked up a ridiculous 41 strikeouts. The K/9 near 14.0 and BB/9 near 5.0 show the same wild, yet effective, approach exhibited by Carlos Marmol with the Cubs.

Unlike the Rays and Angels, the Dodgers have a very good closer in Jonathan Broxton. On the other hand, Broxton fell out of favor with the club last season and briefly lost his job as closer. Los Angeles also has another very good arm in Hong-Chih Kuo to close should Broxton falter. Jansen faces more obstacles than Walden or McGee, but has similar potential to become a true relief ace with time.

Even if McGee, Walden, and Jansen don’t rack up double-digit saves, the potential for high strikeouts make them attractive options in deep leagues and those that count holds.

Oakland: A Bullpen In Flux

by Eno Sarris //

Since about a third of opening day closers lose their jobs to injury or poor play every year, it’s not the greatest position in which to invest heavily. Instead, waiting to the end of the draft and using the quantity-not-quality approach to supplement an elite closer can provide the best return on investment. Mix the risk in your closer portfolio, in other words. This spring, we’re seeing the merits of this approach already.

In Oakland, Andrew Bailey saw Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday, and though it’s just a right forearm strain, he is known to be slightly frail. The former starter and ROY had Tommy John surgery in 2005 and only managed 49 innings last year because of an intercostal strain and some elbow surgery to get rid of loose bodies in the joint. Add the current forearm strain in, and he is a substantial injury risk.

Fuentes.jpgThat is, perhaps, why the Athletics stocked up on bullpen talent last year despite having a strong bullpen in 2010. Brian Fuentes has managed to put up more than 20 saves in each of the last six years, but comes with some flaws of his own. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher (33.5% career GB) who doesn’t do as well against righties as he does against similar-handed pitchers (11.34 K/9, 2.86 BB/9 versus lefties, 9.24 K/9, 4.16 BB/9 against righties).

Fellow new acquisition Grant Balfour will figure in the mix somehow if Bailey goes down for an extended period of time. Since he’s a righty, Balfour could contribute some saves as part of a platoon (10.10 K/9, 4.11 BB/9 versus righties). But Balfour, despite the unfortunate last name, is also pretty good against lefties (10.48 K/9, 4.51 BB/9), and if the team can stomach his occasional control blips, he might be the closer all by his lonesome.

Last year, five pitchers accrued saves for the Athletics, and Michael Wuertz was second to Bailey with six. If the 35-year old Fuentes declines further (he used to put up strikeout rates closer to ten than to eight) or the inconsistent Balfour can’t find the zone, Wuertz may again put up some saves. Either way, it’s likely that another half-dozen Oakland pitchers will accrue saves in 2011.

We all have to chase the save, and yet it’s the only stat that usually rewards a specific role on each team. Since pitchers are already more likely to get hurt than position players, and the closer role is so volatile on it’s own, it’s a good idea to spread your risk around as much as possible. Sure, get a stud closer early on, but then mitigate your risk late by taking fliers on pitchers like Fuentes and Balfour. If it doesn’t work out, you didn’t spend much on them, and then you can easily drop them for the next pitcher that starts accruing saves.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

Baltimore Closer Battle

by Eno Sarris // 

The closer carousel in Baltimore continues. Since 2008, George Sherrill, Alfredo Simon, Jim Johnson, David Hernandez, Mark Hendrickson, Mike Gonzalez, Lance Cormier, Jim Miller, Cla Meredith and Rocky Cherry have all notched a save for the Orioles, and that’s not mentioning the two main candidates for the closer’s role this year.

This past offseason, the Orioles signed Kevin Gregg to a two-year, $10 deal. Gregg has functioned as his teams’ closer for four straight years, providing solid-but-not-spectacular numbers for the Marlins, Cubs and Blue Jays along the way. Now that he’s the second-highest paid player in the pen, and owns the most career saves of the crew, is the the favorite for the role?

Probably, but that doesn’t mean he’s not without his flaws. Last year, Gregg struck out 8.85 batters per nine, walked 4.58 batters per nine, and had a 42.3% groundball rate. All of those numbers are too close to average for relievers to get very excited about. Relievers averaged 7.58 strikeouts per nine, 4.56 walks per nine, and a 42.7% groundball rate last year. That means that Gregg was a mere strikeout per nine away from being an average pitcher, which doesn’t scream “Closer” with a capital ‘c.’

Last year’s closer, Koji Uehara, is still with the team, as he was resigned to a one-year, $3 million deal that can jump to $5 with incentives. He might be paid a little less, but he’s a better pitcher. After moving to the pen last year, Uehara had an insane 11.25 strikeouts per nine against 1.02 walks per nine. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher – his 23.6% groundball rate has to count against him – but that kind of strikeout punch and control is ideal for a closer. Some may point to his relative inexperience in the role as a negative, but Uehara pitched over 1300 innings in Japan, saved 32 games in 2007, and has a generally excellent resume once you include his Japanese history.

gregg projected.jpgTake a look at the Bloomberg Sports projection for Kevin Gregg on the left, and the argument comes into focus. Gregg may be in line for the saves right now, but his projected ERA (4.11) and WHIP (1.37) should make fantasy managers nervous. Remember, saves are just one category, and Uehara should easily trump Gregg in the other categories – and could easily steal the job completely. Consider handcuffing these two together late in drafts this year.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com 

David Aardsma, Brandon League and the Bullpen Handcuff

By Eno Sarris //

Fantasy football players are used to the concept of the handcuff. Because the running back position is highly volatile, fantasy players in that sport will draft both a team’s starting running back, as well as his backup. The most volatile position in fantasy baseball is the closer. Fantasy baseball players should consider the handcuff when it comes to their bullpen options.

Up in Seattle, David Aardsma has found success the past two years. Over that span, he’s struck out more than a batter per inning and posted a 2.90 ERA, while racking up 69 saves. Even with his sub-optimal walk rate (over four batters per nine innings both years) and flyball tendencies (35.1% GB career – spacious Safeco Field and Seattle’s great outfield defense have helped him immensely), he’s been dependable, for the most part.

Except that he’s also spent some time in the trainer’s room. He didn’t officially hit the DL last season, but he did miss two weeks with an oblique strain. Then, this off-season, he had hip surgery. The most recent report has him available in mid-April, but that’s an early prognosis. The surgery was a little more extensive than the M’s had hoped, and hip surgeries can be difficult. Aardsma is a question mark going into the season.

Cue the handcuff. Brandon League doesn’t quite have the strikeout rate you’d like from your closer (6.72 K/9 career), but he’s one of the most extremely groundball pitchers in the game (62.2% GB career), meaning he’ll limit extra-base hits. He also shows pretty good control (3.20 BB/9 career). League has improved his strikeout rate lately (9.16 K/9 in 2009). He also filled in for Aardsma last year, accruing six saves. His splitter is a plus-pitch and his fastball averages more than 95 MPH. He’s a strong handcuff.

The best way to take advantage of this plan is to identify places where the backup is a solid pitcher and the bullpen won’t disintegrate into an open competition once the closer goes down. Other handcuff options around the league include Florida – pick Leo Nunez and Clay Hensley late – or Atlanta – Craig Kimbrel is the favorite, but Jonny Venters lurks. In a way, though, the Seattle pen is ideal. You can stash Aardsma on your DL if you’ve got a spot there, play League early on, and take your time making a decision as more information flows in.  

As many as one-third of baseball’s closers lose their job to injury or poor performance every year. Waiting until late in the game and picking an iffy closer and his handcuff will net you plenty of saves, at a reduced cost. Steal the strategy from fantasy football, and reap the benefits. 

Who Will Emerge from the Crowded Jays’ Pen?

by Eno Sarris // 

What a week it has been for the Toronto Blue Jays. First, they traded Vernon Wells to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, shedding Wells’ considerable salary. Then the flipped Napoli on to the Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco. Paired with the other pickups of the off-season, Francisco makes for a newly crowded bullpen. As always, for fantasy purposes the million-dollar question is “Who will close?”

The first reliever with closing experience acquired by the Jays this off-season was Octavio Dotel, who came with 105 career saves and a double-digit career strikeout rate (10.95 K/9). Given the state of the Jays’ pen at that time, our Tommy Rancel was right to name him the favorite for saves this season. His 4.09 walks per nine innings and some major struggles vs. left-handed hitters remained serious concerns, though.

Perhaps it was Dotel’s wonky control that led the Jays to go out and get Jon Rauch a couple weeks later. While he doesn’t own the same strikeout punch as Dotel (7.34 career K/9, and a slower fastball that hovers around 91 mph), Rauch had also closed before (47 career saves) and shown much better control (2.80 career BB/9). He proved himself as a capable closer in Washington and Minnesota before, so maybe he’d make for a good backup plan.

Now, enter Francisco to the discussion. He’s a little more Dotel than Rauch – he has shown a 10.01 K/9 and 4.03 BB/9 over his career – but like both he has experience in the closer role. Francisco is six years younger than Dotel, who has also lost at least three miles per hour off of his peak fastball speed, and he’s got more punch than Rauch. On the other hand, the former Ranger has only averaged 53 1/3 innings in his “healthy” seasons and lost all of 2005 to surgery. Will there be an open competition for the role?  

JaysPen.jpgThere’s one big asterisk that tilts the scale quickly towards Francisco. You want your closer to be able to get batters out no matter which side of the plate they call home. Look at the chart above, and you’ll see that both Rauch and Dotel see their effectiveness dive against lefties, while Francisco’s statistics are more stable.

Of course, Francisco’s health is an open question and the team will likely need to call upon more than one of these options during the course of the year. Going into the season, however, Francisco is the favorite for saves. Plan your drafts accordingly.

Octavio Dotel Signs with Toronto Blue Jays

By Tommy Rancel //

Octavio Dotel‘s tour of the major leagues continues. After splitting 2010 between three teams (Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies), Dotel joined his 11th organization by signing a one-year deal (with 2012 team option) with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Jays - like many teams - are in the process of remodeling their bullpen. They lost Scott Downs to the Los Angeles Angels and lost their 2009 closer Kevin Gregg as well (to the Orioles). Dotel will likely assume Gregg’s closer role, with Jason Frasor returning to Toronto as his set-up man.

Over his 12-year career, Dotel has served in a variety of roles. In fact, he is one of just four major leaguers to start at least 15 games and save 15 games in the same season. However, over the past nine seasons his work has come exclusively as a mid-to-late-inning reliever. Bouncing from city to city, he has notched 105 career saves, including 22 this past season.

We’ve used the term “three-outcome hitter” to describe players who take a lot of walks, hit a lot of home runs, and strike out a lot.  This also describes Octavio Dotel. His career strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate of 10.95 is extremely impressive. So much so that he and Billy Wagner are the only pitchers in major league history to own a career K/9 of 10.95 or greater, with a minimum of 800 innings pitched.

The strikeouts are great, but there are those walks and home runs. In his career Dotel has walked 4.05 batters per nine innings (BB/9). He has also allowed more than a home run per nine innings (HR/9) with a career rate of 1.10. But because of his ability escape jams via swings and misses, he has been able to maintain a career ERA of 3.75.

One big red flag on Dotel as a closer is his platoon splits. Teams generally prefer a closer who is effective against both lefties and righties, to avoid late inning match-up problems. Dotel has the right-handed part down, as he has limited batters of his same hand to a slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .205/.279/.375. But his OPS against left-handed batters rises to .754. Over the past three seasons, he has allowed 11 home runs to LHB in just 60.1 innings. This could be a major problem in the left-handed heavy American League East.

Dotel projects as one of the worst closer options in your 2011 draft. He’ll get picked up for his saves, even in standard mixed leagues. But a 37-year-old who can’t get lefties out, tangling with the likes of Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and others is a scary proposition. If you do draft Dotel, do it in the late rounds. And then keep Frasor in mind as a handcuff, as Dotel may not last the year as the Jays’ closer.
 

What’s Brad Lidge’s Status Update After the Cliff Lee Signing?

By Eriq Gardner //
The tag line to the film, The Social Network, was this: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”

If the film told the tale of Brad Lidge‘s life this past decade, it may have been more complicated. He made millions of friends between 2003-2008 when he was one of the game’s most dominant relievers (7th in the majors in saves during that time, with a 3.04 ERA and 12.5 K/9 IP). He made almost as many enemies the following two years when he posted an atrocious ERA of 7.27 ERA in 2009 and spent a good deal of time on the disabled list in 2010.

But now that the Phillies have “friended” Cliff Lee, the team has potentially one of the most fearsome starting pitching staffs in quite some time, meaning lots and lots of potential wins. Does that also mean fantasy owners should reconnect with Lidge as a potential source of many saves on that winning team?

Let’s first examine the correlation between saves and wins. In the following graph, you’ll see five years of team data that chart a team’s win total to its team save total:

savesandwins.png
The correlation above might not seem so evident, but it’s there. (The correlation coefficient is 0.66) 

Others have noted the connection between wins and saves. In an article last year for Beyond the Box Score, Jeff Zimmerman did his own study and noted that 46% of a team’s closers’ ability to get saves depended on the number of games the team is above .500. A closer on a 100-win team has a 95% chance of bagging more saves than a closer on a 62-team win. Wins and saves go hand-in-hand because quite simply, every save is by definition a win.
Of course, that’s just one part of the story.
Being in a winning situation creates opportunity, but opportunity doesn’t necessarily translate to saves success. Some closers don’t take advantage of their opportunity. If sub-par relievers don’t have the skills to hold the lead, they simply won’t get saves. (Some might lose their jobs.)
Back to Brad Lidge — he’ll now be on a winning team. Will he be good enough to share in the success?
Judging by his surface stats upon his return from elbow surgery last season, some might hope that’s the case. He saved 27 games in 32 opportunities last season with a 2.96 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, and 52 strikeouts in 46 innings. Not too shabby.
However, there are still red flags on Lidge. His strikeout rate looks good at 10.25 K/9 IP, but it’s short of his career mark of 12 K/9 IP. Meanwhile, his walk rate has been climbing (up to a ghastly 4.75 BB/9 IP in 2010) and his rate of giving up home runs is also less than favorable. His peripheral stats added up to a 4.06 xFIP last season, which clearly indicates that luck played a role in Lidge surviving last season as Philly’s closer.
What’s most worrisome about Lidge is his slipping velocity. Last year, his fastball was clocked at an average speed of 91.7 MPH, down from a career average of 94.7. As a result, he threw the pitch less often — down from nearly 53% of the time throughout his career to just 40% last season. In turn, he’s been relying more and more on his slider — a very good pitch, to be sure — but it’s also just one pitch. Batters will come to the plate and know what’s coming.
Unfortunately, the trends suggest that Brad Lidge shouldn’t be tagged by fantasy owners. For Phillies fans, there is a bright spot: Cliff Lee finished last season with seven complete games, second in the majors only to his new teammate, Roy Halladay, with nine. Both aces can go the full nine-inning distance, and in such games, no closer will be needed. The social network of the Phillies pitching staff might work out anyway.
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