Mining the pens
One pitcher’s demise leads
to another one’s opportunity. Last season, 13 relievers who didn’t
begin the year as their team’s “official” closer finished with
at least 10 saves. Guys like Andrew Bailey, David Aardsma and
Ryan Franklin were on absolutely no one’s preseason radar but turned
out to be among the best closers in the game. Each year
since 2000, no less than 45 pitchers have finished the season with at
least five saves.
The point of all this is that
the waiver wire is an always abundant source of saves, so don’t stress
over how many closers you have to start the year. New closers
become available virtually every week due to injury, trades or the poor
performance of their predecessors.
Arizona’s Juan Gutierrez stepped
in when Chad Qualls went down last September and went 8-for-8 in save
opportunities. He displayed the mid-90s fastball and sharp slider that
better fits the job description than Qualls, and is a good bet to become
the closer at some point this year.
It’s confusing why a team would
sign a 37-year-old as a contingency plan for a 42-year-old, but Milwaukee
did just that by signing LaTroy Hawkins to be their setup man.
LaTroy is likely to rack up some saves in place of Trevor Hoffman, after
shutting the door 11 times last season as a part-time fill-in for Jose
Valverde and pitching to a 2.13 ERA.
Easily the best reliever no
one knew about in 2009 was San Diego’s 31-year-old Mike Adams, who churned
out a 0.73 ERA, a 0.59 WHIP and a 45/8 K/BB ratio in 37 innings.
With Heath Bell a good candidate to get traded at some point, you could
end up striking gold with Adams if he can come anywhere close to those
The Rangers have the hyped-up
version of Adams in 21-year-old Natali Feliz, who will be breathing
down the neck of a shaky and injury prone Frankie Francisco. In
31 innings last year, Feliz had a 1.74 ERA, a 0.68 WHIP, 39 strikeouts
and an unbelievable .124 BAA. Sorry Frankie.