Saturday, January 08, 2011

NL King - Analyzing National League Central Closers

Chicago Cubs:  Carlos Marmol
Marmol put up ridiculous numbers in 2010. On top of his 38 saves, Marmol had 138K's in 77 2/3 IP and only gave up 40 hits. But, and this is a big but, Marmol walked 52 batters in 77 2/3 IP. Because Marmol gives up so few hits his ratio was still strong (1.18) however if Marmol's control problems get worse those blown saves could start piling up. On the other hand, if Marmol starts to make more in roads with his control which he did from 2009 to 2010 (walks went down from 65 to 52 in 3 2/3 more IP) then Marmol can become the best closer in the NL. His stuff is that wicked.

Sleeper Saves Candidates - The Cubs brought back Kerry Wood who was fantastic from late July through the playoffs for the Yankees. If he can stay healthy and the opportunity present itself Wood is capable of still closing.

Cincinnati Reds:  Francisco Cordero
I know if I told you that Cordero is one of the top closers in the NL you would call me crazy. I understand thinking that way because a few times throughout the season Cordero really struggled and in most save situations he is an adventure. Plus, Cordero will turn 36 in early June. However, Cordero had 40 saves in 2010, has 290 career saves and since coming to the NL in 2006, Cordero has compiled 179 saves. Cordero is also on the last year of his contract so has a lot at stake to have a solid year.

Sleeper Save Candidates - The Reds brought up Aroldis Chapman late in August for their bullpen and he was electric. As of now the Reds plan to start the season with Chapman in the bullpen which is hard to
believe considering the contract the Reds gave him. One would think that Chapman has a chance to be an ace starter, hence the dollars the Reds gave him and would have him heading in that direction. But if Chapman is in the bullpen he is a possibility of succeeding Cordero as the closer if Cordero struggles.

Houston Astros:  Brandon Lyon
Lyon took over the closers job in the second half last season due to Matt Lindstrom being injured and ineffectiveness. Lyon pitched real strong in the second half, in fact Houston feels so good about Lyon that they traded Matt Lindstrom to Colorado around the holidays. This was not Lyon's first go around as a closer as he saved 26 games in 2008 for Arizona although had a 4.70 ERA. But last season Lyon gave his NL only fantasy owners big value with 6W, 20SV, 3.12 ERA, 1.27 Ratio, 54K in 78 IP. Lyon is not a sure fire closer but keep in mind the Astros have signed for 10 million dollars over the next 2 years and you can do a lot worse in the NL in terms of a closer. If you can get Lyon for a nice price on draft day and couple him with another closer in his value range, you could have 2 closers for the price of a Marmol or Wilson. More risk involved but if it works out you have two closers for the price of one.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Your guess is as good as mine. Very pedestrian bullpen.

Milwaukee Brewers:  John Axford
After Trevor Hoffman beyond imploded last year killing many NL owners including myself, John Axford came out of nowhere and became the Brewers closer in late May. When you look at Axford minor league numbers this was a shock considering his control problems in 08 and 09. In 2008, at A ball Axford
had 73 walks in 95 IP and in 09 Axford pitched 67 1/3 IP at A, AA and AAA and had 38 walks. That was much better but still high. Something must have clicked as Axford had 24 saves and only 3 blown saves and his walks were 27 in 58 IP but also having 76K's. As long as Axford doesn't let the walks eat him alive he has the stuff to be a successful closer. It will be interesting to see now how Axford reacts going into the season expected to be a reliable closer.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Takashi Saito signed a 1 year deal with the Brewers a few days ago which was a very smart move by Doug Melvin giving him a strong 8th inning man and a great insurance policy in
case Axford struggles. Saito turns 41 in February (I won't be making any comments that he is an old man as I turn 41 in 2011 as well) but as long as Saito can stay healthy he can pitch at a high level. In 54IP last year for the Braves Saito had a 2.83 ERA, 1.07 Ratio and 69K's in 54IP. If you own Axford you must get Saito on your roster. Even if Axford succeeds as the closer, Saito will be a great middle man for you in terms of ERA, Ratio and K's.

Pittsburgh Pirates:  Joel Hanrahan or Evan MeekThis will be one of the more interesting spring training battles in the NL who will be the closer for the Pirates. Maybe though the Pirates will go with co closers I mean we are talking about the Pirates. Hanrahan is 29, was 4-1 in 2010 with 6 saves, 3.62 ERA, 1.20 Ratio and 100K's in 69 2/3 IP. Hanrahan closed for a period of time for the Nationals in late 08 and beginning of 09 but eventually lost the job. Hanrahan has 20 career saves. Evan Meek is 27 and made the all star team last year and while having a few less K's was more dominant than Hanrahan.  Meek's 2010 stats were 5-4 record, 4 Saves, 2.14 ERA, 1.05 Ratio and 70K's in 80IP. Meek only has 4 career saves. This is a spring training battle all NL only owners must be on top of.

Sleeper Save Candidates - As of now it's a battle between Hanrahan and Meek.

St. Louis Cardinals:  Ryan Franklin
Franklin is like old man river but while Franklin doesn't have killer stuff, he gets the job done. Franklin had
27 saves in 2010 with a 3.46 ERA but the key to Franklin is he doesn't walk anyone. Franklin only gave up 10 walks in 65 IP last season. Franklin will turn 38 in spring training and this is the last year of his contract. Franklin said last year that after the 2011 season he will retire. Franklin of course could change his mind but that could mean the Cards at some point in 2010 could look to replace Franklin as the closer with the future in mind.

Sleeper Save Candidates - Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan
Motte had his break through year in 2010. Motte had a 2.24 ERA in 52 1/3IP with 54K's and only gave up 18 walks. Motte turns 29 in June and has the stuff physically to be a closer but can he handle it mentally?
McClellan was also a main stay in the Cards bullpen in 2010, as he had a 2.27 ERA in 75 1/3IP. McClellan turns 27 in June.

Next article will be on the NL Closers - The West

NL King - C.Lizza

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