Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Papelbon’

10 Things We Learned About Baseball In October

November 3, 2009

Not only is October the best month on the baseball calendar, it’s also the busiest. Besides the playoffs, you have general managers being fired and hired, you have managers being fired and hired, and you already start to hear some free agent and trade rumblings.

This October was no different. Let’s take a look at 10 things we learned about baseball in October.

10. Kevin Towers and JP Ricciardi were let go. When a team doesn’t win two things happen. 1. The manager gets fired or 2. The general manager gets fired.

In San Diego and Toronto–the general managers were fired.

Towers spent 14 seasons as the San Diego Padres’ GM and they have won four division titles and made one World Series appearance (1998) under his stewardship.

I wasn’t in favor of this move when it happened. Towers can be the GM of my team any day of the week and twice on Sunday. He knows how to get the job done.

Ricciardi was let go by the Toronto Blue Jays after serving as their GM since 2001. The Blue Jays never won more than 87 games and only finished above third once with Ricciardi as the GM.

If you fire someone, then you need a replacement…

9. Jed Hoyer and Alex Anthopoulos will be making the decisions in San Diego and Toronto. The Padres hired Boston Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer to replace the above mentioned Towers.

Jed Hoyer

Hoyer is the new GM of the Padres

Hoyer joined the Red Sox front office at age 28, where he helped to build Boston’s rosters and assisted in contract negotiations.

In 2005, when Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino had a lover’s quarrel and Epstein took a ten week hiatus, Hoyer along with Craig Shipley, Bill Lajoie, and Ben Cherington took over the GM duties for the Red Sox.

Anthopoulos takes over for Ricciardi in Toronto on an interim basis.

While Hoyer and Anthopoulos take over as general managers…

8. Manny Acta and Brad Mills were hired as managers. Mills was hired to be the next manager of the Houston Astros. Mills replaces Cecil Cooper who was fired with 13 games left in the season. Former Astros manager Phil Garner and interim manager Dave Clark were finalists for the position.

Mills has spent the last six seasons as the bench coach for Terry Francona and the Boston Red Sox.

Acta was hired by the Cleveland Indians to be their next manager. The Indians signed Acta to a three-year deal with a club option for 2013.

This will be Acta’s second managerial stint. His first one, as we all know was with the Washington Nationals from 2007-2009. Acta was 158-252 with the Nationals and was relieved of his duties in July.

As manager of the Astros, Mills will be squaring off against this guy in St. Louis…

7. Tony LaRussa will be back as St. Louis Cardinals manager. The Cardinals and manager Tony LaRussa have agreed to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2011. The Cardinals also got good news when pitching coach Dave Duncan agreed to return to the team as well.

But the big shock was the announcement of Mark McGwire as hitting coach. McGwire will replace Hal McRae as the Cardinals’ hitting coach.

While the Cardinals were making news, the team they beat in the 2006 World Series made news of another kind…

6. The Detroit Tigers suffered an epic collapse. The Tigers had everything going for them headed into the last week of the season. They were playing at home, they were playing a Chicago White Sox team whose season was over, and they were three games up on the Minnesota Twins with four games to go.

Despite all that, the Tigers couldn’t hold on the AL Central lead. The Tigers lost two-out-of-three to the White Sox and the Twins swept the Kansas City Royals.

Those results forced this…

5. The Tigers and Twins played an all-time classic. The Twins beat the Tigers 6-5 in 12 innings in a one-game playoff to clinch the American League Central title. For four-hours and thirty-seven minutes in this epic classic there were no salaries, no free agency, no arbitration, and no steroids.

This game was about two teams playing their guts out and leaving everything on field. The Twins and Tigers not only captured the 58,088 screaming fans in the Metrodome, but they captured millions watching at home.

They captured four friends, who weren’t Twins or Tigers fan, but were so into the game that they were texting back and forth on practically every situation that occurred. We all knew we were watching one of the best games we ever saw.

This was just an amazing game. A true classic and a game which reminded us what is great about the game of baseball.

The Twins win allowed them to go to the postseason…

4. The 2009 postseason has given us a lot of memorable moments. Every year the postseason gives us memories that last a lifetime. The 2009 postseason has been no different.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finally exercised their postseason demons by beating the Boston Red Sox.

Matt Holliday’s dropped flyball against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Two of the NLDS opened the floodgates for the Dodgers.

Alex Rodriguez, doing his best Reggie Jackson imitation leading the New York Yankees to the World Series.

CC Sabathia finally putting his past postseason failures behind him and being worth every penny.

Jimmy Rollins walk-off double off of Jonathan Broxton shattering the dreams of the Dodgers.

Cliff Lee carrying the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff throughout October.

While on one end there is triumph in the postseason, on the other end there is heartache…

3. It’s been a rough postseason for closers. 10 blown saves (the 11th happened on Sunday night) in the postseason by closers through October 31st.

papelbon

Even Papelbon blew a save in this postseason

Everyone thinks closers aren’t important until they blow a game in a big spot. Huston Street, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Brian Fuentes, Ryan Franklin, and Broxton all imploded at one point this postseason.

Only Brad Lidge and Mariano Rivera didn’t blow a save through the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s no coincidence that the teams they represent are in the World Series.

While the closers were one story of this postseason, the big story has been…

2. Bad umpiring has plagued the 2009 postseason. Major League Baseball just can’t win. It’s always something.

This postseason, the umpires have come under tremendous fire for missing calls, which has prompted many to call for more instant replay in baseball.

It seems like every game this postseason the umpires were missing calls. And these weren’t bang-bang calls–these were blatantly obvious calls.

But despite all the bad calls by the umpires, this has been a fabulous postseason. And all roads in the postseason lead to this…

1. The Phillies or the Yankees will be world champions. For the first time in maybe 10 years, the two best teams will be playing in the World Series.

The Phillies took Game One behind a complete game, 10 strike out performance from Cliff Lee. Chase Utley provided the offense with two homeruns off of Sabathia.

The Yankees evened the series at one behind a brilliant performance from AJ Burnett. Hideki Matsui’s homerun off of Pedro Martinez in the sixth broke a 1-1 tie.

The Yankees overcame a 3-0 deficit thanks to a two-run HR from Alex Rodriguez and some timely hitting by Johnny Damon to take a 2-1 series lead.

It’s very rare a World Series champion isn’t crowned in October, but this is an unusual year thanks to the World Baseball Classic. We will just have to wait to November to crown a champion.

November will be the final month of the baseball. Come back on December to get a recap of the World Series and all the award winners in baseball.

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Boston’s Bullpen Implodes, Angels Sweep Red Sox

October 12, 2009

The Boston Red Sox had not one, not two, but three opportunities with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth with a two run lead to close out the game and couldn’t get the job done.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim stunned Red Sox Nation by scoring three runs with two outs off closer Jonathan Papelbon to win 7-6 and sweep their best-of-five ALDS 3-0.

For 162 games in the regular season, Red Sox manager Terry  “>Francona went to his bullpen and for 162 games, they delivered. In game 165 however, Francona’s reliable bullpen imploded.

The Red Sox went into the eighth inning with a 5-2 lead thanks to some clutch hitting from Dustin Pedroia (two-run double in the third) and JD Drew (two-run HR in the fourth and some solid relief work from Daniel Bard (two innings, no hits, no runs, and two K’s).

It was all set up perfectly for the Red Sox. They would go to Billy Wagner in the eighth and then to Papelbon in the ninth. Wagner and Papelbon would get the final six outs and the Red Sox would live to see another day.

There was no celebrating for Papelbon today

There was no celebrating for Papelbon today

Well, things didn’t work out that way.

Wagner and his 9.28 lifetime postseason ERA entered the game in the eighth. I remember taking my dad to Game One of the 2006 NLDS between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Billy Wagner came into that game to close out the Dodgers in ninth with a two-run lead. What I remember most about when Wagner came into the game was the uneasyness of the Shea Stadium crowd when he came out of the rightfield bullpen.

I felt the same uneasyness when Wagner came into the game today against the Angels. It’s never easy in the postseason with him. It always seems there are runners on base when he pitches.

Which is odd for a guy who used to throw 99 mph and now still throws 95.

Wagner allowed a double to Bobby Abreu and walked Vladimir Guerrero. To be fair to Wagner, the Abreu double was not really a double. Kevin Youkilis tried to make a do or die play along the first base line and the ball hit off his glove and went into the Sox dugout for ground-rule double.

Wagner left the game with two outs in the eighth with runners on second and third. Francona called on Papelbon to try to get four outs.  

Papelbon came in and on his first pitch gave up a two-run single to Juan Rivera to make the score 5-4. Reggie Willits came on to pinch-run for Rivera and got promptly picked off first.

I have no idea why Mike Scioscia has a man crush on Willits. Everytime I see this guy play he never does anything right. I’ll put him in the Brett Gardner and Carlos Gomez category until I see otherwise.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Red Sox even got an insurance run to make it 6-4 on a Mike Lowell single that scored pinch runner Joey Gathright. At that point, you definitely thought there would be a Game Four tomorrow night at Fenway.

In the ninth, Papelbon got the first two outs rather easily. He got Maicer Izturis to foul out to Victor Martinez and then got Gary Matthews Jr. flew out to Jacoby Ellsbury.

Then the nightmare began.

Papelbon had Erick Aybar 0-2 and with Martinez setting up for a high and inside waste pitch, Papelbon decided to throw a fastball right down the middle. Aybar promptly singled up the middle.

Papelbon had a 3-2 count on Chone Figgins and walked Figgins. That was the killer AB in this inning for the Red Sox. I am sorry, but there is no way on this earth you can walk Figgins in that spot.

He was o-for-600 in the series, can’t hit a HR, and he had looked clueless his last two AB’s. Papelbon can’t walk a guy like that.

Up came Abreu and you just knew Abreu was going to get a hit. I just want to say something about Abreu. He has proved me wrong.

I watched him for the last couple of years with the New York Yankees and what I saw was a guy who produced “empty stats.” He would always have great numbers, but I never thought he was a winning ball player.

However, with the Angels, he has become the leader of the team and their MVP. Just like with Izturis and Figgins, Papelbon had two strikes on Abreu. And just like with the two batters before, Papelbon couldn’t put away Abreu.

Abreu doubled off the monster and now the game was 6-5 Red Sox. Francona decided to intentionally walk Torii Hunter to get to Guerrero.

No complaints there. I would have done the same thing. Hunter is 3-for-5 with a HR lifetime off of Papelbon and Guerrero is a shell of his former self.

The move backfired. On the first pitch, Guerrero ripped a single to center and the Angels took a 7-6 lead.

I could have woken up in the morning with my upper lip stapled to my pillow and I would have been less shocked than I was when I watched what unfolded in the ninth.

Even when the Angels had the bases loaded, I still thought the Red Sox would get out of the inning. After all, if you have watched Papelbon all season, this was par for the course.

I can’t tell you how many times he loaded the bases during the regular season, only to see him get out of the jam. Today, it was not meant to be.

Listen, it was bound to happen with Papelbon. He can into this game with 26 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason. He was bound to blow a save sooner or later.

Even Mariano Rivera has blown his fair share of saves in the postseason.

The Red Sox went quietly in the ninth and the Angels finally beat their arch nemesis in the playoffs. Going into this series, everyone talked about how the Red Sox had the advantage in the bullpen.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, today their bullpen became their weakness.

2009 All-Fantasy Breakout Team

September 17, 2009

Yesterday, I did my 2009 All-Fantasy Bust Team. So of course, it’s only appropriate for me to do the 2009 All-Fantasy Breakout Team.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Here is the 2009 All-Fantasy Breakout Team sponsored by the Jose Lima Foundation… “There’s a one-year wonder in all of us.”

Honorable Mention: Billy Butler, Jason Bartlett, Adam Kennedy, Justin Upton, Ryan Franklin, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Heath Bell, Ben Zobrist

Catcher: Joe Mauer, .373/27/85

I know it’s hard to label Mauer as a breakout player because he has already established himself as one of the game’s best offensive catchers. However, Mauer has taken his game to another level in 2009.

Mauer has flirted with .400 at times this season and has already hit more homeruns this season (27) than he has in the last two seasons combined (16).

Morales has had a breakout 2009

Morales has had a breakout 2009

First Base: Kendry Morales, .306/30/98

Coming into this season, Morales had 12 HR’s with 45 RBI and a .249 avg. in 127 career games. This year Morales has 30 HR’s and 98 RBI in 136 games.

Morales is only 26 and should be a fixture on fantasy teams for years to come.

Second Base: Aaron Hill, .286/32/86

Hill missed the majority of the 2008 season with a concussion. Hill has come back with a solid 2009 season and has given fantasy owners a legitimate power source at second base.

Hill is only 27, so he should be coming into his own at the plate.

Shortstop: Marco Scutaro, .284/12/60/.381 with 13 SB’s

Until this year, Scutaro was a fantasy afterthought. Come to think of it, he was an afterthought to most major-league GM’s. I will just come out and say it — Scutaro was a scrub until this year.

Now, Scutaro is second in the majors in walks, and has provided owners with a solid average and OBP all year.

Third Base: Pablo Sandoval, .322/21/77

Sandoval has rewarded fantasy owners who followed him at the end of the 2008 season. In 2008, Sandoval hit .345 in 41 games for the San Francisco Giants.

Sandoval has been a fantasy beast in 2009 and at only 23-years-old, he should be a force in fantasy baseball for years to come.

Outfield: Nyjer Morgan, .307/3/39 with 42 SB’s

Coming into this year, Morgan was a 29-year-old career minor leaguer, who only had 293 career AB’s. This year, Morgan has blossomed into a legit fantasy contributor.

Morgan’s greatest asset is his speed and with 42 steals this season, he won fantasy owners the stolen base category many weeks.

Outfield: Michael Bourn, .294/3/35 with 57 SB’s.

Bourn always had the speed, but the issue has always been whether or not Bourn could hit at the major-league level. Coming into 2009, Bourn was a career .237 hitter with a .299 OBP.

Bourn in 2009 has answered his critiques. Bourn has more walks in 2009 than he had in his first three seasons combined. If he is walking more, it means he is getting on base more.

Bourn is tied for second amongst all outfielders in stolen bases with 57 and tied for fifth in runs with 90.

Outfield: Nelson Cruz, .266/32/71

Cruz was labeled as a classic “AAAA” player. A great minor league player, but never could do it at the major-league level. All Cruz has done in 2009 is give fantasy owners who have him 32 homeruns.

In his first four seasons with the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers, Cruz hit a combined 22 homeruns.

Greinke has been fantasy's best pitcher

Greinke has been fantasy's best pitcher

Starting Pitcher: Zack Greinke, 13-8 with a 2.19 ERA

Greinke lost 17 games in 2005 and pitched in just three games in 2006. Those days are a distant memory for Greinke. In 2009, he is baseball’s best fantasy pitcher.

Greinke leads the majors in ERA, WHIP, and shutouts. He is also second in strikeouts with 216. Greinke should be a fantasy ace for here on out.

Starting Pitcher: Wandy Rodriguez, 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA

Rodriguez wasn’t even drafted in my fantasy draft. Now, he is a legit No. 2 pitcher in all fantasy formats.

Starting Pitcher: Scott Feldman, 16-5 with a 3.65 ERA

Coming into 2009, Feldman had a grand total of seven wins in four major-league seasons. Now, he leads the American League in winning percentage and is tied for third in the majors with 16 wins.

What were the odds of that at the beginning of the season? Five million to one?

Closer: David Aardsma, 35 saves with a 2.09 ERA

If Feldman was a surprise, then Aardsma is five surprises wrapped into one. Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted Aardsma’s season.

Aardsma didn’t have a single save or an ERA under four coming into 2009. Now Aardsma is having just as good a year as Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jonathan Broxton.

Incredible.

Billy Wagner: The Anti-Eric Gagne

September 4, 2009

One of the more ridiculous things I kept hearing when the Red Sox were pursuing Billy Wagner was “well it didn’t work with Eric Gagne, so it won’t work with Billy Wagner.” I heard this over and over again. To be honest, it was probably one of the most absurd arguments I have heard in awhile.

Gagne is french for "Sucked in a Red Sox uniform"

Gagne is french for "Sucked in a Red Sox uniform"

For those who are not familiar with the Eric Gagne situation in Boston, here is a quick overview. At the trading deadline in 2007, the Boston Red Sox traded for then Texas Rangers’ closer Eric Gagne. Since the Red Sox had Jonathon Papelbon (as they do now), they tried to make Gagne into their eigth inning set-up guy.

The move didn’t work and Gagne was just awful in a Red Sox uniform. Gagne had a 6.75 ERA in 20 regular season games for the Red Sox. In the postseason, Gagne was equally as bad, sporting a 5.57 ERA in five games for the eventual world champions.

So naturally people think well, if it didn’t work once, why would it work again? Really? Is that the logic? So you dated a blonde three years ago and it didn’t work out, so you should never date a blonde again? Or Edgar Renteria didn’t work out in Boston, so Theo Epstein should never pursue a shortstop from the National League again?

It’s just silly.

It’s not like the Red Sox are trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. They are not asking Wagner to start or throw 50 pitches an outing to see if they can convert him to a long reliever.

The concept of what they are asking him to do makes sense.

And since Wagner has been part of the Red Sox bullpen, it makes sense for Terry Francona to call his number because Wagner has been lights out. In three innings, Wagner has seven strikeouts and only has allowed two baserunners. The most impressive part of Wagner’s performances so far is that he is routinely hitting 95 mph on the gun.

Wagner gives the Red Sox another hard-throwing bridge to closer Jonathan Papelbon (who has pitched much better as of late). If Wagner keeps this up, he will be everything that Eric Gagne was not.

Thus, making Billy Wagner the anti-Gagne.

Fantasy Week in Review August 24 – 30

August 31, 2009

Between my birthday, Kendry Morales doing his best Mark Teixeira impersonation for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the New York Yankees making a mockery of the term “starting pitcher” there was a lot going on last week.

Like every week, here are the fantasy studs, the many players who are of fantasy concern, and the potential pickups from the fantasy week of August 24th – 30th.

Fantasy Studs

Ryan Howard – .393/5/12. The big man is making his annual late season push for MVP.

I need to see Prince go yard next Monday

I need to see Prince go yard next Monday

Kendry Morales – .462/3/11. Speaking of MVP candidates, Morales is right up with Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter for AL MVP.

Prince Fielder – .259/3/11/.375. I will be in Milwaukee next week to see the Brewers and I am banking on Fielder hitting one of his signature bombs.

Matt Kemp – .360/3/8 with two SB’s. While Manny Ramirez continues to putz around for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kemp and Andre Ethier continue to carry them.

Zack Greinke – 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 20 K’s in 17 IP. The Zack Attack is back! He completely dominated the Seattle Mariners yesterday at Safeco. He is back as the leader for the AL Cy Young.

Adam Wainwright – 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA and 12 K’s in 14 IP. Though I am not sure he will win the award, but Wainwright is making a nice run at the NL Cy Young.

He currently leads the NL in wins with 16.

Sean West – 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and nine K’s in 12 IP. I would like to see West go deeper into games, but he came up big yesterday in a must win game against the San Diego Padres.

Jonathan Papelbon – Three saves with a 0.00 ERA and seven K’s in 3.2 IP. Papelbon is still shaky at times, but when he needs a strikeout he has no problem getting it.

2009 has not been Peavy's year

2009 has not been Peavy's year

Reasons for Concern

Jake Peavy – For those fantasy owners who were hoping Peavy would help their team down the stretch, it’s not looking to good. You kind of get the feeling this is not Peavy’s year.

Peavy has been hurt all year and now he was removed in the forth inning of his rehab start because of soreness in his pitching elbow on Saturday.

Peavy will have his elbow examined later today.

Roy Halladay –  Since the July 31 trading deadline, Halladay is 2-4 with an ERA of 4.71. Very un-Halladay like.

I have watched his last two starts against Tampa and Boston and while his body was on the mound in those starts, his mind was in Colorado, Baltimore, Paris, the Uganda, or anywhere else in the world.

I have never seen Halladay miss his spot as many times as he did against Tampa and Boston. He wasn’t even close a lot of the times. I think Halladay just wants to finish the season and then prays he gets out of Toronto in the offseason.

Joba Chamberlain – The newest “Joba Rules” have rendered Chamberlain useless for fantasy owners for the remainder of the season. Chamberlain pitched three innings yesterday and that was by design.

I have never seen in all my years of watching baseball a starting pitcher only throw three innings by design. Somewhere Jack Morris is sticking bamboo shoots underneath his fingernails.

Chad Qualls – Qualls was hurt on the final play of the game yesterday trying to get out of the way of a linedrive hit right at him. It’s never a good sign when someone says “You can see the dislocation” as AJ Hinch said yesterday.

Qualls is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his knee today, but it doesn’t look good.

Potential Pickups

Juan Gutierrez – Not only does Gutierrez sound like a kicker on any NFL team during the 80’s, he might also be the Arizona Diamondbacks closer if Qualls is out for an extended period of time.

Gutierrez is 3-3 with a 4.21 ERA in 53 games for the Diamondbacks this year.

New York Mets Trade Billy Wagner To Boston Red Sox

August 25, 2009

The Boston Red Sox put in a claim for New York Mets LHP Billy Wagner last week and had until 1:30 est time today to work out a trade. After only a couple of hours after saying he would not waive his no-trade clause to be traded to the Red Sox, Billy Wagner changed his mind.

Wagner is now part of Red Sox Nation

Wagner is now part of Red Sox Nation

At the last minute, Wagner agreed to being traded to the Red Sox and the two teams worked out a trade. The Red Sox will send two players to be named later to the Mets. The Mets will most likely get two Double-A level players according to sources.

There were two main hold ups to this trade:

  1. Wagner didn’t want the Red Sox to pick up his 2010 option for $8 million. Wagner wants to close again and if the Red Sox picked up his option, he would be a setup man to Jonathan Papelbon next year.
  2. Wagner felt that the Red Sox might overuse him down the stretch, thus hurting his chances on the free agent market next year. He felt he could stay healthier on the Mets if you could believe that one.

The Red Sox have eased both of Wagner’s concerns.

The Red Sox have agreed to not pick up Wagner’s 2010 option, but they can offer him arbitration so they can get some picks if Wagner signs with another team in the offseason. They have also agreed to pay the rest of Wagner’s salary for this year, which is around $3.5 million.

Despite what Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen have to say, Wagner should fit nicely into the Red Sox bullpen. He will be used as a left-handed compliment to Hideki Okajima and I am guessing won’t be used more than two times a week to start out because of health concerns.

Another factor in Wagner changing his mind was the fact that the Red Sox were in a pennant race. Wagner has never pitched in a World Series and clearly the Red Sox give him a better chance than the Mets do this year.

The Red Sox have stocked their bullpen with flame throwers like Daniel Bard, Ramon Ramirez, Papelbon and now Wagner.

Now if they can only stock their back-end of the rotation with flame throwers, they might really be in business.

Live Blog: MLB All-Star Game…

July 15, 2009

It’s been awhile since I have done a live blog, so what better time to do one than the 80th All-Star game in St. Louis. I have always been a big fan of the All-Star game, so this should be fun. I am just praying this game does not go deep into extra innings like last year’s game.

Game – American League vs. National League

Date – 7/14/09

Starting Lineups

American League

1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF

2. Derek Jeter, SS

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Mark Teixeira, 1B

5. Jason Bay, LF

6. Josh Hamilton, CF

7. Michael Young, 3B

8. Aaron Hill, 2B

9. Roy Halladay, P

National League

1. Hanley Ramirez, SS

2. Chase Utley, 2B

3. Albert Pujols, 1B

4. Ryan Braun, RF

5. Raul Ibanez, LF

6. David Wright, 3B

7. Shane Victorino, CF

8. Yadier Molina, C

9. Tim Lincecum, P

Top 1st

Tim Lincecum deals the first pitch of the 80th All-Star game at 8:50 est time and it is ripped by Ichiro down the rightfield line, but foul.

Starting this game at 8:50 est. pretty much eliminates anyone under the age of 15 who lives on the east coast from seeing the end of this game – good job Bud Selig

Ichiro rips a single to right. He is such a good hitter. Being down 0-2 in the count didn’t phase Ichiro one bit.

OUCH!!! With two strikes, Derek Jeter gets hit in the hand with a changeup. Every Yankee fan just took a deep breath. Jeter appears okay.

Lincecumis really all over the place in this inning. He quickly falls behind Mauer 3-1.

Wow, what a quick play by Molina. Mauer hits a ball a foot infront of home plate, Molina pounced on it, and got Ichiro at third. Wright made a terrible throw to first, which pulled Pujols off the bag. Mauer would have been out with a good throw.

Teixeira hits a slow groundball that hits off of Pujols’ glove and goes into short rightfield. Jeter scores to make 1-0 American League.

That was a potential double play ball that Pujols mishandled. Some bad defense by the NL in the first inning. They should be out of this inning.

First and second with one out for Jason Bay.

Bay singles to center. Bases loaded.

Boy, the NL is really asleep on defense. Hamilton gets a hard groundball to first, Pujols gets Bay at second, but Lincecum is late covering first, and the run scores.

2-0 American League. We can eliminate Tim Lincecum from winning the MVP award tonight.

Michael Young grounds to Wright for the third out.

Not a very good start for the NL.

Bottom 1st

Hanley Ramirez leading off for the NL, hits a rope, but right to Aaron Hill. One out.

How many recruiting talks do you think Roy Halladay has gotten in the past two days? 40? 50?

Halladay gets Chase Utley to ground out to Teixeira. Two quick outs here in the bottom of the first.

Now here comes Pujols. Maybe he will make up for that terrible error he made in the top of the first.

Pujols hitting, Mauer catching, and Halladay pitching – it doesn’t get any better than that.

Michael Young is the man. Pujols hits a frozen rope to third. I mean a real screamer. Young snags it and casually throws to first to get Pujols. Now that is how you play defense.

After one it’s 2-0 American League

Top 2nd

Hill grounds to Ramirez for the first out.

Roy Halladay is hitting. I don’t think he planned on this happening. With the luck the Blue Jays have been having with injuries, Halladay will get clocked in the hand here.

He doesn’t and Halladay K’s for the second out.

A much better start to the second inning for Lincecum.

Ichiro hits a linedrive, but right at Braun in rightfield for the third out.

Bottom 2nd

Braun flies out to center for the first out.

President Obama is in the booth with McCarver and Buck. Obama is neck and neck with Bill Clinton as the president you would most want to hang out with.

Ibanez grounds to Hill for the second out. Halladay is making this look easy.

Even when Halladay gives up hits, he splinters bats. Wright bloops one to rightcenter for a hit. His bat shattered in a 100 pieces.

Victorino singles to right. First and second with two outs for Molina.

How about this. Molina singles to center, Wright scores, and Hamilton trying to throw out Victorino at third – hits him in the back and the ball rolls into foul territory.

Victorino scores andwe are tied at two. Molina goes to second on the throw.

Last night’s HR Derby champion Prince Fielder will hit for Lincecum.

Amazing how quickly things change in an inning. Halladay was crusing and a broken bat got a rally started.

Fielder smokes one down the leftfield line for a ground rule double. Molina scores and it is now 3-2 NL.

Ramirez grounds to Hill for the third out.

What an inning for the NL. Three runs with two outs.

After two complete in St. Louis, it’s 3-2 National League

Top 3rd

This is odd, Cardinals’ closer Ryan Franklin is in the game for the NL. I don’t think I have ever seen a closer come into an All-Star game this early before.

Jeter grounds to Utley for the first out.

Mauer lines to Pujolsfor the second out.

Teixeira grounds weakly to Pujols for the third out.

Well that was easy for Franklin. A very impressive inning.

Bottom 4th

Chicago White Sox lefty, Mark Buehrle into the game for the AL. With Buehrle pitching, this inning might last five minutes.

Utley hits a can of corn to center. One down.

Man, does Buerhle work quickly.

Pujols grounds to Teixeira for the second out. Teixeira showed his range on that groundball, as he played that way off the bag at first.

Braun grounds to Jeter at short and in less than five minutes the inning is over.

I wish more pitchers worked like Buerhle.

It’s still 3-2 NL after three.

Top 4th

We start the fourth and McCarver and Buck have been very tolerable tonight. It must be a full moon.

Dan Haren from the Arizona Diamondbacks is now in the game for the NL.

One pitch, one out. Bay flies out to Braun in right.

Hamilton flies out to semi-deep center.

Young singles to left. Michael Young loves playing in All-Star games.

Aaron Hill up. Every kid outside of Toronto just asked their dad “who is that?”

Hill grounds hard to Hanley Ramirez, but Ramirez gobbles it up, and gets Hill to end the inning.

Bottom 4th

Just saw a commercial for the new GI Joe movie. It looks terrible. I was a HUGE GI Joe fan growing up, so I hope the movie is better than it looks. I am not optimistic.

The Kansas City Royals’ Zack Greinke is in for the AL.

One pitch, one out. Ibanez pops up to Young at third.

I hope Greinke goes two innings tonight. It will let the world see who he is.

And this is why – Greinke throws a wicked slider to Wright to strike him out. That was nasty.

Greinke just toyed with Victorino. Got him to swing at a pitch in the dirt and two feet out of the strike zone.

One-two-three for Greinke

This game is moving rather quickly. Still 3-2

Top 5th

The next pitcher for the NL is the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley.

Carl Crawford hitting for Greinke.

Crawford hits a single to center. With Crawford at first and Molina behind the plate, this should be interesting.

What a great play by Chase Utley. Ichiro hits a ball between first and second, Utley gets the ball, pivots, andgets the lead runner in Crawford at second.

What a great play. Ichiro now at first with one out and Jeter up.

My roommate from college Odie just sent me a text “Ichiro is a dope, let crawford steal.” I agree. The fastest man in baseball is on first and Ichiro is up there hacking.

The NL is flashing some leather. Jeter hits on his classic inside-out balls to the right side, but Pujols dives andgets the lead runner at second.

The first inning must have been a wake up call for the NL.

This brings up Mauer with Jeter on first and now two outs.

Is Joe Mauer the best hitter in the game right now or what? Billingsley throws a curve on the outer half and instead of trying to pull the ball, Mauer goes with the pitch and laces it down the leftfield line.

Jeter running all the way, scores from first. We are now tied at three.

Pujols really wants to make up for that first inning error. He makes another diving stop off of a Teixeira groundball and flips to Billingsley for the third out.

Pujols saves a run, but the AL ties the game heading into the bottom of the 5th.

Bottom 5th

Edwin Jackson the new pitcher for the AL

What is the story with hitters swinging at the first pitch when there is a new pitcher in the game?

Molina on the first pitch grounds to short for out No. one.

Ryan Zimmerman up at the plate. Zimmerman replaced Wright in the top half of the inning and is batting in the pitchers spot.

Zimmerman just missed one. He flies out to deep centerfield.

Ramirez on the first pitch grounds out to Young at third.

Wow what an inning for Jackson. Four pitches and three outs. Not a bad day’s work.

3-3 still as we head to the bottom of the sixth

Bottom 6th

The all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman into the game

The first batter he will face is the Orioles’ Adam Jones. Right now every Mariners’ fan is saying “I can’t believe we got rid of this guy.” Jones is hitting in Jason Bay’s spot in the lineup.

Jones hits a rocket to right, but Hawpe tracks it down at the warning track. One out.

Hoffman is not fooling anyone. Hamilton jumps all over the first pitch and singles to right.

Young hits a hard groundball, but right at Utley. After a brief bobble, Utley and Tejada are able to turn the four-six-three double play.

I was a little surprised Hoffman was used so early. I would have thought because he is the all-time saves leader, he would have been used to close out the game.

Bottom 6th

The Seattle Mariners’ ace Felix Hernandez has been called upon to pitch for the AL.

Orlando Hudson will hit for Utley andmost likely come into the game to play second.

Okay, once again we are first pitch swinging. This game counts right Bud?

Hudson hits one deep to right but Adam Jones is there for the first out.

Pujolsgrounds to short for the second out.

Not too many people on the east coast get to see “King Felix” pitch, but he is a dandy. He really can become a legit ace. He has no-hit stuff every time he goes to the mound.

Justin Upton is now hitting for Ryan Braun. A great matchup here of two of the best young players in the game.

Another groundball to short. The sure-handed Jason Bartlett gets Upton to end the inning.

We are getting down to the nitty gritty as Gorilla Monsoon used to say.

Top 7th

Classy move by Charlie Manuel as he lets Pujols go out to take warmups andthen replaces him with Gonzalez so he can get a standing ovation from the Cardinal fans.

Francisco Cordero is the new pitcher in the game for the NL. He is the Cincinnati Reds’ lone representative for tonight.

Aaron Hill up for the third time and he flies out to Upton in in left.

Crawford up for the second time. On the first pitch he grounds to Tejada at short. Two outs.

Justin Morneau up for the AL. He replaced Teixeira at first and is hitting Ichiro’s spot.

That was a quick inning for Cordero. He gets Morneau to line weakly to Zimmerman at third.

Bottom 8th

My buddy Tom just sent me a text “Close game and these idiot managers are using pitchers for one inning each.” Kind of agree. With a lot of the pitchers having pitched on Sunday and after last year’s marathon, I am surprised pitchers aren’t going more than one inning.

A new inning, a new pitcher for the AL. Jonathan Papelbon is in the game for the AL.

OH WOW!!! Carl Crawford makes the play of the game so far. Brad Hawpe on Papelbon’s first pitch (of course) hit a fly ball deep to left and Crawford leaped over the wall to make the catch and rob Hawpe of a HR. Great catch.

Two pitches and two bombs off of Papelbon. Miguel Tejada flies out to deep right but Adam Jones is there to make the catch.

Papelbon is pitching to Victor Martinez. A sign of the future?

Papelbon is throwing his fastball at 89 mph. Someone should tell him this game counts.

Papelbon strikes out Jayson Werth to end the inning. That fastball was 94 mph, so Papelbon got into the groove towards the end of the AB.

It’s still 3-3 heading into the eigth and this game has extra innings written all over it. Lovely

Top 8th

Heath Bell is into the game for the National League.

The first pitch he throws is over the head of Jason Bartlett. Nice pitch.

Bell does better on his second pitch as he gets Bartlett to ground to short.

Curtis Granderson up for the AL. He crushes one to left and the ball  hits off the base of the wall. Granderson digs for third and he makes it.

Grandersonat third with one out and the infield comes in.

Victor Martinez is up and he is getting intentionally walked. That stinks for Martinez. Manuel is walking Martinez to get to Adam Jones.

HeathBell looks like his heart is racing a million beats per second.

Well, Manuel’s strategy backfires as Jones hits one to the warning track in right. Granderson scores to make it 4-3.

Kevin Youkilis is up for the first time and he promptly singles to center.

First and second with two outs for the Rays’ Ben Zobrist.

Bell gets Zobrist swinging, but the damage was done. One run on two hits and two runners left on base.

At the end of seven and a half, it’s the American League four and the National League three

Bottom 8th

New York native Joe Nathan in the game for the American League. The AL is going to go with Nathan for the eighth andthen Mariano Rivera for the ninth. The NL is in trouble.

The Braves and Ron Kittle impersonator, Brian McCann up at the plate to face Nathan.

McCannon a 2-1 pitch pops up to Martinez behindthe plate. One down here in the bottom of the eighth.

Zimmerman swinging at the first pitch, flies to right for the second out.

Here is the best player that nobody knows about – Adrian Gonzalez

FOX just showed Bud Selig with George Will. And there is your reason for a baseball team in Washington.

Good AB by Gonzalez. Down in the count 1-2 and he works a walk.

Another two out rally by the NL. Hudson singles up the middle and now we have first andthird with two outs.

Ryan Howard is coming up to pinch hit. Manuel was picking his spot for Howard and this is it. Very similar to the 2003 All-Star game in Chicago where Mike Scioscia was picking his spot for Hank Blalock in the late innings.

Blalock hit a pinch hit two-run HR off of Eric Gagne to give the AL the win.

They just showed Brian Fuentes warming up. Well, if he is not in the game to face Howard why on earth is he warming up?

Howard is swinging for the downs. Two fastballs, two Ruthian cuts, and now it is 0-2.

Hudson steals second. That’s kind of a good and bad move. Good in that it eliminates the double play and now a single scores two runs. Bad in that this might take the bat out of Howard’s hands.

No 2003 moment here as Howard swings at a pitch in the dirt for strike three.

We head to the ninth with the AL still clinging to a 4-3 lead

Top 9th

The next pitcher up for the National League is the New York Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez.

His first batter will be the Tigers’ Brandon Inge. Of course Inge swings at the first pitch and grounds to short.

Carl Crawford up. He is 1-2. With his catch and with nobody else really standing out tonight, he might win the MVP.

Striking out won’t help his cause. That was a great changeup by Krod.

Morneau rips one into the left-centerfield gap, Werth tracks it down, and makes the catch. What a catch by a guy who is normally not a centerfielder.

This is it. We head to the bottom of the ninth with the AL leading 4-3

Bottom 9th

If the NL is going to come back, they are going to have to do it against the best in the business in Mariano Rivera

Justin Upton will try to get things started for the National League.

Barlettis silky smooth at short. He made a tough, back-handed play look very easy. He gets Upton for the first out

Brad Hawpe, who was robbed of a HR by Carl Crawford will try to hit one a little further against Rivera.

Joe Buck just said Brad Hawpe is a very good defensive rightfielder. I am guessing Buck hasn’t seen Hawpe’s UZR lately.

Hawpe goes down looking on a perfect pitch on the outside corner.

Now it’s up to Miguel Tejada to keep it alive. He doesn’t.

Tejada pops up to Zobrist at second to end the game.

That’s a wrap. The American League wins again 4-3. The American League will have homefield advantage in the World Series.

Like I suspected, Carl Crawford wins the MVP award. This might be the first time in All-Star game history that a guy won the award for a catch.

It was a good game, well played, and it only took 2:31 to play. A little disappointed that Tim Wakefield didn’t get to pitch, but what can you do.

Over 3,000 words later, I am calling it a night. Good night everyone!!!

Something’s Amiss With The Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon…

July 9, 2009

Now I am sure when most people read the title to this post, they thought I was crazy. How could something be amiss with Jonathan Papelbon? If you just look at his stats, they look pretty good.

Papelbon has 22 saves, a 1.89 ERA, 40 K’s in 38 IP, and is an All-Star this year. Those are stats that any reliever would take at this point in the season. However, if you look deeper into the stats and use the very trusty “eye” test, you would agree there is something a little “off” with Papelbon this year.

First, let’s use the “eye” test. The eye test is graded not on any fancy stats. It’s graded purely on what you see on the TV screen or what you see in person if you just so happen to go to the game.

I have watched all of Jonathan Papelbon’s appearances this year, and quite frankly watching him pitch this year has been painful at best. Anyone who has watched the Red Sox consistently this year knows what I am talking about.

What happened to old Papelbon?

What happened to the old Papelbon?

Every batter has a three-ball count, there are always runners on base, and he made things interesting more times than he has set the side down one-two-three. I find myself screaming “THROW STRIKES!!!!” more at the TV when Papelbon pitches, than I ever have before.

It’s beyond frustrating.

The second part of this equation – the stats, prove my point. In 2008, Papelbon pitched in 69.1 innings. In those 69.1 innings, he walked eight batters, had a BB/9 of 1.04, held batters to a .229 avg., and only threw 319 balls for the entire season.

In 2009, things have been quite different. In just 38 innings pitched, Paplebon has walked 18 batters, has a BB/9 of 4.26, batters have an avg. of .241 against him, and already has thrown 250 balls on the season.

So is Papelbon hurt? I don’t think he is. He is still consistently throwing in the mid-90’s and when he needs to reach back for something extra – he can do it. When he really needs a strike out, he can strike out anyone in the game. Just ask BJ Upton.

So if he is not hurt, what is the issue?

It could be as something as little as his set point. Last year and in years past, Papelbon used to set at the waist before throwing a pitch. This year, his set point is around his chest. Something as subtle as that can throw off a pitcher’s mechanics.

It also could be he is trying to work on his secondary pitches more. Papelbon has thrown his slider 10.7 percent of the time this year. That is a much higher rate than he threw his slider last year (6.1 percent).

Maybe I am just used to Papelbon coming into the game and just blowing people away without a problem? Perhaps Paplebon is changing like Francisco Rodriguez has changed?

What ever it is, watching Jonathan Papelbon close games is no longer the joy ride it used to be.

Baseball’s Best Bullpen: Midseason…

July 7, 2009

Before the start of the 2009 season, I did a “Baseball’s Best” series. Based on a scoring system, I graded each team’s bullpen, starting rotation, infield, and outfield to find out which team had baseball’s best in each aspect of the game.

Now that most teams have played around 80 games, I think it’s time to give an update to my baseball’s best series. We will start with baseball’s best bullpen at the midseason point in baseball.

Before the season started, I had the Boston Red Sox having the best bullpen in baseball. That was based on four categories – 2008 ERA, left-handed relievers, right-handed relievers, and closer.

Now that we have some stats to play with, we will determine who has the best bullpen with these four categories – Bullpen ERA, Holds, Save Percentage, and Batting Average Against. It’s not all about ERA. There are other factors which determine how good a team’s bullpen is.

Each category is worth 10 points. 10 being the best and one being the worst for that particular category. If a team was not in the top 10 baseball in that particular category, that team received zero points.

Here are the best bullpens at the midway point of the 2009 season…

10 – 7. Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco Giants

4 (Tie). Seattle Mariners – 21 points

ERA – Seven

Holds – Six

BAA – Four

Save Percentage – Four

Analysis – The Seattle Mariners’ bullpen is the surprise of this group. Coming into this season there wasn’t much expected out of this unit, but they have gotten amazing performances from some of their relievers.

Led by David Aardsma (17 saves, 1.41 ERA), Sean White (2.84 ERA), and Miguel Batista (3.30 ERA) this group has helped the Mariners stay in contention in the AL West.

 4 (Tie). Los Angeles Dodgers – 21 points

ERA – Six

Holds – Five

BAA. – Ten

Save Percentage – Zero

Analysis – 80 games into the season and Joe Torre hasn’t blown out any reliiever’s arm yet. That must be some sort of record. In all seriousness, what makes the Dodgers bullpen so effective is that they have a hammer at the end of the game in Jonathan Broxton.

Broxton has had a solid year so far with a 6-0 record with 20 saves and a 2.72 ERA. Surprisingly, even with Broxton at the end of the game, the Dodgers aren’t in the top 10 in save percentage.

The Dodgers have also had great contributions from 26-year olds Ramon Troncoso (1.87 ERA and eight holds), Brett Leach (3.06 ERA), and Roland Belisario (2.42 ERA and 10 holds).

4 (Tie). Milwaukee Brewers – 21 points

ERA – Three

Holds – Seven

BAA. – Eight

Save Percentage – Three

Analysis – The Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen has a 16-9 record with a 3.58 ERA at the midway point. Their success can be attributed to the signing of future Hall of Famer and a guy who should be an All-Star, Trevor Hoffman.

Hoffman has been lights out this year to the tune of a 1.93 ERA and 18 saves. The Brewers’ bullpen has also been paced by Mitch Stetter (2-0 with 14 holds and a 2.28 ERA), Mark DiFelice (4-1 with eight holds and a 1.95 ERA), and big Todd Coffey (3-1 with 12 holds and a 2.63 ERA).

Papelbon is a hammer for the Sox

Papelbon is a hammer for the Sox

3. Boston Red Sox – 23 points

ERA – Ten

Holds – Zero

BAA. – Five

Save Percentage – Eight

Analysis – Despite having the best bullpen ERA in baseball (3.18 ERA), the Boston Red Sox fell a little short of mainaining their baseball’s best bullpen status as they did in my preseason edition.

The Red Sox have power arm after power arm in their bullpen. Like the Dodgers, the Red Sox also have a hammer at the end of their bullpen in Jonathan Papelbon (20 saves and a 1.75 ERA).

The Red Sox bullpen also features Hideki Okajima (3.25 ERA and 15 holds), Manny Delcarmen (1.97 ERA), Ramon Ramirez (2.25 ERA) and Daniel Bard (3.10 and 20 K’s in 20.1 IP).

2. St. Louis Cardinals – 25 points

ERA – Zero

Holds – Ten

BAA. – Six

Save Percentage – Nine

Analysis – Dave Duncan is a master at getting the most out of other team’s castoffs. You know he is doing a great job when Ryan Franklin has 20 saves and a 0.84 ERA in 31 games. Franklin is a well deserved All-Star and has really helped stabilize the Cardinals’ pen.

Despite their ERA’s north of four, Jason Motte and Dennys Reyes have a combined 28 holds for the Cardinals. The Cardinals also feature Trevor Miller, who has held lefties to a .118 avg in 51 AB’s.

Cordero leads the best bullpen in baseball

Cordero leads the best bullpen in baseball

1. Cincinnati Reds – 36 points

ERA – Nine

Holds – Eight

BAA. – Nine

Save Percentage – Ten

Analysis – I know the Reds’ pen was having a good season, but they really ran away with this. The Reds were top three in all four categories – very impressive.

The Reds have four relievers – Nick Masset (1.67), Francisco Cordero (1.80), the ageless Arthur Rhodes (1.88), and Danny Herrera (1.97) who have ERA’s under two. That is pretty amazing this late into the season.

The Reds also have another ageless wonder in David Weathers who has a 2.63 ERA in 31 appearances. The Reds’ bullpen has helped them keep pace in the competitive NL Central.

Tomorrow, I will take a look at baseball’s best starting rotation at the midway point of the season.

* All stats were calculated before Monday’s action. The Reds’ 22-1 loss on Monday night to the Phillies did not factor into this.

Looking At Fantasy Closers In 2009…

January 29, 2009

I have always considered closers like kickers in the NFL. There are 5 or 6 great ones, some very good ones, some good ones and then there are ones I wouldn’t draft for my worst enemy. By using this theory, I have ranked all 30 current closers into different divisions. The guys who you should definitely take and the guys you shouldn’t.  Let’s take a look were the current crop of closers will fall in 2009.

Dennis Eckersley Division

These are your cream-of-the-crop, top closers headed into 2009. These guys are #1 closer material in any fantasy league

1. Francisco Rodriguez, Mets – Krod, who broke Bobby Thigpen’s record for saves with 62 in 2008 with the Angels will now attempt to close out games in Flushing. While many people point to Krod’s diminished strike out rate (declined every year since 04) and his rising BAA (increased every year in the majors), it’s not like Krod had 62 saves with a 4.50 era. Krod’s era was still a dominant 2.24. With the Mets offering their closers plenty of save opportunities (72 in 08), Krod figures to close 45-50 games in 09.

2. Mariano Rivera, Yankees – Many thought the 2007 was the beginning of the decline for the great Rivera because of a 3.15 era (highest since he became a reliever). 2008 proved that was anything but the case. The 39 year old had one of the best seasons of his career, netting 39 saves with a paultry 1.40 era. If all is well from off-season shoulder surgery, Rivera once again will be one of the top closers in 2009.

3. Joe Nathan, Twins – Nathan, one of the most consistent closers in baseball had another stellar year in 2008 with 39 saves anda 1.33 era. You can pretty much pencil in the Stony Brook product 35-40 saves with an era under 2.

4. Joakim Soria, Royals – “The Mexecutioner” burst onto the scene in 2009 for Royals posting 42 saves with a nice 1.60 era. The 24 year old has been practically unhittable since reaching the majors in 2007 as he has only given up 85 hits in 136.1 innings. Soria should be a top 5 fantasy closer again in 2009

5. Brad Lidge, Phillies – Lidge had a season for the ages in 2008, going a perfect 41/41 in save opportunities. While I don’t expect Lidge to be perfect again in 2009, he should once again be one of the top closers in baseball as the Phillies figure to contend in the NL East.

6. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox –The Red Sox closer set a career high in saves in 2008 with 41. Fantasy owners only concern with Papelbon would be he threw a career high 79.1 innings last year including the post season. Look to see what Papelbon does in April. If he is strong through April, then a typical Papelbon season is in order

Tom Henke Division

The next 4 are right under the great closers but will still put up solid numbers for you in 2009

7. Jose Valverde, Astros – Finished 2nd in baseball in saves with 44, high era of 3.38 but lots of K’s with 83

8. Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers –With Saito off to Boston, Broxton takes over as the full-time closer in LA. 35-40 saves with 80+ K’s is more than doable in 2009

9. Francisco Cordero, Reds –With the Reds improved in 2009, Cordero might reach the 40 save mark. Something Cordero has done twice before. Unfortunately, Cordero’s usually high era will leave him out of the top 6

10. Kerry Wood, Indians – One of the better season signings in baseball, Wood gives something Cleveland hasn’t had in a very long time….A LEGIT CLOSER. There is always an injury risk when picking Wood but if healthy Wood is certainly a top 10 closer. I like 35+ saves for Wood in 2009

Jeff Montgomery Division

The perfect #2 fantasy closer. These next 5 guys are perfect #2 closers

11. Bobby Jenks, White Sox – How does a guy who throws 98 mph only strike out 5.55 guys every 9 innings? Just doesn’t make sense.

12. BJ Ryan, Blue Jays – Ryan isn’t the strike out pitcher he used to be but he still knows how to save a game. Pencil in 30+ saves again for Ryan in 2009.

13. Huston Street, Rockies –I am on the Huston Street bandwagon this year. A fresh start with the Rockies and this being an odd year, Street should have a nice bounce back year. Street, like Bret Saberhagen pitches very well in odd years

14. Brad Ziegler, A’s – Ziegler burst onto the scene last year by starting off his career with a 39 inning scoreless streak. I expect Ziegler’s era to increase from 1.06 to around the high 2 mark in 09. With the A’s very much improved expect Ziegler to register 25-30 saves

15. Brian Fuentes, Angels –I am not sold on Fuentes as most people are. He lost his closers role in 07 only to gain in back in 08. With Shields and Arredando looking over Fuentes’ shoulder it will be interestingto see how Fuentes fairs. The Angels offer a lot of opportunities for saves so 30+ saves with an era in the high 2’s is not out of the question

Armando Benitez Division

These guys can get you saves but when you need them the most they will blow a big one in September

16. Brian Wilson, Giants – 41 saves, 4.65 era in 2008

17. Trevor Hoffman, Brewers – It will be weird to see Hoffman in a Brewers uniform. At this stage of his career Hoffman will get his saves, perhaps 25-30 with an era of around 4.50

18. Matt Capps, Pirates – Good for 15-25 saves on once again a very bad Pirates team

19. Mike Gonzalez, Braves – Had 14 saves in 36 games in 2008. High era of 4.28. Injury always a concern with Gonzalez

20. George Sherrill, Orioles –1st time closer in 2008, Sherrill had 31 saves before an injury ended his season. Lots of hits and a high era is something to be wary of in 2009

Al Reyes Division

These closers are usually 8th inning set-up types that are forced into the closers role because the team has no one else. These are the guys you only draft if you desperately need to fill a closers spot

21. Brandon Lyon, Tigers

22. Dan Wheeler, Rays

23. Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks

24. Heath Bell, Padres

25. Ryan Franklin, Cardinals

26. Joel Hanrahan, Nationals

27. CJ Wilson, Rangers

28. Tyler Walker, Mariners – With the Heilman trade yesterday, it looks like Walker might get the 1st shot at the closers role. Officially the worst closer in baseball headed into 2009.

Octavio Dotel Division

These are the 2 question marks going into the season. Great as 8th inning set up guys but are now asked to close games. Big difference between the 8th and 9th innings. These guys can either be in the Tom Henke division or the Armando Benitez division

?. Carlos Marmol, Cubs – Only 3 other relievers were in more games than Marmol was in 2008. Will the over use of last year come back to bite the Cubs this year? I am not sure if Marmol has the mental make up to be a closer, especially in Wrigleyville. I will go with 33 saves, an era in the low 3’s and a lot of tums for Sweet Lou

?. Matt Lindstrom, Marlins – As I wrote in my post about the Marlins, Lindstrom is the X factor for the team in 2009. I like Lindstrom more than Marmol because of less pressure in Florida and Lindstrom proved he can do the job by going 5-5 in September. I like 25 saves and an era in the mid 2’s for Lindstrom

Norm Charlton Division

Top set up guys who are waiting in the wings and could fill in adequately if something happened to the current closer

1. Kevin Gregg, Cubs

2. Scot Shields, Angels

3. JJ Putz, Mets

4. Ryan Madsen, Phillies

5. Grant Balfour, Rays

Mark Davis 1989 Division

This is for the one guy who I will think have that ridiculous year, seemingly out of nowhere. Good the year before and this year explodes on the scene

Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers –As I mentioned earlier, I really like Broxton this year. The Dodgers offered their closers 55 save opportunities last year, so racking up saves shouldn’t be a problem for this 24 year old. Playing in the NL West, the worst division in baseball should help Broxton dominate in 2009