Closers Are Unbearably Fickle – Berkon’s Beanballs
The most contentious decision for a fantasy baseball owner is always which closers to draft. Closers, unlike arguably any other position, come with the greatest degree of risk.
The best example of this is perhaps New York Yankees great, Mariano Rivera. Prior to 2012, Rivera owned a sterling career 2.21 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 4.04 K/BB and 603 Saves. The future Hall of Famer also hadn't ever missed significant time due to injury. But this all changed on May 3, 2012. Prior to a game against the Kansas City Royals, Rivera awkwardly fell and tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while shagging fly balls in the outfield. The season-ending -- and, at the time, potentially career-ending -- injury was a freak occurrence, yet it exposed how truly unpredictable, and unequivocally infuriating, closers can be.
People who drafted Rivera were likely trying to avoid the agita involved with owning the likes of Carlos Marmol, Huston Street or Javy Guerra -- closers who likely would have hurt a fantasy team's ERA, gotten injured or lost their job to a superior pitcher, respectively.
Yet, as much as an anomaly as Rivera's injury was, closers' knack for losing their jobs due to injury, ineffectiveness or trade (usually a team "selling high") is well documented. Looking at the past three seasons confirms this.
In 2010, 14 closers -- including veteran Trevor Hoffman and then-stud Jonathan Broxton -- lost their jobs. That means that 46.66 percent of teams had a different closer by season's end than they did on Opening Day. While that rate decreased in 2011 to a comparatively minimal 36.66 percent, in 2012 the rate jumped to a whopping 53.33 percent. Unlike years past, however, the spike in closers losing their jobs was mostly due to injury (56.25 percent of closer turnover), affecting Drew Storen, Frank Francisco, Ryan Madson, Brian Wilson, Andrew Bailey, Kyle Farnsworth, Sergio Santos, Matt Capps and, of course, Rivera.
Two weeks into the 2013 season, fantasy owners are beginning to see some turnover. John Axford (18.69 ERA, 2.53 WHIP, and 2.50 K/BB) and Carlos Marmol (7.94 ERA, 2.11 WHIP, and 1.25 K/BB) have officially lost their jobs to Jim Henderson and Kyuji Fujikawa, respectively. Fujikawa, who was recently placed on the disabled list, will now likely have to fight off James Russell when he returns. Jason Motte and Frank Francisco began the season on the disabled list -- with Motte potentially out the season -- and Joel Hanrahan (11.57 ERA, 2.35 WHIP, and 0.80 K/BB) was just placed on the DL with a hamstring injury on April 16. Lastly, Bruce Rondon, who was handed the Tigers' closing gig at the beginning of spring training, was surprisingly demoted two days before the start of the season.
It's also likely that Greg Holland (12.00 ERA, 3.66 WHIP, and 0.83 K/BB) will lose his job to Kelvin Herrera (0.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, and 11.00 K/BB) and perhaps Jose Veras (9.64 ERA, 2.35 WHIP, and 1.67 K/BB) might too -- that is, if any Houston Astros reliever can post an ERA under 4.00. Assuming Holland and Veras lose their ninth inning roles before the month is out, over a quarter of closers would already be out of a job. One almost starts to feel badly for these quickly maligned players, but then again, they still get paid closer's money -- even if they're not closing.