out the Season
We're a month past the
All-Star break and the picture is becoming increasingly clear who's in
and who's out of the races, not only in the divisional races, but in
fantasy leagues as well. Saves is one of the easiest categories
to move up in, so here are a few dark horses who could pay off big down
It may come as a surprise, but Jorge Julio is leading the majors in
saves since the All-Star break. The O's schedule gets much
tougher over the last month and a half of the season, so his rate will
probably decline. However, they are getting fairly consistent
starting pitching lately and their offense is clicking so don't expect
the save opportunities to dry up completely. He's still a good
bet down the stretch.
Another decent bet is Jesus Colome. Since the break, Lance Carter
has posted an ERA of 9.35. Colome has been sterling over that
same period: 13 innings pitched, 2.77 ERA, 14 Ks. More
impressively, he's allowed just 8 hits and 2 walks. Unless Carter
suddenly turns his performance around, Colome should start getting more
opportunities to close very soon.
In Detroit, Chris Mears' hold on the closer job is tenuous. Sure,
he's 5-for-5 in save opportunities, but he's also been smacked around
his last several outings, pushing his post All-Star break ERA to
The Tigers don't get too many opportunities to win close games so it's
doubtful that manager Alan Trammel will stick with such a high risk
option, especially if he has an alternative: Danny Patterson.
Patterson is finally fully recovered from arm surgery and has been
pitching lights out since the break: 9.1 IP, 1.93 ERA, 8 Ks. Look
for him to start getting the closing nod immediately.
Any hopes that Jeff Zimmerman will regain the closing job in Texas
should be squelched right now. Francisco Cordero is doing an
excellent job and should be in no danger of losing even a small portion
of the role. Since the break, he's pitched 10.2 innings, struck
out 14 and posted an ERA of 0.84.
OK, who would you choose: Pitcher A, who's thrown 12.2 innings, allowed
13 baserunners, struck out 12 and posted an ERA of
1.42, or Pitcher B, who's thrown 10 innings, allowed 19 baserunners,
struck out 11 and posted an ERA of 6.30? Well, Jerry Manuel
believes that both of these guys should get an equal opportunity to
close, which may be why so many are picking the White Sox to tumble
down the stretch. If it were me, there's no question that Pitcher
A (Damaso Marte) would be my closer and Pitcher B (Tom Gordon) would
fight over a set-up job.
(08/15/03 update: one last bullpen
situation that I held off on was Toronto, in part because I did not
want to drive up the price of one of the candidate's in one of my
leagues before I acquired him. Manager Carlos Tosca has removed
Cliff Politte from the job, leaving Aquilino Lopez and Trever Miller as
the last remaining candidates. Although Lopez has pitched very
well, I expect that Miller will eventually get the nod. Both
pitchers have identical ERAs since the break, but Miller has allowed
half as many hits. However, Tosca may elect to go with Lopez
because he's the right-hander and Miller may be relegated to getting
the tough lefties out. Both pitchers should get at least a half a
dozen save opportunities the rest of the way.)
In the NL, Danny Kolb has solidified his hold on the closer's job in
Milwaukee. In 10 innings since the break, he's struck out 9 and
posted an ERA of 0.90. Mike DeJean has pitched better since
being moved down in the bullpen, but with Kolb pitching so well, his
days as the closer in Milwaukee are over.
Braden Looper still has the job in Florida, and he may yet hold onto
it. He has struck out 11 in 11.2 innings since the break, but his
5.40 ERA leaves some room for doubt. The man they traded for to
set him up has had no such struggles. Ugueth Urbina has pitched
the same number of innings, struck out 12 and posted an ERA of
0.77. Looper hasn't blown any saves since Urbina arrived, but
Marlins in the hunt for the wild card, a quick switch could be in the
offing if he continues to struggle.
There's been a lot of speculation that Trevor Hoffman will start
closing again in San Diego when he returns in September. However,
the Padres may bring him along slowly just to be sure he's completely
healed from his surgery. And with Rod Beck pitching as well as he
has - 9 IP, 8 Ks, 1.00 ERA, no blown saves - there seems little reason
to push Hoffman. He will get a few save opportunities, but it
might not be until the last couple of weeks.
How dominating is Eric Gagne? Since the break: 11.2 innings, 2
hits and 2 walks allowed with 20 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA.
I don't know who will end up closing in Pittsburgh, but I'm pretty sure
that Mike Lincoln - 11 innings, 19 baserunners, just 6 Ks and an ERA of
5.73 - isn't the long term answer. Fortunately for him, there
serious challengers so far, so he's still the best bet to close for
them the rest of the season