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Save Me: The Jose Valverde Story

Posted on 25 February 2013 by Will Emerson

As we roll on into fantasy baseball draft season us fantasy baseball players all across the land are perfecting our strategies, looking for sleepers, etcetera, etcetera. One common mantra among many a fantasy baseball participants is to not pay for saves and I for one believe in that wholeheartedly. Every major league team will have a closer, maybe two or three, come opening day, but how many will you really trust going into the upcoming season? More than 10? Maybe. I guess it depends on what you are trusting them to do. Obviously the biggest role for the closer in the realm of fantasy baseball is getting saves on a somewhat consistent basis. More or less, I would argue that a good fantasy closer is one that hangs onto that role for the full season, so let us start there. How many closers do you think will keep the closer role from start to finish?


It’s not really something I really thought much about in previous seasons as in many leagues I don’t draft a closer at all, but rather, pick some closers in waiting and keep my fingers crossed. Ryan Cook and Greg Holland were just a couple of guys I had on rosters last season, while I waited for them to become their teams closer, basically punting the saves category for a good portion of the season. It is by no means a foolproof strategy, clearly, and it’s hard to stick by. Predicting which closers will lose their jobs at some point in the season is by no means an easy endeavor. While advanced stats are not necessarily directly going to help your fantasy season, per se, they are our best way to gain some suspicions on what’s to come. I mean few, if any, leagues are going to use FIP or SIERA as direct statistics, we need to use said stats to extrapolate information to predict the future of a player, kind of like playing the stock market, if you will. But we’ll come back to that in a little bit, so sit tight. Back to how many closers you may trust to keep their closer roles for a full season. Half, maybe? Perhaps two-thirds of the closers? And of those how many would you say are dominant, absolutely reliably consistent closers? Half of them, if that? So what’s my point? My point is, the reason you don’t pay for closers is having an elite closer is not only hard to get, but hard to project. I would say maybe five to seven closers will be consistently great in 2013, and for a position with such a high rate of turnover, you’re better off trying to find those saves on the cheap later on in your draft. It is the position that can be the biggest crap shoot in fantasy baseball. Just ask 2012 Jose Valverde owners.

In 2011, Jose Valverde was the closer du jour for a good part of the season on a team that made the playoffs. Valverde put up 49 saves, blowing no save opportunities, while posting a 2.24 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. A monster season to be sure. But I was suspicious of Valverde’s future. His FIP was 3.55 and he coupled that with a very low BABIP of .247. Now, after looking through several relievers’ numbers, the BABIP is not super concerning. Most closers seem to have low numbers in that regard. As for the FIP, well, that is something I read a bit more into. It is impressive to some degree to not blow any saves, but I think many may agree that there could be a good deal of luck involved for such a feat. That 3.55 FIP especially points to some luck for Jose in 2011. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I was very adamant that Valverde was headed for a decline and was a closer I would be avoiding come draft day 2012 and low and behold, what happened? Valverde ended up becoming so unreliable he lost that closer role in the biggest, most high stakes portion of the Tigers season. But was he really much worse than in 2011?

We already saw that Valverde’s 2011 FIP was over a run higher than his actual ERA, pointing to an eventual ERA regression. In 2012 Valverde regressed in that ever so precious fantasy baseball statistic, posting a 3.78 ERA and, as I mentioned, eventually losing the closer title for the Tigers’ playoff run. The interesting thing here though, is his FIP in 2012 was 3.62, not far from his 2011 number in that very same category. I am by no means a Valverde fan and in fact, I have been the complete opposite, downplaying his “greatness” to a large degree over the past few seasons. Right now, Valverde is a free agent and is being penalized for pitching as he should have been pitching, more or less, all along. Well, to some degree, as I am not going to get into the monetary ramifications, but obviously they play a large role as well. So, am I saying that when, not if, but when, Valverde finds a landing spot, he will become a sleeper fantasy closer no 2013? Is he a guy you should draft with a good feeling that he may fall back into a closer role in 2013? Well, let’s slow it down there a bit.

You see, the ERA should drop a tad and since not much will be expected of him, I guess you could consider him a sleeper candidate, in that regard. There’s no saying he can’t get a large dose of luck and save 50 games, but the likelihood of that happening is, well, not great. But the real reason I would not label him a sleeper in the closer capacity is a pesky little stat I have neglected to talk about thus far, his K/9 numbers. Say what you will about Jose Valverde, there was always the chance for good fantasy numbers in the past, because he could strike batters out at a good rate. Valverde’s K/9 has been 8.59 or higher every season of his career…until 2012. In 2012 Valverde’s K/9 plummeted to a terribly low 6.26 a two batter drop from 2011. Now if you had been following Valverde’s career numbers, and really I guess there would not be much of a reason for you to do so, you would have noticed that his K/9 rate has been slowly dropping every season since 2007. But the drop from 2011 to 2012 was a huge red flag, which probably means his days of closing in the major leagues are numbered.

Does Valverde deserve to be on a major league roster in 2013? I think so. Does Valverde belong on a fantasy baseball roster? Maybe, but not as number one closer, that is for darned sure. In my humble opinion, Valverde is still hands off, but as far as fantasy standards are concerned, if he gets signed he could have a shot at some saves, but looking for him to top 20, would be highly optimistic. So when draft day arrives, in case you were thinking Valverde is a sleeper and could magically put up his 2011 numbers, heed my warning and steer clear. It is best to just let undrafted Valverdes lie.

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Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – Too Many Cards?

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Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – Too Many Cards?

Posted on 21 March 2012 by Tim Danielson

It almost burns my fingers to type that.  It is just one of those things that I can not wrap my mind around.  The idea ranks right up there with ‘too much money’ or ‘too much fun.’  OK, ‘too much fun’ maybe, but how can someone have too many cards?  For whatever reason, either you bought into the overproduction of cards in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, you really do have an addiction or you sneak a little more card allowance than you should, (I love you honey) you have at least one closet full of boxes of cards you have not touched in years.  So now what?  After some conversations with some friends and readers I decided that this week Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes will look at some options to help with your *cough* problem and maybe even make yourself feel good along the way.

The first question that comes to the minds of a lot of people is what can they get for their cards?  Anyone who is computer savvy may put them all in box and list them on-line.  It will be tough to make money this way for a couple of reasons.  Unless you know what you have and take the time to correctly list and describe it you could lose out on some money, if they sell at all.  Not too many people will bid on an auction titled ’20,000 misc. baseball cards from the 1980’s.’  Bidders will ask questions like what sets(s) are they from?  Are they all different?  Are they common cards or are some star cards included?  If you want to sell your cards like this you probably do not have the time or desire to go through them and answer these questions.  Besides, do you know how much 20,000 baseball cards weigh?  It will cost more to ship them then they are worth.

A little underused but easily abused option is to take your cards to Goodwill.  Yes Goodwill will take them and you can get a tax write off for them.  Please be cautious and realistic though.  If you can not sell 20,000 cards at the ‘book value’ of eight cents per common card, what makes you think Goodwill or the government can?  A general rule of thumb when filling out the tax claim paperwork is to think yard-sale prices.  Better yet, do not even claim them at a value per card.  List them as 20,000 baseball cards for $50 or $1 per complete set.

Donate your unwanted cards to your local school.  The elementary school where my wife teaches and my kids attend has a school store program.  Kids earn school dollars for good behavior and being helpful.  Every other week, the kids can go shopping at the school store for little packs of cards that are put together.  The kids love it and I think it is a great way to keep this hobby alive by getting younger generations excited about collecting cards.  Even if the kids have never heard of the players and they retired before the kids were born!

Donate your cards to a children’s hospital or orphanage.  They may not be worth anything to you, but a handful of common cards from a stranger may be everything to a sick child or kids who do not have anything.  I try to teach my kids about giving to and helping others.  This is a great way to practice this idea.  If you ever want to see a bunch of adults and kids cry over some ‘worthless’ baseball cards, give them to one of these two groups.  If you do not feel anything, it is time to check your pulse.

Give your cards away as Halloween treats.  Parents love this because it is a little less candy to rot teeth on.  Kids love it because the cards will last them longer then the candy will and will not cause tummy aches.  I have done this before and both boys and girls seem to love it.  This is another way for us to help keep the hobby strong and start future generations on card collecting.

Keeping with the idea of encouraging younger collectors to get started, consider donating unwanted cards to a local Boy Scout troop or Little League team.  I have heard of a few Eagle Scout projects involving sports.  Fathers and sons collecting baseball cards is also part of the American dream.  I always loved getting a pack of cards from my coach one season in Little League.  Win or lose after each game we knew we would get a pack of Topps cards.  This is when I actually learned the art of trading.

Lastly, and I will admit that this was hard for me to swallow at first, is to recycle the cards.  My friend Tim Carroll has found a creative way to do this.  He actually cuts baseball cards into tiny pieces by the thousands.  Take a close work at some of his masterpieces at Tim Carroll Art.  Every time he finishes a new piece, I try not to think of all of the baseball cards who lost their lives to make it, but rather the sum of the parts and the finished product.  He actually has sold commissioned pieces of his outstanding artwork.  I am sure that he has made more money selling these pieces of art made of worthless baseball cards then he ever could just selling the cards outright.

Besides an art medium, what other uses do recycled baseball cards have?

Until next week, keep collecting, collect for the joy of the hobby and collect for the fan in all of us.

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