Tag Archive | "Jose Valverde"

Do You Trust Your Closer?

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Do You Trust Your Closer?

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

Every position in baseball is important. Every pitch. Every catch. Every play. Once the starting pitcher has exhausted, he counts on his relievers to carry some weight for the rest of the game, and then the final touch must be executed with extreme precision by the closer.

pitchers-mound

The closers role is glamourous yes, but the amount of pressure that lays upon them is intense. They are there for that final inning. They are responsible for finishing a game that the rest of the team has worked long and hard for. They face the final three batters. Well, hopefully just three. The opposing team’s batters have an extra exuberance for one last chance at taking the lead in a game. They have more adrenaline for the last shot at being the hero. Even though every out in every inning matters, the closers seem to have a heavier job to do.

Not every reliever can handle the pressure and stress of this responsibility. A lot of closers get demoted to the set-up guy if they struggle too often. Some even get sent down to the minors to work on their pitches, or even get released.

Detroit Tigers, Jose Valverde, was mercifully given another opportunity with the team this year. After initially releasing him to free agency, no other team wanted the veteran on the back-end of their bullpen. He then agreed to sign a minor league contract with the Tigers organization, and was eventually called back up and given another chance to prove he deserves his former closing role.

Last season, Tiger’s fans would cringe when Valverde was given the ball in the 9th. They never knew what would happen. But one thing for sure was that he would make it interesting. At times he would pitch a flawless inning. Three up. Three down. But more often, the 9th inning would seem just as long as the first 8 innings combined. As Tiger’s fans would shake their heads in disgust, Valverde would still be trusted by his skipper and continue to pitch the painful, what should have been, final inning.

But he was not always unreliable. In 2011, he amazed baseball fans everywhere for completing 49 saves out of 49 tries, being one of the best closers in the majors. So, how can someone with such a solid record do so much damage in 2012, and lose the faith of most of the fans?

Closing a game is not easy.

The Tigers see something in Valverde that the fans right now, are not. And they decided to give him another chance at becoming the phenomenal pitcher that he has been before. Tiger’s fans, and maybe some of the players themselves, are now on the edge of their seats, waiting to see which type of pitcher Valverde will be this season. He has 4 saves, and has blown one so far in 2013.

There is a weakened bond between the fans and Valverde, but then there are other closers such as Phillies, Jonathan Papelbon, who has the trust of most of the entire crowd to be able to finish games. His career numbers prove his worth with a career ERA of 2.30 and WHIP of 1.01. He has 8 saves so far this season and none blown, but last season he had 4 blown saves which was only one less than Valverde in 2012. But for the fans to have faith in their closer, they want that 1-2-3 final inning. Valverde is not that type of closer. But the difference between a much loved Papelbon and a oh-no-here-he-comes Valverde, is consistency.

Another loved closer is Rangers, Joe Nathan. He has 13 saves already this season and not one blown save yet. He has pitched 17 innings and has 16 strikeouts. Nathan has been highly reliable, finishing last season with 37 saves, an ERA of 2.80 and 78 strikeouts. Much like Papelbon, Nathan is dependable. When he is handed the ball in the 9th, the fans are a little more relaxed. And if he fails, they are more likely to be forgiving. But if a closer gets that reputation for being unpredictable like Valverde, he is likely going to have everyone clenching their jaws until the final out.

Valverde has a chance at gaining back the confidence of the fans. His charismatic off-the-wall personality will help soften hearts, but ultimately it is what he does on the mound that will determine the patience and belief of the crowd.

The fans want their closer to succeed. Not only because they want their team to win, but they want that connection between pitcher and fan. That feeling where they know the team is in good hands, so they can sit back and enjoy the rest of the game. But fans do expect pitchers to mess up sometimes. Every now and again, closers are going to give up hits, runs, or blow a save. That is understandable.

Fans are forgiving as long as they do not have to forgive every single game.

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JoseValverde

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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?

JoseValverde

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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Bullpen Idol – The Mets search for a closer

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Bullpen Idol – The Mets search for a closer

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

The way things are going…Mr. Met might be the closer.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, high-fives Mr. Met as Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, left, and New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, right, look on after it was announced that the 2013 All-Star game will be hosted by the Mets at Citi Field, during a news conference at New York's City Hall,  Wednesday, May 16, 2012. The Mets last hosted the All-Stars in 1964, the year Shea Stadium opened. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Frank Francisco‘s time as Mets closer looks like it’s coming to an end. General manager Sandy Alderson signed veteran relievers Scott Atchison and LaTroy Hawkins to Minor League deals earlier this week and they still aren’t done adding bullpen help. As per mlb.com, Alderson has made “no secret” that he would like to add at least one veteran reliever to a Major League deal.

Several intriguing options are available. The Tigers did not make a serious attempt to sign Jose Valverde. Their former closer lost his ninth-inning duties during Detroit’s World Series run last season. Although 33, Valverde saved 35 games in 40 chances with a 3.78 ERA last season. Statistically speaking, that was technically his worst season in years. Valverde has saved 277 games over a 10-year career with the D-backs, Astros and Tigers. He posted a 3.11 lifetime ERA with more than a strikeout per inning.

The Mets are still gauging the health of Brian Wilson. They have scheduled a second visit to watch the former Giants closer pitch. Whether the Mets sign Wilson depends in large part upon how they assess his recovery from Tommy John surgery. In a telephone interview with mlb.com, Alderson confirmed the team’s continued interest.

Brandon Lyon is available. His checkered career includes ninth-inning duties in Arizona and Houston. Familiar face Francisco Rodriguez is available as well. He served as the Mets’ closer from 2009-11. Only 31 years old, Rodriguez could help the Mets. He would though have to accept a significant decrease from the $8 million he made last season. Francisco is infamous in New York for assaulting his girlfriend’s father following a 2010 game at Citi Field.

Rodriguez and Valverde are both represented by Scott Boras, notorious for extracting top deals for his clients. Nonetheless, mlb.com reports the Mets have made it clear that they are not going to overpay for their bullpen.

Compromise is possible. Kyle Farnsworth‘s recent deal with the Rays signaled that the market for relief pitchers has softened considerably. Farnsworth, a former closer, can make no more than $3 million through base salary and incentives.

“There are still a bunch of names out there,” the insider reported to mlb.com, indicating his club’s preference to acquire one big name as opposed to two lesser ones. “The value now with the Farnsworth signing, it’s obviously changed considerably from where it was earlier in the winter. There are still several — maybe even more than that — guys that we think can help us at the back of the bullpen.”

If the Mets sign even one of them, it could spell the end of Francisco’s time as closer. Alderson has made it abundantly clear in recent weeks that he is not committed to his incumbent ninth-inning man, who still has one year and $6 million remaining on his contract.

Francisco fell out of favor with the organization after posting a 5.53 ERA in 48 appearances last year. He then underwent surgery after the season to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Speaking on SNY’s Hot Stove show Thursday evening, Alderson went as far as to say he is not “terribly comfortable” with the idea of Francisco as his Opening Day closer.

“Coming out of last season, looking with what Frankie has been dealing with in the offseason as far as his elbow is concerned, I don’t know that we could have a lot of confidence in where we are,” Alderson said. “I hope that Frankie is able to step up. We’ve taken a lot of the time to look at other possibilities and ways that we can shore this up. At this point, we have added some pitching, but more at the front end of the bullpen as opposed to the back end.

“I think we’re going to have another guy or two between now and Spring Training. Now whether it’s a back-end guy that will really compete with Frankie, or whether Frankie is the guy going in and the competition comes from Bobby Parnell or someone else, who knows? We’ll just have to see.”

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Finding Keepers: Detroit Tigers

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Finding Keepers: Detroit Tigers

Posted on 02 April 2012 by Gary Marchese

The Detroit Tigers were a good team last  year.  They even upset the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.  They lost to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.  Detroit made some upgrades and seems to be a very strong team going into 2012.  I believe they have a bunch of fantasy keepers on their team.  Here I will take a look at some.  I would love to hear any feedback, agree or disagree.  I can be reached on twitter @gmarchesej, email gmarchesej@aol.com and comments under this article.  Thanks for reading and I hope you continue to do so with not just me but the other writers as well.

Miguel Cabrera

SP Justin Verlander, he is one of the best pitchers in the game today.  If you have him on your team you don’t want to give this guy up.  He will be the anchor of your pitching staff.  He is still young and has many good years ahead of him.  He won the MVP award in 2011 and will look to continue his dominance in 2012.  He was 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP.  What an amazing season, in his career he is 107-57 with a 3.54 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.

Closer Jose Valverde, you can’t argue with perfection.  I don’t really know how he did it but he did.  Valverde was perfect last year and if I had him on my team I would want to ride that for as long as I could.  There is no reason to give him up at this point.  He was 49 for 49 in save chances and 2-4 with a 2.24 ERA.  It was his best year by far but still worth holding onto and see if he can repeat it or come close to last year.

C Alex Avila is an all-star catcher with power.  He is a guy you want to hold onto.  He came up in 2010 and wasn’t great but really broke out last year.  He hit 295 with 19 homeruns and 82 RBI.  His on base was 389, a catcher with those kind of numbers you don’t want to let go of.

3B Miguel Cabrera is a hitting machine.  He is one of the best hitters in baseball.  He is a guy that you fear as an opposing pitcher.  If he is on my team there is no way I can give him up.  He is still fairly young also and in his prime.  He hit 344 last year with 30 homeruns and 105 RBI.  He is a 317 career hitter who will hit you 30+ homeruns a year.  His worst year was 26 homeruns and that was in 2006.

1B Prince Fielder left Milwaukee for a big contract with the Tigers.  He is a great power hitter though and is playing in a city where his father played.  He hit 299 with 38 homeruns and 120 RBI last year.  He will only benefit from having Cabrera in front of him in the lineup.  He hit 28 homeruns in his worst year and has hit 50 once and 46 another time.  He is a great power hitter and you need that on your team for sure.

Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Doug Fister all starting pitchers are guys I would look at as honorable mentions.  I don’t think they are great but they are all  young with potential.  They also aren’t that bad pitching wise.  They could all win you anywhere from 10-15 games and have an ERA around 4 at the worst, the best they may do is 3.5 to 3.8 ERA.  I would take a long look at them if they were on my team and think about keeping them.  I am not going to say they are definite keepers but they are borderline.

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Open Mic: Critique This Draft Part 2

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Open Mic: Critique This Draft Part 2

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Mic Check, 6 - 4 - 3

Consider this a 2nd open invitation to critique a fantasy baseball draft.  Flay it open, rip into it, and do not hold back.  But…before you do any flaying, ripping, or holding, consider the rules of etiquette.

  • Avoid the low-hanging fruit.  No references to anyone’s mom or a basement.
  • Try to omit words like “idiot”, “moron”, and “clueless”.  You will only receive the “I know you are but what I am” classic retort.  Welcome to the baseball kindergarten playground.  My Tonka truck is over there in the corner of the sand box.  Leave it alone.
  • Just assume that I’m aware of my mental health state, and I’m considered competent to drive a Segway on the sidewalks in my neighborhood.

When I wrote the original “Open Mic” piece, I was in the middle of a slow draft on Twitter for a 5×5 fantasy league.  Now seems like a good time to revisit that draft and bare my baseball soul for all to see.  Here is the end result for all 25 rounds along with a defense for some (if not all) of the picks.

  1. Robinson Cano (2B) – 104 runs, 28 hr, 118 rbi, 8 steals, .882 ops
  2. Jered Weaver (P) – 18 wins, 2.41 era, 0 saves, 198 strikeouts, 1.010 whip
  3. Clayton Kershaw (P) – 21 wins, 2.28 era, 0 saves, 248 strikeouts, 0.977 whip
  4. Asdrubal Cabrera (SS) – 87 runs, 25 hr, 92 rbi, 17 steals, .792 ops
  5. Alex Gordon (OF) – 101 runs, 23 hr, 87 rbi, 17 steals, .879 ops
  6. Shin-Soo Choo (OF) – 37 runs, 8 hr, 36 rbi, 12 steals, .733 ops
  7. Ben Zobrist (OF) – 99 runs, 20 hr, 91 rbi, 19 steals, .822 ops
  8. Aramis Ramirez (3B) – 80 runs, 26 hr, 93 rbi, 1 steal, .871 ops
  9. David Freese (CI) – 41 runs, 10 hr, 55 rbi, 1 steal, .791 ops
  10. Josh Beckett (P) – 13 wins, 2.89 era, 0 saves, 175 strikeouts, 1.026 whip
  11. Jose Valverde (P) – 2 wins, 2.24 era, 49 saves, 69 strikeouts, 1.189 whip
  12. Ricky Romero (P) – 15 wins, 2.92 era, 0 saves, 178 strikeouts, 1.138 whip
  13. Alex Avila (C) – 63 runs, 19 hr, 82 rbi, 3 steals, .895 ops
  14. Ryan Vogelsong (P) – 13 wins, 2.71 era, 0 saves, 139 strikeouts, 1.252 whip
  15. Nick Swisher (1B) – 81 runs, 23 hr, 85 rbi, 2 steals, .822 ops
  16. Jhonny Peralta (MI) – 68 runs, 21 hr, 86 rbi, 0 steals, .824 ops
  17. Jaime Garcia (P) – 13 wins, 3.56 era, 0 saves, 156 strikeouts, 1.320 whip
  18. Vance Worley (P) – 11 wins, 3.01 era, 0 saves, 119 strikeouts, 1.230 whip
  19. Allen Craig (OF) – 33 runs, 11 hr, 40 rbi, 5 steals, .917 ops
  20. Josh Willingham (OF) – 69 runs, 29 hr, 98 rbi, 4 steals, .810 ops
  21. Jason Motte (P) – 5 wins, 2.25 era, 9 saves, 63 strikeouts, 0.956 whip
  22. Jair Jurrjens (P) – 13 wins, 2.96 era, 0 saves, 90 strikeouts, 1.224 whip
  23. Matt Joyce (OF) – 69 runs, 19 hr, 75 rbi, 13 steals, .825 ops
  24. Russell Martin (UTIL) – 57 runs, 18 hr, 65 rbi, 8 steals, .732 ops
  25. Melky Cabrera (UTIL) – 102 runs, 18 hr, 87 rbi, 20 steals, .809 ops

In my own defense, I am just a huge Robinson Cano fan and think he could actually improve on last year.  On the other hand, I am putting a lot of faith in guys like Choo and Freese who lost significant time last season due to injury.  I admit to trying a catch a flyer (or three), but I believe I am taking chances on the right kinds of players.

Post-mortem:

  • I am already on record as stating that Cano is a stretch at the #1 pick.  However, I went with my philosophy that creating a substantial differential by stocking up on players at positions I deem shallow will help me success in the long term.  I consider Cano and Zobrist to be 2 of the top 8 guys at 2B.  Since snagging both also impacts the pool of available middle infielders (MI), I believe I may have given myself an advantage.
  • In theoretically giving myself an advantage, did I give up too much by not taking a top 3 guy at 1B.  Probably.  Possibly.  Dunno.  Though he is currently listed as an outfielder by Yahoo, Alex Gordan will be the man 1B for my team.  I truly expect him to be a top 10 guy at 1B, and I do not believe that the distinction between top 3 and top 10 at that position is enough to worry me.
  • I am to blame for starting a bit of an early run on starting pitchers, but Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander were both drafted early.  Actually, Halladay went at the end of the first round, and Verlander went in the middle of round 2.  The next two on my list were Kershaw and Weaver, so I took both.  Honestly, I do not regret the move at all, because the pitching staff could very well be the strength of this team.
  • Combining closers Valverde and Motte may be a bit of a gamble, but I tend to favor closers on teams that I believe will win a lot of games.  Drew Storen was a very tempting choice over Motte, but I just do not know what to expect from the Nationals this year.

Stealing Late:

  • There are several definitions of a “steal” in fantasy drafts.  My definition is picking up a player 2 or more rounds later than you expected OR drafting a player so late that you celebrate with a “man giggle”.  (NOTE: It is technically possible for both men and women to “man giggle”, but it is way funnier when a woman does it.)  Maybe I am wrong about Worley, but I was sure shocked to see him still on the board for my 18th pick.  He only started 21 games in 2011 and threw 131 2/3 innings.  If he gets another 8-10 starts, he projects to be a top 30 starter.  The fact that he was still available in the 18th round may only be slightly less surprising than Jurrjens being available in the 22nd round.
  • Melky Cabrera in the 25th round?  At that point most people are looking for a guy who maybe excels in one stat category or had a really off year.  Not this time.  Cabrera is coming off a season in which he posted a .809 ops, and his move to San Francisco does not scare me off at all.   His power numbers might suffer a little, but he may simply fill the stat sheet everywhere else.

That is it.  Have at it, but try to be kind.  If not for me, then do it for the children’s sake.

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