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Fantasy Baseball Debate: Closer Lessons Learned

Brandon C. Williams April 18, 2014 8:03PM EDT
Like stolen bases, saves are usually at a premium, yet the early stretch of this season has seen a significant number of closers show about as much stability as the state of Ukraine. What’s the key to success? While Chris Mitchell feels patience and playing the waiver wires are a sound move, Brandon C. Williams is of the opinion that grabbing an elite closer early is sounder. The debate is the subject of this week’s Point/Counterpoint.

Point — Play the Wires

By Chris Mitchell

Today’s closer situation across baseball in 2014 might be the most volatile. Between injuries, closer-by-committee situations and distrust in the pitchers manning the ninth inning, we have almost half of the 30 teams where Fantasy owners are left guessing at who may get saves.

As of April 14, there were been 48 blown saves and 44 converted saves in baseball. Five closers have already blown two saves. Of those blown saves, 21 of those pitchers have an ERA over 5.00, 12 with ERA’s over 7.00, while eight have ERA’s higher than 10.00. Nine teams have what could be categorized as at best a “fluid” situation.

I would consider up to 10 closers “reliable.” In order to have acquired one of them, you would have needed to draft Craig Kimbrel inside the Top 50 picks, Kenley Jansen/Greg Holland/Trevor Rosenthal/Aroldis Chapman/Koji Uehara/Joe Nathan before the 100th selection.

I understand that Fantasy owners want to know that they are going to get their saves. It’s locked down. It’s money in the bank. It is the primary argument for drafting based on position scarcity, an approach I also disagree with vehemently. I also understand how difficult and frustrating it can be to spend FAAB money and use your waiver priority spot to chase saves like a game of musical chairs, yet it is a part of successful Fantasy Baseball. Scouring the waiver wire for saves is much more practical and a far more productive use of your time than finding full time at-bats that provide SB or HR at all.

Hunter Pence, Wil Myers or Felix Hernandez each could all have been drafted in the range of Kimbrel. You could have drafted Huston Street around the same time as Justin Morneau, Nolan Arenado and Brett Gardner, while you could have got Jose Valverde, Matt Lindstrom or Francisco Rodriguez as free agents. Would you prefer a trio of Kimbrel, Morneau/Arenado/Gardner and the FA of your choice or Pence/Hernandez, Street and Valverde/Lindstrom/K-Rod? The decision isn’t pretty because it means you need to work your waiver wire hard and be diligent. It’s clear though, that even with all this closer volatility, you needed to draft the best available full-time player and find saves when it’s convenient and affordable. Volatility is opportunity, not reason for panic.

Counterpoint — Just Grab One Early

By Brandon C. Williams

Acquiring a closer is like almost any other thing in life: just go out and get it, even if it costs a bit more.

Look, if you want stability and saves, you would have paid the extra buck or two for Craig Kimbrel or reached a round earlier to nab Kenley Jansen or Greg Holland. While everyone else is entrenched in the eventual closer run, you have the comfort of knowing you’ll be in the hunt in that category.

It’s kind of like the rush that will come when the iPhone 6 comes out: yeah, being in line for hours is below average and there are better ways to spend a summer evening rather than displaying your abject geekiness in front of a television camera on your late local news. But, the payoff will come when you leave the Apple Store with your neat little box of techy happiness (albeit with a potential bug or two). That’s what grabbing a top-tier closer is like. While everyone else either is in awe or forced to wait for their phone to arrive, you’re That Guy who has what’s in demand.

There are varying schools of thought at Club RotoExperts when it comes to acquiring a closer, and while I respect each of the opinions of my chilly chums, my opinion is pretty straightforward and blunt. My preseason stance was to just get the closer early and get it overwith. I’d rather have a team with players at premium positions/categories by attacking the issue from the outset than playing by another mindset.

But that’s just me.

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