Every team needs saves. Some take the chance on draft day and roster “locks” like Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan, while others take the chance on guys with good skills that have yet to prove themselves (names like Frank Francisco, Joey Devine and Chad Qualls). Others wait to roster closer off of the waiver-wire knowing full well that saves can be had, in standard 12 team leagues, virtually all season via free agency. In fact, according to our friends at Baseball HQ, roughly 1/3 to ½ of all closers who open the year as their teams top ninth inning ace failed to return even 50% of their draft day value by seasons end (that means if you spent $20 on a reliever he would be just as likely to earn $20 as he would be to earn $10 or less in production). Think that’s off the mark? Just look at names that little last years save leaders and think back as to how many of these guys could have been had off waivers in the month of April, 2008.
George Sherrill- 31 saves
Salomon Torres- 28
Ryan Franklin- 17
Dan Wheeler- 13
Jensen Lewis- 13
Brad Ziegler- 11
My bet is that every one of those guys were available in your league last April.
The point is that guys with saves can certain be found on waivers, in fact early season breakout candidates in this realm include the likes of Ryan Franklin (seven), and Fernando Rodney (six). The question becomes, how much do you spend on guys if you are in a league that uses free agent acquisition budget’s (FAAB) and your are looking at in season moves? Here are my thoughts on the four biggest names that were likely picked up weekend.
LaTroy Hawkins, Astros
With Jose Valverde likely to miss at least four weeks with a calf injury, Hawkins will likely hold down the ninth inning for the Astros, and this position was further enhanced when Doug Brocail was forced to the DL with a hamstring injury. Hawkins hasn’t recorded double-digit saves since 2004 and he has just 10 saves and 20 blown saves in that time. In fact, since 2005 Hawkins has a 3.87 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a 5.77 K/9 mark. That’s league average across the board, but at least you know you should get a month of save chances out of him.
Joe Beimel, Nationals
Julian Tavarez is also in the mix for saves, and Beimel is actually in the minors right now on a rehab assignment for a left hip flexor strain (he hopes to be back this week). Beimel has appeared in 224 games since the start of the 2006 season, and in that time he has only thrown 193.2 innings as more often than not he wasn’t asked to face right-handed batters. In this time frame he also owns a 4.83 K/89 mark and a 1.55 K/BB rate, terrible numbers for a reliever and putrid for a closer. He will likely get a few saves, but I just can’t see him being the answer as Joel Hanrahan certainly should get a shot to reclaim his lost job at some point.
Ryan Madson, Phillies
Only a closer if Brad Lidge is out with injury. There are concerns with Lidge’s knee, but Madson is clearly the second option even though at this point his ability to accrue saves is nil. Still, Madson is a fine addition given that his fastball has gained three mph this season (94.6) leading to a huge boost in his K/9 mark (13.09) while working with a tremendous 1.83 G/F ratio. If Lidge goes down, still a possibility, Madson gains a ton of value.
Michael Wuertz, Athletics
Joey Devine is out for the year. Brad Ziegler is missing time with an illness. Santiago Casilla is on the DL with a calf strain. That means Wuertz has picked up a couple of saves while sporting a solid 8.56 K/9 marl and a scintillating 6.50 K/BB. Don’t expect it to continue as his control has never been remotely this good (2.18 K/BB career). When Ziegler and Casilla are healthy look for Wuertz to be nothing more than a solid middle reliever option, especially with Andrew Bailey also pitching lights out (1.53 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 20 K in 17.2 IP).
The bottom line is that saves are available and will continue to be on there on waivers through the course of the season. Just make sure you invest wisely so as to avoid picking up a handful of saves while imploding your ratios.
By Ray Flowers