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Fantasy Baseball: NL Closer Strategy

Derek Carty from Hardball Times beat me to the punch regarding this topic yesterday, but he addressed the topic for both leagues, while I will give an NL-only version. I do this as I am in 3 NL-only leagues and as a result, do not follow the AL too much.

When evaluating closers, one must first look to see if the closer has a solid hold of the closer job going into your draft. Another thing to look for is whether the setup man is better than the current closer, and whether the manager is quick to make a change should the closer blow a few saves within a short period of time.

For the past 4 years, I have used an all closer/middle reliever strategy in my BIG 5x5 NL-only league. I have placed 3rd (in the money) the last 3 years, and this year I am in first....SO FAR. This strategy calls for dumping two categories-wins and strikeouts. With this strategy, one must make sure he gets at least two quality closers, and several solid setup guys who have a good chance at closing at some point during the season. The strategy should result in first place finishes in saves, WHIP and ERA, and since the owner isn't picking quality starting pitchers early in the draft, the owner should have a solid hitting team as well.

What I have done is usually pick two closers in the 5-9th rounds, to make sure I get two solid closers. But, I am pondering changing my strategy based on the turnover I have seen with closers this year.

The chart below shows that of the 16 NL teams, 8 have replaced their opening day closer based on ineffectiveness or injury, and another team-Arizona- is on the verge of replacing their closer as well.

Team Apr-08 Aug-08 Apr-09
New York Wagner Ayala/Heilman Wagner/F-Rod?
Philadelphia Lidge Lidge Lidge
Florida Gregg Gregg Gregg/Lidstrom?
Atlanta Soriano Gonzalez Gonzalez
Washington Cordero Hanrahan ???
Chicago Wood Wood Marmol?
Milwaukee Gagne Torres Torres
Houston Valverde Valverde Valverde
St. Louis Isringhausen Perez Perez
Pittsburgh Capps Grabow Capps
Cincinnatti Cordero Cordero Cordero
Arizona Lyon Lyon Rauch/Pena?
Los Angeles Saito Broxton Broxton/Kuo??
Colorado Corpas Fuentes Corpas
San Diego Hoffmann Hoffman Hoffmann/Bell
San Francisco Wilson Wilson Wilson

You can see that I also give a column for who I predict will be the closer in APRIL 2009. These are just a guess. Again, you can see that 8 teams could have a different closer in 2009 than they currently have closing games in late August 2008. Several closers will be free agents at the end of this season including Kerry Wood, Brandon Lyon and Trevor Hoffmann, so they could be replaced should they sign elsewhere. Others could be traded-think Kevin Gregg.

So, my question is, does it pay to draft closers early, or to pay up in auction drafts? Or, does it make more sense to draft one solid closer, and a few solid setup men, than to pay up for two good closers? The numbers say you should roll the dice by drafting a few quality setup men, and save your money, or early draft pick, on some offense.

What do faketeamers think about the closer strategy?