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Setting the Trends: The unending chase for saves

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There's an old truism that some Fantasy owners have developed over the years: never pay for saves.

The logic behind it is simple -- closers are constantly getting hurt or yanked from their roles, making early-to-mid season replacements, who can be plucked off the waiver wire or added via FAAB, fairly plentiful.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 5/8)
Player % owned
1. Trevor Bauer, SP, D-Backs 47
2. Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees 41
3. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves 34
4. Julio Teheran, SP, Braves 27
5. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies 27
6. Shelby Miller, SP, Cardinals 26
7. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs 26
8. Brett Jackson, OF, Cubs 19
9. Danny Hultzen, SP, Mariners 17
10. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians 16

This season, the first half of that mantra has held up -- every day, it seems, a new closer is either injured or replaced. But choosing the replacement before the hordes of fellow owners zero in on the situation has become increasingly difficult. Even if, for instance, you could travel back in time to just moments before Mariano Rivera was carted off the warning track in Kansas City, you wouldn't be able to tell your past self who to pick up just yet, as no replacement has been named. It's the same situation in Miami, Anaheim, Chicago, and San Diego. Time travel will do you no good; a mixture of logic and lucky guesswork will.

This new trend of not having a closer named immediately after an injury doesn't necessarily mean that "don't pay for saves" is necessarily wrong -- Mariano Rivera and Heath Bell were two of he more popular preseason closer picks and were just as susceptible to poor performance and injury as some of the less-hyped closers, like Huston Street, Jordan Walden, and Carlos Marmol. It means, instead, that more attention will be paid in points leagues to that sneaky strategy of slotting starters with RP eligibility into those RP positions. And the idea of punting saves in Rotisserie Leagues (the practice of just not competing in that category) might be somewhat sound now, as it looks like more teams will be practicing it, which helps to level that category more than if just one team did it.

However these situations play out, CBSSports.com Roster Trends can at least help owners figure out where the masses are going and aid in determining what the popular opinion may be when it comes to replacing fallen closers.

Most added highlights

David Robertson, RP, Yankees
Jump in ownership: 61 percent (from 23 percent to 84)
Reason for the jump: He might be the new closer for the Yankees.
Why you should join the crowd: Robertson is arguably the best reliever on the Yankees, averaging 15.8 strikeouts per nine innings so far this year, along with a 0.00 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. His K/BB ratio is 7.00, and his role as the direct set-up man for the injured Mariano Rivera seems to place him as the obvious successor.
Devil's Advocate: There's also a chance that Rafael Soriano, who saw his ownership jump from 10 percent to 49 percent, gets the job. He had twice as many saves in 2011 (two) as Robertson (one), and has 90 career saves to Robertson's three. So far this season, Soriano is a member of the "Same ERA and WHIP Club," carrying a 1.80 in both categories. He doesn't strike out as many batters as Robertson, but he has experience in the role. And then there's this stat: since 2008, Soriano has four appearances of more than an inning; Robertson has 40. There are dueling theories here: either this makes Robertson more suited for a closer role, as Rivera would go more than one inning many times in his career; or it makes Robertson more valuable as a middle reliever, when manager Joe Girardi can use his flexibility earlier in games and have Soriano come in at the start of the ninth to shut the door. In other words, Girardi can use Robertson in the seventh with an out to get out of a jam, keep him in the eighth to hold the game, and Soriano can come in to close the game in the ninth. Their usage over the last four years suggests that the opposite would not be true.

Less than 50, more than 50
Players owned in less than 50% of leagues who should be owned in more than 50%
Player % owned
1. Yonder Alonso, OF/1B, Padres 44
2. Geovany Soto, C, Cubs 44
3. Jonathan LuCroy, C, Brewers 42
4. Travis Hafner, DH, Indians 31
5. Tony Campana, OF, Cubs 23

Steve Cishek, RP, Marlins
Jump in ownership: 48 percent (from five percent to 53)
Reason for the jump: He might be the new closer for the Marlins.
Why you should join the crowd: Like Robertson, Cishek is seemingly the obvious option out of the Marlins bullpen to close games while Heath Bell works out his problems in middle relief. He has a 2.09 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 73 1/3 major league innings while carrying a 9.0 K/9 ratio. He also racked up three saves in 2011, with two of them coming during the Leo Nunez aftermath. Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Monday that he is leaning towards using Cishek in save situations.
Devil's Advocate: In that same interview, Guillen added, "Maybe. All of a sudden, you may see someone else. I don't know yet." That someone has turned out to be Edward Mujica, who has seen his ownership rise from four percent to 19 percent. Mujica has gotten the two saves in the post-Bell era for the Marlins and hasn't given up a run since April 24. He already has six holds on the season, but a couple two-run blow-ups have his ERA at 3.38. Guillen's fellow Venezuelan countryman, Mujica has just once averaged more than a strikeout per inning pitched, in 2010, with the Padres.

Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
Jump in ownership: 44 percent (from 29 percent to 73)
Reason for the jump: He has five home runs coming in his last 12 games.
Why you should join the crowd: Owners of Alvarez have been waiting for him to find his swing since 2010, when he hit 16 home runs in 347 at-bats for the Pirates. They suffered through 2011, when he batted just .191 over 74 games, hitting just four home runs. And groans rose up again this year, as Alvarez bottomed out at .042 on April 17. But then the 25 year-old, who was the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, began hitting. He launched a home run on April 18. Between April 21 and May 3, he rattled off seven multi-hit games. His average has risen over .200 points since April 17. It seems that Alvarez has finally unlocked his potential as a power-hitting third baseman, and his timing couldn't have been better, as he got hot just as several third basemen were dropping with various injuries.
Devil's Advocate: Up until April 17, Alvarez looked completely lost at the plate. If he regresses to his 2011 self, things could get very ugly at an accelerated rate.

Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox
Jump in ownership: 44 percent (from 17 percent to 61)
Reason for the jump: Replacing an injured Kevin Youkilis, Middlebrooks is currently batting .381, with three home runs and nine RBI in four games.
Why you should join the crowd: Middlebrooks was locked in for Pawtucket before his call up with nine home runs and 27 RBI over 24 games. Just to put that into perspective, he's still tied for third on the International League home run leaderboard.
Devil's Advocate: There are two factors at play here. First, for as much power as Middlebrooks has flexed this year, he had sported just a .276 batting average over five minor league seasons (although, in his defense, the average had gotten progressively better as he advanced through the minors). Second, when Kevin Youkilis returns, Middlebrooks will be a man without a position. Middlebrooks has played exclusively third base throughout his career. And while Youkilis has played 22 games in the outfield over his career -- most recently in 2009 -- his litany of injuries will likely keep him at the less-strenuous third base position. Still, if Middlebrooks keeps hitting (and that's a moderately-sized "if," considering his rushed ascension to the majors, combined with the media and fan over-hyping of a Boston would-be savior), there's little chance he'll be sent back down to the minors, making the best guess here one of Middlebrooks shifting to the outfield. And this is, of course, assuming Boston doesn't first pull a Nomar and trade their beloved Youkilis to a team desperately in need of a corner infielder.

Jarrod Dyson, OF, Royals
Jump in ownership: Seven percent (from one percent to eight)
Reason for the jump: He is batting leadoff for the Royals.
Why you should join the crowd: Dyson, a 50th-round pick of the Royals in 2006, is currently batting .326 with three steals in 46 at-bats. He hit .280 in the minors, but stole 38 bases in 2011 (in 319 at-bats), 24 in 2010 (294 at-bats), and 46 in 2009 (315 at-bats). In short, Dyson has a lot of speed, and, at the top of the lineup, he's getting a lot of chances to get on base. If you missed out on Tony Campana -- who is still only owned in 23 percent of leagues -- Dyson is a nice cheap speed consolation prize.
Devil's Advocate: In two previous stints with the Royals, Dyson hit .211 (in 2010) and .205 (in 2011). However, he stole a combined 20 bases in 44 games. One thing not complicating matters is the return of Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City's would-be centerfielder of the future. He had a setback in his rehab and isn't expected to return until June, possibly July.

Manny being Manny

Manny Ramirez had a one percent jump in ownership, from six percent to seven percent, as his return to the major leagues grows closer. Ramirez will embark on a 10-game rehab assignment before being eligible to return on May 30.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsi.com .

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Player News
Robbie Ross earns win Wednesday vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:48 am ET) Rangers pitcher Robbie Ross picked up a win Wednesday, striking out one in 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his team's 6-1 victory over the A's.

Ross (3-6) was one of three pitchers to appear in the bottom of the eighth inning Wednesday, and after the Rangers scored six runs on three A's relievers in the top of the ninth, Ross finished off the win with a clean bottom half of the final inning. He owns a 6.39 ERA and 49:29 K:BB ratio in 74 2/3 innings.


J.P. Arencibia slugs 10th home run in win vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Rangers designated hitter J.P. Arencibia went 1 for 4 with a three-run home run in his team's 6-1 victory over the A's Wednesday.

After the Rangers evened the score at 1-1 in the ninth inning, Arencibia put his team up with a big blast over the left field fence. He has a modest four-game hitting streak with two home runs during that stretch. Arencibia has hit .173/.234/.367 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI in 196 at-bats.


Sean Doolittle blows save, takes loss Wednesday vs. Rangers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Athletics closer Sean Doolittle blew a save opportunity Wednesday and was stuck with the loss in his team's 6-1 defeat against the Rangers.

Doolittle (1-4) was tasked with protecting a 1-0 lead but surrendered a game-tying double before the Rangers broke things open with a three-run home run. The closer finished with five earned runs on three hits and two walks in just one-third of an inning. Doolittle owns a 2.97 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 83:7 K:BB ratio in 57 2/3 innings.


Jeff Samardzija strikes out 10 in gem vs. Rangers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija didn't factor into the decision Wednesday despite giving up just four hits in eight scoreless innings while striking out 10 and walking none in his team's 6-1 defeat against the Rangers.

Samardzija matched his season high for strikeouts in the gem, and he's now delivered 15 innings of scoreless baseball over his last two starts. However, the bullpen blew his lead in the ninth inning to keep him at 6-12. Despite his record, he's been excellent this season, posting a 2.98 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 190:43 K:BB ratio in 205 2/3 innings. Samardzija is slated to face the Angels Monday.


Derek Holland allows one run in no-decision vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Rangers pitcher Derek Holland didn't factor into the decision Wednesday, giving up one earned run on four hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings while striking out five in his team's 6-1 win over the A's.

Holland turned in his fourth straight strong start and actually saw his ERA rise despite the excellent line. The only run came on a single with two men on in the fifth inning, giving Holland four straight starts with one run or no runs since coming off the disabled list. He owns a 0.99 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 22:3 K:BB ratio in 27 1/3 innings. Hollard is scheduled to face the Astros Monday.


Mariners announce weekend rotation plans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:33 am ET) The Mariners announced Wednesday that Taijuan Walker will draw the start in Friday's series opener against the Astros in Houston.

Walker hasn't made a start for the Mariners since late July, but he's managed to make three appearances out of the bullpen in September. He owns a 2.96 ERA and 21:15 K:BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings.

The announcement will move Chris Young back to Saturday and Hisashi Iwakuma to Sunday.


Eric Stults chased in fifth inning of loss vs. Phillies
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) Padres pitcher Eric Stults took a loss Wednesday, allowing four earned runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings while striking out two in his team's 5-2 defeat against the Phillies.

Stults (7-17) delivered four scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fifth, when the Phillies opened the inning with four singles to score two runs and then followed a sacrifice with a two-run double, which chased the starter from the game. It's the first time since June 8 Stults has failed to finish five innings. He owns a 4.59 ERA and 101:44 K:BB ratio in 162 2/3 innings. Stults is scheduled to face the Rockies Tuesday.


Cole Hamels strikes out nine in win vs. Padres
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels earned a win Wednesday, allowing one earned run on seven hits and one walk in seven innings while striking out nine in his team's 5-2 victory over the Padres.

Hamels (9-7) gave up just one run for the second straight start, and he's turned in 11 quality starts in 12 tries in the second half, with the only "off" day resulting in a five-inning, three-run win. He owns an excellent 2.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 187:57 K:BB ratio in 189 2/3 innings. Hamels is scheduled to face the Marlins Tuesday.


C.J. Cron swats 11th home run Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Angels first baseman C.J. Cron went 2 for 3 with a three-run home run in his team's 5-0 win over the Mariners Wednesday.

Cron's home run came at an opportune time, as the Mariners turned to the bullpen in the seventh inning only for the Angels first baseman to immediately smack a three-run blast to put the lead out of reach. He has hit .273/.301/.482 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 220 at-bats.


C.J. Wilson tosses seven one-hit innings in win Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:48 am ET) Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson earned a win Wednesday, allowing just one hit and three walks in seven scoreless innings while striking out seven in his team's 5-0 victory over the Mariners.

Wilson (13-9) retired the first 11 batters he faced Wednesday before issuing a walk, and his no-hitter came to an end with two outs in the fifth. It's his first time since May 17 getting through a start without giving up a run. Wilson owns a 4.42 ERA and 149:78 K:BB ratio in 169 innings. He's slated to face the A's Monday.


 
 
 
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