Keeping up with the ever-changing world of closers requires a lot of attention during the season. But when August hits, it becomes an exercise in micro-management. Teams out of the playoff race try out previously unheard-of youngsters. Fantasy teams out of the playoff race beg off, start three guys on the DL every week and give you a false sense of security. As much as we may not want to admit it, football also creeps into our lives and our minds are split between scouring updates for who will close for the Rockies and scouring updates for any kind of clue on who will start at running back for the Broncos.
So you can be forgiven if you go to your Free Agent page, sort by saves and a list of unrecognizable names pop up. My job, as your friendly neighborhood bullpen reporter, is to explain who they are, how long they'll be here and if they're worth picking up. It's a little column I like to call ...
Who Are These Guys?
Danny Farquhar, Mariners
Saves in last 14 days: 5
What has to happen for him to keep his job: Not much. Even though Farquhar's numbers this year don't look great on the surface (a 5.17 ERA and 1.33 WHIP), he has a 13.6 K/9 and a 2.16 xFIP. His strand rate is way below the league average and his BABIP is well above it. In short, Farquhar has masked a ton of great underlying numbers with a bad ERA. Watch it dip over the next month and a half as he racks up saves for the Mariners.
What has to happen for him to lose it: It will be unlikely, but Farquhar's peripherals will have to rise and meet his ERA. With Tom Wilhelmsen in the minors, being quasi-converted to a starter, there's not much competition for Farquahar at the back-end of the bullpen, especially considering the Mariners are out of contention and will benefit from seeing how Farquhar handles the closer role as the season draws to a close.
Chances Farquhar is closing at the end of the season: 95 percent.
LaTroy Hawkins, Mets
Saves in last 14 days: 3
What has to happen for him to keep his job: Hawkins needs Bobby Parnell to remain on the disabled list with his neck/herniated disc issue, first and foremost. He then has to prove that he's past his recent groin injury. And then Hawkins has to simply pitch well enough to hold onto the job -- meaning not blowing a ton of games. He doesn't really have to blow anyone away to keep closing games.
What has to happen for him to lose it: The opposite of everything listed above. And he may be facing a surprise run for the closer title from youngster Gonzalez Germen, who successfully converted the save Thursday night.
Chances Hawkins is closing at the end of the season: 71 percent.
Rex Brothers, Rockies
Saves in last 14 days: 4
What has to happen for him to keep his job: With Rafael Betancourt coming back, Brothers is probably going to lose save opportunities to the incumbent. However, the Rockies have suggested that Brothers -- the clear closer of the future (Betancourt is in the last year of his contract) -- may still get chances. There's also a chance the team trades Betancourt to a contender before the waiver trade deadline passes on August 31.
What has to happen for him to lose it: If Rockies manager Walt Weiss decides Betancourt should get his job back after returning from injury.
Chances Brothers is closing at the end of the season: 63 percent.
Josh Fields, Astros
Saves in last 14 days: 2
What has to happen for him to keep his job: Chia-Jen Lo probably has to blow his next outing in spectacular fashion. While it looks like Fields may be working his way back into the closer mix, he got his second save after Lo had pitched in back-to-back games and was essentially unavailable.
What has to happen for him to lose it: Either Lo goes on a run, saving games every chance he gets, or Fields has a couple more rough outings.
Chances Fields is closing at the end of the season: 15 percent.
Dane De La Rosa, Angels
Saves in last 14 days: 1
What has to happen for him to keep his job: All De La Rosa really has to do right now is not be Ernesto Frieri. While Frieri has been on an epic slide -- he's given up 12 runs in his last 6 2/3 innings -- De La Rosa appears to be the most obvious choice to fill in, a supposition helped along by the fact that he was given the opportunity to save the game last week against the Indians.
What has to happen for him to lose it: Frieri has to figure out what's wrong. While he's been decent this year (3.62 EA, 1.23 WHIP), De La Rosa doesn't scream "closer." Frieri is still the high-strikeout intimidator in the bullpen. If he can fix whatever is wrong with him -- and he may be getting close, as Frieri hasn't allowed a run over his last two appearances while striking out three in two innings -- the Angels may go back to Frieri for the last month, just to make sure their closer is back to form.
Chances De La Rosa is closing at the end of the season: 35 percent.
Chia-Jen Lo, Astros
Saves in last 14 days: 1
What has to happen for him to keep his job: Lo just has to keep doing what he's doing. The 27-year-old rookie hasn't allowed a run in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five and posting a 1.11 WHIP. Over five minor league seasons (in which he often battled injury), Lo had a 2.11 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, with a 10.0 K/9 over 128 innings. He could be a stellar keeper target for saves.
What has to happen for him to lose it: The team may want to mix and match closers to see what it has in its 2014 bullpen.
Chances he's closing at the end of the season: 75 percent.
Gonzalez Germen, Mets
Saves in last 14 days: 1
What has to happen for him to keep his job: LaTroy Hawkins has to either continue to be sidelined, or return and simply ... not be good.
What has to happen for him to lose it: Considering Germen doesn't technically "have" it -- he's simply the guy who got the last save for the Mets -- there's not much he can do to change his fate. However, Germen makes for a wonderfully speculative play in NL-only formats, and not just by process of elimination. Converted to reliever this season, Germen had an ugly 5.52 ERA in 35 games for Las Vegas. But he did show some decent control (1.32 WHIP is a little low for that ERA) and has been solid with the Mets -- in 13 games, he has a 2.60 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. Hawkins is 40 years old and is on pace to throw more innings than he has in any season since 2003. And David Aardsma blew his only two save chances this season and hasn't pitched since Aug. 11. Germen has momentum, has an opportunity and could just quietly slide into the closer role so the Mets can see what they have through September.
Chances he's closing at the end of the season: 25 percent.
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