The Year of the Injured or Ineffective Closer

Mariano RiveraSome baseball fans and so-called experts discount the importance of closers, insisting that what they do is just one inning of a game, and act like they are no more important than any other pitcher in the game. However, other fans and fantasy baseball team owners may disagree with that assessment. Not only do saves matter when it comes to fantasy baseball, but what a closer does can help protect starters’ wins.

At any rate, what has happened so far in 2012 has shown just how volatile the position is. As of press time, 14 of the 30 Major League Baseball closers at the start of the season have been replaced in the first five weeks of the season. Injury and ineffectiveness are the two culprits.

Closers Lost to Injury

The injury bug has decimated a slew of closers this season, with some of the biggest names in baseball – Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees, and Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants – getting hurt. The 42-year-old Rivera, considered to be the greatest closer of all time and a big reason for the Yankees’ success over the past fifteen years, tore his ACL and meniscus while shagging flies in the outfield, and will be out for the season, with his career in jeopardy. Wilson, who was one of the top players – and one of the most memorable personalities – of the 2010 World Champion Giants, went through Tommy John surgery this April for the second time and is out for the season.

A total of nine closers have had to be replaced due to injury, like Kansas City Royals’ pitcher Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson of the Cincinnati Reds, who also have undergone Tommy John surgery this year.

Other closers injured this season include the Boston Red Sox’s Andrew Bailey, who had to undergo surgery on his thumb before the former Oakland closer got to throw an in-season pitch for his new team, Kyle Farnsworth of the Tampa Bay Rays, who is out until June with a strained elbow (and has likely lost his job for good to Fernando Rodney), and Sergio Santos of the Toronto Blue Jays, who has been out due to shoulder inflammation. That means that four out of the five closers in the American League East has been beset by injury, and the fifth, Jim Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles, missed some time recently, being hospitalized due to food poisoning.

Closers Lost to Ineffectiveness

Then there are the closers who have lost their jobs due to ineffectiveness. Heath Bell may have just gotten a $27 million, three-year contract from the Miami Marlins, but he still has, at least temporarily, lost his spot as a closer to Steve Cishek. Some of the other closers who have been demoted include Carlos Marmol of the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Jordan Walden.

What Does This Mean for Fantasy Baseball?

So what does all this year of the injured or ineffective closer mean from a fantasy baseball perspective? It means several things – that unless you have one of the few top closers in the game still standing, like Jonathan Papelbon of the Philadelphia Phillies or Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves, you might have problems getting much value in the category. It also means that if you are playing in a daily or weekly fantasy baseball league, you ought to pick a fantasy closer before drafting some of your other positions, due to the scarcity of great players in the spot right now.

FantasyGuru is a weekly contributor to fantasy sports blogs, like DraftStreet.

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