In Huston Street, Colorado Presents a Problem for Opponents in the Ninth Inning

Jimmy HascupCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2009

DENVER - MAY 10:  Relief pitcher Huston Street #16 of the Colorado Rockies reacts after striking out Jeremy Hermida of the Florida Marlins for the final out of the game during MLB action at Coors Field on May 10, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Street earned a save as the Rockies defeated the Marlins 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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With the season winding down and projection-type articles having less meaning by the day, I decided to profile one of the league’s nicest surprises this year, closer Huston Street.

It’s not often a closer is profiled, and for good reason, but I’d like to use Street as an example to show the readers out there how unpredictable the closer position really is.

To begin, I’d like you to take a look at the closer rankings from the preseason done on Rotoprofessor by clicking here.

Without discussing every single closer on this list, it’s easy to notice that there are a few players who lost their jobs, a few who should be moved off the top-20 and several who should be added to the list.

You have guys like Carlos Marmol, who was recently named the closer, Trevor Hoffman, who was placed on waivers, and Jose Valverde, who was injured for over a month.

Regardless of who you think should’ve been on the list originally, it’s obvious the closer’s position is the most volatile in all of baseball.

I think it’s crucial for fantasy owners to realize that even the most dominating and ‘sure’ options, such as Jonathan Papelbon or Brad Lidge (at the time of preseason), are only a few blown saves from damaging their psyche and tormenting your fantasy team for the duration of the season.

In my opinion, keeper leaguers should never keep a closer, for that reason. And yearly leaguers are better off waiting on the mid-tier closers than over-paying for the one who comes with the biggest name.

Of course, if you’ve had a guy like Mariano Rivera for the past 13 years, I couldn’t argue my point there. 

Enter Huston Street. Before this season even the Colorado Rockiesbeat writer had a hard time fully endorsing Street as the closer.

Manny Corpas (out for the remainder of this season with surgery to repair bone chips in his elbow) had the talent to close, but a rocky 2008 made Rockies’ coaches leery on using him in 2009.

Street was acquired as part of the package that landed the Oakland A’s Matt Holliday during the off-season.

Let’s take a look at Street’s career numbers, season-by-season (as of Aug. 26):

  • 2005: 1.72 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 23 saves, 8.27 K/9
  • 2006: 3.31 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 37 saves, 8.53 K/9
  • 2007: 2.88 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 16 saves, 11.34 K/9
  • 2008: 3.73 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 18 saves, 8.87 K/9
  • 2009: 3.02 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 33 saves, 10.40 K/9

While the 2008 season wasn’t all that amazing for Street, it definitely wasn’t terrible. What’s amazing about a closer’s craft is how hungry fantasy owners are just to accumulate that “1″ in the saves column.

They often neglect all the accompanying stats, sometimes even ignoring the ERA/WHIP/K just to pick up that extra save.

In reality, Huston Street has been an excellent major league reliever. Just because he had 16 saves in 2007 or 18 saves in 2008 doesn’t mean owners should’ve strayed away from him.

Saves are tied to luck and have so many strings attached, you can’t be sure from one year to the next who’s going to be that diamond in the rough.

If you scooped Street up for your team this year, then you were surely rewarded. I bet nobody predicted this type of year from Street.

And at 26 years old, his rates are still improving. This season Street ranks fifth in Fangraph’s “Win-Probability-Added” statistic, with closers like Papelbon, Rivera and Franklin ahead of him.

Since closers don’t pitch nearly the same amount of innings as a starter, I don’t look at BABIP as much, unless it was incredibly low or incredibly high. This year Street has a .270 BABIP, which is actually right near his .281 BABIP career average.

This year it seems that Street has really regained his early-career form. There are a few hidden rates that have me optimistic for his next few years, but it won’t make me reach for him next year.

Since he’s only 26, these improvements are certainly believable. He’s averaging 91.9 mph on his fastball, which is the highest mark of his career.  He hasn’t been above 91 mph since 2005 and 2006.

The newfound confidence in his fastball has enabled him to go right after hitters. He’s utilized the fastball 53.5 percent of the time this year, a career best.

Additionally, the pitch that has propelled Street this season is his slider. With better break and command then ever before in his career, the slider, according to Fangraphs’ metrics, is worth 5.26 slider runs above average per 100 pitches (wSL/C). So per 100 sliders, Street has given up over five runs less than the average. 

The last time Street’s slider was this good was during his rookie year, when it had a 3.54 wSL/C mark. This year, he’s thrown it 30 percent of the time, which is the least amount of his career, really proving how confident he is in his fastball this season.

By analyzing Street like this, I wanted to show the readers how dicey the closer’s role is. Don’t ignore excellent rates, even if the pitcher didn’t have great saves numbers the year before.

Try to watch closers; most often your first impression is telling. One slight improvement accounts for a lot when you’re a closer.

In this case, Street’s improved velocity seems to have led him to go right after hitters more with his fastball.

What do you guys think? Do you think Street continues his success next year? Who do you see becoming a top-option next year?