Some fantasy baseball owners are in need of a few points in their roto league, trying to lock up one stat a week in their head to head or even looking to retool for next year.
Whatever your situation is, this will give you the low down on every National League teams' situation.
Raise your hand if you predicted that John Axford would be leading the Brewers in saves this year...
That's what I thought. Trevor Hoffman may be the all-time leader in saves, but the hot hand is Axford, and he's rewarded anyone that took a shot with him early enough.
At 50 percent owned in Y! leagues, there may be a chance that he's available in your league. If so, pick him up.
Axford has closed 10 games without a blown save and owns a 5-1 record to go along with 32 Ks in 26 IP. His ERA and WHIP statistics stand at a very respectable 3.12 and 1.27 respectively, so it doesn't appear that he's going to slow down anytime soon.
Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.
Injuries have been the storyline in Philadelphia this year, but they're starting to get better. But because of the health issues, there have been five pitchers to record a save for the Phillies this year.
Brad Lidge leads the way with seven and Ryan Madson has four saves to his credit. Combined, those two have only seen action in 32 games so far due to injury.
But even with the limited action this year, the two closers in Philadelphia have combined for six blown saves. Although they've been ineffective at times, there will be plenty of opportunities for the rest of the season.
If you want to take a shot at some saves and can sacrifice ERA, take a look at Lidge and Madson, who are 57 percent owned and 21 percent owned, respectively, in Y! Leagues.
With the trade deadline looming, the Nationals find themselves 13 games out of first place. Their closer, Matt Capps, figures to be a target of many teams looking to add bullpen depth.
If Capps is traded, he will end up being someone's setup man and lose most of his Fantasy relevance.
After a trade, expect the Nationals to continue grooming their closer of the future, Drew Storen. Last year's No. 10 pick, Storen blew through the minor leagues quicker than his first round counterpart, Steven Strasburg. Only owned in five percent of Y! leagues, Storen could stand to see a fair share of save opportunities before the year is out.
The bullpen in Arizona has been pretty bad this year, considering that their opening day closer has an ERA north of eight and the only pitcher with a WHIP below 1.29 is a kid they picked up recently in a trade.
Chad Qualls (48 percent owned) was the closer for most of the season, but the new management team in Arizona will probably go in a different direction. Today it appears that Juan Gutierrez (two percent owned) is the latest to get a chance at the end of games.
So far, so good, and Gutierrez has earned two saves as of late. But his high ERA (6.96) and 1.515 WHIP suggest he'll struggle just like those that have come before him.
Sam Demel (one percent owned) is the one bright spot, with a 1.154 WHIP, but it doesn't appear that the Diamondbacks will be offering up enough chances anyway, and we should probably stay away from any member of the D’backs bullpen.
Trade Bait... the next six guys are known to be good closers and should be your trade targets if you're looking to trade for saves.
Watch out now, the Rockies have another chance to get hot and roll through the NL West.
For the end of their games, they're very committed to Huston Street, as they should be. He's already closed out six saves since returning from the disabled list in June.
While Street was on the shelf, most of the saves went to Manny Corpas, and a few went to Franklin Morales. But that's all in the past now.
With 135 career saves at 26 years of age, Street is a fantastic option in all formats, with career stats of 1.023 WHIP, 2.89 ERA, and a strike out per inning.
Jonathan Broxton may be the best closer in the National League, but strangely, the Dodgers have only presented Broxton with 21 save chances.
Broxton has saved 19 of these chances and posted 55 Ks, a 2.11 ERA, and a 1.18 WHIP in 39.2 IP. The 26-year-old righty got off to a slow start this year, but it was due to a lack of opportunities, not a lack of production.
The Dodgers are still in the NL West mix and should offer plenty of save chances through the end of the season, making Broxton a must own. If you're looking to trade for saves, consider his lack of chances so far this year as a chip for buying low.
Francisco Cordero is tied for the league lead in saves with 25, even though he's performing well off of his career statistics.
The slightly elevated numbers (4.10 ERA compared to a career 3.24 and 1.549 WHIP compared to 1.368) could just be a bump in the road, and an excellent second half would bring him right back to his career line.
With the Reds leading the NL Central, they have banked on Cordero at the end of their games. Going forward, there are zero signs of a change; the Reds will live and die by Cordero in their tight games.
Everyone was very confident that Heath Bell would be one of the league leaders in saves, but most thought that by this time, it would be for a contender loading up their bullpen.
Instead, he's closing out games for the NL West leading Padres.
The 32-year old Bell is having a spectacular year and is owned in every format, but if you're trading for saves, this is the guy to turn to.
When Matt Lindstrom went on the DL in June of the 2009 season, the Marlins turned to the 25-year-old Nunez.
The former Royalhas saved 46 games while blowing 12 in just over a year of service. He is showing improved WHIP and ERA statistics this year and is on pace to set a career-high in strikeouts.
Even if there were someone else performing for the Marlins, there is no reason to think that they would look anywhere else at the end of games. Under team control through the 2012 season, expect the Marlins to focus on other parts of their team and allow Nunez to continue closing games out.
So much for the drama many anticipated taking place in the Astros bullpen this season.
This spring, it was uncertain if Matt Lindstrom would hold onto the closer's role all year, but he has turned it up and closed out 22 of his 26 save chances.
For someone that throws in the triple digits, Lindstrom hasn't provided the K rate you might expect, with 31 Ks in 36 IP. Plus, his WHIP is high at 1.486. But he's getting saves, and that's what we're looking for.
Looking at next year....
There are some special things going on in Atlanta.
The division leaders at the All-Star Break will most likely have to part ways with their closer, manager, and maybe even their captain next year. Currently, though, Billy Wagner is having a career year at the age of 38, with five wins to zero losses, 21 saves, and 59 strikeouts in 39 innings.
Setting up Wagner has been a mix of Takashi Saito and the 25-year old Jonny Venters. Venters has some upside and could expect to close games out for the Braves in 2011.
It's amazing to think that Carlos Marmol has not locked down the closer role for the Cubs, especially when you consider that he's averaging a ridiculous 17 K/9. But that is the case, and it is because of outings like this past Saturday, where Marmol walked five, gave up one hit, and allowed four runners to score in a one-run game.
Marmol has only blown four saves this year, but the fact that he has given up more walks (33) than hits (24) shows that there is reason for concern in Chicago.
Lying in waiting behind Marmol is the closer of the future in Andrew Cashner. But he needs more time in the majors and is still a long way from being ready to close big league games.
Consider Marmol to have his job on lockdown for the remainder of the year, but going into next year that may not be the case.
The Giants made Brian Wilson their full time closer in 2008 and haven't had to look back since.
Wilson is tied for the league lead in saves this year, and could approach 50 saves by the season's end. But rumors have spread this past offseason about the Giants eventually moving Wilson because of his contract. It's still not clear who will inherit the job.
The younger guys in the bullpen, Sergio Romo and Dan Runzler, have been impressive, but not enough to predict a successor.
The Pirates may only have 30 wins to date, but they have offered up 20 saves.
Free agent pick up Octavio Dotel has been able to lock up 19 of those 20 games. But the most interesting story from the Pirates' bullpen this year has been the emergence of 27-year-old Evan Meek.
A former Rule 5 draftee, Meek has put up a 1.07 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 48Ks in 50.2 IP, good enough to earn himself a spot in the All-Star game. If the Pirates were to trade Dotel, Meek should be next in line, but he'll need to calm the butterflies down before becoming relevant in our Fantasy world.
Meek has blown five saves in six chances, but has still maintained the impressive statistics.
It would appear that Meek has had a difficult time getting outs when inheriting runners. Luckily, the closer role doesn't require him to do that often.
But wait, there is more....
The Mets have invested heavily in Francisco Rodriguez, and he has returned that investment with 21 saves for them this year.
At 28, Rodriguez has posted a 2.68 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP through 47 IP this year. This high number has put K-Rod on pace for his most innings since becoming a full-time closer.
Beyond K-Rod, no one holds a very significant role in the bullpen. Elmer Dessens and Bobby Parnell have been effective as of late and could lock up a bigger role if they continue to get outs.
Throw out an epic loss at Colorado on July 6th and Ryan Franklin has a 2.11 ERA and a WHIP under one through 34.1 IP. Outside of this one historic appearance, Franklin has been extremely dependable, with 16 saves in 17 chances.
When Franklin has been unavailable, the Cards have turned to Jason Motte on three occasions, of which he's closed out two (the blown save came the night after the Rockies 12-9 victory over the Cards).
Franklin's age, 37, could be a concern for owners carrying him into next year, but for 2010, he continues to be a spectacular option.
Written by James Weston for thefantasyfix.com
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