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Ranking of A.L. Relievers available for final tune-up
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nothing in baseball is guaranteed

This is the last week-end for fine tuning your play-off drive and post season roster. The one thing almost all of us could use in a championship hunt is an extra knock out reliever or two. I myself have taken this step by trading one of my "trade bait" prospects for Takashi Saito. I love his K/9 ratio and his 2.64 ERA should hold up considering his history and peripherals, though they are not as good as they were in the National League. Adding this season in Fenway to Saito's four years with the Dodgers, his career ERA is still an impressive 2.09. He gives me one of my nicest if not deepest bullpens ever with Rivera, Thornton, Migares, Robertson, Mujica, Donnelly, Perry, Seay, and DelCarmen.

 

I "scouted" Saito using my Scoresheet League site clicking into Rosters with Major League Stats. From there it is easy to check every team out of serious contention and see which outstanding relievers they have now who they likely wouldn't protect next year. (Don't forget to check their group of starters for relievers who are listed as starters.) Here is how I would rank the American League relievers well worth trading for who are not among the automatic protects (Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, and Joakim Soria). (Also excluded is Francisco Rodriguez - a fellow most veteran leagues would still have):

 

(stats as of Sept. 2 or Sept. 3, 2009 from FanGraphs)

Reliever (age)       Ing. ERA   K/9  K/BB  GB/FB

Andrew Bailey   (25)  72  1.88  9.5  3.45  1.00

   (rookie, always had high K, but never with such low BB or ERA)

Matt Thornton-L (32)  61  2.67 10.8  4.29  1.25

   (outstanding three of the last 4 seasons)

J.P. Howell-L   (26)  63  2.43 10.6  2.74  1.38

   (now established with his second outstanding season)

Matt Guerrier   (31)  64  2.38  6.0  3.91  1.05

   (improved GB/FB, though '08 appears to have been an off year)

George Sherrill-L (33)  53  1.87  7.8  2.38  0.84

   (ERA last year due to poor control: 4.73, career: 3.46; now with Dodgers)

Jose Migares -L (24)  51  2.28  7.9  2.14  0.81

   (plus 0.00 in AAA (8 Ing.) and 0.87 in his MLB debut last year (10 Ing.))

Scott Downs-L   (33)  39  3.00  9.0  2.77  2.10

   (DL twice with sprained toe; pitching well now; 1.78 & 2.17 last 2 years)

Takashi Saito   (29)  48  2.64  8.5  2.14  0.61

   (K & G/F are way down, while BB are way up from his 3 Dodger years)

Jason Frasor    (32)  46  2.33  8.7  3.00  0.71

       (lower BB/9 & ERA this year; returned recently from toe injury)

David Robertson (24)  40  3.38 13.5  2.86  0.73

       (started '09 with 15 AAA Ing. of 1.84 after similar results at every pro level)

Brad Ziegler    (29)  59  3.20  6.1  2.00  2.98

       (last year: 1.06 ERA in 50 Ing. and 0.37 in 24 AAA Innings)

Hideki Okajima-L(33)  54  3.19  8.2  2.58  0.60

   (ERA of 2.61 last year with nearly identical peripherals as this year )

C.J. Wilson-L   (33)  62  3.19 10.0  2.46  2.19

   (peripherals improved, but inconsistent year to year, last year's ERA : 6.02)

Daniel Bard     (24)  41  3.48 12.0  3.24  1.05

   (averages 97.1 mph, '96 first rounder blasted through the Minors last year)

Edward Mujica   (29)  75  3.12  6.8  3.56  0.82

       (thriving in San Diego thanks to improved control and more GB)

Joe Smith       (25)  34  3.44  7.9  2.31  2.00

   (+5 scoreless AAA ing.; 3rd year w/ stable ERA with fewer BBs more HRs)

David Aardsma   (27)  63  2.15 10.5  2.28  0.46

   (his ERA was 5.55 last year and 6.40 before then)

Bobby Jenks     (28)  47  3.66  8.5  3.38  1.51

   (may be considered by some managers to be worth protecting )

Rafael Betancourt (34)  44  3.05  9.5  2.61  0.51

   (missed June with groin injury; terrific every other year, 1.98 so far in CO)

Brandon Lyon    (30)  63  3.00  6.7  2.04  1.27

   (had pneumonia in July, a horrendous outing in mid Aug., but good lately)

Fernando Rodney (32)  70  3.36  8.3  1.96  1.75

       (more GB and fewer K may have led to no DL time due shoulder woes)

Darren Oliver-L (38)  59  2.90  7.0  2.88  1.01

   (peripherals improved, but inconsistent year to year, last year's ERA : 6.02)

Mark Lowe       (29)  66  3.32  7.5  2.50  0.96

       (improved from 5.37 last year due to fewer walks and more GB)

Octavio Dotel   (35)  52  3.29 10.9  1.80  0.63

       (has managed to keep his ERA steady, while his BB have gone way up)

Frank Francisco (29)  41  3.32 10.2  2.43  0.42

   (had pneumonia in July, a horrendous outing in mid Aug., but good lately)

Brandon Donnelly(38)  18  2.04  8.2  2.29  0.82

   (due to come off D.L. from a sprained calf; hasn't been nearly this good since '04)

Dan Wheeler     (28)  49  3.51  6.7  5.14  0.58

   ('05-'06 best years, '07 a disaster, '08 better despite lower K & GB, '09 more BB)

Ramon Ramirez   (28)  58  2.93  6.8  1.63  0.75

   (2.64 ERA last year with a 1.30 G/F; his )

Chad Bradford   (34)   8  3.38  6.8  1.13  2.75

   (after elbow surgery and back problems this year, be leery until BB rate settles)

 

If your contender just needs a few more innings to stave off AAA Pitching, then any of Alfredo Aceves, Shawn Camp, D.J. Carrasco, Lance Cormier, Aaron Heilman, Shawn Kelley, Scott Linebrink, or Ryan Perry are useful thrown ins - so is Kerry Wood if his shoulder un-stiffens. Fu-Te Ni appears to be a reliably competent lefty - so is real life team-mate Bobby Seay, but not as much recently.

 

Manny DelCarmen has had an excellent season up until late July and has been frustrating since. Jim Johnson was set to make this list, but has been roughed up in three of his last five outings - all immediately since his daughter was born. Sean White's ERA after 64 innings is still an alluring 2.80 befitting of his 1.36 GB/FB. However, with less than 4.0 strikeouts per 9 innings at a ratio of 14 K to 10 walks - and no history of low ERA at any level where he spent a reasonable amount of time, I'd prefer gambling on any of the above.

 

Now, if only my line-up was as strong as my bull-pen.

John Carter