The Athletics needed a parade of four pitchers in the ninth before they closed the book on Monday's 5-4 victory over Chicago. Jesse Chavez opened the inning, ran out of gas. Fernando Abad poured some gasoline (walk, plunk) on the fire, then Jim Johnson allowed a couple of hits. Can't anyone play this game?
Enter Doolittle, the team's best reliever. Fly out, strikeout, strikeout, handshake. Celebrate good times, Oakland.
Doolittle's modest ownership tag in Yahoo (11 percent) has me perplexed. Maybe you're getting thrown by the 3.60 ERA, but that's ridiculously misleading. Every logical skill measurement points to Doolittle being elite (his FIP is a tidy 1.80), and there's a strong chance he'll lead this team in saves.
Start with the K/BB ratio, the first step in evaluating any pitcher. Doolittle has 26 strikeouts, zero walks. Can't do much better than that. Doolittle also keeps the ball in the park (career HR/FB clip of 5.3) and is equally effective against lefties and righties. Oakland knew what it was doing when it locked up Doolittle earlier this month (five-year contract).
I recognize the saves chase is as much about roles as it is about skills, and there's nothing forcing Oakland to use its best reliever in the ninth. Heck, you can build a strong argument that a team's top reliever shouldn't be locked into a static closing gig – you probably get more bang for your buck using that asset aggressively and creatively. I will not argue against any of that.
All that established, I wonder how much longer the A's can live with Johnson's reign of terror. He's always been a chuck-and-duck pitcher, someone who needs to pitch to contact and get lucky. He's carrying a 4.96 ERA and 1.96 WHIP for the year, with 10 walks against 15 strikeouts. Unsafe in any role.
Luke Gregerson (2.37/1.00) is around and could enter the mix. I don't trust Ryan Cook's control (nine walks), but I suppose he's a longshot who should be mentioned for completeness. But my instincts tell me the A's are close to giving Doolittle the keys to the bullpen, and even if he's not the automatic closer most nights, he'll get enough high-leverage work to make it worth your while, even in mixed formats.
Gouge away, gamers. I want this guy on your fake team.
• Everyone who thought Tyler Lyons was a good streaming pick for Monday, raise your hand (I'm raising my hand). Now go apply moisturizer to the burn marks.
Lyons had his clock cleaned (nine runs) in Monday's strangest game, a 17-5 loss to the Cubs. Looking at this box score is like staring at the sun. Good process, crummy results. Variance is a bitch.
The Cardinals didn't do Lyons any favors, keeping in the game through four innings. Not that a seven-run appearance would make much of a difference, but on a different day, he's probably gone after the second. This is part of what NL baseball does for us; usually it keeps disaster starts at a reasonable level. Monday wasn't the case.
Travis Wood wasn't terrific on the other side, but his line was passable, especially with a win attached (6 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K). He's a lot better than that 4.91 ERA suggests; I bet you can get him for almost nothing in a lot of leagues, and I'd make that attempt. He draws the Brewers, Padres (in the sandbox) and Giants (by the bay) in his next three turns, a workable slate.
• I suppose I have to mention Jose Fernandez somewhere, not that there's much I can do for you there. The news on his elbow is ominous, and it would be a shock if he avoided Tommy John surgery. I don't own Fernandez anywhere, one of the flukes of the season. I liked him as much as anyone else. I'm sorry for your loss.
I wonder at what point teams will stop trying to baby their young arms, because there's no proven way to keep aces from getting hurt. Play for today, baseball – tomorrow never knows. The Nats made a grave error, as I see it, resting Stephen Strasburg at the end of 2012. If there were a way to truly save the young pitcher, every team would be doing it.
The general fantasy takeaway is simple, and something you probably know already. In keeper leagues, focus on hitting. It's a much safer place to park your money. Then hope the roto gods have mercy on your pitching arms and elbows.
The natural Miami follow-up: when might we see hot prospect Andrew Heaney recalled? Heaney, 22, was the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft, and he's posted impressive numbers in Single and Double-A. Will the Fernandez setback curb Miami's interest in pushing Heaney aggressively? Or does the team accept that it's best to use a depreciating asset while it can? I don't think anyone knows the answer there. My guess: we'll see Heaney at some point in the second half.