May 13, 2012
What's the best present for a Mom that has everything? Get her an at-bat against scuffling Mets reliever Frank Francisco. Mom will surely line a double in the gap — if Francisco ever gets around to throwing her a strike.
Francisco technically didn't get a blown save in Sunday's ugly loss to the Marlins, but it was a meltdown just the same. He was asked to protect a two-run lead in the ninth and couldn't record an out: Emilio Bonifacio tripled, John Buck walked and Greg Dobbs singled. In short order, the Marlins had a run in and the tying tally just 90 feet away.
Not content to merely unravel on the mound, Francisco then took dead aim at home plate umpire Todd Tichenor, storming to the plate and yelling some choice words (the men had to be separated). Only seven of Francisco's 15 pitches were strikes, but it looked like his complaints were reaching the intended target. Tichenor promptly gave Francisco the boot, and the Marlins wound up finishing the rally against journeyman reliever Manny Acosta. (The game ended on a grand slam from Giancarlo Stanton that probably landed on a beach in Bermuda somewhere. Absolutely crushed. Mercy.)
When you add Sunday's disaster to the ledger, Francisco now shows an 8.56 ERA and a 1.98 WHIP. He does offer 15 strikeouts over 13.3 innings, but he's also walked seven batters. He's been scored on in seven of his last 12 appearances, and he's suffered three losses on the year. How much evidence do the Mets need before they try something else in the ninth? (Perhaps manager Terry Collins is getting close: he says he'll address the closing situation Monday.)
If and when Collins is ready to shake things up, decent options are available. Jon Rauch worked a perfect eighth inning Sunday (one strikeout, nothing out of the infield), trimming his ERA to 2.93 and his WHIP to 0.98. He carries an impressive resume for the position: closing experience, intimidating height, a frightening neck tattoo. Bobby Parnell is another name to consider, off to a good start in 2012 (2.25 ERA, 16 strikeouts against three walks). He recorded six saves for the Mets over the last two months of 2011. Parnell didn't pitch Sunday, after working the two previous games.
Heath Bell grabbed a vulture win from Miami's heroics, despite allowing two runs of his own. It was standard work for any closer: tie score at home, top of the ninth. The host club can no longer record a save by that point. I still like Steve Cishek as a speculation hold in medium and deeper mixed leagues, where blood is shed for every handshake.
Place your bets, save chasers. Rauch is owned in just seven percent of Yahoo! leagues, while Parnell currently trades at two percent. They're out there, if you're ready to point and click. And if you want to open your heart to a spotty American League reliever, Brian Fuentes (named Oakland's closer on Saturday) is available in about 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues.