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Closer Report: Cubs candidates

The Chicago Cubs' closing situation is basically a thought experiment at this point — if a team never wins a game, can it have a closer? — but we still have to keep track of every pitcher's theoretical bullpen role. Rafael Dolis officially lost his ninth inning responsibilities over the weekend, following a disastrous appearance on Saturday (0.2 IP, H, ER, 2 BB, walk-off HBP). Dolis then lost his spot on the major league roster a day later, after yet another miserable outing (0.0 IP, 2 ER, 2 BB).

So he's cooked. Drop him today if you haven't done so already. There's nothing in Dolis' minor league track record to make anyone think he's ready to enjoy sustained success in the bigs (career 1.41 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9), so his struggles were no great surprise.

Chicago manager Dale Sveum has indicated that James Russell and Shawn Camp could see save chances going forward, though neither pitcher was used in the ninth on Tuesday, in a rare Cubs win. Camp retired a single batter in the seventh (via K), Russell faced the top of the Padres' batting order in the eighth, then Casey Coleman was handed the ball to protect a four-run lead against a punchless team in the ninth. Coleman doesn't seem like a serious threat to close — underwhelming stuff, lousy career walk rate — though he's only given up one hit and one walk over his last four appearances. Russell is a particularly strange choice for ninth inning responsibilities, as he's the only left-hander in Chicago's bullpen. Sveum seems to like Camp, but let's remember that he's a 36-year-old with unimpressive lifetime ratios (4.32 ERA, 1.44 WHIP).

And this brings us at last to the Cubs' opening day closer, the man with the three-year, $20 million deal: Carlos Marmol. He just came off the disabled list following a not-exactly-lights-out rehab assignment (two wild pitches on Sunday). Marmol was horrendous over the first two months of the season (2.21 WHIP, 16 BB in 11.1 IP), earning his demotion from the closer's role, but he claims to have renewed confidence in his slider after his brief visit to Iowa. We'll see. Nearly all of his outings this year can be classified as either "bad," "remarkably bad" or "funny-bad." He'll need to pitch his way back into the circle of trust.

Still, Marmol seems like a reasonable buy-low option for fantasy owners, assuming he's available at a deep, deep discount. As one of our longest tenured and least respected commenters might put it, "James Russell is not the answer. Shawn Camp is not the answer..."

Of course in the peculiar case of Chicago's bullpen, finding the right answer might not mean much. Save situations have not been plentiful lately.

Job Security Index

30. Chicago Cubs — James Russell & Shawn Camp, Carlos Marmol
29. Seattle — Tom Wilhelmsen, Brandon League, Charlie Furbush, Steve Delabar
28. Los Angeles Angels — Ernesto Frieri & Scott Downs, Jordan Walden
27. San Diego — Dale Thayer, Andrew Cashner, Luke Gregerson
26. Washington — Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett
25. Miami — Heath Bell, Steve Cishek, Edward Mujica
24. New York Mets — Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Bobby Parnell
23. Arizona — JJ Putz, David Hernandez, Bryan Shaw
22. Toronto — Casey Janssen, Darren Oliver
21. Oakland — Brian Fuentes, Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour
20. Minnesota — Matt Capps, Glen Perkins
19. Boston — Alfredo Aceves, Franklin Morales
18. Chicago White Sox — Addison Reed, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain
17. Kansas City — Jonathan Broxton, Aaron Crow, Greg Holland
16. New York Yankees — Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Cory Wade
15. Detroit — Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit
14. Houston — Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez
13. Los Angeles Dodgers — Kenley Jansen, Josh Lindblom
12. Tampa Bay — Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta
11. San Francisco — Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo
10. Baltimore — Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop
9. Cleveland — Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano
8. Pittsburgh — Joel Hanrahan, Brad Lincoln, Jason Grilli
7. Texas — Joe Nathan, Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando
6. St. Louis — Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez
5. Colorado — Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle
4. Milwaukee — John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe
3. Cincinnati — Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo
2. Atlanta — Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters
1. Philadelphia — Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo

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Up is down and down is up in the saves chase this year, so of course Brandon Lyon has a streak of 12 straight appearances without allowing a run. Sure. Makes perfect sense. Lyon's ERA is now 1.40, his WHIP is 1.03, and he's struck out 19 batters over 19.2 innings, issuing just two walks. Lyon may have pitched his way into handcuff status behind trade candidate Brett Myers.

It took six years, but Brad Lincoln is finally out-pitching Tim Lincecum. (Check the '06 MLB Draft results if that made no sense). Lincoln has been terrific for Pittsburgh in a (mostly) relief role this season, striking out 25 hitters over 24.1 innings, posting a 1.11 ERA and ridiculous 0.90 WHIP. Put his name on the approved list, if you're looking for non-closing relievers to help control the ratios.

Kyle Farnsworth is reportedly aiming for a mid-June return, but the suddenly strike-prone Fernando Rodney isn't going to lose that closing role — not unless he transforms back into last year's Rodney. After pitching 25.0 innings so far this season, Fernando's BB/9 is just 1.44, down from 7.88(!) last season.

Alert: Ryan Cook finally gave up some runs. Cook allowed two hits, two walks and two runs in the eighth inning at Minnesota on Monday. Those were the first runs he'd allowed all season, earned or unearned. Brian Fuentes has a reasonably solid grip on the ninth for Oakland, but he's also a guy who could wind up on the trade block.

Nationals left-hander Sean Burnett has been fantastic this year (1 ER, 17 Ks in 13.2 IP), a serious asset for those of us in holds leagues. But the interim closing role in Washington clearly belongs to Tyler Clippard, who probably should have just been handed the ball way back when Drew Storen's elbow began acting up.

The Mariners intend to go closer-by-committee while Brandon League is in timeout. Tom Wilhelmsen is likely the head of the Seattle bullpen committee, but the team sure sounds as if they'd like to fix League's issues, then plop him back in the ninth. Here's manager Eric Wedge, via MLB.com:

"[Pitching coach Carl Willis ] and I have talked to Leaguer and we're going to pull him back a little bit and give him some opportunities outside that closing role and work to get him back on track. Very similar to what we did last year. I would say that worked well for him and for us. So we talked to him about that and a couple little things we feel like he needs to do. He's very understanding about that."

This seems like another buy-low opportunity for the desperate (and likely a safer one than Marmol).
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