During the NFL season we're always telling you to handcuff star running backs to the appropriate back-ups, just in case there's an injury -- and there are always injuries, even to players we all consider indestructible.
It's not so different with closers during baseball season. No matter who they are -- and no matter how good they were the previous year -- they can either break or under-perform, and then be replaced by players who deliver the exact numbers you were hoping for.
Here are five guys that any reasonable fantasy owner should worry about (presented in order of year-to-date inadequacy) and the appropriate handcuffs:
Jose Valverde - 11.37 ERA, 2.53 WHIP
Valverde is only useful in odd-numbered years. It's funny, but that's the pattern. Kyle Farnsworth used to suffer from the same disorder. Valverde has allowed at least one hit in every appearance this season, and he's given up three home runs in only 6.1 innings. As we've mentioned before, there aren't really any closers-in-waiting in the Houston bullpen, so Valverde will have all kinds of opportunities to get himself right. Doug Brocail would be the handcuff, with Geoff Geary also a possibility. Unless Shawn Chacon is mad enough about last night's loss to demand Valverde's job.
Trevor Hoffman - 9.53 ERA, 2.12 WHIP
Brandon Lyon - 7.20 ERA, 1.80 WHIP
Lyon gave up two singles and a walk to the Giants in a non-save situation last night. He already has two blown saves. Entering the season, we'd have thought Tony Pena was Plan B, but he's given up five hits and five earned runs in his last two innings. Chad Qualls, who seems to pitch every day, has been better: 8.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 6 BB, 8 K.
Eric Gagne - 7.20 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
This guy has his defenders, and he can still touch 94. But it's not exactly an un-hittable 94, as Corey Patterson has demonstrated. To his credit, Gagne has pitched three perfect innings already. He saved games on consecutive days against the Mets last weekend, although in both cases he faced the Easley/Schneider portion of the lineup. There are a bunch of sketchy former closers who share Gagne's bullpen. Based on their usage so far, I'd guess that Guillermo Mota -- not Torres, Riske or Turnbow -- would have the first shot at replacing Gagne.
Brian Wilson - 4.26 ERA, 1.58 WHIP
No, you probably wouldn't handcuff anyone to Wilson, except in very large leagues. He's just a Giant. But if you did want his likely replacement, Tyler Walker would be the guy. (Although to be perfectly honest, I think we'd all prefer a scenario in which Brad Evans gets to discuss this dude).