Ryan will try the contrary argument to Aaron Murray's "Cheap in 2010" with "Expensive in 2010"... starting with Mark Buehrle and now Brian Fuentes...
There were only 5 closers who had over 20 saves and a WHIP at or over 1.40 last season. Who were they?
And yet 4 of these 5 closers went the entire season as the "anointed closer." Fuentes led the league with 48 saves last year, but that is more a factor of the LA Angels of Anaheim getting into save situations. Fuentes pitched less than an inning in 9 of his 48 saves.
Remember Fuentes was almost taken out by Kevin Jepsen at the end of the season. Fuentes put up an unimpressive last month of the season, with a 3.86 ERA and a 2.05 WHIP. Fuentes' season was a tale of two seasons: a K/9 rate of 10.0 in the first half that bottomed to 4.4 in the second half. Fuentes walked more players in the second half (15) than he struck out (12). Fuentes posted a 4.81 ERA in the second half and gave up over a hit per inning pitched.
He gave up 6 home runs this season for the Angels, 3 more than last year with the Rockies. However, Fuentes tied his 2007 career high with 7 blown saves. Fuentes' strikeouts per nine innings (7.53) was his career low. Other signs of caution? Fuentes gave up his worst batting average against (.254) and his worst OPS against (.717) since 2004. Fuentes consistently gives up a lot more fly balls than ground balls and it wouldn't be a shock to see some of those go out of the park if his career trends downwards.
What might make you overvalue him even more? The "future" closer Jose Arredondo, angry that he didn't make the postseason roster this year, has not attended camp in Arizona that the Angels asked. Meanwhile Scot Shields fell off a cliff and got hurt. Kevin Jepsen might be the answer in the future but he has not put up an ERA under 4.50 in the majors. That plus Jepsen's double-digit hits/9 indicates a red flag in what could be Jepsen's emergence as the backup.
I'd rather have two players who might come cheaper, the two closers who led in strikeouts last year. They are the Dodgers' Jonathan Broxton (114) and the newest Ray: Rafael Soriano (102). The difference between new Astro reliever Matt Lindstrom and Brian Fuentes isn't a lot if you stare at a lot of rate stats.
When not writing here, Ryan is writing about college basketball at SienaSaintsBlog.com or about himself on his own site: RyanRestivo.com.