Hey Yo - how bout dem Niners! I will be Kaepernicking the whole way to a Super Bowl Victory ya’ll. I know, I know, I am supposed to be writing about fantasy baseball and closers or some shizz but I just can’t help myself, this is very exciting! As a Niners fan, the chance of getting to the Super Bowl in back to back years is special to watch, since we went through a decade of complete ineffectiveness. I have been betting throughout the playoffs, and happen to have an awesome record, but I will not disclose that information because I have not posted my picks before any of the games happened. Although I do have the text messages sent as proof, but that is beside the point.
The San Francisco 49ers are heading into a hostile environment hosted by the Seattle Seahawks and their 12th Man. The last 2 times the 49ers played in Seattle they got demolished in every phase of the game. As of right now, the 49ers are 3.5 point underdogs in this rival/grudge match. But the 49ers are a different team now, with much better weapons than the Seahawks. The 49ers also have a better all-around defense in this meeting compared to the last time they played in Seattle. We as fans have witnessed this the last several years, where the hottest team at the end of the season and during the playoffs usually wins everything. Well folks, this year that team is the 49ers, and I’m not being biased as a fan. The main aspect that worries me about this game is the Seattle 12th man. This is a huge, huge advantage for the Seattle Seahawks. But the 49ers have the momentum, playoff experience, better defense, better offensive weapons and The X Factor in Colin Kaepernick. If Kaep can scramble and create space to run, in order to extend plays (which he has failed to do in the previous two meetings in Seattle), then the Niners win this game by at least a touchdown. But if Seattle is able to contain Kaep and keep him inside the pocket, then Seattle should sneak by with a field goal. This line of -3.5 could easily move to -4 by game time. Either way I am betting on the Niners to win, and if not win, at least cover the 3.5 points. Value bet!
My Pick = SF +3.5
Denver vs. New England
Don’t worry, I will be writing about fantasy baseball closers shortly, but first I have to state my wager on the Denver/New England game. When betting on football games, or any sporting event for that matter, there are several statistics, trends, factors, advantages, disadvantages, weather conditions, injuries and so on to consider when contemplating your pick. But sometimes all it comes down to is a hunch, or just plain old good luck. If you take a look at the Denver/New England game there are a lot of similarities, with not many differences. Well there is one but I will touch on that in a little. Both defenses are pretty bad, and whichever of these teams win, I will pick the NFC team to win the Super Bowl, whether it is Seattle or San Francisco. So here is exactly how I see this game and how I am betting this game - call me crazy or call me what you want, but at the end of the day, I win.
Actually before I do that, I want to make everyone aware that I am not your average public better nor am I a tout - this is all free. I do not bet based on team names or records for that matter. I know every player from each team, and I consider their strengths and weaknesses, but for this particular bet I am using the KISS format. For those of you that do not know what that means, it means Keep It Simple, Stupid. So here it goes. I see this game as Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady because everything else pretty much equals out. I don’t care where the game is played, I will take Tom Brady over Peyton Manning every single time, and will probably win 8 or 9 times out of 10. I love them odds. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that New England is getting 5 points - um, that is called value my friend. Tom Brady plus 5 points, all day, every day, money in da bank! As Adam Schein says, “Mark the Tape”. And if I am wrong then call me out, no issues.
My Pick = NE +5
Closer City - AL Central
This is my second of six preseason fantasy baseball "closers & saves" articles, based on MLB teams and their current closer situations in each of the divisions throughout MLB. The first week I focused on the American League East Closers, and this week I will turn my attention to the American League Central division. Each week I will try and discuss each closing situation within that specific MLB division. I mentioned in my last article that the discussion on each team will be pretty brief because of how early it is - I mean pitchers and catchers do not even report to spring training until the second week of February. When I discuss each team, I will dictate who I think the primary closer option is, the possible sleeper, and the dark horse sleeper for that given MLB team. Many of your corporate roto websites have great writers who write about closer carousels, and I will never dog them, but just remember this guy also.
You can continue to follow those writers, but please keep me in mind because I am the dark horse fantasy baseball sleeper analyst who will lead your team to victory in the saves category. Just ask those readers who followed me on RotoBaller last year. I get involved with other fantasy sports, but fantasy baseball is by far the best fantasy sport in the world, and my strong suit is closers. If you read my articles from last year then you know that I have steered you in the proper direction, but if for some reason you need further proof then I can also provide that information. The fluctuation of closers grows each year, and I follow relief pitchers closely, so trust me and let me guide your fantasy team in the saves category. On that note of trying to sell myself (which I am not good at because I am not a sales person), let’s get into the purpose of this whole article and talk about the closers or possible closers of the American League Central.
On December 4th of 2013, the Tigers signed Joe Nathan for a two year deal pretty much sowing up the closer position in Detroit for the next two years. Joe Nathan should close out games solidly for the Detroit Tigers for the next 2 years, unless there is an injury or if for some reason he loses his confidence. The other in house options could be Bruce Rondon (throws hard but has no idea where it’s going) and Al Alburquerque. Al strikes out tons of batters, which represents a great closer quality, but the problem is that half the time nobody is sure where the ball is going. He walks batters in bunches, but if there was any way he could get his pitches under control then he could be a great closer and possible sleeper. Until then, so goes Joe.
As of right now John Axford sits atop the depth chart as the Indians closer. Honestly, I do not see this panning out. Axford has only one solid year of closing under his belt, and some fantasy experts would consider that “closer experience.” Apparently, last year the Cardinals coaches fixed a flaw in Axford’s delivery which helped him finish out the 2013 strong. For his sake, I hope this is true and he continues to pitch well - but I am not buying him as a solid fantasy baseball closer in 2014 until I see it. Axford walks too many batters and is prone to giving up the long ball. I’d like to see the Indians choose Cody Allen as their preferred option to pitch the 9th, and I can see this happening once Axford proves that he is not a closer. The alternative options if neither of these guys can handle the job would be Bryan Shaw and Vinnie Pestano.
Kansas City Royals
Greg Holland dominated in his first full season as the Royals closer by saving 47 games and striking out 13.83 batters per 9 innings. At only 28 years old, he will undoubtedly be their closer again in 2014. The other in-house options, if Holland squanders, gets injured, or gets traded are: Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar (assuming he stays in the pen) and the dark horse sleeper Kelvin Herrera.
As one of the few left handed closers in the game, Glen Perkins pitched extremely well for the Twins Basil, Twins in 2013. He compiled 36 saves with an 11.18 K/9 rate last year. Perkins will once again be asked to work the 9th inning in the upcoming season. In theory he could be a candidate to be traded, if and when the Twins fall out of contention. If this comes into fruition then his replacement options are: Jared Burton, Casey Fien (sleeper), and Michael Tonkin (dark horse sleeper).
Chicago White Sox
On December 16th, the White Sox traded away their closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks and received third baseman Matt Davidson in return. Some may think this trade was a mistake, and that it would leave a glaring whole at the closer position for the White Sox. I personally think this was a very good move for the Chi-Sox and I believe they have 2 possible viable in-house options to replace Addison Reed. As of right now I am predicting that Nate Jones begins the season as their closer, but I could see Daniel Webb as the sleeper/dark horse sleeper to steal the job and keep it. I really like Webb’s upside, even with his limited Major League experience. The other two alternatives for saves in 2014 could be Matt Lindstrom and Ronald Belisario.