Key Stats: In 2007, J.J. Putz was the best closer in fantasy baseball, a top twenty overall player, and a repeat top fifty player according to Yahoo rankings. He pretty much was the same player as Craig Kimbrel last year. Then 2008 happened. Putz pitched through a rib injury and had a career worse walk rate (essentially giving up 3 times the walks per 9 innings he did in 2007 and 2011). He continued the poor walk rate into 2009 with the Mets before he was finally shut down in June. After elbow surgery, it took him a month but he was as dominant as ever in May, June, and July with the White Sox. Dominant enough for the Diamondbacks to take a chance on him last season.
Skeptics Say: Putz had a great year by the numbers for the second straight season and appears to still have great stuff after elbow surgery in 2009. The problem wasn’t the numbers, but the fact that he still missed time as a result of his elbow in the month of July. Putz could have had over 50 saves (David Hernandez had 7 in July) if he had stayed healthy. Putz will be 35 on Opening Day, so it’s hard not to be skeptical about his health again next season.
Peer Comparison: The other day Jonathan Papelbon was profiled, and Putz is settling two spots away from Papelbon. It’s very possible that Papelbon could have been ranked ahead of Putz. Here’s a look at their numbers last season:
As far as the 5 x 5 categories including saves, Putz was better last year. Everything changes this year especially saves with Papelbon heading to a new team, so we just have to go by who is the better pitcher. I would think that last year Papelbon's xFIP would indicate that he could have been the better pitcher if he was in Philadelphia. When you consider that Papelbon is younger and has less injury history, it again tips the scales in favor of Papelbon.
So why is Putz ranked higher? My only problem with Papelbon is that he went through essentially the same problem as Putz. Along with Putz he was the most dominant closer in fantasy baseball in 2006 and 2007, but his walk rate ballooned in 2009 and 2010. He was able to regain his control last year, but I want to see a larger sample size before being sold on his control. Putz was able to pitch successfully after signing a new contract. The jury is still out on Paps.
Team Outlook: Putz really enjoyed pitching away from Chase Field last year. He had an 0.36 road ERA last year (1 earned run). To show just how tough Chase Field was on him, Putz actually had a better strikeout and walk rate at home.
What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #5 Relief Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #11 Relief Pitcher & #143 Overall; RotoChamp: #125 Overall
Projection: I doubt that Putz will get the same number of opportunities to close games and would take the under on 68 innings pitched this season, but the guy does know how to pitch. Lefties and righties alike couldn’t get the OPS over .630 against him last year.
4 wins 38 saves 2.65 ERA 1.02 WHIP 65 K in 60 innings