Joe Nathan was one of the more dominating closers in baseball for the better part of the 2000′s. There were saves, strikeouts, many congratulatory handshakes, and rejoicing. Then 2010 was lost to Tommy John Surgery. We hear good things about this procedure though, and it’s generated a lot of success stories. However there is “only” an “85-92%” success rate we forget that for every Strasberg, Matt Morris and John Smoltz, there is a Scott Williamson, Pat Hentgen, and dare I say it, Joe Nathan…
In real baseball a closer can be effective without racking up a ton of K’s. He doesn’t have to throw 96 mph and make everyone swing and miss. Francisco Cordero and Chris Perez are good examples this past season, each finished in the top half of the save leaders this past year, but also K’d less than six batters per nine innings. This isn’t what we are looking for in fantasy though. We want someone who is gonna get 30 saves or more and post a K/9 of nine or better (i.e. Craig Kimbrel! His 14.84 K/9 was delicious).
Joe Nathan, at his peak, was a guy that could get 40 saves, and be good for at least 1 K an inning. This surgery forces you to miss a year of playing time and last I checked Nathan hasn’t stopped aging. He pitched in 2011, and we saw him lose velocity on his fastball, give up more HR’s than ever before, and post the highest WHIP of his career. Can this be attributed to rust? Maybe, but the drop in velocity is scary. Batters never made more contact against Nathan than they did last year. He also posted his worst first pitch strike percentage since he started closing in 2004.
I’m not going to come right out and say that Nathan is done, he can certainly be effective somewhere in the real game, but looking ahead to a 2012 fantasy season, I’ll be taking a pass.