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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Two for Tuesday: Cubs, Cards name closers

Carlos Marmol was a top-10 closer prior to fantasy draft day, and the reasons were obvious.

The 26-year-old had 114 strikeouts in 87 1/3 innings last season as the Cubs' setup man to Kerry Wood, who left to sign with the Tribe as a free agent this offseason. Marmol, an eighth-inning specialist, certainly had the credentials to be a ninth-inning stud.

Or so we thought.

1. Kevin Gregg's value is unexpectedly high, and Marmol's is the opposite.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella has been known to kick dirt on an umpire or two, and Sunday he threw some unexpected debris into many owners' lineups when he announced veteran reliever Kevin Gregg, not Marmol, would be his closer.

Gregg has the credentials -- a combined 61 saves the last two seasons with the Marlins -- and the strikeout numbers (145 in 152 2/3 innings in 2007 and 2008) to be a fantasy starter. He also has an uncomfortably high WHIP (1.23 and 1.28, respectively) and opponents' batting average (.310 and .314) the last two seasons.

He didn't allow a run all spring in winning the job over Marmol, who is prone to bouts of wildness (an average of 4.4 walks per nine innings in 2007 and 2008).

Marmol also gives up far fewer hits -- his WHIP last season was 0.93 -- and averaged a closer-like 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings last season.

If you drafted Marmol before the news, I wouldn't drop him unless your league doesn't allow for more than a few bench spots.

Gregg is a worthy starter in deeper leagues, but don't be surprised if he loses the job at some point (he blew nine saves in 38 chances last year) to Marmol in 2009.

2. The Cardinals' decision made much more sense.

With Chris Perez and Ryan Franklin as the other top candidates, St. Louis went with impressive 26-year-old Jason Motte as its closer.

Like Marmol, Motte is a strikeout machine. He fanned 16 in 11 innings in his rookie season of 2008, when he had an ERA of 0.82, and racked up 217 strikeouts in 164 2/3 innings in the minor leagues.

The converted catcher probably won't receive all the closing opportunities, but he should get enough to save 30 games.

If you're in a mixed league that has already drafted, acquire Motte before someone else does. If you've already beaten the other owners to the waiver wire, start him.

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