Acquired: Signed as free agent (January 19, 2011).
Contract: Two years through 2012 (includes club option for 2013).
2011 Projected ERA: 3.12
2010 Season: After a season in which he saved an MLB-leading 48 games in 2009, Fuentes' 2010 might've been better -- even with 50% fewer saves and a late August trade (necessitating a shift in job description from closer to middle reliever). Fuentes injured his back while recording an Opening Day save for the Angels and was promptly placed on the disabled list. He ensured his candidacy for "worst April ever (non-deceased division)" when he returned to the active roster on April 21, only to blow a save that day against Detroit. Hey, I said his 2010 season might've been better than 2009...stay with me here. In the first half, Fuentes posted spotty ERAs in April (3.86), May (5.63) and June (4.66), but -- like most short-inning relievers -- those numbers were skewed by one or two ugly outings. From July 1 through the end of the regular season, Fuentes recorded a 1.05 ERA and struck out 20 batters in 25.2 innings. I said "might've been", dammit!
2011 Over/Under: I've always had an irrational aversion to left-handed closers. Call it "southpaw prejudice". Yes, I know that John Franco, Billy Wagner and Randy Myers are all in the top ten for career saves. But, as a fan, I've always felt a LOT more comfortable with the gun-slinging right-hander on the mound in the ninth inning. (And, don't get me started on the A's Arthur Rhodes Experiment in 2004.) Anyways, since Fuentes hasn't posted an xFIP under 4.50 in either of the past two seasons, I'll take the OVER on that ERA projection.
By the Numbers: 1 – I don't know why I buy the Oakland A's media guide every year. Maybe because it only costs ten dollars. Maybe because I need to know the Opening Day lineup for every A's team since 1968 (Shooty Babitt! Phil Plantier!) or who holds the A's rookie record for most walks allowed in a single season (Eric Plunk, 102). Whatever the reason, after I buy the media guide, I spend the next several days devouring every page and factoid. For example, did you know that Brian Fuentes only allowed ONE extra base hit to a left-handed hitter last year? This has been "By the Numbers". Thanks for reading.
Surefire 2011 Prediction: With incumbent A's closer Andrew Bailey almost certain to miss the start of the season -- and his increasingly questionable long-term health -- Fuentes will record enough saves this year (15-18) to get within shouting distance of the number ten spot on Oakland's career saves leader list (Bill Caudill, 37). No one on that list is a left-hander, by the way. Really, y'all...this media guide pays for itself.
Old School Rap Track for the Season: Killing Me Softly, The Fugees