Week 8 Closer Review
Clean Week Closers — Players who have little-to-nothing to discuss role wise, as well as got their team’s save Opportunities this week and converted flawlessly.
Roberto Osuna (Houston Astros), Blake Treinen (Oakland Athletics), Hansel Robles (Los Angeles Angels), Alex Colome (Chicago White Sox), Brad Hand (Cleveland Indians), Aroldis Chapman (New York Yankees), Ken Giles (Toronto Blue Jays), Wade Davis (Colorado Rockies), Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles Dodgers), Will Smith (San Francisco Giants), Kirby Yates (San Diego Padres), Raisel Iglesias (Cincinnati Reds), Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers), Felipe Vazquez (Pittsburgh Pirates), Hector Neris (Philadelphia Phillies), Edwin Diaz (New York Mets), Sergio Romo (Miami Marlins)
Clear Closers who “Struggled” — “Struggled” taken loosely. Simply the closer fails to live up to the criteria of the former category. Specifically, the world “Flawlessly.” But they are the clear closers with little to discuss.
Mychal Givens (Baltimore Orioles), Sean Doolittle (Washington Nationals), Luke Jackson (Atlanta Braves)
Teams / Closers With No Opportunity this Week
Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks
Jobs to Discuss, Week 5/14-5/20
Seattle Mariners: Like last week, the Mariners allowed us to see the fluctuation in the back-end of their bullpen, but failed to give us the significant sample of Save Situations we would need to feel completely confident moving forward. If you look back a couple of weeks ago, I was surely not recommending Roenis Elias. And while his Skill-Set still leaves something to be desired, he may simply be the least-ugly option there is in Seattle right now. Swarzak has looked absolutely lost of late and is repeating his 2018 volatility. And Elias’ K/9 is up and moving in the right direction. If his HR Suppression that he’s shown the last two years at least can remain legitimate, it should allow him to at the very least pitch to contact and collect a handful of Saves throughout the season.
Minnesota Twins: Just small points of discussion here. This is PRIMARILY Blake Parker’s job, but it is primary in a way that is different to the way that Edwin Diaz is the PRIMARY closer in New York for the Mets. Others will get saves, and if the Twins falter Parker could perhaps not have RP1 levels of Saves. But he’s a solid closer in a valuable position nonetheless.
Boston Red Sox: This one is a difficult one of course. Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, and now Brandon Workman have all gotten saves for the Boston Red Sox as a functional closer so far this season. The one that I’m the least excited about at this point is Brasier. The K/9 was never particularly impressive from Brasier, but when the BB/9 and HR/9 don’t maintain at their stellar rates, those lack of Ks become awfully concerning. Brasier has seen a +0.88 and +0.84 changes in his BB/9 and HR/9 respectively. Matt Barnes has clearly been one of the best and most dominant RPers in baseball thus far this year. In a SV+HLD or non-Saves format, I do believe the answer becomes VERY clearly Matt Barnes. But the Red Sox seemed determined also to use Barnes in a variety of roles and places throughout a ball game. Workman only has one save, so it is hard to forecast a huge growth for him. But it is likely if Brasier continues to struggle that someone else takes the mantle as Barnes’ counterpart– a role that could potentially be more valuable in a traditional Saves league.
Tampa Bay Rays: This is a difficult one, but also not a difficult one from the standpoint that I think a “What you see is what you get” attitude is about all you can have when courting these Tampa Bay RPs. Alvarado got a bloody nose at one point this week, but also got his 5th Save. Diego Castillo, by some stroke of fate, got his 5th Save as well. Pagan has gotten saves and been one of the better RPs in baseball this May. If you own especially Alvarado and Castillo, you’re expecting Saves, but not the number of Saves you get when you have the “Closer” of a team. I’d expect 40/40/20 with the final 20 being split amongst the non-Castillo/Alvarado relievers on the Rays.
Chicago Cubs: It’s a relatively low excitement, but Steve Cishek’s ascension and two Save week have me very satisfied and excited. In my first ever RP article for MLFS back at the beginning of the year, I claimed Cishek as a player likely to ascend to a Closer Role who had gotten relatively no buzz whatsoever. Brandon Morrow has a good chance of immediate ascension to the Closer Role with health, but he’s been hurt all season. And Strop, while also being held back by reasons of health, has struggled a bit this year. I don’t think Cishek is the “closer” ROS, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we had at least a Dozen more saves for Cishek this season. The three favorites for the Cubs I think are clearly Cishek and the two aforementioned gentleman on IL.
Looking Into May WAR (RPs)
For this week, I decided to look at the May Split, and see which RPs were leading the league in WAR so far. WAR is an interesting stat to use for this kind of query, but there are definitive reasons for why I chose it. For one, IP and Rs Allowed are both going to be important for WAR. WAR also seems to be slanted towards Ks or K/9. So while this figure may not be perfect, for judging small samples, I think it works quite well. Numbers by Names equate position amongst the top 30 RPs in WAR.
The Closers — Matt Barnes (1), Kirby Yates (3), Ken Giles (5), Felipe Vazquez (11), Diego Castillo (12), Josh Hader (13), Luke Jackson (15), Aroldis Chapman (19), Steve Cishek (22), Sean Doolittle (23), Roberto Osuna (29)
This is just a quick list of the players in this WAR Query who have been “covered” already due to being a “Closer.”
Scott Barlow (2) is a very interesting player. So far in his 10 May innings, Barlow has not just held opponents scoreless, but done so with 18 Strikeouts and only 1 Walk. While Barlow has never showed this level of skills potential before necessarily, 2019 is the first season in which Barlow is a Relief Pitcher only. In each of his previous seasons he worked as a starter at some point, and we have seen the “failed starter” path lead to skilled relievers before. If you play in non-Saves leagues, Barlow is that player who is becoming simply too hot NOT to own (depth / roster withstanding). With any luck, these changes will prove themselves legitimate.
While the Cincinnati Reds have not gotten off to the hot start many fans hoped for, the back-end of their bullpen has made strides to be a quietly formidable unit. Two of these players— Amir Garrett (4) and Michael Lorenzen (18)— show up in this query. Garrett fits into Barlow’s category of a converted reliever. While Garrett certainly hasn’t panned out as a Starter, he does have a number of interesting qualities as a converted RP. His 1.40 ERA and 28:8 K:BB this season alongside a solid HR/9 are all reason for optimism for Garrett, who is still just 27. Lorenzen doesn’t flash the same upside in my opinion, but is a legitimate source of Holds who could also hand a Save or two more this season.
Last week, in researching another player, I found a list of RPs who had yet to allow a HR. There was one name I dismissed, that now sticks out again as one of the best RPers this Month based on WAR: Joakim Soria (7). He isn’t a new name (35 YO) by any means. And it isn’t like he is far removed from a great season (3.12 ERA in 2018). His overall numbers when I looked a week or two ago made me think there wasn’t much to see here, but now looking at his May that seems to have been a mistake: Soria has a 2.70 ERA and a 9:1 K:BB rate and has still yet to have surrendered a HR. He’s not a Closer by any means, but definitely someone worth watching as he continues to put up solid performances.
One of the more interesting names to appear in my Query was Sean Newcomb (9) of the Atlanta Braves. Newcomb is also a “former” Starter, but “former” demands quotations because Newcomb was a Starter as recently as April / the Opening Day Roster. Regardless, he has been used on 7 occasions in May and never as a Starter– and he has yet to surrender an ER. Perhaps more impressively, Sean Newcomb has found a way to keep his walks not only down, but non-existent so far in the bullpen. There are plenty of hazards involved in an 8.1 IP sample size of course, but it is certainly encouraging to see 0 BBs and 0 HRs in those first 8.1 IP of May from Sean Newcomb.
The Elite Loogies — Jalen Beeks, Jake Diekman, Tony Watson, and Oliver Perez
It has been discussed before in this article, but there is a major advantage in a number of league contexts to being a LHRP. Lefty Specialists often find themselves in hold situations, and as the only requirement for a “Hold” is that you do not surrender the lead, they may also find themselves conveniently lifted and receiving a hold regardless of performance. This has potential to affect “Inherited Runners Stranded” in a similar way. These four lefties have been amongst Baseball’s best RP’s in May.
Jalen Beeks (10) is just another piece of the surprisingly talented Tampa Bay Rays bullpen. Beeks has been used as both Long Man and Closer this year. His 9.24 K/9 may not be the most impressive figure that you see amongst elite RPs, but he misses a fair number of bats (12+% SwStr%) and limits the damage through the longball (0.28 HR/9 in 2019). If the latter limitation of the longball is legitimate, Beeks profiles to be quite the solid RP.
Jake Diekman (14) is an interesting player who has had a bit of a bounceback recently in Kansas City. The Walks are still there for Diekman (4.05 BB/9) but if this Diekman shows up consistently he’ll be a good source of Ks and Holds. On a better team, he could even muster a few more holds.
Watson and Perez in this situation are the complete Vets. They are old and have been around for a while. But that also means that their teams are incentivized to use them as much as they can possibly handle in the most important spots that the manager believes they can handle. Watson is solid if you’re looking for IRS or Holds. Perez holds a bit more upside in the K/9 department, and is also likely to get Holds in close games for the Cleveland Indians.
That’s all I have for this week. Cheers.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show Join host Cole Freel live on Sunday May 19th, 2019 from 8pm-9:30pm EST for episode #161 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. We will discuss spot starters for the coming week, plus a weekend update, and look ahead to next week.
Our guests this week are Joe Iannone and Bryan Luhrs. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com and his articles publish every Sunday. Bryan is the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports and is also a league owner as well as a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday May 23rd, 2019 from 7:30-9pm EST for episode #162 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Cole and Kyle will discuss the latest happenings in the world of MLB and fantasy. They will take a look back on the previous few days and a preview of the coming weekend. Including spot starts, bullpens, offense, and minor league players.