Week 12 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.
Shane Greene (Detroit Tigers), Brad Hand (Cleveland Indians), Hansel Robles (Los Angeles Angels), Shawn Kelley (Texas Rangers), Will Smith (San Francisco Giants), Greg Holland (Arizona Diamondbacks), Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles Dodgers), Kirby Yates (San Diego Padres), Felipe Vazquez (Pittsburgh Pirates), Pedro Strop (Chicago Cubs), Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers)
Shawn Kelley sticks out as a possible inaccuracy for the “Clear Closer” definition. But I lean towards the most accurate depiction of this Texas Rangers role having Shawn Kelley as the clear front man. I was a huge Jose Leclerc supporter in the offseason, and I would love to see him turn it around. Leclerc was the second best Relief Pitcher in baseball in one of my queries (K-BB%) over the last 30 days below. But his ERA and HR/9 are still both terrible even over limited and recent samples. Drew Smyly also picked up a save, but it was in a non-traditional (non-9th inning) situation. So right now I consider Shawn Kelley to be the clear pitcher the Rangers will turn to in the 9th inning.
Calling Pedro Strop a “clear closer” just depends on how you want to define the timeline. I have him listed as clear because for THIS WEEK, in which the article is assigned to, he was the CLEAR CLOSER for the team. I love Cishek, and I think Strop can hold it down as well, but this is clearly Craig Kimbrel’s job. That said, until Craig Kimbrel is the “clear closer” I expect Pedro Strop to more-or-less be the “clear closer.”
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.
Alex Colome (Chicago White Sox), Ian Kennedy (Kansas City Royals), Blake Treinen (Oakland A’s), Mychal Givens (Baltimore Orioles), Hector Neris (Philadelphia Phillies), Luke Jackson (Atlanta Braves), Edwin Diaz (New York Mets), Wade Davis (Colorado Rockies)
I think Ian Kennedy is pretty obviously a run-away at this point. In hindsight it is pretty perplexing they didn’t go to Kennedy right away, especially when the alternative was Wily Peralta. I could be wrong– but unless I’m mistaken Kennedy got the first SVO of the season, which made this column recommend him way back in week 1. And then he disappeared from the role. Not perfect this week but had a lot of work in high leverage.
Orioles SVOs have been frustrating and they don’t seem dedicated to one guy. And Givens also had a bad week. But I’d still say he’s more of a “clear closer” than even the head of a committee, though the latter may be more accurate. And speaking of frustrating, I have fundamentally zero idea what to say at this point about Luke Jackson. If you ignore ONE STAT, which in many ways for predictive natures can be misleading, Luke Jackson has been pretty fantastic and worthy of keeping a 9th inning role. 3.09 ERA / 2.05 xFIP. 12.60 K/9 and 69% GB%. Those are pretty fantastic numbers. The one blemish? A whopping 6 BSs in early June. That’s hard to pull off. Is it luck or struggling in certain situations? And the real important point with that question is that it doesn’t matter what I think or what you think, it matters what Snitker thinks.
Compare Luke Jackson to Wade Davis, who has obviously had his numbers inflated since returning from injury with some particularly bad performances and honestly one of the worst weeks I’ve seen from a so-called “mainstream” closer all year. Davis actually hadn’t had a Blown Save all year until this week, in which he had 2. But his numbers on the season as a whole are just so much worse than Jackson’s. His ERA is 2+ Runs higher and his xFIP 1.5+. His K/9 is closer to 10 than 12 or 13 and more importantly his BB/9 is about three times higher. He’s suppressing HRs better than Luke Jackson but how realistic is a 6-7% HR/FB% in Coors? And on the reverse side of things (covered to some extent below) Scott Oberg is really tearing it up. I wouldn’t drop Davis by any means because his name and history lend him to have a clear inside track at closer roles, but I think he may be working his way out of a job– even if that is as simple as a short return to IL to work some things out.
Teams / Closers With No Opportunity this Week
Roberto Osuna (Houston Astros), Aroldis Chapman (New York Yankees), Sergio Romo (Miami Marlins), Sean Doolittle (Washington Nationals)
Jobs to Discuss, Week 6/4-6/10
Minnesota Twins & Tampa Bay Rays
(Little of Note)
I don’t consider there to be much to discuss or at least much to discuss that is new with these two jobs. Taylor Rogers had a big week for the Twins at least in terms of getting 2 SVOs and SVs, but I don’t think this is a true change or trend of any kind. This is a committee and has the same back-end members that it has had for most of the year with Parker, Rogers, and May. Parker didn’t get an SVO this week and his lackluster seasonal ERA suggests that maybe he is losing a bit of a grasp on his role. But I don’t think he’s lost it yet and the SVO and SV from May this week felt like it may have resulted from the 3-Run rally. Rogers is still my favorite to own for a combination of competing for the Team Lead in SVs while having ratio+K numbers I feel the most comfortable with.
There’s really nothing at all to report with the Tampa Bay Rays. I probably need to find a section header for the Rays as they are just the most clear committee we have in the sport. Primarily it will be Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado with some Emilio Pagan as well. Other names wouldn’t be unlikely depending on how these guys were used the day before or how they are performing. The Rays have a very loose usage of their bullpen.
Seattle Mariners & Boston Red Sox
(The Frustrating Duo)
The Mariners and the Red Sox have been here all year– and unlike the Twins and Rays who have been here all year it has NOT been the same advice all year. The Twins and Rays frustrate us because they don’t conform to what we would prefer for our 5×5 game– but they have been fairly consistent in what they do. The Mariners and Red Sox frustrate us because they change it up, and have multiple players come in and out of roles with varying degrees of success. For the Mariners this week, it was once again Roenis Elias who had the best week and converted two clean saves. He seems to be a constant factor in the job. But the one opportunity he had to run away with the role a couple of weeks ago he seemed to really muck it up. Plus many of his peripherals are very much non-ideal for a back-end Reliever. His K/9 has “spiked” from last year up to a 9 K/9 and his BB/9 sits at an appalling 4.50 alongside it. His ERA just dipped back below 4.00, but it would not surprise me to see it rise again. Elias has the inside track for most saves, and after that it’s Bass, but this is the least-ownable Closer role in baseball.
The Red Sox carry with them a high value or at least a high potential value because we still expect them to win a lot of games– which even with a high-powered offense that can make games run away can lead to more SV opportunities than on a team like the division rival Baltimore Orioles or even the Mariners. I was just about to write-off Brasier as a factor in the closer situation, but after returning from bereavement he gets a Save and was my favorite for that role coming into the season. Matt Barnes has seemed to pitch the best at times or represent “closer stuff” the most often, but they also seem to have the highest willingness to move him around– which isn’t necessarily great for saves. Workman also seems to factor into the situation and at this point I’m really not sure who they prefer between Brasier/Workman. The way I see it, Barnes’ nature to move around means he’ll get his share of Saves independent of the other two, but there’s a bulk of saves ranging from 40-60+% that Brasier/Workman can easily get to. I think it is likely one over the other, but I’m not confident in picking which one.
Toronto Blue Jays & St. Louis Cardinals & Cincinnati Reds
Blue Jays is more of a shake-up based on injury. Biagini would have been my favorite if asked prior to the injury and Hudson got a save this past week, so those two are the most worth keeping an eye on. And while Ken Giles is on track for a short IL stint, he is still one of the most likely trade chips on the market if the injury isn’t scary to teams. Plus I always felt that the Giles / Kimbrel markets at least could be a bit tied to one another. With Kimbrel on the Cubs, it is unlikely the Cubs go after Kimbrel. But those teams struggling at the back end who want to make a big move now have one less opportunity to do so, potentially raising Giles opportunity/cost, and putting him on the move sooner rather than later.
My favorite “Cross-check” source is Closer Monkey. They’re still putting Jordan Hicks as the Clear Closer with CMart has a secondary, but I’m not quite so sure that this isn’t trending towards a full-blown committee. While Jordan Hicks fits many of the boxes stuff-wise, Carlos Martinez fits a lot more of the boxes when it comes to some of the intangible-like qualities that are often looked for in a closer, including a “veteran” sense tied both to experience and that pesky arbitration system that rewards the “SAVE” stat far more than it should. Put it this way– if this were March and not June, and the Cardinals were making the decision right now, I would make Martinez the favorite. The difference and the complication is that because of the injury and timeline, Jordan Hicks has entrenched himself and made himself the “incumbent.” I think Martinez can break through that and it seems like a role the Cardinals would want him in if he’s to remain in the Bullpen. Hicks would be great moving around if he is comfortable with the change.
Michael Lorenzen is getting more late-work and David Bell has appeared at times to be one of those managers more likely to move someone like Raisel Iglesias around if he feels that it is the best decision in that moment. I don’t know if the term “committee” is appropriate for this situation yet, but I’m definitely monitoring it and both Iglesias and Lorenzen should be owned in SV leagues.
Brief Observations on Top-10 Lists (Over the Last 30 Days)
I’ll try to focus on this section a little more next week, but here’s some brief observations on some Top-10 RP Lists, primarily WAR, K-BB%, and Holds.
Scott Oberg has been the best RP by WAR in baseball over the past 30 Days. Looking at his numbers in contrast with Wade Davis’ make you wonder how much of a leash Davis has if he continues to look like he did this past week. Oberg’s 1.50 ERA sits between his FIP and xFIP and his 13.5 K/9, 3 Ws, and 3 SVs over the past 30 Days are mighty impressive. Teammate Chad Bettis also appears in the top 10 by WAR.
Liam Hendricks is another pitcher who is on another planet these past 30 Days. An 11.57 K/9 and a 0.64 ERA stick out the most from his numbers. He’s not necessarily in-line to improve his SV standing, but he’s been impressive nonetheless. John Gant falls into many of these same categories. Top 10 in WAR and impressive, but more for the SV+HLDs or non-SV leagues.
I don’t know if Giovanny Gallegos is a name picking up steam in many non-Saves leagues/circles, but I think he deserves to be. He appeared on both my top 10 in WAR and K-BB% over the last 30 days. The Cardinals seemingly have a pretty deep bullpen, which could be causing Gallegos to go unheralded despite good results, and could cause him to miss high-leverage situations. But his performance is worth keeping up with.
Ryan Pressly has been the Holds King for most of this year, and has 9 in the past 30 Days. One of the biggest surprises in the HLDs leaderboard was probably Anthony Swarzak, now of the Braves, who also has a sub-1.00 ERA in the last 30 days. It is so hard to figure out what to make of Swarzak. The “new situation” argument is one I actually like a good amount most of the time, but early in his Seattle tenure– which was two months ago– he looked pretty good as well and he was being lauded as their Closer and much improved after moving from New York. Is he fixed now or is he just in between implosions? I hope it is the former but this year in combination with 2018 has given me reason to doubt. The Braves need high-leverage relievers which does make him more interesting as an add than some of these names if you’re looking for a player in a SVs league.
Jose Leclerc’s K/BB has been phenomenal the last 30 days. And that’s huge for him because the inflated BB% was one of the reasons that he struggled so much at the beginning of the year. The problem is that his other problem this year has been the long ball, and that still seems to be a fairly large problem. Jose Leclerc gave up 1 HR last year. He has given up 2.19 HR per 9 IP in the last 30 Days. Until he gets the long-ball straightened out, I can’t buy back into Leclerc, especially when that “1 HR Allowed in 2018” stat was something that made me buy-in in the first place.