Most weeks this column is a bit more of a weekly review. Since we’re in the midst of the mid-season / all-star break, it seemed more apt to look at the RP position on the season, and just do a bit of recapping about where we are at this point. Alongside that recapping, a few names will stick out of these queries and potentially be adds for either SV leagues or non-SV leagues– depending on the person and situation. These are largely just observations about Closers in the league as a whole throughout the first months. Without further adieu…
All-Star Break Relief Pitchers
Much of this column will just go down some top 10-15 lists amongst Relief Pitchers. The first of these, and the most obvious for a RP article: the Save.
TOP 15 SVs
Raisel Iglesias — T14
Sergio Romo — T14
Blake Treinen — T14
Many names went into the season as clear, dominant closers. At the top of the list, Chapman, Hand, Jansen, Hader, Vazquez, Osuna, and– despite his ERA/WHIP– Edwin Diaz were some of the most obvious names to lead this list in the preseason. Kirby Yates wasn’t quite in that tier I wouldn’t say– at least amongst consensus– but a combination of a brilliant, sub-2.00 ERA and plenty of opportunity place Yates at the top of the list. Closers like Greene and Colome were pretty obviously “the guy” from the beginning of the season, but the situation itself and the projected W-L record seemed to get owners to steer clear.
To be honest there’s not a real “surprise” on this list in terms of being the closer. Hader wasn’t necessarily seen as a clear closer pre-season but that had more to do with other bullpen arms such as Corey Knebel that never came into the season healthy. Sergio Romo was on a terrible team with few options that was up in the air. It’s hard to call it “surprising” when the most likely closer by many coming into the season– Drew Steckenrider– was such a clear question mark when it came to holding the job. Romo being the “clear” closer and being top half in Saves is certainly a surprise, but not a very big or notable one at least in my opinion. Hector Neris is probably the only RP who was behind other clear RPs coming into the season (Robertson / Dominguez).
Two players at the bottom of the list are noteworthy just because they were drafted fairly highly and their grasp on the primary closer role is waning at best– Blake Treinen and Raisel Iglesias. Treinen has essentially lost the job to dominant reliever Liam Hendriks. Hendriks has been a dominant force this year and it seems the A’s want to ride the hot hand currently. Meanwhile Iglesias finds himself in a much more confusing, precarious, and undefined situation. Michael Lorenzen will continue to get Saves– perhaps more– while Iglesias is moved around the pen. For fantasy, all we can hope for is some clarity before long, even if that clarity is that this job is as flippant in predicting a save as the Tampa Bay Rays have been at times this year.
One general observation I have looking at this list is that there does seem to be a fair amount of “bad-to-average” teams getting Saves. We’ve also had a clear case of the opposite on a team like the Baltimore Orioles, so this isn’t to suggest winning has NOTHING to do with the Save Opportunity. As someone who has weekly chronicled the “Saves of the Week,” Baltimore has been a complete omission so many times. But when you see the closers for the Padres ( 1st, 45-45 ), Giants ( 3rd, 41-48 ), Tigers ( 6th, 28-57(!) ), and White Sox ( 7th, 42-44 ) placing in the top 7 of Saves, it makes you wonder what the exact correlation is between SVs and Record. Now the Padres aren’t too far out of the WC / 2nd WC spots in a very competitive middle of the National League, but none of these teams are in the Playoffs if the season ended today. I will say that I think Shane Greene’s performance — not in terms of result stats but in terms of bulk SVs– is a pretty extreme outlier. So to me, the basic observation here is that a team does not need to be a winner to produce max-saves, but rather the middle of the pack is the ideal section to target potentially. It is at the least interesting.
TOP 15 in BLOWN SVs
An interesting contrast category here that obviously does not tell the whole story– but shows RPs who failed in the face of keeping a lead. Luke Jackson is THE most enigmatic relief pitcher to me in baseball so far this year. He constantly appears, as we’ll see later, in my queries of numerous different statistics that suggest he is having a good-to-great season. But he keeps blowing these one run lead / SV opportunities enough so that he finds himself at the very top of the leaderboard. The “situation isn’t everything” stathead in me says to ignore these isolated incidents and look at the overall numbers, but as I began this with I just have no idea what to make of Jackson and his many BS’s. If the Braves continue to show faith, than I will as well as one of the better RPs in the game. But even if the BS(vs) argument is… well… BS… it is hard to ignore a CLOSER who sits atop such an awful category for a closer to sit atop.
Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman are important mentions in the wake of the news that the Boston Red Sox plan to immediately maneuver Nathan Eovaldi to be the team’s closer. Mychal Givens’ usage from the Baltimore Orioles has been encouraging, but the combination of BS’s and team wins make this such a bleak situation. And while I do not this to be a committee, he is less of a clear closer than many of his contemporaries.
Interestingly on the bottom you get the string of Mets who have had a distinct difficulty in keeping leads this season. The Mets decision to trade away Jarred Kelenic for Robinson Cano (at 36 YO) and Edwin Diaz was always terrible, and it was always going to be terrible. I was completely and utterly perplexed when I saw that trade for the first time. It reminded me of all the times I’ve played video games and “been the GM,” and managed to pull off the ultimate coup of signing a mega contract, and then trading it away before the worst years. I’ve always found these virtual reality situations extremely unrealistic. But then the Seattle Mariners go ahead and pull it off, getting Robinson Cano for about 5 final prime years before ditching a fair amount of the Salary on another team as the player clearly passes his prime. But now that Diaz has a 5.50 ERA, the deal is simply a disaster.
I asked a dynasty group I’m a part of recently a very direct and simple question: Does Edwin Diaz have a HR problem? I wrote last week how he already has surrendered more HRs in his career than the much more veteran Aroldis Chapman. HR suppression is a big deal for me when it comes to Closers, and even in his best years Diaz hasn’t been prime in this statistic. Now the mistakes are coming more frequently and being punished more harshly.
TOP 15 K/BB (min 20 IP)
Sean Newcomb is a name that instantly sticks out at the top. The former SP has had some pretty disgusting K/BB type numbers from the pen. His current K/BB sits at 13 with 26 Ks to 2 BBs in his first 25 IP as a Relief Pitcher. It is obviously a short sample, but one that deserves a good amount of attention. As a lefty, he figures to have a bright future in SV+HDs leagues at the very least, and if these numbers are at all legitimate he could be yet another LH Closer / partial closers akin to Rogers / Alvarado.
Giovanny Gallegos is a player that has been showing up on quite a few queries of mine going back about a month when it comes to “advanced” numbers you would find on a fangraphs page. Between Hicks solid year (pre-injury), the emergence of Martinez in the pen, and the performance of a player like John Gant, I feel like the Cardinals have had too many Bullpen storylines for many people to realize just how good Gallegos, owner of a 2.66 ERA, has been. I wouldn’t expect him to line up for SVs duty anytime soon, but if you get ERA benefits or HLDS+IRS benefits from your leagues or anything else to balance the “non-SV” RPs, Gallegos is a player to keep an eye on that I don’t think has been heralded nearly enough.
Shoutout to Taylor Rogers. My first article of the year was very high on him at it seems he really has built on his strong finish to last year. From the very first article, discussing his potential wire prices after getting an early save for the Twins: “Regardless of the price, Rogers is one of the most likely pitchers in my opinion to not just have value in Holds / IRS leagues, but actually have the ratio abilities to contribute in that means for a 5×5 league. After the All-Star Break last season, Rogers posted a 0.94 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, and 35 Ks to 8 BBs. His K/9 isn’t the most impressive, but his increase after that ASB to a 10.99 K/9 and 34.0% K% is substantial.”
TOP 15 xFIP
This will be the last list of the article.
Once again I’d like to point out a couple guys mentioned previously in detail: Kirby Yates, Luke Jackson, Edwin Diaz, Giovanny Gallegos, and Taylor Rogers. Yates’ positioning confirms the great success he’s had this year whilst Luke Jackson continues to conflate the argument “is he having a GOOD year or a BAD year?” Edwin Diaz is interesting. If you’re not familiar with the calculation of xFIP v. FIP, one of the major things xFIP does is essentially equate any HR to circumstances of “luck.” Edwin Diaz is not giving up HRs this year because he is leaving the ball in the center of the plate and getting hammered, but rather he has been unfortunate in the Flyballs he’s allowed in play. I’m sure each of these stances have merit, but the “HR problem” for Diaz has been too real for too long for me to simply give it up to luck. That said, the massive K/9 and general skills suggest a pitcher better than a 5.50 ERA would suggest.
One of the major names that sticks out on this list near the top is one of baseball’s premiere set-up men, Ryan Pressly. If anything were to happen to Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly would become an instant hot-add in any league where he is not already owned for his other four categories of value. There isn’t much to add here, other than that Pressly has been one of the best RP in baseball so far this year.
Next week we get back to the weekly review,