It seems highly repetitive after writing this article so many weeks in a row– but it must be said once more: unlike most positional articles, this article can NOT be purely analytical of baseball skills. Whether you play in a pure-Closers / Saves league, a league that counts Holds, or even the type of leagues that does Inherited Runner’s Stranded, the exception that exists in the closer position is that the Manager decides the value. Any positional player simply needs to check one box if you believe in the skill-set: will he have playing time? Even line-up position is something that is at worst a moderate negative / inconvenience, can improve, and still gives a player the opportunity to prove himself.
What is more, closing situations often DO NOT have to do with who is “best” but rather who is best suited for the overall needs of the team including the financial needs. It would take a much larger space to delve into the arbitration system, but for those who are unaware of its importance, what you need to understand is that players in their first three-to-six years are far less likely to get saves than anyone under contract. Contracts are fixed income and– while they have incentives and bonuses usually– are not nearly as variable as the arbitration system that can award the same performance from a “middle reliever” and “closer” the difference of multiple millions. In short, when you are in arbitration in years four through six of your career, the arbiters reward those who have SAVES, but do not often reward those without Saves. Therefore as an Owner, if you believe you can get the same win shares from a player by using him more flexibly, it makes sense to keep him OUT of the Closer’s role.
So since so much of what I do in this article has NOTHING to do with performance, but rather managerial intention, not much has changed in the four days since the All-Star Break. But here are some quick thoughts on what we have seen since Friday.
Post-ASB Closing Notes
Taylor Rogers is THE Closer in Minnesota
No, he may not be as much of a “closer” in a defined role as Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen or any of the other stalwarts of the position, but it just feels awkward to continue to pretend that this is an even committee in Minnesota. The Twins, by my count, have recorded 8 Saves since Mid-June. Taylor Rogers now has 7 of them. This is a greater proportion I’d wager than many of the “full-time” closers have had just by luck and circumstance. And the only so-called “negative” you can throw at Rogers is that he is a lefty, which is simply non-traditional. Rogers has an immaculate 1.69 ERA and an impressive 7.86 K/BB. As I wrote at the beginning of the year in my first RP article: “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.” He hasn’t *quite* repeated that 34.0% K% (32.5% in 2019), he is continuing to show that his breakout in 2018 was not a fluke and has been sustained into 2019.
Ian Kennedy Should Have Never NOT Been the Closer for the Royals
Seriously. This is so bizarre to me because Ian Kennedy got the VERY FIRST save opportunity after Brad Boxberger. But after that First Week Save, he completely disappeared from the role and it seemed to have little to do with skill or performance. They plugged many players in that role, including Wily Peralta, to try and “fix” it, but Kennedy is a player who fits the “under-contract” mold and the “former-starter” mold. He may not have been able to cut it in his previous role, but with 3 Saves already since the ASB, Ian Kennedy seems a clear closer for the Kansas City Royals.
Luke Jackson is the most FRUSTRATING Closer in recent memory
Let’s be clear on the word “frustrating.” Plenty of closers have been worse. Plenty of closers have been better. What is so difficult with Jackson is that he has really managed to maintain some excellent full-season statistics DESPITE some horror show performances as a Closer. He is one of the league’s leaders in the “Blown Save” category, and this week he gave up an earned run in I believe two of his three opportunities. These two facts alone suggest a mess of a player, but Luke Jackson has managed to maintain an impressive 2.87 ERA, supported by a 3.08 FIP and 2.62 xFIP alongside a 12+ K/9 and 3.56 K/BB. Basically, every “season long” statistic to me suggests that there’s no reason to believe Luke Jackson will lose this role. But he continues to give up singular runs in crucial situations, and his 6 Blown Saves are nothing to scoff at. All I can say at this point is that hopefully if you own Luke Jackson it happens to be in a roto league where you can just ignore the game-to-game frustrations of the current Braves closer. Worth noting that AJ Minter got a save finally this week as well.
The Rays are Still a Mess
It seems clear at this point that preseason favorite, Jose Alvarado, has fallen out of favor in Tampa Bay. What is not clear is pretty much anything else in regards to the Tampa Bay closer’s situation. Tampa Bay has continued to prove that they are willing to put anyone in that role at any time, and both Emilio Pagan and Diego Castillo have seemed to showcase the skills necessary to keep the role at times this season. More than anything, this is still a committee albeit with different prominent members. I do expect Castillo + Pagan to get a fair number of saves for the rest of the season. That said, the Rays at this point do not seem inclined to make it easy for us fantasy owners.
Don’t have much else to say this week. Ken Giles is a bit banged up and on the trade market, so it may be worthwhile to keep an eye on his situation. And Carlos Martinez, the former starter, seems locked in to be the Cardinal’s Closer for the rest of the year given his usage and 2 Saves since the ASB.