Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Soria Back So Soon?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Some magical arbitration date has passed unseen in the night. How else would you explain the rash of teams suddenly deciding that their young players are ready for the big leagues? Our collective unconscious only goes so far.

It's silly that we've been deprived of the services of Brett Lawrie, Dustin Ackley, Anthony Rizzo, Jemile Weeks, and to some extent Charlie Blackmon this long. And yet, under the 'Super Two' rule, it made the most financial sense for their teams to keep those exciting young players in the minor leagues. Can't get too angry about it - hate the game not the player, in other words.

Now we get a week full of debuts in the middle of June. There are worse things. In honor of all the debuts we'll see, let's name the closer tiers this week after some of the more interesting debuts of all time.


Tier 1: Elite (4) (AKA: The "Juan Marichal" Tier.)



Heath Bell, San Diego Padres
Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants

  • Apologies to Stephen Strasburg, who debuted with 14 strikeouts in seven innings and triple-digits on the radar gun, but Juan Marichal was perhaps even more dominating in his debut. After throwing a shutout with 12 strikeouts against one walk, he was well on his way to establishing his legacy.

  • Good thing that Jonathan Papelbon has an established legacy of his own, because June has not been kind to the closer. He's given up six runs while getting ten outs, but he hasn't officially been hung with a blown save. He's still only walked three guys since May 1st, and he's still an excellent closer. The only other news to report in this tier is that Brian Wilson only has two walks in his last eight appearances, which is a huge step forward for him and solidifies his position in this tier.



  • Tier 2: Rock Steady (6) (AKA: The "J.P. Arencibia" Tier.)



    J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks
    Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
    Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers
    Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates
    Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
    Huston Street, Colorado Rockies

  • He won't ever have as nice a batting average as he did after his first game, but J.P. Arencibia does have great power and is a good young catcher. He gave lessons in how to debut by hitting two home runs and a double and ending up four for his first five with a boffo slugging percentage.

  • J.J. Putz has the strikeout to walk ratio of an elite tier guy, but the injury history of a roller coaster guy. He blew his first save of the season against the Marlins last Wednesday, but recovered to strike out four guys in his last two innings. Really, you could say the exact same things about Huston Street. Their strikeout to walk ratios are almost identical, even. As long as those two guys are healthy, they belong here.

  • It's Carlos Marmol that drops to the bottom of the tier. He blew a save in St. Louis and normally we'd laugh that off as the single and shallow double that it was, but it doesn't come long after his blown save on the last day of May. His velocity is down a couple ticks, too. Still, he's got a double-digit strikeout rate and should be fine going forward.



  • Tier 3: OK options (7) (AKA: The "Jeremy Hermida" Tier.)



    Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets
    Sergio Santos, Chicago White Sox
    Leo Nunez, Florida Marlins
    John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
    Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds
    Drew Storen, Washington Nationals
    Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians

    Comment:
  • Yup. Jason Heyward debuted with a home run and four RBI, which is great and all, but did you know that Jeremy Hermida did the exact same thing - and did it in a single at-bat? Not bad at all.

  • Francisco Rodriguez has the specter of a trade looming over his head, and now he's given up eight runs in his last six appearances. He's also showing the worst strikeout rate of his career, held up by the worst swinging strike rate of his career. When he pitches, he's not bad, but the rest of the picture is a toxic portrait that deserves to knock him down a tier.

  • By only walking one dude in his last three appearances, and throwing 7 2/3 straight scoreless innings, Sergio Santos zooms to the top of this tier. That the rest of the tier has muddled along this week certainly helped. Leo Nunez and Drew Storen both blew saves, John Axford has five walks in his last four innings, and Chris Perez has only one more strikeout than he has walks.

  • Still, they should all be fine for the most part. Chris Perez has Vinnie Pestano racking up whiffs by the bushel behind him, and it won't take much of a stumble for him to lose the job. The manager can see his strikeout to walk ratio as much as any of us can.



  • Tier 4: Question marks (6) (AKA: The "Troy Tulowitzki" Tier.)



    Jordan Walden, Anaheim Angels
    Andrew Bailey, Oakland Athletics
    Brandon League, Seattle Mariners
    Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays
    Matt Capps, Minnesota Twins
    Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers

    Comment:
  • Do you remember the debut of Troy Tulowitzi? He'd likely hope you didn't, as he went hitless in four at-bats with three strikeouts. Still, it has turned out okay for him since.

  • As change came quickly for Tulo - he hit his first home run five games later - change could come quickly for this tier. Jordan Walden still has the gas and the strikeout rate of a tier above, but the walks are a little worrisome. He also gave up two runs in a shaky save in the past week. Andrew Bailey has the talent of a better tier, but he's only pitched three times since he returned and one was a blown save. Brandon League doesn't miss bats, but he gets grounders and has given up only five base-runners in his last nine innings.

  • If you're an impatient fellow, just look to the benefit of patience with the final closer in this tier. It was tempting to say he was in trouble and should be in the bottom tier - and he still hasn't shown the elite skills that he had his rookie year - but in his last four appearances, Neftali Feliz has not given up a run or a walk and has struck out two. A few more strikeouts and he'll make for a buy-low even.


  • Read more about the most volatile closer situations on the next page.


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    Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
    Email :Eno Sarris



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