Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (6) (AKA: The "Bryce Harper" Tier.)
Tyler Clippard (first chair), Sean Burnett (second chair), Washington Nationals
Jose Valverde (first chair), Joaquin Benoit (second chair), Phil Coke (third chair), Detroit Tigers
Brett Myers (first chair) Brandon Lyon (second chair), Wesley Wright (third chair), Houston Astros
Jared Burton (first chair), Glen Perkins (second chair), Minnesota Twins
Bobby Parnell (first chair), Jon Rauch (second chair), Miguel Batista (third chair), New York Mets
Carlos Marmol (first chair), Shawn Camp (second chair), Chicago Cubs
Casey Janssen (first chair), Francisco Cordero (second chair), Jason Frasor (third chair), Toronto Blue Jays
It's really been too long since Bryce Harper won a championship.
Once again, it seemed like someone should leave this tier and graduate, but other than Wilhelmsen, there wasn't a great candidate. Tyler Clippard has been excellent, and now the news is that Drew Storen might set him up when he returns. But narrative still has some power -- Storen was drafted to be the Closer of the Future, and he did nothing to warrant losing the job. This is no fait accompli -- look at Seattle, where the team keeps saying they want Brandon League in the job, and they keep running Wilhelmsen out there. If Clippard does indeed keep the role, it's been a sorry waiting game for those that kept Storen on their roster all year. Then again, you've waited this long, why give up now? Jose Valverde obviously has some leash, and he earned it with that crazy save streak, but he's hurt right now and hasn't appeared in a game in almost two weeks. Brett Myers righted the ship, but the fanbase for any team with a need in the bullpen has been talking about him as a target for weeks.
With Matt Capps on the DL with shoulder issues, there's a real opportunity in Minnesota. Glen Perkins is the better pitcher of the contending duo, for sure. Though Burton has altered his pitching mix significantly this year -- he's using his changeup more than ever and has reduced his use of the slider -- and has had good swinging strike rates throughout his career, he's never been this good. Perkins has been this good ever since he moved to the bullpen. There's one problem -- Perkins is a lefty, and lefties are half as likely to be closers as they should be. So you have to ding Perkins for using his left arm, and then you'll notice Burton has gotten the last couple of saves. Still, if Burton's strikeout rate falters, or his batted ball luck changes, Perkins will still be there, pitching excellently.
It's a shame the Mets didn't win Tuesday night so that we could find out what they would do with chicken-farmer Frank Francisco on the DL. Bobby Parnell is the obvious favorite, but that organization has had many chances to make him the closer, and hasn't really ever taken the opportunity. Jon Rauch has the vaunted closer experience, but other than his height and excellent control, there's not much to recommend him. Miguel Batista might not even be a major leaguer on any other team, but he's actually pitching high-leverage innings right now. The Mets will hope that Francisco isn't out long.
Was anyone really waiting for Carlos Marmol to return? He's back, but let's just say he's not 'back.' He hasn't yet shown the oomph he needs, given his terrible control. A few borderline calls got him the save Tuesday night, and he really didn't seem to be fooling people.
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Andrew Bailey (thumb), Boston Red Sox
Kyle Farnsworth (elbow), Tampa Bay Rays
Drew Storen (elbow), Washington Nationals
Sergio Santos (shoulder), Toronto Blue Jays
Matt Capps (shoulder), Minnesota Twins
Frank Francisco (oblique), New York Mets
It really looked like the waiting game might end up badly for Sergio Santos owners, but he's throwing again, so that's good. Still, this could end up going either way. Andrew Bailey also had a setback, and if you've been following his career, you know that despite the fact that he's ahead of Santos, he's no sure thing either. Drew Storen is going to throw a simulated game sometime this week, but will he be a closer when he returns? The MRI didn't show anything serious for Matt Capps, and it's a cortisone shot and two weeks of rest. He might be fine, even though we all waited for a long time for this chance for Glen Perkins. Frank Francisco is part of perhaps the worst bullpen in the league, and after he called the Yankees chickens, and admitted he had a chicken farm (ostensibly to prove his expertise in the matter), he also admitted that his oblique was hurting. We'll see how long this takes to heal, but Francisco is only good for about 50 innings a year anyway, if past is prologue.
Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels
Hector Santiago, Chicago White Sox
Grant Balfour, Oakland Athletics
Javy Guerra, Los Angeles Dodgers
Sean Marshall, Cincinnati Reds
Henry Rodriguez, Washington Nationals
Brandon League, Seattle Mariners
Rafael Dolis, Chicago Cubs
Sean Marshall might have been close for a minute this week, and he does still get saves from time to time, but Brandon League looks like the only name that might come back to the closer's role.
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The Steals Department
A reader emailed me last week asking about a leaderboard of sorts. He'd seen all the names I'd put forth in the Steals Department, and he wanted to know how they stacked up against each other. So that's what I'll do! This week, I gathered the ZiPs rest-of-season projection numbers that we house on FanGraphs.com and sorted for stolen bases the rest of the way. Then I removed the guys that should be owned in all leagues -- like leader Michael Bourn, Mike Trout, Jacoby Ellsbury, B.J. Upton and Hanley Ramirez -- so that we could focus on free agents. Then I removed a couple names that I didn't think would be relevant in most leagues -- like Darin Mastroianni in Minnesota and Kevin Mattison in Florida -- so that we could focus on those that will see more playing time.
Hopefully the results are helpful. (As a bonus, it's sortable, in case you really want to find the best power guy with steals on this list.)