Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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First Half Closer Rankings

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tier 4: Question marks (8) (AKA: The "1970" Tier.)


Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays
Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Veras, Houston Astros
Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins
Joaquin Benoit, Detroit Tigers
Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies
Kevin Gregg, Chicago Cubs
Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians


This game came to an apocryphal ending at the end of the 12th, maybe you know about it. Pete Rose, chugging around third? Ray Fosse lying in wait? Everyone's seen the moment of impact, and everyone has an opinion about the morality of the play. Now that the games 'count,' we even have new way of looking at it. Does it stand out? Yes. Was it enjoyable? Depends on whom you ask.


Fernando Rodney is #20 on the list to date, and he comes in at #19 for the rest of the season. There's some risk he'll lose his job, but he's made it through the worst of times, and his team doesn't seem to like to spend resources on the closer position. So it's him or McGee, and right now there isn't a huge reason to make the switch.


From 21 to 26 it goes Steve Cishek, Mark Melancon (with two saves!), Casey Janssen, Joaquin Benoit, Kevin Gregg and Jose Veras. Gregg and Benoit could be higher on the list based on what they've done in the past, but both are extremely risky going forward. Gregg because he could be traded into a setup role, and Benoit because he could be replaced via trade (one rumor has Tim Lincecum involved!).


Rafael Betancourt is actually 33rd on the list, but we're hoping (with this ranking) that he's healthy and can put up Betancourt-ian numbers from here on out. Chris Perez, with his 1.35 WHIP and 13 saves, is actually 38th on the list! Perez, I'm a little more worried about. His velocity is still down from earlier in the season, and he has the worst zone percentage of his career. Both of those things are injury predictors, plus… he was just injured. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes down again.


Tier 5: Rollercoaster rides (4) (AKA: The "2002" Tier.)


Tom Wilhelmsen (first chair), Carter Capps (second chair), Yoervis Medina (third chair), Seattle Mariners
J.J. Putz (first chair), Heath Bell (second chair), Arizona Diamondbacks
Huston Street (first chair), Luke Gregerson (second chair), San Diego Padres
Jim Henderson (first chair), Francisco Rodriguez (second chair), Milwaukee Brewers


The tie. Of course, the only real video of the game is Torii Hunter's great leaping catch of a Barry Bonds liner, and then Bonds picking Hunter up -- a great moment worth reliving -- but the game is not something MLB has been proud of. They even wiped it off the historical scoreboard in CitiField this year. But we will always remember. 


The production to-date list of course starts to include some middle relievers with low saves totals when you get down here. The reality is that not every closer is helpful. If they get you a handful of saves with a terrible ERA and WHIP and not many strikeouts, they could be hurting you in four of five categories. That's how Tom Wilhelmsen has mostly been his team's closer all year, has 19 saves, and is only ranked #32 among the top 50 in saves so far this season. He's been showing better control of his curve recently, and his leash seems fine, but between him and Jose Veras lie Tommy Hunter (interesting name if Jim Johnson implodes again), Aaron Loup, Jim Henderson, Cody Allen and Rex Brothers. You could have been better off with a setup guy! Going forward, though, I have confidence he'll be better.


Because Francisco Rodriguez only has 22 2/3 innings to Jim Henderson 33 and 2/3, and because they have similar saves totals, K-Rod ends up 37th on the list, and Henderson is 29th. Henderson is ahead of K-Rod here, not because of the to-date rankings, but because Rodriguez is one of the most heavily-scouted players ahead of the trade deadline, and the Brewers have absolutely no reason to keep him. See the top 40 ranked below the rest of this article if you'd like to see how ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate can undo a decent saves total.


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Jason Motte (elbow), St. Louis Cardinals
Joel Hanrahan (forearm), Boston Red Sox
Kyuji Fujikawa (elbow), Chicago Cubs
Sergio Santos (elbow), Toronto Blue Jays
Ryan Madson (elbow), Los Angeles Angels


Ryan Madson is ready to start his rehab assignment! Any day now. Sergio Santos wants to be activated. Any day now. These things could matter. They probably won't, but they could.


The Deposed


Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers
Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis Cardinals
Brandon League, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers
Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox


Andrew Bailey is now on the list. He's really the only one that could come off of it. Doesn't this list seem short?


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The Steals Department


Melky Cabrera is back! He homered in rehab. He might steal you four or five bases going forward, it looks like. Not quite the heady days of yore for him. We've talked about Eric Young here before, but he's really looking like a mixed leaguer now, starting most days and stealing bags aplenty. Leonys Martin has his flaws -- he doesn't walk enough, his batted ball luck will likely turn south a bit in the future, and he doesn't play against lefties -- but he looks like he can hit .275 and steal 30 bases, which is something that should be owned in all mixed leagues with daily lineup changes. He might even hit 10 homers this year as the balls start to leap out in the August Texas sun. He's available in more leagues than he should be.


Somewhere in between the deep leagues and the mixed leagues sits Brian Dozier. He's showing more pop this year, which means that his low batting average on balls in play -- though almost exactly the same as the one he showed last year -- makes even less sense. Here's a guy that has an ideal batted ball distribution, average power, and above-average speed, and only 27% of his balls in play are landing for hits, while that number is 30% across the league. If he somehow managed to be league average in that category, he'd hit .250 or so, with double-digit power, and the ability to steal 15+ bases. That works in some MI slots. The only asterisk is that he's always shown a bad batting average on balls in play, and he's been caught six times against his eight steals. He might not get a lot of green lights if that continues.


Deep leaguers might consider getting out in front of some possible deadline changes. If Alfonso Soriano moves, Julio Borbon could get more playing time, or perhaps they call up prospect Brett Jackson again. Jackson strikes out too much, but he does have power and speed. Alejandro De Aza is surprisingly 29! The White Sox control his rights for two years, but that's too close to post-peak to count on him to get much better. Jordan Danks also strikes out too much, but he might be next in line if De Aza leaves town, and he has some speed. The Marlins' Christian Yelich has speed, and impressed people at the Futures Game with his sweet lefty swing. Not to be a broken record, but he strikes out too much too. All three of these young outfielders could give you some power and speed if batting average is no longer a concern, though.


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2013 First Half Reliever Rankings

Joe Nathan 39.2 1 30 1.36 0.76 42
Jason Grilli 40.2   29 1.99 0.86 63
Edward Mujica 41 2 26 2.2 0.73 34
Craig Kimbrel 35.1 2 26 1.53 0.99 54
Greg Holland 35 2 22 1.8 0.91 60
Bobby Parnell 43 5 17 2.3 0.91 38
Aroldis Chapman 38.2 3 21 2.79 1.11 64
Glen Perkins 34.2 1 21 1.82 0.81 47
Mariano Rivera 34.1 1 30 1.83 1.25 32
Grant Balfour 38.2   25 1.63 1.03 41
Jim Johnson 43.2 2 33 3.71 1.28 36
Addison Reed 41 4 24 3.95 1.07 42
Jonathan Papelbon 38.2 2 20 2.33 0.91 34
Sergio Romo 34.2 3 21 2.86 1.04 38
Koji Uehara 42.1 2 8 1.7 0.76 60
Kenley Jansen 46.1 3 9 2.33 0.97 65
Rafael Soriano 40 1 25 2.25 1.18 29
Ernesto Frieri 40.2   22 2.88 1.16 61
Drew Smyly 56.2 4 2 1.91 0.97 58
Fernando Rodney 40.1 3 22 3.79 1.34 56
Steve Cishek 41.2 3 17 3.24 1.08 41
Mark Melancon 44.1 2 2 0.81 0.79 46
Casey Janssen 29.1 2 18 2.76 0.89 26
Joaquin Benoit 38.1 2 8 1.64 1.04 50
Kevin Gregg 33.1 2 17 2.97 1.17 35
Jose Veras 39.1   18 3.2 1.07 42
Tommy Hunter 52.1 3 2 2.41 0.9 39
Aaron Loup 46.1 4 2 1.94 0.97 33
Jim Henderson 33.2 3 10 2.41 1.16 35
Cody Allen 39.2 4 2 2.27 1.11 52
Rex Brothers 39.2 2 4 0.91 1.13 41
Tom Wilhelmsen 41   19 3.95 1.15 31
Rafael Betancourt 25.2 2 15 3.16 1.21 24
Brad Ziegler 44.1 4 3 2.44 1.04 24
Luke Gregerson 40 4 3 2.93 1.03 36
Oliver Perez 36 2 2 1.75 1.17 50
Francisco Rodriguez 22.2 1 9 1.19 1.06 25
Chris Perez 26.2 2 13 3.04 1.35 26
Andrew Bailey 28.2 3 8 3.77 1.22 39
Tony Watson 45.2 2 2 3.35 0.94 36

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.
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