In the words of the immortal Boyz II Men, it’s so hard to say goodbye. It’s been a great run here at Saves and Steals, but this will be my last column here.
I had three goals when I got into writing. I didn’t really want to have very concrete goals — why pine to write for a single site when sites may change — but deep inside, I knew I wanted to do three things. I wanted to write for RotoWorld. I wanted to write for FanGraphs. And I wanted to be sourced for a RotoWorld blurb.
I’ve done those things now, but this isn’t about dropping the mic. It’s about continuing to grow. My clubhouse interviews just take too much time right now, and I want to devote more time to them. And the rest of my time should probably go to running the website I so wanted to write for way back when.
The good times that made us laugh outweigh the bad, and so I’d like to thank the guys at RotoWorld for having me. Aaron Gleeman for hiring me, Brett Vandermark for being a great manager, and Drew Silva and D.J. Short for being great chat bros. And you most of all, for reading. Please don’t be strangers — you can always hit me up at my first name plus my last name at hotmail or on twitter.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday night's MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:10pm ET on Wednesday. Here's the FanDuel link. Here's the FanDuel link.
For my last tiers, I’ll use the tools that are at my disposal for prognosticating closer changes. Hopefully these tools will serve you well. I don’t know where this road is going to lead — all I know is what we’ve been through.
Tier 1: Elite (4) (AKA: The “Usage” Tier.)
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
The best answers aren’t usually questions, but in this case “who’s the closer now” is best answered by “who got the last save.” We’re all trying to divine what the manager thinks, and there’s no better way to do that than to look at what he was thinking the last time his team had a lead. Who got the last few holds? Who pitched the eight in close wins? That’s your best bet for the next closer, everything else comes in the case of ties.
I’ve got no problems with anyone here. One three-run outing and two losses don’t make me think any less of Kenley Jansen’s crazy cutter. Right now, 42% of his balls in play are hits, and his career number is 27%. There’s a correlation between strikeout rate and low hit rates, so he really *should* have a number closer to 27%. Koji Uehara still hasn’t cracked 90 this year but it looks like it doesn’t matter. Greg Holland’s new excellent walk rate has now held for 80-plus innings. And I thought he might have command issues his whole career.
Tier 2: Rock Steady (7) (AKA: The “Velocity and Strikeouts“ Tier.)
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
David Robertson, New York Yankees
Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers
Joakim Soria, Texas Rangers
Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
I’ve linked to it before, but really the best graph in this piece is the velocity one. New closers, for the most part, have more gas and more strikeouts than the closers that came before them. That’s not some sort of rock solid correlation or anything, it’s observational. And, really, it ties into usage pretty well. If you have a guy with gas and strikeouts, he’s probably going to move his way up the ladder in the bullpen. And velocity is tied to success (every mph above 90 is worth about .2 runs allowed a game), so, yeah, you’re looking for good pitchers.
I’m not struggling with Aroldis Chapman’s ranking. He blew a save, sure, but he’s still averaging 100 on the gun and striking everyone out. I think his walk and homer rate will settle down to career rates. I was going to write that I wouldn’t be surprised if Glen Perkins sees his saves chances slow down a bit, but the numbers surprised me. The Twins score a decent amount of runs (fifth in the AL) and have a good bullpen (seventh in the AL by runs allowed) and those were the only things I really found well-correlated with creating save opportunities on the team level. Maybe Perkins will end up being elite this year. (For what it’s worth, the Brewers have the sixth-best bullpen ERA in the National league and have scored the ninth-most runs, and if anything, their offense could be better going forward.)
What a renaissance for Joakim Soria. Back to the plus strikeout, swinging strike, and walk rates that he put up after his first Tommy John surgery. Two Tommy Johns for everyone! Brian Wilson’s problems could actually be relevant here, though. There’s an injury risk. But with all four pitches of his arsenal working again, Soria’s looking good. A career-high in curve ball usage probably speaks to how healthy he feels, too.
Read about the more volatile closer situations on the next page.