Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

print article archives RSS

Closer Battle Royale

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

It was a disruptive week in closerland. Depending on how you look at it, three to five relievers lost the closing gig. Three teams are using a committee. A bunch of established guys allowed multiple runs in an outing.


This week was a good test of the tiers. The top two didn't so much as twitch, even with a few bad performances peppered throughout. The third tier held steady too aside from welcoming a new member to the fold. The mayhem was mostly constrained to the fourth and fifth tiers. Hopefully you had time to sufficiently hedge against the closer turnover.


Before we hop into the nitty gritty, here's your blanket reminder – it's officially trade season in the real baseball world. If history is any guide, we may start seeing deals as early as this week. Two teams seem particularly desperate for closer help, while at least three clubs have a bonafide closer on the market. Start prepping for the fall out now. We'll discuss the details throughout.


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


Tier 1: Elite (5)


Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers


Kimbrel was busy last week, netting four saves while allowing just three baserunners. Holland was less busy, he tossed two innings, picked up a win and a save, struck out five, and didn't allow any baserunners. Jansen was least interesting with a single three out save.


The Reds tried to use Chapman four days in a row starting about a week ago. He ultimately blew the save on the fourth day. He hasn't pitched since June 28.


Uehara picked up the loss on July 1, but he still saved two other games in the last calendar week. He's allowed runs in three of his last seven outings, but I see no reason to get excited. Edward Mujica, Andrew Miller, and Junichi Tazawa are all waiting in the wings.


Tier 2: Rock Steady (9)


Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

David Robertson, New York Yankees

Joakim Soria, Texas Rangers

Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers

Huston Street, San Diego Padres

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals


You may recall Perkins was coming off a bad week the last time we got to together. Since then, he appeared just once and struck out the side. I'm sure he's fine.


Doolittle walked a second batter. Sad face. Now he has 59 strikeouts against two walks. More notably, he had a tough week including a four run blow up in Detroit. The two blown saves are probably no more than a lesson in regression – Doolittle is going to occasionally walk hitters. As a pitcher who works up in the zone, he'll allow the odd home run or multi-hit appearance.


It wasn't Soria's best week. He allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits and a walk – most of them on June 27. On June 29, he took the loss (and also struck out the side). Like with Doolittle, this is probably just regression rearing its ugly head. He hadn't allowed a run since May 27 and the time before that was April 12. Even Kimbrel allows runs sometimes.


Fantasy owners might remember June 27 as the day the closers died. Cishek was just one of several who gave up a bunch of runs. Even with the four run outing, he still has a sub-3.00 ERA.


Rodriguez blew a save on June 27 when he allowed a solo home run. He later picked up the vulture win. He also snagged saves on the 26th and 28th. If you had told me in March that he would be one of the most reliable closers in baseball, I would have laughed in your face. Granted, I should know better, much crazier things happen all the time in baseball.


Street and Joakim Benoit both pitched well this week. They're on the trade block, and it's possible they'll both be moved elsewhere. If that happens, it looks like Dale Thayer and Alex Torres are the most obvious candidates to fill in. Thayer has a pinch of experience and isn't left-handed (like Torres), so I would speculate on him first.


Tier 3: The Mid-Tier (6)


Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners

Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays

Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies

Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks


Rodney watch continues. He did allow a run as part of the June 27 reliever disasterpiece, but he picked up the save anyway. No walks in two outings is nice too (that's what we're watching). I'm confident he has a grip on his command and control.


Welcome Melancon to his rightful home. A non-elite strikeout rate is his “wart,” but he's still a stingy reliever with a low ERA and plenty of save opportunities. Last week, I was hesitant to rank Melancon higher due to the presence of Jason Grilli. Now Ernesto Frieri has taken his place. I expect the Pirates won't move Frieri into the ninth inning role unless Melancon does something to lose it. Tony Watson and his 0.96 ERA might be first in line anyway.


For the second week in a row, Reed blew a save. Reliever rankings should be sticky – we shouldn't react too strongly to the occasional bad outing unless the pitcher's manager reacts strongly. Reed still possesses good strikeout and walk numbers. He's walked four batters in his last four appearances (3.1 innings), which is a worrisome sign. I've bumped him down three spots within the tier, but I still consider him a Tier 3 option.


continue story »
You can read more from Brad Johnson on Rotoworld, FanGraphs, and RotoBaller. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.
Email :Brad Johnson

Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days

Video Center

    Draft: Moore would help CAR

    Draft: Moore would help CAR
    Draft: Bryan, ATL perfect fit

    Draft: Bryan, ATL perfect fit
    NFC West draft needs

    NFC West draft needs
    Seahawks should take Griffin

    Seahawks should take Griffin
    Draft: Who should SF take?

    Draft: Who should SF take?
    Draft: NFC North needs

    Draft: NFC North needs
    Draft: Norris

    Draft: Norris' latest mock
    NASCAR Fantasy: Bristol

    NASCAR Fantasy: Bristol