Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

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Trade Deadline Aftermath

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

For our last powwow, we stared down the trade deadline, and wondered if it would be busy, quiet, or something in between. The end result was a frenetic afternoon, but relievers scarcely moved. The big change was Andrew Miller shifting from Boston to Baltimore, which mostly benefits Junichi Tazawa.


One other move with bullpen implications was the A's acquisition of Jon Lester. The trade pushed Jesse Chavez into the pen, where he has the potential to be a force down the stretch. Starters usually see a bump in velocity and strikeout rate upon joining the bullpen.


Not every pitcher's stuff improves in relief. If Chavez does improve, it wouldn't be surprising to see him take over seventh or even eighth inning duties as the club does everything it can to clinch. I expect Chavez to feature prominently in the playoffs. That's obviously not a big deal for fantasy owners, but it could be worth watching as baseball fans.


Some notable baserunners did swap homes. We'll cover those in the closing. One relevant programming note: the present author will probably be driving somewhere between New Mexico and Oklahoma when you read this. Please excuse any failure to include last night's late results.


Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday night's MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts at 7:05pm 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

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox


It can become boring to write about elite pitching. Sure, Kimbrel has a negative note for a second week in a row. This time, he took the loss on Saturday as part of a four out appearance. I could make a big deal out of his “struggles,” but I take no pleasure in creating clamor where none is due. He's still a great pick for the top closer in baseball.


My biggest story in this tier is Chapman's continued dominance. With two clean saves heading into last night, there is pressure to flip the two relief aces. We'll continue to stick with Kimbrel and the larger sample for now.


Holland faced two batters over the minimum and struck out six en route to four saves in the last calendar week. Uehara also had a routine week, although he only recorded one save in three appearances.


Jansen's Mariano Rivera routine got caught for a solo home run and a blown save last Wednesday. He hasn't had a save opportunity since, although he did pitch one uneventful inning.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (4)


David Robertson, New York Yankees

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels


Would you believe there is nothing particularly noteworthy to report in this tier? Doolittle appeared once through Monday. Perkins picked up a save last night and had one other clean appearance. Robertson peeled off three consecutive saves from Saturday through Monday. Street also slammed the door on three, but one game included some bases loaded dramatics. In any case, these guys remain very good and very stable in their jobs.


Tier 3: Rock Steady (6)


Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners

Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers


Here's a tier where we have something to discuss. Cishek looked like a candidate for a new home at the deadline, but the Marlins opted to push for contention and hung onto their only true relief stud. All owners who speculated on fringy Marlins setup men can dump those guys. Barring injury, Bryan Morris, A.J. Ramos and anyone else you targeted remains a long distance from the closer gig.


Benoit blew a save on an unearned run. Rodney allowed one run in a non-save situation. Neither event affects their status as above average closers.


Britton continues his slow, inexorable climb up the rankings. I think we're finally getting close to a steady place for him. Most successful relievers thrive on strikeouts, but a few are like Britton. He features an elite whiff rate, but his strikeout rate is on the low end because he also induces a lot of weak contact. The lack of strikeouts hurts his fantasy value.


The risk with Britton is his reliance on the ball being hit to a defender. If you're familiar with BABIP, then you might be familiar with the exceedingly nerdy phrase “BABIP'd to death.” Basically, he'll have days where he makes all the right pitches and it still goes sideways. That's true of anyone, but the risk is higher when more balls are put in play.


K-Rod recorded a couple one out saves and shut the door last night. It was a weird week. Both one-batter games were out of hand in the ninth inning until other Milwaukee relievers made them save situations. He remains on the edge of this tier due to an ongoing problem with home runs.


Tier 4: The Mid-Tier (6)


Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals

Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies

Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays


Last week I was strongly considering promotions to Melancon and Britton. Melancon took the walk-off loss on Monday after allowing a walk and a hit. There is definitely a strong case to be made that Melancon belongs in Tier 3. At the end of the day, what matters is his fantasy value. We can obsess over little tweaks to this list, but Melancon remains a good pitcher who usually dominates the competition.


Soriano completed two nondescript appearances in non-save situations. His demotion certainly isn't due to home runs. In fact, he features a tiny 1.7 percent HR/FB ratio. Most pitchers settle in around 10 percent. The scary thing about Soriano is that he's a fly ball pitcher. I decided that I need to lean on my training as a saberist and George Martin enthusiast. My house words are “Regression is Coming.” Soriano remains a very good reliever, much as Papelbon remains a useful asset. In both cases, it's hard to expect them to replicate their elite ERA going forward.


McGee seems to be settling in as the Rays closer, with Brad Boxberger the guy who's next in line. McGee hasn't seen a save situation in the past week, but he's pitched the ninth inning in each of his two appearances. Grant Balfour took an extra-innings loss, which should put him that much further from saves.


Another guy who was supposed to go somewhere at the deadline was Papelbon. His no-trade clause probably prevented anything from getting done, since he was only willing to waive it if he was acquired as a closer. He had an easy two appearance week with one save. Ken Giles hasn't completed his meteoric rise from afterthought to closer, but Papelbon could still be dealt sometime this month. I'd continue to stash Giles.


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