Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

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The Thinning Herd

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The herd is thinning. For a while, these rankings were looking very deep top to bottom. Each week has seen a new reliever fall down the standings. With Koji Uehara struggling, Sean Doolittle on the disabled list, and several noisy blown saves in the last week, the top three tiers now contain fewer than half of the closers for the first time since I took over the rankings.


Much of this can be attributed to the rigors of the 162 game schedule. Guys get injured or tired or lose focus on one important pitch. This is why baseball has such a long schedule in the first place. Just as a full season separates the wheat from the chaff for playoff considerations, so to does it distinguish which relievers are truly excellent and which were simply on a roll for a brief period.


Clumping in the lower tiers means we could see plenty of spot saves over the final month of the season. We discussed setup men for every team last week. Those remain largely unchanged, so be certain to pick up a few of the best if you need a couple extra saves.


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

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox


Last week's scare might have been a false alarm. Not only did Chapman appear in three straight games, he pitched two innings in the middle contest. Over the four innings, he walked none and struck out nine. It seems like he's fine.


Holland and Kimbrel appeared just once, and they both locked down easy saves. Jansen picked up two saves, both of which included two strikeouts.


Uehara blew both save opportunities. The first was a five run slaughter that ended with a loss. Later in the week he allowed inherited runners to score. He ended up winning the game when the Sox squeaked out a run against Blue Jays reliever Aaron Sanchez. In any case, Uehara is up to four straight disappointing performances. I went back and forth on his placement in this tier.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (3)


David Robertson, New York Yankees

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels


Pitching on a third consecutive day, Robertson blew the save last Sunday when he allowed a solo home run to Avisail Garcia. The three day stint featured a win, a save, and a loss. Home runs have been the only thing preventing Robertson from posting elite numbers. Over 15 percent of his fly balls have left the park, whereas most top relievers keep that rate below 10 percent. His xFIP of 2.12 looks a lot better than his 3.06 ERA. It's worth noting that he's never had home run troubles, so this looks like a one year fluke.


Perkins allowed a walk off yakker to Alex Gordon last night. He did pick up a three batter save earlier in the week and had another solid performance in a non-save situation. Sometimes, good players hit home runs off good pitchers.


Tier 3: Rock Steady (5)


Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners

Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins


Allen is yet another pitcher who appeared in three straight games in the last calendar week. The first outing was one to forget. He allowed four unearned runs, including a home run. Whether you subscribe to traditional or advanced defensive metrics, the Indians are the worst defensive team in baseball. I'm only surprised this kind of thing didn't happen sooner. Allen responded by earning a win and then a save.


The good news for Rodney - he picked up two scoreless saves. The bad news is he walked three batters in those two innings. I've been saying all season to watch out for Rodney walking guys – that's when he gets in trouble. It's probably too late to buy or sell on Rodney, so you just have to hope these walks were a blip on the radar.


Benoit and Britton both pitched two innings and combined to face the minimum number of batters. Benoit saved two and Britton picked up one save.


The Marlins and Rockies had a well fought game last Saturday. With the score tied at three, LaTroy Hawkins allowed a run in the Marlins half of the ninth inning. Cishek coughed it back up when he allowed a solo shot to Corey Dickerson. The Marlins later won the game in the 13th inning, but it was another blown save for Cishek. If he wasn't struggling overall, I would dismiss a home run at Coors Field. It happens. As it stands, I'm not putting too much weight on this particular poor performance. I did demote him within the tier.

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Brad Johnson is a baseball writer for Rotoworld, FanGraphs, The Hardball Times, MLBTradeRumors and The Fake Baseball. He can be found on Twitter @BaseballATeam.
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