I'm not sure if I should pat myself on the back or shake a stern finger in my own face. A couple weeks ago, I observed that Glen Perkins' season was probably over. Then he came back, and I foolishly returned him to the tiers. Now he's probably gone for the rest of the season. Perkins has only hurt his owners since the start of the second half, but losing a stable source of saves this late in the season can be devastating.
With just a few weeks left, I'll get more aggressive moving players around the tiers. Almost any reliever listed below has a chance to be among the top few closers over a 24 day period. Yes, even Jean Machi. Depending on the depth of your league, a guy like Machi is still more likely to hurt than help. It's up to you to weigh your level of desperation when considering some of the fringier options.
Despite missing the last several weeks, Billy Hamilton still leads baseball with 54 stolen bases. Dee Gordon (50) may finally catch up this week. Gordon has attempted more steals than Hamilton, but he's been caught over twice as often. Over the last week, Ryan Braun, Carl Crawford, and Gordon led the league with three steals in three attempts. Ender Inciarte also stole three bags, but he was caught once.
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Tier 1: Elite (4)
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Andrew Miller, New York Yankees
Craig Kimbrel, San Diego Padres
Chapman and Jansen stifled the competition this week. Chapman threw three innings, picked up three saves, and added six strikeouts. Jansen pitched four times and earned three saves without allowing a run. Kimbrel blew the save last night but held on for the vulture win.
Miller also snagged three saves in four appearances, but he was touched up for a run on Monday. His bullpen buddy Dellin Betances gave up a home run on Sunday. He also walked three batters while striking out the side on Monday. Talk about three true outcomes.
Tier 2: The Upside Crowd (6)
Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
David Robertson, Chicago White Sox
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Ken Giles, Philadelphia Phillies
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
What a heroic season from Familia. He gets my vote for Mets MVP. Whereas the rotation is loaded with talent, the bullpen was an eyesore for most of the season. The additions of Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed have fixed the worst of it, but this club would be at .500 or worse without Familia stepping up. He saved two more over two innings this week.
Robertson pitched four times, throwing 3.1 perfect innings. He only earned two saves and two strikeouts over the span. Britton was even more effective with three perfect innings, one save, and six strikeouts.
Giles continues to pitch well. Like the Mets did with Familia earlier in the season, the Phillies have turned to Giles for multiple innings to avoid an otherwise lousy bullpen. So far, he's handled the multi-inning challenges with aplomb.
Allen may be best pitcher in the second tier, but he's had a weird (and concerning) season. A high BABIP is probably just an anomaly, but there could be a non-obvious underlying cause. He pitched well in two innings this week.
Tier 3: The Mid-Tier (8)
Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays
Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs
Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals
Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels
Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers
Luke Gregerson, Houston Astros
I've bumped Melancon down to the third tier. He's allowed five runs on five hits and a walk over his last 1.2 innings. I'm not concerned enough to completely jump off the bandwagon. A speculative add of Joakim Soria or Tony Watson might be appropriate.
I shuffled the order of the other seven pitchers in this tier. Osuna has the thinnest track record of the group. There's no telling how he'll hold up down the stretch. To date, he's been extremely effective with 10.09 K/9, 1.78 BB/9, and a 2.08 ERA.
Rondon took the loss last Wednesday, but the three runs he allowed were all unearned. He's since closed out two more games. He's up to 27 saves on the season despite losing the job for a long stretch.
Holland returned to action yesterday after a mini-break. He finished a perfect save but didn't record a strikeout. Davis hasn't earned a save since late August. The job seems to still belong to Holland.
It was a busy week for Papelbon. He appeared four times, threw six innings, and recorded a win, a loss, a save, and a no decision. Yesterday was the heartbreaker for Nationals fans. He allowed a game-losing home run after the rest of the bullpen blew a seemingly safe lead. I bumped him down in the tier, but there's no change in his value.
Gregerson lost a game to the Twins on Saturday then bounced back with a save on Sunday. Rodriguez saved two games in two appearances.
Tier 4: Questions (4)
A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins
Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers
Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays
Ramos remains the uncontested closer in Miami while Carter Capps continues to languish on the disabled list. Capps threw a pain-free bullpen session yesterday and could return next week. Look for any news about how he's feeling today. As for Ramos, he pitched four times with a win, a save, and a blown save. He struck out three, walked four, and allowed five hits in 4.1 innings.
Boxberger blew the save last Wednesday via two-run home run. He bounced back with a clean three-out save on Saturday. Tolleson had an easier time of it with three saves over three innings. He faced just 10 batters and struck out four.
I feel like I'm sticking my neck out to move Doolittle into the fourth tier. He's a risky play over the rest of the season, but his velocity has mostly recovered. He's averaging 93 mph. He earned the save on Monday. He'll probably continue to handle the ninth until he has a bad outing. He's even pitched consecutive days already.
Tier 5: Roller Coasters (8)
Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves
Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants
Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks
Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners
Bruce Rondon, Detroit Tigers
John Axford, Colorado Rockies
Last week, I mentioned this could really be two tiers. That's still the case. Vizcaino pitched reasonably well over 3.2 innings. He allowed one run, four hits, a walk, and stuck out six. Unfortunately, the run he allowed resulted in a blown save.
Casilla has been extremely stingy - he's allowed one hit in his last eight outings. The Giants aren't producing many save opportunities these days. He has his share of bad weeks.
Wilhelmsen is the undisputed closer in Seattle now, but we all know how quickly things can change. He's pitched well with three saves in three appearances (4.1 innings).
Jepsen will now close games for the Twins, but he isn't a reliable option. He very nearly blew the save on Saturday. After allowing a solo home run and loading the bases, he squeaked by on a smashed line out to center field. May could also see a few save opportunities down the stretch.
Despite excellent velocity, Rondon continues to allow runs. He blew the save yesterday and closed out a nail biter the previous day. Between a .358 BABIP and a high walk rate, Rondon is likely to damage your ratios even as he earns saves.
Tazawa is undeniably a better pitcher than Machi. It's hard to say who will receive the next save opportunity since neither pitcher had a chance this week. Machi allowed three runs in 1.2 innings while Tazawa held opponents scoreless over 2.2 frames.
Last and maybe not least is Axford. The Rockies embattled closer has the job solely due to the lack of alternatives. At least he held opponents scoreless in two save opportunities this week.
Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers
Adam Ottavino, Colorado Rockies
Jason Grilli, Atlanta Braves
Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
Perkins might return this year. He might not. We'll see.
Doolittle is undeposed. His inclusion in the first place was more of a procedural technicality than anything else.
The Steals Department
It's nice to see Inciarte running again. As I mentioned in the intro, he stole three bases in four attempts. In fact, when you look at attempts per opportunity, Inciarte was on a heady pace last week. He had just two singles and two walks in 23 plate appearances. He had four steal attempts. I'll let you do the math. In truth, two of the stolen bases came in one trip against Jon Lester. Maybe he won't actually attempt to swipe 20 bags over the rest of the season.
Ketel Marte is widely available. The Mariners leadoff hitter doesn't offer much by way of power or run production. He's capable of stealing five bases through the end of the season with a solid average and a decent run total. There are dozens of comparable middle infielders around the league these days, but few are batting leadoff.
Since the start of the second half, Elvis Andrus is hitting .288/.316/.402 with eight steals and three home runs. The narrative is that he's responding to a wake up call from his coaches. In reality, we're probably just looking at a blip of modestly useful production from a league average player. Andrus used to be a 30 to 40 steal threat, but he's lost half a step as he's aged.
With the Giants trying to survive multiple injuries, Gregor Blanco is seeing regular work. The Giants fourth outfielder is actually having a marvelous season with a .291/.370/.415 line. Those are leadoff quality numbers, and he's on a 25 steal pace over a 600 plate appearance season. If he continues to play regularly, he could take another five bags before the end of the season. Blanco should also chip in with average, runs, and even the odd road home run.