Closer Rankings: K-Rod, the zombie reliever

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

The ex-star closer is back from the dead in a big way, and has been the best reliever in fantasy so far this season.

I have questions.

You guys, seriously. Questions. This guy's career was over a few years ago. The Mets hated him and couldn't be more eager to get rid of him. He was traded to the Brewers for Danny Herrera (claims to fame: short; traded for Josh Hamilton) and Adrian Rosario (claim to fame: who?) when the Mets were done with him.

The Brewers used him as little more than John Axford insurance ("If you don't straighten up and act right, John, mama will have to call in Francisco!") until they dealt him to Baltimore last year. Even then, he pitched in 23 games, had no saves, put up a 4.50 ERA and a 1.364 WHIP. He became a free agent in the offseason, and nothing much happened. It took until February for him to get a contract, and even then it was just a one-year deal as nominal insurance, only this time it was for Jim Henderson.

Only, he got the Brewers closer job in spring this year, and dude's been insane. Like, insane insane. In 14 games, he's pitched 14 innings (cool how that works). He's allowed eight baserunners (five hits, three walks). He's struck out 21. He's allowed no runs. He has 11 saves and has been worth 0.7 fWAR, which already matches his combined 2012 and 2013 totals.

Now, to be fair, he's almost certainly on a hot stretch, as his .208 BABIP would be his best since 2003, and 70 points below his career average. He (obviously) has a 100 percent strand rate, which also seems unlikely to sustain. And his ground-ball rate, which has typically hovered in the low-to-mid 40s, sits at 54.2 percent right now.

In the long run, odds are Rodriguez sinks back. He's not, you know, Craig Kimbrel and Dennis Eckersley's love child. Yeah, he'll regress, as will the Brewers at large. But in the short run, he's a prime ride-the-streak candidate. I don't believe in hot and cold streaks as far as being predictive goes - a guy is hot until he's not, then he's cold until he's hot again, etc. - but a closer with a prime job is an obvious must-own, and it seems unlikely you'll get anyone to pay you big bucks for Francisco Rodriguez right now, as everyone assumes regression.

For now, though, I'm bumping Rodriguez up in the closer rankings. Dude's earned it.

This is this week's rankings. The first one is who you'd want for right now, the next week or two. The second list is long-term, accounting for guys like Aroldis Chapman and such. Enjoy:

Right-Now Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Craig Kimbrel ATL 2 Last seven days: 3 IP, 3 baserunners, 6 K's. He's fine.
2 Greg Holland KCR 3 Go read what Rany Jazayerli had to say about Ned Yost's closer usage Saturday, then cry for the team.
3 Koji Uehara BOS 4 Giving up his first run Saturday proved he's human, only not by much (0.96 ERA).
4 Kenley Jansen LAD 1 On pace for 100 games, 87 innings. Maybe reel that in, Dodgers?
5 Glen Perkins MIN 5 Gave up 4 runs in first 3 IP; has given up 1 in 8 since.
6 Sergio Romo SFG 6 Only bad outing came in that 12-10 extra-inning game. I'm inclined to give him a mulligan.
7 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 7 At some point, he'll have to get more dominant; maybe his 1 IP, 3 K save Friday is the start of that.
8 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 12 Never would have guessed he'd climb this high.
9 Mark Melancon PIT NR He's got the closer gig with Jason Grilli hurt, and I think he keeps it.
10 Joakim Soria TEX 15 Has faced a total of 16 batters in his last 15 outs, and that one baserunner was on an error.
11 Huston Street SDP 11 Eight baserunners in 10 innings; only run allowed came on a Brandon Belt homer.
12 David Robertson NYY 27 No runs on the season, though DL stint means he's only pitched in six games.
13 Joe Nathan DET 13 Might rank higher, but it seems the Tigers really aren't going to work him hard.
14 Steve Cishek MIA 8 I still trust him despite Friday's loss.
15 Rafael Soriano WAS 9 Perfect so far on the season; I probably ought to start moving him up.
16 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 16 Gave up 3 runs in 0.1 IP April 2; 0.00 ERA in 11 IP otherwise.
17 Addison Reed ARI 17 Allowed runs in three of his last five outings.
18 Grant Balfour TBR 10 Friday's outing was abysmal, and he's walked 9 in 10.1 innings.
19 John Axford CLE 22 Team stuck with him after struggles of a couple weeks ago, and he's been strong since.
20 Jonathan Broxton CIN 19 His 0.00 ERA is almost as surprising as K-Rod's, even if his is in only 5 innings.
21 Tommy Hunter BAL 20 10 hits, 3 runs in his last 6.2 innings. Oh, and only three strikeouts.
22 Sergio Santos TOR 29 Will get every chance to perform, with Casey Janssen back on the shelf.
23 Joe Smith LAA NR His name might not even be real, but Ernesto Frieri is out, so, whatever, weirdest Witness Relocation ever.
24 LaTroy Hawkins COL 23 Maybe it's just ageism, but who the heck feels confident in a 41-year-old closer with less than 4 K/9?
25 Matt Lindstrom CWS 21 1:1 K:BB ratio; 18 baserunners in 11 innings.
26 Chris Withrow LAD NR I feel like the Dodgers have to give Jansen a break, and Withrow has been tremendous.
27 Kyle Farnsworth NYM 26 Are they really going to let Daisuke Matsuzaka get saves? I can't see it.
28 Fernando Rodney SEA 24 I'll just let Jeff Sullivan discuss this, but no, dude. No.
29 Luke Gregerson OAK NR Sigh. No, I don't know who will get Oakland saves, just like last week.
30 Jim Johnson OAK NR Gregerson has been getting the opportunities, but Johnson has been better of late.

Rest-Of-Season Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Craig Kimbrel ATL 1
2 Kenley Jansen LAD 2
3 Greg Holland KCR 3
4 Koji Uehara BOS 4
5 Glen Perkins MIN 5
6 Sergio Romo SFG 6
7 Aroldis Chapman CIN 7 His return draws ever nearer.
8 David Robertson NYY 17
9 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 8
10 Joakim Soria TEX 14
11 Huston Street SDP 11
12 Joe Nathan DET 13
13 Steve Cishek MIA 9
14 Rafael Soriano WAS 10
15 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 15
16 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 18 Like I said, short-term, go for it, but regression will bite eventually.
17 Addison Reed ARI 16
18 Grant Balfour TBR 12
19 Mark Melancon PIT NR On talent, he'd rank higher, but Grilli still might be heard from.
20 Tommy Hunter BAL 20
21 Sergio Santos TOR 28
22 John Axford CLE 21
23 Jim Johnson OAK 29 Look, I don't know about Oakland. Stop asking me, it makes me sad.
24 Joe Smith LAA NR
25 LaTroy Hawkins COL 25
26 Matt Lindstrom CWS 24
27 Kyle Farnsworth NYM 27
28 Fernando Rodney SEA 23 How many more Rodney-esque outings before Danny Farquhar gets his chance?
29 Chad Qualls HOU NR Josh Fields has been pretty danged bad lately; I guess it's Qualls' time.
30 Pedro Strop CHC 30 Best of a bad lot in Chicago, and now Jose Veras is hurt.

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