Things in the "managers don't know crap about closer usage" camp came to a head this weekend. It always happens. Closers don't pitch in non-save situations. Home-team guys can in extras, because their team can't offer a save situation. But road closers? No chance. Better to use the guy in a 4-1 game to start the ninth than in a 1-1 game with two outs and the bases loaded.
Yost says he'll "never" use Holland in tied road game again. Why did he in Detroit? "Because I really wanted to win that game Opening Day."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) April 27, 2014
Now, if it were just some pitcher, okay, I guess you could pose an argument. But teams use their best reliever as their closer, then deploy them in the most ass-backward ways they could imagine.
And then this weekend happened. It didn't get big play. But when teams don't give their "closers," their best relievers, sufficient opportunity, they decide to get them work. Never mind that there might have been better, more important opportunities to use those guys before, no, it's been enough time, and the guy is pitching, no matter what.
- The Braves used Craig Kimbrel three times in a five-day period - including a blown save - May 6-10. He got the day off May 11, with David Carpenter getting the save. Then they lost three of four (by three or fewer twice), and won the other 5-0. Kimbrel pitched the ninth inning of a 4-1 loss Saturday.
- Koji Uehara pitched May 7, and got the save May 11. After that, the Red Sox lost three of four - with their lone win coming by five. Included in those losses was a 4-3 10-inning loss to the Twins on Thursday, which featured Andrew Miller pitching the ninth and getting the loss without Uehara seeing the field. So he pitched the ninth of a 6-1 loss Saturday.
- Jonathan Papelbon pitched May 9 and 10, then apparently said he wasn't available for May 11. The Phillies lost four straight, all by three or fewer runs, all without Papelbon pitching. So he threw the ninth inning of a 12-1 win Saturday.
- Addison Reed blew the save Monday. The team got a complete game from Bronson Arroyo Tuesday, then lost Wednesday and Friday, so Reed pitched the ninth inning of Saturday's 18-7 win.
- The Rangers have been pretty terrible lately (sad face), so Joakim Soria hasn't gotten a save opportunity since May 2. He did pitch the ninth inning of the team's 5-0 and 4-0 wins May 8 and 12, but didn't see the field again all week, which featured a one-run and two two-run losses. The one-run loss was a walkoff to the Astros, in which Nick Martinez got the ninth-inning loss. That all led to this Sunday morning:
#Rangers closer Joakim Soria will pitch today. Hasn't since Monday. Ron Washington considered Soria on Saturday, but only if in tie or lead.— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) May 18, 2014
You get that? No matter what happened in Sunday's game - winning 15-0, losing 15-0, up 3-2, tied - Joakim Soria was going to pitch Sunday, and he was going to pitch in part because he hadn't seen the field in a game the Rangers lost because they used a subpar pitcher. That the score was relatively close when Soria pitched - 6-2 - is irrelevant.
I guess this is more real-baseball than fantasy analysis. But when guys flat refuse to use a good reliever in a 3-3 road game because there is some chance that, later in the game, they might have a 4-3 lead and need him then, that's ludicrous. Why save a guy for a situation that might never arise when the guy you use instead of him could ruin it for you?
I could only find three examples of team's primary closers being used in ... I don't know, creative situations. Road games, close games. Basically, crucial situations where "conventional thinking" would say not to use the closer. LaTroy Hawkins pitched the eighth inning Wednesday in a 3-2 loss to the Rockies. Kenley Jansen entered with the score 7-4 and two outs in the ninth on March 23, after three runs had already scored in the inning, in a "just stop the bleeding now" situation. And then there was that Greg Holland game on Opening Day, when he came in to a tie game with one out in the ninth and let the winning run score. And yes, as far as I could find, that was the only time all season in which a closer entered with a tie game on the road in the ninth. You know, the time his manager said he "really wanted to win that game."
I know I'm not the first to raise these questions. But until something changes, baseball - both real and fantasy - will be stuck. Guys bunting a runner second-to-third in the first inning. Guys intentionally walking for stupid reasons. Closers being saved for situations that never arise. I just ... you know what? I'll let Joe Sheehan finish this off:
I'll say it again: the gap between the field talent and the dugout talent is as large as it's been in baseball history.— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) May 8, 2014
With that, here are this week's closer rankings, both for the week to come (first) and the rest of the season:
|1||Craig Kimbrel||ATL||1||Still averaging more than two strikeouts an inning. Dude's great.|
|2||Greg Holland||KCR||2||He's the best non-headline-making closer in the game, easily.|
|3||Aroldis Chapman||CIN||5||Seven of the nine outs he's recorded have been by strikeout. He's still him.|
|4||Glen Perkins||MIN||3||His ERA is a high-ish 3.54, but his FIP is only 1.31.|
|5||Koji Uehara||BOS||4||His overall numbers are good, but his walk rate is climbing.|
|6||Kenley Jansen||LAD||7||Maybe he's not super-elite, but he's still on the top end of closers.|
|7||Sergio Romo||SFG||6||He's not striking out as many guys as normal; only 7.4 K/9 so far.|
|8||David Robertson||NYY||9||Got two four-out saves in the last week; Girardi has loosened the leash a bit.|
|9||Joakim Soria||TEX||8||He's not getting many saves, but that's on the team, not him.|
|10||Huston Street||SDP||12||Basically flawless on the year; only run came on a Brandon Belt home run April 18.|
|11||Steve Cishek||MIA||13||He still shocks me by his lack of any bad numbers in his career.|
|12||Joe Nathan||DET||15||Early struggles appear to be behind him; he hasn't allowed a run in a month.|
|13||Jonathan Papelbon||PHI||16||Kudos to him for telling his manager he was unavailable; the heck with Ryne Sandberg for fussing.|
|14||Francisco Rodriguez||MIL||14||Finally had a blowup game Wednesday, but season numbers still look good.|
|15||Casey Janssen||TOR||18||Only closer with a 0.00 ERA. Of course, that's in four games, but still.|
|16||Rafael Soriano||WAS||17||18 games, 18 innings, 12 hits allowed.|
|17||Mark Melancon||PIT||10||I think his blown save Thursday cinches Jason Grilli getting the gig back on his return.|
|18||Trevor Rosenthal||SLC||11||ERA in April: 5.11. ERA in May: 5.40. Maybe he is this?|
|19||Chad Qualls||HOU||28||Bo Porter announced he's definitely the closer, and he's been great.|
|20||Hector Rondon||CHC||30||He's easily been the best Cubs' reliever. Not that that's a high bar to clear.|
|21||Cody Allen||CLE||24||I think John Axford gets his job back. The question is when.|
|22||Addison Reed||ARI||21||Hasn't had more than two scoreless outings in a row all year.|
|23||Grant Balfour||TAM||20||I keep expecting he'll settle down, but his season ERA sits at 6.06.|
|24||Fernando Rodney||SEA||23||When he took over for Hisashi Iwakuma after his great outing Tuesday, I was sure he'd blow it. That's ... not reassuring.|
|25||Matt Lindstrom||CWS||25||His K:BB ratio is barely above 1. You'd rather it be, you know, better.|
|26||LaTroy Hawkins||COL||26||Blew his first save of the season Sunday; still only six strikeouts.|
|27||Ernesto Frieri||LAA||29||I don't think he's definitely back in his job yet, but he'll get more chances than Smith.|
|28||Jenrry Mejia||NYM||NR||I'm still not sure how long he'll close, but he's started out doing okay.|
|29||Zach Britton||BAL||NR||I think he'll get saves for now; long-term, I'm not sure.|
|30||Joe Smith||LAA||NR||See Frieri. Both will get chances. Frieri will get more.|
|17||Trevor Rosenthal||SLC||10||If he continues struggling, could Carlos Martinez or even Jason Motte take over?|
|26||Jason Grilli||PIT||NR||I still think Melancon is better, but Grilli will get every shot.|
|27||John Axford||CLE||28||See Grilli. Allen is probably better, but Axford is "the guy."|
|28||Jim Johnson||OAK||24||Eh. Who knows in Oakland.|
|29||Tommy Hunter||BAL||21||Last four appearances as closer: 8 runs, 7 hits, 2.2 innings.|
|30||Jenrry Mejia||NYM||NR||Pretty cool how I had Kyle Farnsworth here last week, right before he got released. Pretty dang cool.