Closer Rankings: Go ahead and trust the big guys

Joe Murphy

Sergio Santos and Ernesto Frieri might have lost their jobs, but it's not like Greg Holland will.

We have fun talking about the struggles of closers early in the season. Middle reliever gets a closer role and implodes, or big-name signee tanks, or injury return doesn't have his same stuff anymore.

We give it names - "closer carousel" and "reliever roulette" and "not-starter ne'er-do-wells" and yes, I made that one up - and tweet about how bad early-season closers like Jose Valverde, Nate Jones, and Jose Veras look from outing to outing. After a while, it feels like there are no sure things among relievers.

Here's the thing, though-the crazy jumps in value and guys going kaput and the like? That's the bottom tier. At least this year, the upper echelon of closers has been really good.

Check out the names. Craig Kimbrel has more than two strikeouts an inning. Despite a worry of overuse, Kenley Jansen has been mostly fine. Greg Holland, Koji Uehara, Glen Perkins. There have been blips here and there, sure, and some pitchers, like Francisco Rodriguez, have risen into the ranks, but who is the best preseason save-getter to have fallen by the wayside (excluding injury)? Jim Johnson? It's probably him, right? Well, he was my 18th-ranked closer at season's start (and not for nothin', hasn't allowed a run since April 9).

You have to keep an eye on the lower-tier closers - the Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins types - but don't fall prey to the talk that closers are just falling by the wayside every day. On a long-term scale, sure, closer value is fungible, and I'm not suggesting five-year deals for any of them. But from April to that same September? You can invest in the big names with not a whole lot of fear.

Here are this week's closer rankings. As a refresher, there are two lists - this week's, and the rest of the season's. I've included some thoughts after the closers, though in the rest-of-season rankings, I'm not going to just repeat myself. You can scroll up. I have faith in you.

Right-Now Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Craig Kimbrel ATL 1 Seriously, though, dude has 19.06 K/9 this season. Maybe he's struggled a bit, but that's insane.
2 Greg Holland KCR 2 The Royals have slumped lately, but Holland has looked fine.
3 Glen Perkins MIN 5 Four runs in three innings to start the year; one in 10 since.
4 Koji Uehara BOS 3 He's struggled a bit by his standards, but still has a 1.42 ERA overall.
5 Kenley Jansen LAD 4 Chris Perez has gotten some chances; Jansen will be fine, but really needs some rest.
6 Sergio Romo SFG 6 He's got a WHIP of 0.75, which is ... pretty good, yeah?
7 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 7 Really straightened out since his early-season struggles; no runs in two weeks.
8 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 8 Will the hot streak end? I mean, I guess it has to, but this has been insanely good.
9 Mark Melancon PIT 9 The Pirates will start winning games soon enough, and Melancon will benefit.
10 Joakim Soria TEX 10 So he's pitched 12 times and only allowed a baserunner in two of them. Heck of a start.
11 David Robertson NYY 12 Gave up his first run of the season on Friday.
12 Huston Street SDP 11 He still isn't hurt! Miracles!
13 Steve Cishek MIA 14 Are the Marlins actually going to be competitive all year?
14 Joe Nathan DET 13 Only pitched once in 10 days; the team seems hesitant to overuse him.
15 Rafael Soriano WAS 15 Oh, hey, cool, he still hasn't allowed any runs.
16 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 16 The team absolutely refuses to use him outside of an obvious save opp, so he only pitched once last week.
17 Jonathan Broxton CIN 20 He's looked really good; could be nice in-case-he's-not-back insurance for Aroldis Chapman.
18 Tommy Hunter BAL 21 Looked good in both games of Thursday's doubleheader; that's rare.
19 Addison Reed ARI 17 Hasn't been consistent at all, and now J.J. Putz is getting looks.
20 Grant Balfour TBR 18 Also saved both sides of a doubleheader. Baseball's weird.
21 Joe Smith LAA 23 Some experts say Ernesto Frieri will get his gig back, but I'm unconvinced.
22 Hector Rondon CHC NR Hasn't been officially named the closer yet, but come on.
23 John Axford CLE 19 Every time you think he's got the gig for a while, he struggles again.
24 Matt Lindstrom CWS 25 Has never exactly been an inspiring closer.
25 Brett Cecil TOR NR I mean, would you keep letting Sergio Santos try to save games?
26 Fernando Rodney SEA 28 Nope, still don't trust him.
27 J.J. Putz ARI NR Kind of burned his ninth-inning appearance, but it's not like Reed is blowing anyone away.
28 Danny Farquhar SEA NR Did get a save -- albeit a two-inning one. I just don't know if Rodney keeps it all year.
29 LaTroy Hawkins COL 24 Sorry dude, you really gotta strike people out to get me to trust you.
30 Luke Gregerson OAK 29 Johnson for the long term and Gregerson for now, but has anyone noticed that Sean Doolittle hasn't walked anyone yet this year?

Rest-Of-Season Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Craig Kimbrel ATL 1
2 Greg Holland KCR 3
3 Kenley Jansen LAD 2 I don't know. He'll be fine long term. But I might trust Holland more right now.
4 Koji Uehara BOS 4
5 Glen Perkins MIN 5
6 Aroldis Chapman CIN 7
7 Sergio Romo SFG 6
8 Joakim Soria TEX 10
9 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 9
10 David Robertson NYY 8
11 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 14
12 Huston Street SDP 11
13 Steve Cishek MIA 13
14 Mark Melancon PIT 19 Will Jason Grilli get the closer job back? I'm increasingly thinking no.
15 Joe Nathan DET 12
16 Rafael Soriano WAS 14
17 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 15
18 Tommy Hunter BAL 20
19 Addison Reed ARI 17
20 Grant Balfour TBR 18
21 John Axford CLE 22
22 Hector Rondon CHC NR THANKS FOR BEING BAD ON SUNDAY AFTER I'D ALREADY WRITTEN THE REST OF THIS, YOU JERK.
23 Casey Janssen TOR NR He's just about the only real closer option Toronto has left.
24 Joe Smith LAA 24
25 Jim Johnson OAK 23 He'll get the gig back eventually. That seems clear.
26 Matt Lindstrom CWS 26
27 LaTroy Hawkins COL 25
28 Fernando Rodney SEA 28
29 Chad Qualls HOU 29 I don't know about Houston's or New York's situations. If you're stuck with them, I'm sorry.
30 Kyle Farnsworth NYM 27 I want to like Kyle Farnsworth. I do. But he's not very good.

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