We're less than a month from the All-Star Game. Every week, when I do these closer columns, I run Google News searches for each guy. That's in part in case I missed something, and in part in case there was some feature on someone I can use in the chart.
Well, it started this week. Various closers are getting "Should CLOSER X be an All-Star?" columns. And for good reason, as there are a bunch of guys having good-to-great years. Scroll through my rankings below, and something like the top 14 or 15 guys could all legitimately be All-Stars.
Glen Perkins? Sure, his ERA is a kinda-high-for-a-closer 2.76, but he has 17 saves, a WHIP below 1.00, 39 strikeouts in less than 30 innings, and the game's in his home park, both team-wise and birthplace-wise.
Jonathan Papelbon? If nothing else, he might have to be the Philadelphia representative, but he's also working on a 1.37 ERA and 15 saves in 16 opportunities.
Francisco Rodriguez had that insanely hot stretch to start the season. Steve Cishek has been good. Aroldis Chapman hasn't pitched much, but has been incredibly good since his return. Huston Street, Koji Uehara, Greg Holland, Rafael Soriano, Joakim Soria. Heck, new closers like Sean Doolittle, Zach Britton, and Chad Qualls all have reasonable arguments for a spot. And that's way before we start considering middle relievers.
Here's the problem, though: If all these guys should be All-Stars, should any of them really be All-Stars?
Think about it. A guy hits 35 homers in 1999, we don't really care. Everyone's doing it. A guy hits 35 homers in 2014, he might not be the league's best power hitter, but he's worth talking about. In a similar vein, a reliever strikes out more than a batter per inning, converts 80 percent of his save chances, and has a WHIP under 1.00? Twenty years ago, we'd be in awe. Even two out of three would be considered star-worthy. Today?
Closers with at least two of three (9+ K/9, 80% Save Rate, WHIP <1.00)
|9+ K/9||80%+ Save Rate||<1.00 WHIP|
That's 22 guys. Now, of course, guys like Ernesto Frieri and Addison Reed aren't All-Star candidates. I get that. But the point is, we have to recalibrate what we think of as an "All-Star" closer, unless we want to start expanding the rosters even further and putting 10 closers on each squad.
The same applies to fantasy. When I'm trolling through waiver wires looking for save opportunities or low-WHIP middle relievers, the numbers we'd look for five years ago don't actually help. David Robertson has 16.28 K/9. Huston Street hasn't blown a save or lost a game yet. Rafael Soriano has a WHIP of 0.96. None of the three is in my top five closers; Robertson is barely even in my top 10, and Soriano barely makes the top 15. It's just a new world of reliever quality, and fantasy owners - and All-Star Game prognosticators - have to adjust.
Now, on to this week's rankings. Remember, two lists: The rankings for right now, and the rankings for the rest of the season. Read on, and manage expectations:
|1||Aroldis Chapman||CIN||1||He's been incredible, and doing it with more sliders than normal. Correlation? Causation?|
|2||Craig Kimbrel||ATL||2||Scoreless outing Sunday brought his ERA back under 2.00.|
|3||Greg Holland||KCR||3||Last run allowed was May 5.|
|4||Glen Perkins||MIN||4||His June ERA is 1.80. His June RA/9 is 9.00. God bless unearned runs.|
|5||Koji Uehara||BOS||5||Frankly, I might be too low. He's been incredible.|
|6||Huston Street||SDP||7||The "will he be traded?" talk has already started up.|
|7||Jonathan Papelbon||PHI||10||Notched his 300th career save. He's been right decent.|
|8||Joakim Soria||TEX||9||He's been easily the best part of an unsteady Texas bullpen.|
|9||Kenley Jansen||LAD||6||Had to start dropping Jansen. He's given up runs in back-to-back saves.|
|10||David Robertson||NYY||13||He's striking people out at a rate Mariano Rivera only dreamed of (relax, I'm not making any greater claim).|
|11||Sergio Romo||SFG||8||Has a 5.08 ERA, but a WHIP of 0.95. Must be the LOB% of 62.5.|
|12||Steve Cishek||MIA||12||The trade wonderings have started on him as well.|
|13||Casey Janssen||TOR||11||Gave up his first earned runs of the season, but still sports a 1.29 ERA.|
|14||Sean Doolittle||OAK||20||Still just one walk. Still incredible.|
|15||Francisco Rodriguez||MIL||17||Now he's discussing the possibility of a theoretical return to the Mets someday, which seems like a bad omen, if nothing else.|
|16||Trevor Rosenthal||SLC||16||Six straight scoreless outings; eight strikeouts, seven baserunners in that time.|
|17||Rafael Soriano||WAS||15||Runs allowed in consecutive outings June 7-10, but his ERA still sits at 1.38.|
|18||Zach Britton||BAL||19||Tommy Hunter returned from the DL, but Britton is holding the gig.|
|19||Jason Grilli||PIT||14||All he has on Mark Melancon is save opportunities. Not ability.|
|20||Chad Qualls||HOU||18||Blew his first save as closer, but still doing great overall.|
|21||Cody Allen||CLE||23||I'm done wondering; I'm assuming he's the closer and John Axford is a middle reliever until I have reason not to.|
|22||LaTroy Hawkins||COL||25||Three strikeouts in his last four innings; it's a hot streak.|
|23||Fernando Rodney||SEA||21||His stats are overall passable, but he simply doesn't inspire confidence.|
|24||Addison Reed||ARI||24||Hasn't had consecutive scoreless outings since May 31-June 1.|
|25||Jake McGee||TAM||NR||He's at least the temporary closer while Grant Balfour is awful; we'll see how long it lasts.|
|26||Ronald Belisario||CWS||29||Hasn't blown a save this month. Maybe he'll hold the job for longer than I thought.|
|27||Ernesto Frieri||LAA||22||He got the "vote of confidence," but lord does he not have mine.|
|28||Neil Ramirez||CHC||NR||I don't know who the Cubs' closer is going to be, but Ramirez has been good, while ...|
|29||Pedro Strop||CHC||26||... Strop has the history of being decent. I trust them both to be decent, but couldn't tell you who'll get saves.|
|30||Joba Chamberlain||DET||30||Still can't trust Joe Nathan long-term; Joba failed in his first chance, but maybe he'll get another.|
|2||Craig Kimbrel||ATL||1||This demotion is not anti-Kimbrel, it's "Holy crap, Chapman's been good."|
|11||Sergio Romo||SFG||8||His struggles are baffling, but I have faith he'll be fine.|
|26||Ernesto Frieri||LAA||21||Joe Smith wasn't the answer in Los Angeles, but I don't really think Frieri is, either.|
|27||Joe Nathan||DET||25||Tigers fans are now even wondering about Phil Coke. Sad times.|
|28||Jeurys Familia||NYM||NR||Look, I don't know about the Mets. Someone's gotta get saves.|
|30||Jake McGee||TAM||NR||He's good, but I think Balfour gets another shot before all is said and done.|