Closer Rankings: The good are great; the bad are awful

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Some closers have been having a really rough go of it lately. Let's look at a few.

A lot of closers went through the week basically unscatched. By my count, there were 20 guys who are working as their team's primary closers who allowed no earned runs last week.

On top of that, the list doesn't include no-earned-runs guys like Jeurys Familia, who might be the Mets' closer, who the heck knows, and John Axford, who might be the Indians' closer again soon enough. A handful of other guys even had plausibly decent weeks, weeks that would normally be seen as "eh, fine."

But the relatively light week in craziness means that the failures get really noticed.

Grant Balfour had started to look like he had things turned around. Between May 22 and Sunday, he pitched 4.1 innings, struck out four, walked zero, gave up two hits, no runs. His ERA, which had peaked at 6.46, was down to an at-least-you-can-understand-it 4.76. Of course, then Sunday happened, and we saw that Balfour is still not exactly trustworthy. Balfour pitched the ninth inning of the Rays-Mariners game Sunday (in a tie game on the road, so props, Joe Maddon), but gave up five runs on four hits and two walks. His ERA is back to 6.46, his WHIP at 1.65, and he has a 21:20 K:BB ratio. Things ain't great.

I don't know how many save opportunities Jenrry Mejia is going to get in the long run; the team has expressed hesitance about letting him be an all-of-2014 closer, worried about too many outings in too few days and the like. Familia has gotten a couple of save chances and might get more, and Vic Black has been called up and has a closer-like repertoire. But Mejia also isn't doing himself any favors; he pitched twice in the last week, giving up two runs on two hits and a walk both times. His four runs in 1.1 innings brings his ERA to 4.68, and he hasn't had a scoreless outing since May 29.

Hector Rondon put up a 9.00 ERA last week, but with Pedro Strop back, he might not even be the closer anymore. Addison Reed and Ernesto Frieri both went 6.00, and anyone trusting them is not exactly enlightened.

And then there's Joe Nathan. I wrote about him in this space last week, and he continued on largely the same path last week. Nathan pitched 2.1 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks. He only struck out one guy. His ERA, which was 1.39 in 2013 (2.26 FIP) sits as I write this at 7.04 (4.94 FIP). There's no way to look at Nathan's season as anything other than a disaster, and while I do think there are still some good moments left for him, I have to believe there's a DL stint in his future. Guys don't go from fully functional to fully disastrous like that without something going on, especially with his flagging velocity. If nothing else, I'm betting the Tigers shut him down with a phantom injury. Anything to give him a break.

And in the meantime, what up, Joba Chamberlain? (Who, after I wrote this, promptly gave up three runs in the ninth inning Sunday night, which happens EVERY DAGGONE WEEK, but still, they can't trust Nathan.)

These are this week's closer rankings. As always, there are two lists - one for the week to come, one for the rest of the season.

Right-Now Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Aroldis Chapman CIN 2 Yup, new guy at the top for this week. Dude hasn't even allowed a baserunner since May 23.
2 Craig Kimbrel ATL 1 Still think he's fine, but he hasn't been quite as dominant this season.
3 Greg Holland KCR 3 He's been good, but has anyone noticed setup man Wade Davis? Dude has been iinsane.
4 Glen Perkins MIN 4 The delineation between R and ER helped his stats this week; he gave up four on Sunday, but they were all unearned.
5 Koji Uehara BOS 5 His season ERA maxed out at 1.69, his WHIP is at 0.78, and he's 39. Incredible.
6 Kenley Jansen LAD 6 Gave up three runs in 0.1 IP May 11. Since, he's gone 7.1 innings with only one run, three hits, and 12 strikeouts. Nice rebound.
7 Huston Street SDP 7 He's still only two swings (homers to Brandon Belt and Starlin Castro) away from no runs on the season.
8 Sergio Romo SFG 9 A 3.24 ERA, but his 4.60 FIP is cause for some concern.
9 Joakim Soria TEX 8 "Oh no, he's struggling," after his May 27 blown save. Since, he's gone 4.2 innings with two hits, no walks, and eight strikeouts.
10 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 10 One run allowed since April 2; none since May 20.
11 Casey Janssen TOR 11 Nope, still no earned runs allowed.
12 Steve Cishek MIA 12 Even with some recent struggles, he's in line for an All-Star berth.
13 David Robertson NYY 14 Without his 0.2 IP, 5 ER on June 1, his season ERA would be 1.77.
14 Jason Grilli PIT 13 Looks to be firmly back in the closer role, despite Mark Melancon probably actually being a better pitcher.
15 Rafael Soriano WAS 15 The homer he allowed to Yonder Alonso Saturday was the first he gave up all season.
16 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 16 His ERA is back under 4 for the first time since his second outing; it's at least a step.
17 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 18 Four strikeouts in his last four outings, but also three walks.
18 Chad Qualls HOU 19 Hasn't allowed a run since April 19, and the Astros aren't quite as terrible as rumored.
19 Zach Britton BAL 20 Yeah, Tommy Hunter is probably due for middle relief whenever he gets back.
20 Sean Doolittle OAK 21 First dude since 1900 to get to 40 strikeouts with only one walk; he'll climb this list soon.
21 Fernando Rodney SEA 23 Has really gotten things under control lately; only one walk since May 13.
22 Ernesto Frieri LAA 24 ERA hasn't been below 4.13 all season. He's a closer, but one that has allowed seven homers already. No trust.
23 Cody Allen CLE 28 Every week, I have to remind myself that he isn't Chad Allen. Not sure why that perplexes me so.
24 Addison Reed ARI 22 March/April ERA: 3.86. May ERA: 4.22. June ERA: 4.91.
25 LaTroy Hawkins COL 26 I keep harping on it, but 11 saves, 8 strikeouts. That's incredible.
26 Pedro Strop CHC NR It looks like he's back to being a closer, but darned if I know for sure.
27 Grant Balfour TAM 25 Has given up 5 runs in an outing twice, and 3 once. He's like a reverse slot machine.
28 Vic Black NYM NR No idea if he'll actually get saves, but he's as good a candidate as any Met.
29 Ronald Belisario CWS NR This is the first time I've even ranked him in the right-now rankings; this is a testament to the struggles of closers en masse.
30 Joba Chamberlain DET NR Twelve straight scoreless appearances (before Sunday, JERK), at just the right time for the Tigers.

Rest-Of-Season Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Craig Kimbrel ATL 1 See? I still trust him in the long term. It's just that Chapman is so hot right now.
2 Aroldis Chapman CIN 2
3 Greg Holland KCR 3
4 Glen Perkins MIN 4
5 Kenley Jansen LAD 6
6 Koji Uehara BOS 5
7 Huston Street SDP 7
8 Sergio Romo SFG 8
9 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 10
10 Joakim Soria TEX 9 Feels like he's been the only healthy Ranger this season, which means I just jinxed him.
11 David Robertson NYY 13
12 Casey Janssen TOR 11
13 Steve Cishek MIA 12
14 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 18
15 Rafael Soriano WAS 14
16 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 15
17 Jason Grilli PIT 16
18 Zach Britton BAL 19
19 Sean Doolittle OAK 20
20 Fernando Rodney SEA 22
21 Ernesto Frieri LAA 23
22 Addison Reed ARI 21
23 Chad Qualls HOU 24 As long as he's in Houston, he'll be fine, but there's no way he doesn't get dealt.
24 LaTroy Hawkins COL 26
25 Joe Nathan DET 17 He'll probably be good eventually. I have no idea when.
26 Grant Balfour TAM 25
27 Cody Allen CLE NR Finally keeping him in the ROS rankings instead of John Axford; Terry Francona says he wants Axford back in the job, but Allen's been great.
28 Pedro Strop CHC NR
29 Vic Black NYM NR
30 Ronald Belisario CWS 30 I plan to represent each team in the ROS rankings each week, which is why Belisario is here. But I'd rather have Chamberlain, Melancon, Axford, whoever.

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