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.
|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?|
|3||Kenley Jansen||LAD||2||I don't know. He'll be fine long term. But I might trust Holland more right now.|
|14||Mark Melancon||PIT||19||Will Jason Grilli get the closer job back? I'm increasingly thinking no.|
|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.|
|25||Jim Johnson||OAK||23||He'll get the gig back eventually. That seems clear.|
|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.|