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Closer Rankings: Little up, little down

It's time to talk about a couple closers who seem to be heading in opposite directions.

Denis Poroy

I'm fascinated by two closers in particular this week: one really good, and one (of late) really bad.

On a per-game, per-appearance basis, not many relievers have been as good for as long as Huston Street. He might not strike out as many guys as Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman, but he's still better than a strikeout per inning over his career. Street has 251 saves; the only active closers with more are Joe Nathan, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jonathan Papelbon (plus Jose Valverde, if you want to consider him active; I don't). Only seven active guys have a better career save percentage.

And then this season. Street is tied for the league lead, with 17 saves. Both of his co-leaders - Rodriguez and Sergio Romo - each has two blown saves. Street has zero. He's perfect on save chances, and also has zero losses. The next-most saves without a blown opportunity so far is 11, for Koji Uehara, who also has a loss. In fact, the only other pitcher in baseball with more than one save and no blown saves or losses is San Francisco's Jean Machi, who has two saves. Street has seventeen. He's allowed three runs on the season: a solo home run to Brandon Belt April 18, and a two-run homer to Starlin Castro on May 25. He still got the save in both outings.

The downside to Street has always been his injury risk. He's hit the disabled list seven times in his career, including four times for 93 games 2011-2013. There's always a worry he'll miss time, but when he's out there, there really aren't many better.

On the flip side of that equation right now is Joe Nathan. Listing blown saves is always a dicey proposition, because middle relievers can get blown saves when they never would have gotten a save to begin with (you know, eighth inning of a 3-2 game as a setup man - get three outs and turn it over to the closer for the save, or blow the lead and get a blown save; life's rough). That's why the two guys tied for the league lead in blown saves - Luke Gregerson and Carlos Martinez, with five each - have only three total saves between them. But Nathan is next up, with four by himself. No one else who has been his team's closer all year long has more than two blown saves.

Nathan's numbers, both surface and peripheral, have been awful this year. He's at 8.71 K/9, the lowest he's ever put up as a full-time closer. His walk rate is at its highest. Heck, even his ERA (5.23) is the worst he's ever put up, matched by a correspondingly awful 4.95 FIP. His fastball velocity is down, along with his swing-and-miss percentage. It's all compiled here, in case you thought I was actually good at math and research myself.

Joe Nathan is a big-name closer with a big-name-closer contract. That buys you a lot of leash, especially on a team like the Tigers who don't really have another closer option in waiting. But in fantasy, we're either at or fast approaching a point at which Joe Nathan is no longer a fantasy option. And it might pay to keep an eye on Joba Chamberlain (with the Tigers but not really considered a closer) and Joel Hanrahan (considered a closer, but not even pitching again yet).

Anyway, those are the things I'm thinking about in regards to closers. Here are this week's rankings. Remember, the first list is the right-now rankings, while the second list is for the rest of the season.

Right-Now Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Craig Kimbrel ATL 1 His save Saturday tied John Smoltz atop the Braves' all-time saves list.
2 Aroldis Chapman CIN 2 He's getting clocked at 103. Dude's crazy.
3 Greg Holland KCR 3 Good and unremarkable. I don't even know what else to say.
4 Glen Perkins MIN 4 Hasn't had a save chance since May 21; sometimes it doesn't pay to be a Twin.
5 Koji Uehara BOS 5 It's not been a month since he allowed a run.
6 Kenley Jansen LAD 6 I guess he's the shakiest of the top tier, but he is at 39 strikeouts in only 24 innings this season.
7 Huston Street SDP 12 Check above, then make fun of me for trading him a few weeks ago.
8 Joakim Soria TEX 7 Had a rough outing Tuesday, but allowed only one baserunner in three more outings on the week.
9 Sergio Romo SFG 9 Definitely slumping; given up runs in three straight outings.
10 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 13 He's been great, but he's also so, so weird.
11 Casey Janssen TOR 10 Bad as the Toronto bullpen was early on, he's been a savior since coming off the DL.
12 Steve Cishek MIA 8 Has allowed runs in back-to-back outings; ruined a beautiful Nate Eovaldi start Sunday.
13 Jason Grilli PIT 17 He appears to really have his closer job back now.
14 David Robertson NYY 11 Four runs allowed total in April and May. Five in June. It's June 2.
15 Rafael Soriano WAS 16 Only allowed runs to score in one outing all season.
16 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 18 Finally improving; no runs, only two baserunners since May 18 (4.2 innings).
17 Joe Nathan DET 15 I do think he'll right the ship a bit, but he's not his old self anymore.
18 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 14 Through May 10: 19 IP, 26 K, 0.00 ERA, 15/15 in save opportunities. Since: 8 IP, 5 K, 7.88 ERA, 2/4 in save opportunities.
19 Chad Qualls HOU 19 He didn't walk anyone or allow any runs in May.
20 Zach Britton BAL 22 Since becoming closer: 8.1 innings, 8 baserunners, 1 run.
21 Sean Doolittle OAK 23 38 strikeouts, 1 walk on the season. That's a fun ratio.
22 Addison Reed ARI 20 Settled down since his rough patch; 0 runs in his last 6 outings (5.2 innings).
23 Fernando Rodney SEA 24 A 2.61 ERA but a 1.55 WHIP. That's not so sustainable.
24 Ernesto Frieri LAA 27 Definitely has wrested the closer role back from Joe Smith.
25 Grant Balfour TAM 21 Dude has more walks (18) than strikeouts (17) so far. That's awful.
26 LaTroy Hawkins COL 29 I keep harping on this, but dude has only eight strikeouts.
27 Jenrry Mejia NYM 28 Only allowed one earned run as a reliever, but two unearned as well.
28 Cody Allen CLE 30 He's not long for the Indians' closer role, I think.
29 Hector Rondon CHC 26 Out on paternity leave right now, so congrats, man.
30 Mark Melancon PIT 25 I still think he's better than Grilli, and the Pirates might still give Melancon the occasional shot.

Rest-Of-Season Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Craig Kimbrel ATL 1
2 Aroldis Chapman CIN 2
3 Greg Holland KCR 3
4 Glen Perkins MIN 4
5 Koji Uehara BOS 5
6 Kenley Jansen LAD 6
7 Huston Street SDP 13
8 Sergio Romo SFG 7
9 Joakim Soria TEX 8 I'm a Rangers fan, and Soria has been fun.
10 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 12 If the season started April 3, he'd be sitting at 21 innings, 13/13 in save opportunities, and a 0.43 ERA.
11 Casey Janssen TOR 10
12 Steve Cishek MIA 9
13 David Robertson NYY 11
14 Rafael Soriano WAS 17
15 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 16
16 Jason Grilli PIT 18
17 Joe Nathan DET 15 As he puts up his worst season, Joba is putting up his best.
18 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 14 Now that the shine is off, he's a middling closer, not an elite one.
19 Zach Britton BAL 27 Tommy Hunter missed his chance, I think.
20 Sean Doolittle OAK 25
21 Addison Reed ARI 20
22 Fernando Rodney SEA 22
23 Ernesto Frieri LAA 24
24 Chad Qualls HOU 19 I like him, but he absolutely gets traded eventually, right? He probably won't be a closer all season.
25 Grant Balfour TAM 21
26 LaTroy Hawkins COL 23 2014 WHIP: 1.42. Career WHIP: 1.42. He is who he is.
27 Hector Rondon CHC 28
28 John Axford CLE 29 For now, I still think he gets the gig long-term, but I'm becoming less convinced.
29 Jenrry Mejia NYM 26 They keep saying he's not the long-term closer. Maybe Jeurys Familia or Vic Black eventually, but for now he's the only one I can rank.
30 Ronald Belisario CWS 30 Ugh. I guess it's still his gig, but I wouldn't touch any White Sox reliever.