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Closer Rankings: Stop getting hurt, guys

A surprising amount of closers and high-end relievers are already on the DL. How often does that really happen?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I'll start, as is often my wont, with a screenshot that will give me the opportunity to complain.

Hurt Guys

Stop getting hurt!

It's a saves+holds league (as all leagues should be — trust me, it's much better), which explains why Casey Janssen is floating around in there. Otherwise, those are all legitimate closers, legitimately on the DL. All four other names — Joe Nathan, Sean Doolittle, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland — are legitimate closers.

On top of those guys, Jake McGee was a likely closer entering the season, and has been hurt. He might get the role back when he's healthy, or Brad Boxberger might hold onto it, but either way, he counts for this list. Jenrry Mejia was supposed to be the Mets' closer for at least a little while, and he's hurt (yes, and suspended) now as well.

It's often bandied about that every year, half of all starting pitchers will wind up on the disabled list. It's much more difficult to track such things among closers, as some players lose their jobs when they get hurt, and some guys aren't "closers" so much as "least bad relievers on the roster," and guys flame out fast at the position, and a whole host of other reasons. So the numbers I'm about to run aren't decisive, but they're interesting.

Exactly 50 pitches have saved at least 30 games in a season in at least one of the last five years. I'll take those 50 guys as my baseline for this, because even if they have lost their job since, at the least those 50 guys will be seen as borderline "proven closers" when healthy, so their injuries still matter.

So, 50 closers. According to, those 50 guys accounted for 83 DL stints sometime 2010-14. More or less, that works out to one-third of all closers hitting the DL each season. This year, it's happening early. Maybe we have an outlier and we'll lose three-quarters of all closers at some point. More likely, the numbers will level off.

In the league I mentioned above, I still have Brad Boxberger, Adam Ottavino, Joel Peralta (active closers) and Sergio Romo (holds-getter) on my active roster. It is, as I said, a saves+holds league, so useful relievers are easier to come across. So let's look to another league, a 12-team mixed league with only saves as a category. In that league, I came into Sunday with no saves on the season. My three rostered relievers are Doolittle (hurt), McGee (hurt) and Joaquin Benoit (lost his job on opening day). Benoit got the save Sunday, but overall, I'm in bad shape. Last place in roto scoring.

I missed out on Ottavino and the like when they got their respective jobs. Theoretically, I could spend big, offer up the guy in first place in saves a big package for Boxberger or Trevor Rosenthal or something. I'm not doing that, though.

If you assume Doolittle and McGee get their jobs back when healthy (honestly, it's not a sure thing, and that could worry me), I'll get saves. It won't be my strong category (my starting pitching is crazy strong), but I'll get some closers and I'll be competitive.

It's April 20, and this holds true across all categories. But with so many closers hurt right now, it's the obvious place to make the point: Guys are going to get hurt. This is a 25-ish-week season, and we've gone through two. Any dramatic changes now are ill-advised. If you're bored, play FanDuel or something. Don't change dramatically because you're waiting on Kenley Jansen to get healthy.

That's also why I give two lists of rankings here — the Right-Now and the Rest-Of-Season rankings. For rankings right now, I wouldn't include Jansen at all, but of course he's relevant in fantasy. For the rest of the season, I'd barely touch Wade Davis, but he's one of the elites as long as Holland is on the shelf. So there's a pair of rankings here. And here they come:

Right-Now Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Aroldis Chapman CIN 1
2 Craig Kimbrel SDP 2
3 Wade Davis KCR NR Must be nice to be able to just slide this guy in when the main closer gets hurt.
4 David Robertson CWS 7
5 Joakim Soria DET 10
6 Huston Street LAA 9 Literally no baserunners allowed so far.
7 Drew Storen WAS 5
8 Mark Melancon PIT 4
9 Koji Uehara BOS 20 It's only two outings, but four strikeouts and no baserunners in two innings is nice to see off injury.
10 Andrew Miller NYY 24 It certainly looks like, for now at least, this is Miller's job to lose.
11 Glen Perkins MIN 11
12 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 6
13 Zach Britton BAL 12
14 Steve Cishek MIA 8
15 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 16
16 Adam Ottavino COL NR Two baserunners, 12 strikeouts in 6.1 innings. Dude is starting strong.
17 Brad Boxberger TAM 13
18 Tyler Clippard OAK 29 The team hasn't had a real save chance yet, with the only save coming in a 3.2-inning outing by Jesse Chavez Saturday. Clippard's still the guy right now.
19 Jason Grilli ATL 19 Six saves, four baserunners, 10 strikeouts, six innings. Nice bounceback so far.
20 Hector Rondon CHC 17
21 Luke Gregerson HOU 22
22 Cody Allen CLE 14
23 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 25 He's allowed one baserunner, on a home run in his second outing. So basically he's doing exactly what he did last year.
24 Joel Peralta LAD 18 It's nice to be a (temporary) closer for a good team, but Peralta's peripherals so far don't paint the picture of an elite reliever.
25 Santiago Casilla SFG 21
26 Fernando Rodney SEA 23 Even if he continues to struggle, the Mariners don't really have a ready-made backup option.
27 Miguel Castro TOR 15
28 Jeurys Familia NYM NR The hot start for the Mets has Familia racking up saves quickly, but I'm still not convinced he keeps the gig all year.
29 Kelvin Herrera KCR NR What if Wade Davis falters? I mean, I don't expect it, but Herrera is a nice hedge.
30 Dellin Betances NYY 28 I still won't rule out Betances having something of a closer role. But he's the second fiddle right now.

Rest-Of-Season Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Aroldis Chapman CIN 1 There really isn't much to think about at the top.
2 Craig Kimbrel SDP 2
3 David Robertson CWS 6
4 Drew Storen WAS 4 The team is going to start hitting better, which means more wins, which means more save chances.
5 Greg Holland KCR 3 This isn't a Joe Nathan situation; when Holland is ready, he'll get the job back.
6 Kenley Jansen LAD 8
7 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 7
8 Huston Street LAA 9
9 Mark Melancon PIT 5 Take out April 13, and he's all owed three baseunners and no runs in 4.1 innings. This time of year, one bad outing really skews things.
10 Glen Perkins MIN 11
11 Koji Uehara BOS 15
12 Andrew Miller NYY 27
13 Zach Britton BAL 12
14 Steve Cishek MIA 10 He'll get things worked out, but it has been an abysmal start to the season.
15 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 13
16 Adam Ottavino COL 30
17 Cody Allen CLE 14
18 Hector Rondon CHC 16
19 Luke Gregerson HOU 17 Two baserunners (no walks) in six innings. I've been saying for years he's a good closer-in-waiting.
20 Jason Grilli ATL 20
21 Sean Doolittle OAK 22 Should be on the way back in the next few weeks, if all goes well.
22 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 24
23 Joakim Soria DET 23 If I had to commit, I'd say Soria keeps the gig even when Nathan returns, but I'm not at all sure the Tigers agree.
24 Santiago Casilla SFG 18
25 Fernando Rodney SEA 19
26 Miguel Castro TOR 21 It wouldn't at all shock me if Brett Cecil finds his way back into the closer role at some point in the season.
27 Jake McGee TAM NR Look, I don't know who will get saves in Tampa when he gets back. Every couple days I change my mind.
28 Wade Davis KCR NR He only has the job temporarily, but I'd still rather Davis than the Neftali Feliz and Addison Reed types out there.
29 Brad Boxberger TAM 28
30 Jeurys Familia NYM NR