Talking about any baseball players over a tiny sample can be frustrating. Talking about closers, though, might be the worst.
A week ago, David Robertson was sitting on an ERA of 0.98, looking all but untouchable. Today, he's at 2.49, thanks to four runs over 3.1 innings in the last week. Fancy little statistical interestingnesses can vanish in a real hurry with closers, where the denominator on any rate stat stays crazy small.
In the end, that means that a lot of my pieces about closers end up being "here's some stuff I noticed." Some of it means something. Some of it will disappear next week when, I don't know, Jeurys Familia gives up seven runs in 1.2 innings.
But this week, I'm just offering some interesting statistical nuggets I've noticed about closers (and/or general relievers, but we're sticking with mainly closers because it's cleaner) with some quick hits. All these stats are through Saturday's games:
With a minimum of five saves (chosen because no closer had exactly five saves through Saturday; it was all four or fewer or six or more), the only closers who have zeroes for blown saves and losses are Jonathan Papelbon, John Axford, Wade Davis and Shawn Tolleson. Papelbon is the only one who has been a closer all year, and the only one of that group in double digits in saves.
Strikeouts on strike
Get a stat list down to just closers, and the K/9 category starts to really stand out. It's hardly notable if a closer strikes out more than 10 batters per nine innings; a guy at less than 7.0 is pretty shocking. The only guys with more than five saves (28 pitchers total) who are below 7.0 are Axford (again) at 6.43, and Mark Melancon at 4.70. A year after 71 strikeouts in 71 innings, Melancon's lowered velocity has him striking out nobody.
Wins that don't make sense
Remember Jean Machi last year? He randomly won seven games for no real reason on the Giants. I mean, he had a good year — 2.58 ERA, 0.95 WHIP — but seven wins for any reliever is crazy. Well, the Giants are at it again. Two pure relievers have won four or more games this year — Joaquin Benoit with San Diego and another Giant, Santiago Casilla. Yeah, Casilla's numbers took a hit Sunday evening, and I don't really think the fact that he's finding wins means anything, but it is interesting.
When Jake McGee came back, the Rays were all about the idea that they'd use Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee situationally; with one righty and one lefty, they could give the save chance to whichever guy made the most sense. And maybe they'll go that way eventually, but McGee has been back for two weeks now, and hasn't gotten a save chance yet (his blown save came in an eighth-inning appearance). Boxberger, in the same time span, has gotten five.
Do as I say, not as I do
In the preseason, the Twins and Glen Perkins made a show of saying that they'd use him in the highest leverage spots, not just in ninth-inning save chances. Ultimately, though, that hasn't really happened. Perkins has two saves of more than three outs, but has pitched before the ninth inning only four times; those two saves, his first appearance of the year in a get-him-work outing, and one other game where he came on to stop the bleeding. It's nice to hear the Twins say they'll be more pragmatic in their closer usage; it would be nicer of them to actually do it.
There are 19 closers with 10-plus saves. In terms of innings pitched, they range from 15.1 for Koji Uehara up to up to 23.1 for Trevor Rosenthal and Jeurys Familia. In other words, tiny, tiny windows. Uehara's outing Sunday (not counted in those 15.1 innings) included two runs allowed, though both were unearned — still, like I said above, with denominators that small, Uehara could go from "good season" to "awful season" long before he could catch up to Rosenthal and Familia in innings. (Not that I'm predicting that; just pointing out some denominators.)
That's it for this week. I'll revisit some quick hits again later in the season. It's good for, you know, a lazy topic idea when I don't know what to write about. But that out of the way, it's time for the rankings. (I almost didn't even both with two separate rankings this week; the two lists are going to be very similar. But tradition is tradition.)
|2||Aroldis Chapman||CIN||3||His 10 walks in May are his most in a calendar month since April 2011.|
|3||Drew Storen||WAS||5||He allowed two runs and 10 baserunners in his first seven innings; he has allowed no runs and seven baserunners in 14.1 innings since.
|4||Craig Kimbrel||SDP||4||Well, at least he's been consistently subpar; he had a 5.19 April ERA and a 4.35 one in May.|
|6||Kenley Jansen||LAD||7||They certainly aren't trying to push Jansen; he hasn't pitched in a week. But he looks strong when he's out there.|
|9||Huston Street||LAA||8||He blew back-to-back saves May 6 and 7, then allowed only three baserunners the rest of the month.|
|11||Glen Perkins||MIN||12||Most saves in baseball. Who saw that coming?|
|13||Jonathan Papelbon||PHI||15||His contract gets all the attention, but he's only had an ERA over 3.00 once in his career, and that was 2010. He's as trusty as they come.|
|15||Greg Holland||KCR||13||Quietly, because the team has been good, Holland has offered a lot of signs for worry this year. The strikeouts are down; the walks are way up. The 2.38 ERA comes with a 4.77 FIP.|
|17||Luke Gregerson||HOU||18||A 1.64 April ERA has fallen to a 5.91 in May. It hasn't turned into blown saves, but that's not encouraging.|
|19||Wade Davis||KCR||14||Holland's leash is fairly long, but if he falters, Davis is maybe the best closer-in-waiting out there.|
|20||Shawn Tolleson||TEX||30||He got his first save chance May 20. Since, he's thrown six innings, allowed three baserunners, struck out six and gotten six saves. Pretty good.|
|21||Cody Allen||CLE||27||Had a really solid week: four innings, three hits, five strikeouts, no runs.|
|24||Brad Boxberger||TAM||26||Despite what I mentioned earlier, I do think Jake McGee will see save chances eventually. Still, Boxberger has looked far more good than bad.|
|26||Dellin Betances||NYY||22||Whereas Davis' 0.00 ERA is accompanied by no unearned runs, Betances has been touched for three unearned.|
|27||A.J. Ramos||MIA||25||His ERA was 1.06 when he became the closer three weeks ago. It's risen since then ... to 1.07.|
|28||Fernando Rodney||SEA||24||May: 11 innings, 15 hits, five walks, eight strikeouts, 10 earned runs. Yeesh.|
|29||John Axford||COL||29||If time starting April 1, Axford would be much higher. But he's shown a lot different before this.|
|30||Tyler Clippard||OAK||NR||The ongoing injury issues of Sean Doolittle mean Clippard's look gets even longer, for better or worse.|