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Closer Rankings: How did April affect things?

For some closers, April was just another month. But for some, it was an aberration, and it colors how we see guys.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One of my favorite quasi-regular baseball pieces each year is Grant Brisbee's after-May piece about what we'd be discussing if April hadn't happened. First, Grant's hilarious, and I wanna be him for a few minutes. And second, it's a hell of a reminder that we are all slaves to sample-size and narrative talk, and man, those Royals sure can hit, even if they got collectively worse in May and June, just look at that April.

I even nudged Grant to writing this year's piece, on the back of Shin-Soo Choo's return to relevance in May:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="">@mccoveychron</a> I want a &quot;what we&#39;d be talking about if April hadn&#39;t happened&quot; piece just for the Shin-Soo Choo part. (cc <a href="">@lonestarball</a>)</p>&mdash; Daniel Kelley (@danieltkelley) <a href="">May 14, 2015</a></blockquote>
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(Of course, Choo's month-by-month OPS reads .427-.888-.644, so maybe April was relevant. Who cares.)

With that in mind, I set out to do something similar with the closers, looking at whose stat lines have been most influenced — for better or worse — by their Aprils. In what shouldn't come as a huge surprise, most of the main guys pitched in April more or less like they have pitched all season, but there were a few notable names who saw changes:

Good Riddance, April

Cody Allen, CLE — I wrote about Allen a few weeks ago, and how he's still hard to trust in the long run. Part of that was on the backs of an April that saw Allen pitch seven innings and give up nine earned runs, for an 11.57 ERA and a 2.86 WHIP. Since then, Allen and the Indians have gotten better basically simultaneously. He's thrown 28 innings since the end of April, given up only four more runs, and brought his season-long ERA down more than eight runs. From May 1 to now, Allen has a 1.29 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.

Mark Melancon, PIT — There are parts of Melancon's season that confuse me, even now. Other than a cup of coffee in 2009, he's never struck out fewer than eight guys per nine innings before this season, but in 2015 that number is at 6.2. Melancon looked primed for replacement by Tony Watson in April when, despite five saves in six tries, he had a 5.23 ERA and only seven strikeouts in 10 innings. Interestingly, his strikeouts still really haven't returned, but Melancon has figured out how to pitch without them, as from May 1 to now, his ERA is 0.31 and his WHIP is 0.84.

Come Back, April

Aroldis Chapman, CIN — It's not that there's been any part of Chapman's season that has been bad. Since the end of April, he has a 2.66 ERA, 11 saves in 12 tries and 41 strikeouts in 23.2 innings. It's just that Chapman's April was insane. He pitched 10.2 innings without allowing a run. He struck out 19 guys in 10.2 innings with only eight baserunners allowed. Middle-of-the-season Chapman is awesome, but April Chapman was WadeDavisian.

John Axford, COL — Axford pitched only five times in April, throwing five innings and striking out six while allowing only five baserunners. And for a while, that looked like what Axford was going to be this season. But a recent cold stretch has hurt his numbers, and now his May 1-to-now line looks a little rougher: 3.06 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, fewer strikeouts than innings pitched. If you invested in Axford, it was more than you ever could really have hoped for, so you aren't complaining, but it's a nice time to sell if you can get a return.

Luke Gregerson, HOU — In April, Gregerson looked like the perfect closer for an up-and-coming Astros team. He pitched 11 innings to a 1.64 ERA, allowing only seven baserunners. Since then, his ERA is 4.22, with a handful of multi-run innings interspersed throughout. Gregerson's FIP now sits more-or-less where it has been throughout his career. He's a fine reliever. He'll get you saves. He's not a difference-maker.

On to the rankings. I'm trying something different this week. I'm going to list the right-now and rest-of-season rankings in one chart, together, and then I'm going to do a "What they're talking about" section at the end, where I see what Twitter has to say about some key guys. Giving it a trial run this week, we'll see what we think.

Closer rankings

Rank Right-Now Team Last Week Rank Rest-Of-Season Team Last Week
1 Aroldis Chapman CIN 3 1 Aroldis Chapman CIN 2
2 Drew Storen WAS 4 2 Kenley Jansen LAD 1
3 Kenley Jansen LAD 1 3 Drew Storen WAS 3
4 Dellin Betances NYY 2 4 Craig Kimbrel SDP 6
5 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 6 5 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 5
6 Craig Kimbrel SDP 5 6 David Robertson CWS 7
7 David Robertson CWS 7 7 Greg Holland KAN 8
8 Greg Holland KAN 8 8 Mark Melancon PIT 9
9 Mark Melancon PIT 9 9 Dellin Betances NYY 4
10 Joakim Soria DET 14 10 Joakim Soria DET 14
11 Huston Street LAA 12 11 Huston Street LAA 10
12 Zach Britton BAL 11 12 Zach Britton BAL 12
13 Cody Allen CLE 18 13 Cody Allen CLE 16
14 Glen Perkins MIN 10 14 Andrew Miller NYY 15
15 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 15 15 Wade Davis KAN 20
16 Koji Uehara BOS 13 16 Glen Perkins MIN 11
17 Jeurys Familia NYM 21 17 Koji Uehara BOS 13
18 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 16 18 Jeurys Familia NYM 18
19 Wade Davis KAN 17 19 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 19
20 Tyler Clippard OAK 19 20 Tyler Clippard OAK 22
21 A.J. Ramos MIA 22 21 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 17
22 Luke Gregerson HOU 20 22 A.J. Ramos MIA 23
23 Brad Ziegler ARI 25 23 Luke Gregerson HOU 21
24 Jason Grilli ATL 30 24 Brad Ziegler ARI 25
25 Brad Boxberger TAM 26 25 Jason Grilli ATL 30
26 Roberto Osuna TOR 27 26 Brad Boxberger TAM 27
27 Shawn Tolleson TEX 23 27 Shawn Tolleson TEX 26
28 Sergio Romo SFG NR 28 Roberto Osuna TOR 28
29 John Axford COL 29 29 Santiago Casilla SFG 24
30 Fernando Rodney SEA NR 30 John Axford COL 29

What they're talking about

  • On Aroldis Chapman:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">sure, pitchers are throwing harder than ever. but there&#39;s still only one Aroldis Chapman: <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) <a href="">July 5, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Kenley Jansen:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Kenley Jansen has allowed a run in 3 straight games for the first time in his career</p>&mdash; Eric Stephen (@truebluela) <a href="">July 4, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On David Robertson:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Since 1969, there have been 14 one-inning 3-batter, 3-K saves in <a href="">#WhiteSox</a> history. David Robertson has 3. Only one with 2 in same season.</p>&mdash; Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) <a href="">July 4, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Wade Davis/Zach Britton:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="">#Orioles</a> Zach Britton now 23-for-24 in saves. If I&#39;m Ned Yost in the All-Star Game, I&#39;m giving Wade Davis the 8th and Britton the 9th.</p>&mdash; David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) <a href="">July 2, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Cody Allen:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Cody Allen&#39;s last 16 appearances: 16 2/3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 3 BB, 30 K (51% of all batters faced)</p>&mdash; August Fagerstrom (@AugustF_MLB) <a href="">July 4, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Andrew Miller:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="">#Yankees</a> <a href="">#nyy</a> <a href="">#ny</a> Andrew Miller could be back with Yankees soon (The Associated Press) <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; New York Yankee Fans (@YankeesViews) <a href="">July 4, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Glen Perkins:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Why isn&#39;t Glen Perkins pitching in tie games anymore? Molitor explains: &#10;&#10;<a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) <a href="">July 5, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Francisco Rodriguez:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Of note: Francisco Rodriguez remains a perfect 18-for-18 in save opportunities this season. In fact, he hasn&#39;t blown a save since 8/27/14.</p>&mdash; (@TheFantasyFix) <a href="">July 3, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On A.J. Ramos:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The first player teams are calling for from the Marliins is A.J. Ramos. Barring a total overpay, he isn&#39;t going anywhere</p>&mdash; Peter Gammons (@pgammo) <a href="">June 27, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Shawn Tolleson:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Shawn Tolleson has a 1.50 ERA in his 12 save opportunities. He&#39;s been such a drama free closer.</p>&mdash; Peter Ellwood (@FutureGM) <a href="">July 3, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Santiago Casilla:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Regarding Santiago Casilla&#39;s fatigue, his velocity on his four-seamer &amp; sinker have been down lately: <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Jeff Erickson (@Jeff_Erickson) <a href="">July 2, 2015</a></blockquote>
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