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Closer Rankings: Playing with stats

With not a lot of movement at the top of the rankings this week, let's dive into some statistical interestingness and see what pops.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It's "noticing things" week!

As I've said before, you can find some really interesting stuff just clicking around in FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, even ESPN's stats leaders page. For example, sort by runs scored, and you'll see that the top four, and 28 of the top 30, in runs scored across baseball all have at least 100 hits. But sitting there, tied for fifth, is Jose Bautista, who has scored 73 runs on the back of only 90 hits. Sure, Bautista also has 71 walks (against 70 strikeouts — damn, Jose), but that 73-to-90 ratio is still insane.

For another example, sort pitchers qualified for the ERA titled by hits allowed, starting with the fewest. Near the top of the list, you'll see some expected names. Scott Kazmir. Francisco Liriano. Jacob deGrom. Zack Greinke. Guys you think of, more or less. But the fewest hits allowed by a qualified pitcher? It's freakin' Marco Estrada, at 93. Yeah, he has just a bit fewer innings than some of the other guys, but not by much.

Stuff like that, Sometimes it means something. Sometimes it's just a statistical oddity. But either way, it can be a fun trip. At least for me, I don't know, maybe I'm the weird one.

Anyway, every once in a while, I like to trek through the relief pitcher stats, just to see if anything pops out. And this week, with not a huge amount of movement in the rankings — at least the higher parts — it seems like a good time to bring it back.

Success stories

We're down to three closers (five-plus saves) who haven't blown a save yet, and they all have losses. Those three are Francisco Rodriguez (25 saves), Andrew Miller (24) and Jonathan Papelbon (19). Papelbon only has the one loss, which means, by one tiny standard, he's been the most successful closer this year.

What a loser

Brad Boxberger has 28 saves, good for seventh in the league despite the current presence of Jake McGee. He's been worth 0.2 WAR, which is ... whatever, it's better than replacement, and WAR is tough for relievers. At the top of tall that, though, is the fact that dude has eight losses. We're at the start of August, and this is a closer with a 4-8 record. The last guy with 25-plus saves and more losses than Boxberger has right now was Alfredo Aceves in 2012. The last closer with more than Boxberger's 12 decisions is Sergio Romo in 2013 (and I've discussed the Giants' weird ability to get decisions for their relievers before). And remember, there's two months left.

Up and down

We all know saves aren't really an accurate way of measuring talent. And I mentioned already that WAR for relievers can get a little wonky. Still, it's interesting to note the big save-getters who, despite their team's apparent trust, have a negative WAR on the season. Those include Santiago Casilla (27 saves, -0.4 WAR, some awful appearances lately), Joakim Soria (24 saves, -0.4 WAR, not actually a closer anymore), John Axford (16 saves, -0.1 WAR, not actually a closer anymore) and Fernando Rodney (16 saves, -0.8 WAR, not actually a closer anymore). So Casilla is the last man standing of this group, and if his week last week (two innings, 22.50 ERA) is any indication, he might not have a long leash left.

When zero is good

The only closers with more than five saves who have yet to lose a game are Zach Britton and Greg Holland. Holland has only 34.2 innings on his ledger, thanks to a DL stint and a long list of strong bullpen mates able to share the load. Britton, though, has been around all season, for a team with a winning record, and only three saves going to guys other than him. Sure, wins and losses aren't great indicators either, but no losses is still nice. And he's only blown one save, to boot.

Almost a 1:1 ratio

Most closers have slightly fewer innings pitched than games played. This is because closers have very few outings of more than one inning, and often come in just to get the last out or two. So closers who have more innings pitched than games played are particularly interesting, at least to me. This year, the only ones doing so are Britton (44.1 innings, 43 games), Huston Street (40.2, 40), David Robertson (44, 41), Brad Ziegler (48.1, 48), Shawn Tolleson (50.1, 49) and Papelbon (42.2, 40). No great meaning, again, but interesting.

On to the rankings. Remember, after the rankings, we'll have "What they're talking about," a look at some interesting tidbits about the closers that pop up on Twitter.

Closer Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week
1 Aroldis Chapman CIN 1
2 Craig Kimbrel SDP 2
3 Andrew Miller NYY 3
4 Kenley Jansen LAD 4
5 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 6
6 Greg Holland KAN 7
7 Jonathan Papelbon WAS 8
8 David Robertson CHW 5
9 Huston Street LAA 10
10 Mark Melancon PIT 9
11 Zach Britton BAL 12
12 Glen Perkins MIN 11
13 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 20
14 Cody Allen CLE 13
15 Dellin Betances NYY 15
16 Wade Davis KAN 16
17 Ken Giles PHI 19
18 A.J. Ramos MIA 18
19 Brad Ziegler ARI 21
20 Luke Gregerson HOU 17
21 Roberto Osuna TOR 24
22 Jeurys Familia NYM 26
23 Shawn Tolleson TEX 28
24 Koji Uehara BOS 14
25 Hector Rondon CHC 30
26 Carson Smith SEA 23
27 Arodys Vizcaino ATL NR
28 Brad Boxberger TAM 27
29 Tommy Kahnle COL NR
30 Jake McGee TAM 29

What they're talking about

  • On Aroldis Chapman:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Aroldis Chapman has struck out 18 of the past 25 left-handed hitters he’s faced. That’s a joke. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) <a href="">August 9, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Craig Kimbrel:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Since the start of June, Craig Kimbrel has a 1.11 ERA in 24.1 innings, with 32 strikeouts and a .145 BAA. He&#39;s back to Kimbrelness.</p>&mdash; Daniel Kelley (@danieltkelley) <a href="">August 10, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Huston Street:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Huston Street is sitting in the Angels&#39; bullpen, about four hours after his wife gave birth to his third son. Now that&#39;s commitment.</p>&mdash; Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) <a href="">August 5, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Mark Melancon:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">That&#39;s just the third earned run Mark Melancon has allowed in his last 46 appearances.</p>&mdash; John McGonigal (@jmcgonigal9) <a href="">August 8, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Zach Britton:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A little bit lost in the euphoria of CD&#39;s extra inning grand slam, a big time 2 1/3 innings from <a href="">@zbritton</a>. Very clutch effort.</p>&mdash; Jamie (@primetime667083) <a href="">August 6, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Francisco Rodriguez:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">That&#39;s 30 consecutive saves for Francisco Rodriguez, including 25-for-25 this season. Career save #373. <a href="">#MILvsSD</a></p>&mdash; Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) <a href="">August 6, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Cody Allen:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Cody Allen having trouble staying the course as Indians closer. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; paul hoynes (@hoynsie) <a href="">August 6, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Ken Giles:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Ken Giles saves all three games this weekend against the Padres as the Phillies sweep. 16-5 since the break.</p>&mdash; Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) <a href="">August 9, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Luke Gregerson:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Luke Gregerson since May 1st: 4.06 ERA, 31 IP, 32 H, 13 BB, 29 K, 1.45 WHIP <a href="">#Astros</a></p>&mdash; Astros Future (@AstrosFuture) <a href="">August 10, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Shawn Tolleson:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Shawn Tolleson is pitching a second inning with an 8 run lead?  WTF???  Jeff Banister is managing scared...</p>&mdash; Adam J. Morris (@lonestarball) <a href="">August 9, 2015</a></blockquote>
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  • On Koji Uehara:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Koji Uehara flies back to Boston for further exams on right wrist <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Gordon Edes (@GordonEdes) <a href="">August 10, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Tommy Kahnle:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Tommy Kahnle. 1st <a href="">@MLB</a> save on your birthday. THAT&#39;S reason to celebrate! <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) <a href="">August 8, 2015</a></blockquote>
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