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Closer Rankings: What can we learn from early-season wrong calls?

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Some closers fell on their faces early this year. Did they recover?

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for a look back at what we (okay, I) thought to start the year. It might be a help to see where things went wrong, where I was super smart, and what the hell happened with Jenrry Mejia.

I'm not going to give a full review of the obvious calls, the ones where no one really had doubt. Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Mark Melancon, Trevor Rosenthal, Kenley Jansen, David Robertson and Huston Street were all fine. Maybe there were bumps along the way, but whatever, I said they'd be good and they're good.

But there were others. Guys I thought would be good who were terrible. Guys I thought would be terrible who were ... well, terrible-er. There weren't a lot of guys I thought would stink who were actually good, except in the cases where the terrible guys from before fell by the wayside.

Steve Cishek

The Marlins were supposed to be a decent team this year. Exactly how decent was up for debate, but there was optimism in Miami. Cishek, meanwhile, was off a year with a 3.17 ERA backed by a 2.17 FIP. He had 39 saves in 43 chances, and 84 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. I thought he'd be a stud pitching for a team that was at least average, resulting in a whole host of save opportunities. I ranked him my No. 5 full-season closer to start the year.

Instead, Cishek could scarcely have been worse early in the season, getting sent to AAA at the end of May with a 6.98 ERA, three saves against four blown opportunities, and not even a 2:1 K:BB ratio. That was hurt by a .381 BABIP, but still, it was a bad start. Cishek spent a couple weeks in the minors, and was eventually traded to St. Louis. Over the season since his demotion, he's pitched to a 0.68 ERA in 26.2 innings, with 20 strikeouts and nine walks. His BABIP has sunk to .267. He's not a closer anymore, and won't be next year barring a big surprise, but the Cishek we expected is the Cishek we — eventually — got.

Brett Cecil

Everything about the Blue Jays was touch-and-go to start the season. They were under .500 as of the All-Star break; they were 23-29 at the end of May. The starting rotation was the biggest problem there, but Cecil didn't help things. He had been my No. 18 closer to start the season, but I thought he'd be even better at first. Instead, he had a 5.14 ERA at the end of April. It sat at 5.96 after a four-run, 0.2-inning outing June 21, at the end of which Cecil became not-the-Blue-Jays-closer-anymore. (That was for the second time, as Miguel Castro had taken over for Cecil as the team's closer after one game.)

Roberto Osuna has been tremendous all year, so there's no real knocking the Blue Jays for this, but Cecil has very quietly been amazing since losing his gig. In 24 games, Cecil has pitched 21 innings, amassed 22 strikeouts against four walks, and allowed only a .178 batting average against. Oh, and zero runs scored. Seriously, deposed, fallen-out-of-favor Brett Cecil hasn't allowed a run scored since June 21. That'll play.

Fernando Rodney

I mean, whatever, I didn't think Rodney would be good, because I watch baseball. But the only reasonable replacement I saw in Seattle was Danny Farquhar, and I had that idea a year ago. Rodney pitched down to expectations, but at the same time Carson Smith was getting everyone he faced out. Smith replaced Rodney, Tom Wilhelmsen eventually replaced Smith when he, too, faltered, and Rodney now pitches for the Cubs.

Joe Nathan

This one's sad. Nathan was truly terrible a year ago, but the Tigers still thought he'd close entering the year, and it's been such a good career that it was hard not to root for him. Instead, Nathan pitched one-third of an inning this year, striking out the only batter he faced, before his arm failed him again and he shut it down. There's a chance he'll make it back to pitch some day, but he also turns 41 in November, so there's a chance he won't. Still, with that one-third of an inning, Nathan will always have a statline that includes a -2.86 FIP for 2015. Yes, negative.

Neftali Feliz

Aw, man. Feliz fell apart for Texas, with a 4.58 ERA in 19.2 innings, then got DFA'd and sent to Detroit. There, the Tigers have re-learned their personal "don't add ex-Rangers relievers" lesson, as Feliz has given up 19 runs in 16.2 innings as a Tiger for a cool 10.26 ERA. Feliz was incredible early in his career, a 22-year-old who came a pitch away from closing out the World Series. Several years later, there's some question how much longer his career will even last.

Addison Reed

People trusted Addison Reed, for reasons I can't comprehend. At no point in his history has he actually been a good pitcher, in my opinion, just amassing saves. Well, that certainly didn't happen this year, as he was miserable early on for the Diamondbacks, getting demoted, replaced by Brad Ziegler, and shipped off to the Mets, where he's pitched three innings in three games so far.

Jenrry Mejia

All the rule-breaking.

So, here's the thing. We know who the fringe closers are. Reed, Rodney, Feliz. Those types of guys were only closers because heck, who else were their teams supposed to turn to? They struggled, like bad-to-worse pitchers do, and it never really got better.

But look back up to the top. My biggest rankings failures this year were Cishek and Cecil, both of whom I had pegged for success. They fell on their faces early, and people lost hope. Since, though, both pitchers have been good — no, frankly, both pitchers have been great. Good players eventually do good playing. It's a rule that is hard to learn, because it's easy to think crazy struggles will last, but both Cishek and Cecil have been great for multiple months now. Maybe neither ever gets a closer job again, but maybe they do, and maybe they do very well.

On to the Closer Rankings, followed by What They're Talking About.

Closer Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week
1 Kenley Jansen LAD 1
2 Andrew Miller NYY 4
3 Aroldis Chapman CIN 3
4 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 2
5 David Robertson CHW 6
6 Wade Davis KC 16
7 Craig Kimbrel SDP 5
8 Jonathan Papelbon WAS 7
9 Mark Melancon PIT 8
10 Cody Allen CLE 10
11 Ken Giles PHI 12
12 Huston Street LAA 13
13 Roberto Osuna TOR 11
14 Zach Britton BAL 14
15 Jeurys Familia NYM 9
16 Luke Gregerson HOU 15
17 Shawn Tolleson TEX 19
18 Hector Rondon CHC 22
19 Kevin Jepsen MIN NR
20 A.J. Ramos MIA 21
21 Dellin Betances NYY 23
22 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 24
23 Santiago Casilla SFG 25
24 Greg Holland KC 18
25 John Axford COL 29
26 Brad Boxberger TB 27
27 Tom Wilhelmsen SEA 28
28 Arodys Vizcaino ATL 26
29 Drew Pomeranz OAK 30
30 Daniel Hudson ARI NR

What They're Talking About

  • On Aroldis Chapman:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I just realized Aroldis Chapman got an AB this year and hit a ball 108 MPH... He literally hits harder than he throws which is pretty crazy.</p>&mdash; Daren Willman (@darenw) <a href="https://twitter.com/darenw/status/639639799825956864">September 4, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Trevor Rosenthal:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Trevor Rosenthal&#39;s 1.49 ERA in 2015 is the lowest for any closer in the <a href="https://twitter.com/MLB">@MLB</a> with at least 16 saves. <a href="http://t.co/YtgdsjpEor">pic.twitter.com/YtgdsjpEor</a></p>&mdash; The Birds On The Bat (@BirdsOnTheBat13) <a href="https://twitter.com/BirdsOnTheBat13/status/639777501481463809">September 4, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Jonathan Papelbon:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Papelbon tossed two key innings. &quot;I’ve always told (Matt Williams) I’m good to go. You throw me when you need me.&quot; <a href="http://t.co/wUH0Au98Q9">http://t.co/wUH0Au98Q9</a></p>&mdash; James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) <a href="https://twitter.com/JamesWagnerWP/status/640031295108710401">September 5, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Roberto Osuna:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Roberto Osuna&#39;s first ninth-inning blown save this year, which only underscores how dominant he&#39;s been.</p>&mdash; Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) <a href="https://twitter.com/jonmorosi/status/638893089755656192">September 2, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Jeurys Familia:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Jeurys Familia went unused during a series where the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Mets?src=hash">#Mets</a> lost twice in walkoff fashion. Anyone care to defend that?</p>&mdash; Rising Apple (@RisingAppleBlog) <a href="https://twitter.com/RisingAppleBlog/status/640627899884810244">September 6, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Kevin Jepsen and Glen Perkins:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Twins closer Glen Perkins out indefinitely due to back spasms <a href="http://t.co/lUpBlQqgaH">http://t.co/lUpBlQqgaH</a> Kevin Jepsen is expected to assume temporary closing…</p>&mdash; ATS Network (@ATSExperts) <a href="https://twitter.com/ATSExperts/status/639511867589828608">September 3, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Daniel Hudson:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">If PITCHf/x agrees w/ Coors gun, Daniel Hudson would join these pitchers who&#39;ve thrown 100mph in MLB post-TJ surgery <a href="http://t.co/dJ9aJ5FRhm">pic.twitter.com/dJ9aJ5FRhm</a></p>&mdash; Jon Roegele (@MLBPlayerAnalys) <a href="https://twitter.com/MLBPlayerAnalys/status/638839320967688192">September 1, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>