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Coffee’s for Closers: Week 1

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Welcome to Fake Teams’ new weekly bullpen and closer report!

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game Seven Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

25 years after the release of Glengarry Glen Ross (the movie version), I can still make obscure puns related to its quotes. So there. For you youngsters or those who haven’t seen it yet (full disclosure, I just saw it two weeks ago), there is a scene where a young and fiery Alec Baldwin berates a group of real estate salesmen for their poor sales. As Jack Lemmon’s character goes to the back of the room to get some coffee, he is lambasted by Baldwin for interrupting his presentation and thinking he is worthy of coffee. Baldwin exclaims, “coffee’s for closers only”, referring to those that close sales. I would have linked to the video but I’m not going to risk the MPAA’s ire. Now that I have explained that to death, let’s get to the point.

That long intro has nothing to do with this weekly post, except to explain its title. This will be Fake Team’s weekly closer and bullpen post throughout the season. I will include updated closer rankings in tiers and discuss trends in bullpens (who’s moving closer to the 9th inning, who could be losing their grip, etc). I may try some things out as we go along to find out what works best and what is most useful. I know there are bullpen updates and closer rankings all over the Interweb, so I’m going to try and provide some unique content.

I won’t have it this week, since we have just started the season, but one thing I want to do is have an updated list of all the relevant relievers for holds and saves and track their gmLI stat. This is the game leverage index when they enter the game and tracks how “clutch” the situation is when they get called in from the ‘pen. It is the easiest-to-track stat to measure a manager’s confidence and trust in a reliever.

Closers should have high gmLI, except for games where their team has a three run lead. Elite setup men, like Andrew Miller, should have very high gmLI as well. By tracking not just the current total gmLI for each reliever, but their week-to-week change in gmLI, we can see who is being trusted more and who is being trusted less by their manager. This will hopefully help you identify future closers in advance.

Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s head to the rankings! Baseball’s back baby! Woohoo! The ranking tiers will be based on quotes or themes from Glengarry Glen Ross, in order to stick with that whole theme. By the way, I actually didn’t like the movie all that much and found it to be slow-moving and kind of boring, but it’s a handy source of puns for closers, so I went with it.

The Closers

  • Aroldis Chapman
  • Zach Britton
  • Kenley Jansen
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Seung-Hwan Oh
  • Mark Melancon
  • Roberto Osuna
  • Craig Kimbrel

Cadillac Eldorados

  • Kelvin Herrera
  • Cody Allen
  • Ken Giles
  • Wade Davis
  • Alex Colome
  • Jeurys Familia

The Good Leads

  • David Robertson
  • A.J. Ramos
  • Greg Holland
  • Sam Dyson
  • Francisco Rodriguez
  • Cam Bedrosian

The Weak Leads

  • Blake Treinen
  • Jim Johnson
  • Tony Watson
  • Neftali Feliz
  • Brandon Maurer

The Timeshares (these are just the lowest tier, they aren’t all in true committees)

  • Fernando Rodney
  • Ryan Madson
  • Brandon Kintzler
  • Jeanmar Gomez
  • Michael Lorenzen/Drew Storen (Raisel Igelsias has a minor injury)

Thoughts About Some Volatile Bullpens

Since there will be no gmLI table this week, I’m going to discuss a couple bullpens to keep an eye on early in the season. I think the Reds situation will be a mess all year and Raisel Iglesias’ minor injury doesn’t clear it up that much. However, Storen has looked awful this spring, with diminished velocity, so I would give Lorenzen the early lead, if Iglesias has to miss time. If not, Iglesias and Lorenzen will probably split two-inning saves, if Bryan Price is to be believed.

Don’t sell your Hector Neris shares just yet. Gomez is not a very good closer and might not last long. I think he will last about a month or six weeks before Neris takes over. Also, don’t sleep on Edubray Ramos, a sleeper candidate for the closer role late in the season if Neris struggles. Neris did slow down at the end of 2016 (5.25 ERA in September), so there is room for Ramos. I’m not a big Benoit fan at this point in his career.

Kintzler is the incumbent (by default) closer for the Twins, but he’s not very good. He doesn’t strike batters out much. He is good at getting ground balls, but with Trevor May, Glen Perkins, Ryan Pressly, and young guns like Tyler Jay and Nick Burdi in the Twins organization behind him, he probably won’t keep the job too long. He could be the second closer to lose his job after Gomez (other than injury). Ryan Pressly should be the favorite to take the job in 2017. He had an 11.7% SwStr% in 2016 and throws 95. He could hold the job once he gets it with those skills.

Madson in Oakland is fine, but old, with declining skills. Behind him is the talented-but-injury-prone Sean Doolittle and the newly-acquired Santiago Casilla. A healthy Doolittle is the best of this group and should end up on top. I don’t trust Casilla, who is no stranger to massive blown saves and is no spring chicken himself.

I just don’t trust Fernando Rodney. His walk rates and home run rates have been bad in recent years. Oh, and he’s 40 years old. Jake Barrett might be the best secondary option right now with Burgos having major command issues and Delgado being just awful. Barrett would be an ok closer and better than Rodney, but probably still in one of the two lowest tiers.

Tony Watson may not have a firm grasp on the closer’s role, like it seems. Daniel Hudson is more talented and might already be in a time share, if you believe the ESPN closer depth chart. So, you might want to pick up Hudson and not expect much from Watson. Watson’s peripherals were not great last season (FIP over 4.0). Juan Nicasio is also around, along with youngster Felipe Rivero, so this could be a very volatile bullpen this year. Rivero is the best dark horse saves candidate in this ‘pen with the skills to be a tier two closer.

I actually like Blake Treinen and think he can keep the job, even with the talented Koda Glover behind him. He has been compared to Zach Britton, since both rely on a 97 mph sinker to generate a silly amount of ground balls. Treinen needs to improve his control (11.8% BB% in 2016), but has the tools needed to be a very good closer.

The weakest from the “good leads” tier are David Robertson and K-Rod. Both of these guys have seen declining performance in recent seasons, even if they haven’t been that bad. Robertson’s Ks are down and walks are up, which are not good trends. The same trends hold true for Rodriguez, so both are more vulnerable than they have been in recent years. Robertson has the very good Nate Jones behind him, who is definitely more talented.

That’s it for the first edition of Coffee’s for Closers. I hope you enjoyed it. See you next time and Tschus!