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Edwin Diaz out, Oh, Herrera struggling, Knebel looking good and more bullpen updates!

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It’s week 8 of Coffee’s for Closers! There have been the usual changes at closer and there’s an updated leverage skill graph!

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Just a short intro today. Matt Strahm looked terrible to start the year. He got sent down to AAA, figured some stuff out and has 17 Ks in 12 innings since, with a 1.5 ERA. He’s still walking too many (4.5 BB/9), but he has really settled down. He recently picked up a hold and a win and should be a good deep league middle reliever that is still under the radar.

Pittsburgh’s Felipe Rivero and San Diego’s Brad Hand are other great holds options, but are probably owned in deep leagues already. Both have a path to save opportunities near the trade deadline and both are pitching lights out.

Finally, James Pazos has very quietly been the best reliever in Seattle this year and has been hinted by Mariners manager Scott Servais as the true replacement to Edwin Diaz at closer in the short term. He is the guy to pick up, but Diaz may return in a week or two, once he shows he has figured out his control issues.

Sorry for the random-thought introduction today. I just downloaded some players I had been thinking about from my brain to your screen. Here are the updated closer ranking tiers:

The Closers

  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Kenley Jansen
  • Dellin Betances
  • Wade Davis
  • Greg Holland (it’s way past time to put him up here with the big boys. He’s been dominant on a first place team!)
  • Ken Giles

Cadillac Eldorados

  • Cody Allen (His z-score in the big chart down below has me worried just a tiny bit, but his Ks and BBs are great it’s just that he’s allowing a crazy number of fly balls. He’s always done this, though, just not to this extent before.)
  • David Robertson
  • Addison Reed
  • Robert Osuna
  • Mark Melancon (back from DL and ready to continue being an above average closer)

The Good Leads

  • Brandon Maurer (his z-score is still great, but he’s blown some saves recently, so I moved him down one tier)
  • Brad Brach
  • Alex Colome
  • Jim Johnson
  • Corey Knebel (Looking great since taking over for Feliz. He deserves a tier bump.)
  • Justin Wilson (Just like Knebel, he’s been great all year and looks like the Tigers closer for a while. He also moves up.)

The Weak Leads

  • Kelvin Herrera (He falls a tier due to the continued lack of strikeouts and some recent struggles, especially with homers. Soria behind him has been stellar, so there is some concern here.)
  • Tony Watson (His strikeout rate is still awful, but he is limiting hard contact as well as anyone, with a 16% hard hit rate. He’s still on rocky soil with Felipe Rivero behind him, but I can’t move him down yet.)
  • Seung-Hwan Oh (I am very worried about Oh. His strikeouts are way down from last year and he is walking a very fine line. This is still an unsettled situation. Rosenthal is worth a stash.)
  • A.J. Ramos (He walks too many, but isn’t facing much competition and has been OK so far)
  • Brandon Kintzler
  • Raisel Iglesias

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

  • Matt Bush
  • Bud Norris
  • Koda Glover/Shawn Kelley (Despite Albers being the best pitcher so far in the bullpen, it appears that Dusty favors these two. Glover seems to have a slight edge.)
  • Fernando Rodney (Still the closer, but with Archie Bradley and Jorge de la Rosa around, he’s still in big danger of losing the job.)
  • James Pezos/Tony Zych (After Servais’ recent comments, it seems Pezos is the guy in the short term to replace Edwin Diaz. Diaz will probably get the job back, but Pezos is pitching very well right now. He’s a very good short term saves option.)
  • Hector Neris/Joaquin Benoit (Neris is the one you want in this pseudo-committee, but he has struggled lately. Benoit isn’t very good either. This is kind of a mess right now.)
  • Santiago Casilla/Ryan Madson (Casilla is still the closer, but Madson is by far the better pitcher right now and worth a stash if you want to speculate)

Here’s the big leverage versus skills graph, updated with the most recent stats.

My apologies to those on mobile, it doesn’t display well on small screens. You should be able to download it though and look at the whole thing. Also, if you are reading this 5+ days after it was posted, the graph will automatically update to the most recent data, so my commentary won’t make sense below.

As you can see, I tried to color code this graph to show four different groups: those that are in danger of losing their closer’s (or setup) job, those that are very safe and locked in, those that we just don’t care about at all, and the rest (“other”).

Anyone with a z-score over 2.0 is an above average or great reliever and anyone with a gmLI over 1.0 is being used in situations that are higher leverage than average. If a pitcher is used a lot in high leverage situations (high gmLI) but has a low z-score, it means he might not be a good enough pitcher to keep the job. Those guys are all in the upper left region. Guys with high gmLI and high z-scores are safe bets to keep their jobs all season, unless they get hurt. They have their manager’s full trust and are pitching very well. Kimbrel, Holland, and Devenski are the leaders of this pack in the upper right.

The guys in between the groups in gray are ok. They aren’t bad and they aren’t great. They have z-scores over 0 and some are used in high leverage situations, but not all. Anthony Swarzak and Wandy Peralta are the two points way out on the lower right. They aren’t used in high leverage situations, but they certainly should be with the way they’ve pitched.

If you hover over a data point, it should give you the name of the player and their numbers.

As I did last week, I’m just going to list the current closers that are “In Danger” to give you a heads up that you might want to handcuff them and prepare for them being removed from the job.

Here’s the list: Brandon Kintzler, Seung-Hwan Oh, Shawn Kelley, Tony Zych, Joaquin Benoit, and A.J. Ramos.

Just outside the red danger zone: Kelvin Herrera, Fernando Rodney, Alex Colome, Matt Bush, Hector Neris, and Santiago Casilla.

None of the guys I listed are necessarily in immediate danger, but they are very vulnerable. This is especially true for guys with an elite option behind them like Seung-Hwan Oh, Zych (Pazos is actually in front of him, but whatever), Kelvin Herrera, and Fernando Rodney. It might be time to make sure you can get or have their setup guys. I would not be shocked to see any of these guys lose their jobs over the next few weeks if they keep pitching like this. Tschus!