Here are few off-the-radar names that have been lights-out in bullpens this year, even if they aren’t closing. Brad Peacock has been striking out more than ever before and pitching multiple innings each time out. He’s at 13 K/9, 0.87 ERA, 2.0 FIP, and 3.25 xFIP. Yes, he does sometimes throw spot starts and yes, he walks too many, but he can provide real ratio help in deep leagues.
Another name to know, who just happens to be on the Astros as well is James Hoyt. He’s got a 16.36 K/9 (fourth highest in baseball), a FIP of 0.2!, and a 1.14 xFIP. He’s got a 54.5% ground ball rate as a cherry on top. His manager recently said he wants to use him in higher leverage situations, so he’s moving up in the ‘pen ranks.
I think I’ve mentioned Wandy Peralta before, but he’s still doing well. The strikeout rate, ground ball rate, everything is still elite. He’s not getting high leverage opportunities, but if you just need ratio help, he’s another good option.
Finally, here are some other names with stellar xFIPs and strikeout rates in middle relief: Andrew Chafin, Joe Smith, Ryan Tepera, and Ross Stripling. They are even further off the radar, but all are dealing.
Now that we’ve talked about lots of non-closers, here are the updated closer ranking tiers:
- Craig Kimbrel
- Kenley Jansen
- Dellin Betances
- Wade Davis
- Greg Holland
- Ken Giles
- Cody Allen
- David Robertson
- Addison Reed
- Roberto Osuna
- Mark Melancon
The Good Leads
- Brad Brach
- Alex Colome
- Jim Johnson
- Corey Knebel
- Justin Wilson
- Edwin Diaz (the walk rate is still scary and Scott Servais did not say he’s 100% back as the closer, but he did pick up a save last week, so I’m tentatively putting him back up here for now.)
The Weak Leads
- Kelvin Herrera (two clean outings in a row have helped him keep his job, but the general warning signs are still there, as is Joakim Soria.)
- Seung-Hwan Oh (That sound you hear is Oh owners sighing with relief after he struck out four in 1.1 innings on 5/23. More outings like that and he might just hold off Rosenthal.)
- Raisel Iglesias (He deserves to move a few spots up because he is certainly a better pitcher than Ramos, Kintzler, and Watson right now and maybe even the two just above him.)
- A.J. Ramos (There’s a reason he remains down here. He just gave up 3 ER on 5/23 and he’s still walking someone almost every outing. I’m tempted to move him down further. Kyle Barraclaugh is probably next up.)
- Brandon Kintzler (his ground ball rate is heading toward mediocre, so look out. His strikeout rate is at a whopping 5.57 K/9, so the uninspiring but capable Taylor Rogers could be called upon soon to take over.)
- Matt Bush (Moving him up because he’s earned it)
- Tony Watson (Felipe Rivero should be in the on-deck circle. Watson remains a ticking time bomb, especially after his blow up on 5/23. That being said, he does show up as “super safe” in the big chart below due to his very good swinging strike rate and elite ability to limit hard contact, so I can’t put him any lower than this right now.)
The Timeshares (these are just the lowest tier, they aren’t all in true committees)
- Koda Glover (I think he’s now in charge of this role in Washington. Did you see the 96 mph slider he threw on Friday? It moved like an 80 mph slider, but so much faster. Crazy.)
- Brandon Maurer/Brad Hand (Maurer has recently blown some saves, so Hand, who’s been a slightly better pitcher this year, stepped in to pick up a couple. I don’t think this is 100% settled yet. Both are good pitchers and we might see a true committee here, especially since Hand is a lefty.)
- Fernando Rodney (He has settled down lately, but I’m still worried, especially long term on a team that considers itself a contender.)
- 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)
- Blake Parker/Huston Street/Bud Norris/David Hernandez/Cam Bedrosian (This is the biggest bullpen mess in baseball right now, with Norris’ knee injury. Cam Bedrosian is still the best option they have once he’s healthy. Norris did come back and pitch after the injury, so he’s still the primary guy, but who knows once the other guys come back this week.)
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.
If you hover over a data point, it should give you the name of the player and their numbers.
As I do every 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: Fernando Rodney and A.J. Ramos.
Just outside the red danger zone: Seung-Hwan Oh, Brandon Kintzler, Matt Bush, Joaquin Benoit, Kelvin Herrera, Alex Colome, and Santiago Casilla. Cody Allen is doing a little better, but he’s basically a league average reliever in terms of z-score, which isn’t what I would expect.
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, Kelvin Herrera, Santiago Casilla, 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!