I’m not one to highlight my successes. For two reasons: one, I try to be humble in all of life’s circumstances, and two, I mess up all the time and it would be foolish to draw more attention to my predictions so that when many of them fail, there are more eyes on them.
All that being said, I’m proud of my skill and leverage graph’s successes so far this season in identifying closers that are about to lose their jobs. Neftali Feliz, Francisco Rodriguez, Shawn Kelley, and Sam Dyson were all in the “In Danger” group of the chart at one point or another prior to losing their jobs. As you will see below this week’s updated chart, there are still some current closers in danger that could join that group of job losers.
This is the end of my plug for the big Tableau chart, but I’m happy with the results so far and I plan on keeping it around all year. Hopefully it helps many of you jump ship before it’s too late or snag a future closer in advance.
On to the updated closer rankings:
- Craig Kimbrel
- Kenley Jansen
- Dellin Betances
- Wade Davis
- Greg Holland
- Cody Allen
- David Robertson
- Addison Reed
- Roberto Osuna
- Mark Melancon
The Good Leads
- Ken Giles (moves down two tiers after recent struggles and the great relievers behind him)
- Edwin Diaz (his stuff is back to normal and the walks are down, so look out! He moves up a little this week)
- Corey Knebel (he has been striking out everybody, so despite the bad walk rate, he deserves to move up a little)
- Brad Brach
- Alex Colome
- Jim Johnson
- Justin Wilson
- Seung-Hwan Oh (he is climbing his way back to the elite closers group with continued greatness in the past few weeks. He moves up a tier.)
The Weak Leads
- Kelvin Herrera
- Raisel Iglesias
- Matt Bush (he struggled this week and Keone Kela has been looking good, so Kela is a good stash option. Bush has allowed 3 HR since 5/31 and 4 ER. His strikeouts have been down and his walks up. Very thin ice here.)
- Koda Glover
- A.J. Ramos
- Brandon Kintzler (Brandon is lucky the Twins don’t have a reliable second option because he has allowed ER in three of his last six appearances. When you don’t strike anyone out, you are at the mercy of batted ball luck. At some point, it will run out, but he’s not yet in immediate danger.)
The Timeshares (these are just the lowest tier, they aren’t all in true committees)
- Brandon Maurer
- Fernando Rodney
- Pat Neshek (Hector Neris is temporarily out of the role after struggling to find his elite splitter, or something like that. Neshek has been solid all year and should be the closer for a little while until Neris...wait, what’s wrong with Neris? Since 5/23, I know it’s arbitrary, he’s got a 3.0 ERA, 0.91 FIP, 2.37 xFIP, 16.5 K/9, and has been victimized by a 0.462 BABIP. I think Neris will get this job back in the near future.)
- Santiago Casilla (Although I think Madson is a better pitcher, Casilla has been getting all the saves and has been OK lately, so he’s firmly in the role.)
- Bud Norris (Still waiting for Bedrosian or Street to come back and take this job, but they can’t seem to get right. Meanwhile, Norris just keeps rolling along.)
- Juan Nicasio/Felipe Rivero (This week’s other closer change, after Philly, involves Tony Watson finally being removed and replaced with mostly Juan Nicasio but possibly Felipe Rivero. Rivero has been dominant and much better, but apparently Clint Hurdle wants to use Rivero like Andrew Miller, so Nicasio will likely get the first crack at saves.)
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. The “Highlight Name” search bar lets you find a specific player.
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, Juan Nicasio, Brandon Kintzler, and A.J. Ramos.
Just outside the red danger zone: Matt Bush, Brandon Maurer, Cody Allen, Seung-Hwan Oh, and Addison Reed.
None of the guys I listed are necessarily in immediate danger. But, some are walking on thin ice. This is especially true for guys with an elite option behind them like Santiago Casilla, and Fernando Rodney. They certainly have their weaknesses. Matt Bush has Keone Kela behind him, but Kela’s also near the danger zone, so Bush might actually be safer than he should be. Juan Nicasio might have the closer’s job in Pittsburgh initially, but he’s not good enough to run away with it. I know Hurdle said he wants to use Rivero as a fireman, but man, Rivero is one of the best relievers in baseball and would make a dominant closer.
I expect Rivero to be the long-term closer, unless he gets traded. You know who could really use him right now? The team that had him last in the nation’s capital. Sure, they got a partial season out of Mark Melancon, but it seems a little short-sighted now.
I’m not worried about Cody Allen, Addison Reed, or Seung-Hwan Oh. They have looked great lately and the should move out of the danger zone as the season moves on. Rodney, Kintzler, Nicasio, and Ramos owners should be worried, however. Tschus!