This week’s intro is all about the Miami Marlins. This report from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald indicates that the team is listening to offers on both A.J. Ramos and David Phelps. That would clear out a big chunk of the bullpen, deposing both the closer and 8th-inning guy. This is not a done deal, but it does make sense from the Marlins perspective. They are not going anywhere this season, so relievers on one-year deals make easy trade decisions.
If this does indeed happen, it means a new closer for the fish. The first name on most lists for that job would be Kyle “Bear Claw” Barraclaugh. The only issue with that is he walks everyone. Ok, not everyone, but almost 16% of plate appearances against him end in a walk. For comparison, Bryce Harper walks in 15% of his plate appearances. That’s not closer material. The walks were OK last year because he was striking out a massive 37% of all hitters. That’s down to a mediocre 22% this year. Throw in more homers allowed and fewer grounders and you get a 2017 FIP of 4.13 and an xFIP of 5.26. Again, not closer material.
So, if he’s not up to the task, who is? Well, as I moved through their bullpen depth chart, I notice bear claw isn’t the only one with a walk issue. Nearly everyone in the ‘pen has a BB% over 10. There are two primary exceptions: Nick Wittgren and Jarlin Garcia. Of these two, Garcia is younger, throws harder, and has a better K%-BB%, so I think he is the better pitcher. Garcia carries a 26% K% and a 4.6% BB%. His 31% GB% isn’t very good, but his home park is spacious, so it shouldn’t hurt him too much. Garcia has a 14.7% SwStr%, which suggests some K% improvement is likely. Meanwhile, Wittgren has a mediocre 9.8% SwStr%.
If you are looking for a deep future saves stash for the trade deadline, Garcia is the best option in Miami. I think Barraclaugh will get first crack at saves, but his control is not good enough to hold the job for long.
On to the updated closer rankings:
- Craig Kimbrel
- Kenley Jansen
- Aroldis Chapman (the hard-throwing lefty is back off the DL and Dellin Betances resumes his old setup role)
- Wade Davis
- David Robertson
- Addison Reed
- Roberto Osuna
- Mark Melancon
- Greg Holland (despite leading baseball in saves, he has given up runs in his recent outings and has looked shakier overall, so I dropped him down a tier)
The Good Leads
- Ken Giles
- Edwin Diaz
- Corey Knebel
- Brad Brach (Zach Britton is on a rehab assignment and could be back very soon. I hope you enjoyed the ride, Brach owners, including myself, because it is about to end.)
- Alex Colome
- Jim Johnson
- Justin Wilson
- Seung-Hwan Oh
- Cody Allen/Andrew Miller (Late update: The Indians have decided, at Allen’s suggestion, to share saves between Allen and Andrew Miller. Allen is still good enough that I decided to put him on this tier instead of lower, but he might go lower.)
The Weak Leads
- Kelvin Herrera
- Raisel Iglesias
- Matt Bush
- Fernando Rodney (I can’t believe I am typing this, but he has been very good since a rough April and I can’t poke holes in what he’s done. He moves up a tier.)
- Brandon Kintzler
The Timeshares (these are just the lowest tier, they aren’t all in true committees)
- Brandon Maurer
- A.J. Ramos (The continued walk issues combined with some blown saves and the trade talk force me to move him down a tier.)
- Juan Nicasio/Felipe Rivero (Nicasio got one save chance last week and blew it, so Rivero should have the upper hand in this committee now. Rivero is probably already owned in nearly every league, but if he isn’t, you should count on him being the closer more often than not going forward.)
- Hector Neris/Pat Neshek (Late update: Neris just blew a save on Monday night and Joaquin Benoit is suddenly back in the picture. Neris has had all of 3 saves in over a month, so this bullpen is a disaster. Neshek, Neris, and Benoit will be fighting over the scraps in this ‘pen.)
- Santiago Casilla
- Bud Norris/Cam Bedrosian/Huston Street (well, Bedrosian is off the DL finally and Street will be soon, but Norris is still doing fine, so it is anyone’s guess what happens here. I expect Norris to hold the job in the short term, but Bedrosian is a more talented pitcher.)
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 -1 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: Juan Nicasio and A.J. Ramos.
Just outside the red danger zone: Matt Bush, Brandon Maurer, Brandon Kintzler, Seung-Hwan Oh, and Fernando Rodney. Cody Allen and Pat Neshek are right on the 0 z-score line, meaning they have been just average relievers by this metric this year.
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 Juan Nicasio (not really behind him, since he’s kind of already behind Rivero). 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.
I’m not worried about Fernando Rodney (I still can’t believe it!) or Seung-Hwan Oh. They have looked great lately and the should move out of the danger zone as the season moves on. Maurer, Kintzler, Nicasio, and Ramos owners should be worried, however. Tschus!