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Bud Norris falls, Matt Belisle surprises, Britton looking good & more bullpen updates

Coffee’s for Closers is back for Week 20 with updates on your 30 favorite MLB bullpens.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the non-waiver trade deadline behind us, things have settled down a little bit. Sure, we’ve had at least one bullpen shakeup this week, but bullpens should be fairly stable the rest of the season. Now is the point where closers that got the job midseason tend to run away with it. This is especially true for guys like Blake Treinen, Trevor Rosenthal, and Arodys Vizcaino, whose competition for the job haven’t been good this year. They have the skills to stay in the spot the rest of the season.

Also, teams in the playoff hunt don’t like to make closer changes this late because it risks upsetting the balance they’ve built over the season. For example, even though Cody Allen has been struggling much more than usual this year and the recently-acquired Joe Smith is probably better right now, Tito Francona isn’t going to make the change. There’s too much history with Allen. That’s good news if you have an established closer, but bad news if you are hoping to pick a new closer up off waivers. It’s going to take an injury to clear the way for most job openings the rest of the way.

On to the updated closer rankings:

The Closers

  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Kenley Jansen
  • Roberto Osuna (It’s time. Time to bump Osuna above Chapman for the first time all year. Chapman started the year at #1, but is slowly falling due to a K%-BB% of 21%, his lowest since 2011. Osuna’s been brilliant.)
  • Aroldis Chapman
  • Felipe Rivero (I promised I would move him up if he continued to be great, so I’m following through.)

Cadillac Eldorados

  • Corey Knebel
  • Ken Giles
  • Wade Davis (I moved him down a tier to make room for Rivero, who has been better, and because his peripheral stats show he probably belongs in this second tier and not the first, but you can make an argument he should stay up top.)
  • Greg Holland

The Good Leads

  • Zach Britton (He has looked more and more like himself lately, so I moved him up a tier. To wit: since July 20, he has a 9.82 K/9, 84.2%!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GB%, 2.59 FIP, and 2.89 xFIP, so he’s doing just fine.)
  • Raisel Iglesias
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Brad Hand

The Weak Leads

  • Trevor Rosenthal (I moved this guy up this week to the top of this tier because he looks like the best of the group, skills-wise, and is in control of that bullpen now.)
  • Fernando Rodney
  • Cody Allen
  • Kelvin Herrera
  • Mark Melancon (Until we get some more appearances to confirm that he is healthy, I’m only putting him in this tier. Plus, the Giants are Cleveland Browns-level bad right now and won’t get many save opps.)
  • Arodys Vizcaino (Despite success in recent weeks in terms of saves and ERA, his underlying numbers have been poor. Since July 19: 4.91 K/9, 29% GB%, and a 5.37 xFIP. That’s not good. His 2.45 ERA during that time means his job is safe, but I’m now much less bullish on his rest-of-season production.)
  • AJ Ramos
  • Hector Neris (He’s been used a lot this year, with his 54 innings being 25th most in baseball among RP, but looks ok. He’s going to get days off, though, like he did last week so he won’t get every save opportunity.)

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

  • Cam Bedrosian (Bud Norris’ recent struggles finally kicked him out of the closer chair. Bedrosian steps in as the most talented guy in the bullpen. He was always going to end up here, but injuries got in the way. I will bump him up a tier next week unless something unexpected happens, like 2002 K-Rod shows up in a time machine.)
  • Sean Doolittle
  • Blake Treinen
  • Alex Claudio/Jose Leclerc (Claudio still my favorite to get the most saves rest-of-season, even if Leclerc snags a few. Both are good.)
  • Matt Belisle (Belisle continues to shock the world by suddenly being good at age 37 and looking better than he has in at least seven years! He had one blowup on 8/12, with 2 ER in 0.1 innings, but otherwise, he hasn’t allowed a run since the all-star break and is carrying a 2.32 xFIP over that time. I have no idea why he is suddenly good or how long it will last, but I’m still not betting it will last all season.)
  • Shane Greene
  • Alex Colome
  • Brad Ziegler
  • Tyler Clippard/Minaya/Petricka (Still a committee, still not very good. Clippard is still the leader, but this whole thing needs to be avoided.)

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, Jansen, and Osuna 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: Shane Greene

Just outside the red danger zone: AJ Ramos, Matt Belisle, Brad Ziegler, Alex Colome, Kelvin Herrera, Tyler Clippard

Ramos has had an awful walk rate all year, but he’s not in danger of losing his job until Familia comes back. At that point, I think he loses his job no matter what unless Familia is just awful. Greene is shaky due to his walk rate, lack of velocity, and lack of swinging strikes, but he hasn’t blown too many saves as closer yet, so he’s got some job security.

I discussed Belisle in detail above. Enjoy the black magic while it lasts. Eventually it’s going to end.

Ziegler and Colome are guys with closers jobs. And not much more than that. Colome has the complete trust of his manager, but hasn’t really pitched well. Ziegler is the closer by default after David Phelps and AJ Ramos were traded. Tyler Clippard is also a closer-by-default after the White Sox traded their three best relievers away. He’s OK at best, but should not be counted on. That’s all for this week. Tschus!