Last week in this space, I discussed an elite non-closer for the Yankees, Chad Green. This week, I’m going to quickly mention Tyler Lyons of the Cardinals. Like Green, he has been fantastic this year and mostly unnoticed. Unlike Green, he has a chance at closing games with Seung Hwan Oh’s mediocrity and Trevor Rosenthal’s injury.
Lyons is left-handed, which hurts his closing chances some, but he’s been electric. He’s got a 2.63 ERA, 2.91 FIP, and a 29% K%. On the other hand, he’s only got a 9.6% SwStr%, throws 90 MPH, and has been extremely lucky on home runs, with a 5.4% HR/FB%. His xFIP shows how lucky he has been, since it sits at 3.9. I started writing this to praise him, but I’m actually worried that he can’t keep this up. You should be cautious when betting on Lyons taking the closer job and running with it because he is very vulnerable to regression.
For those in holds leagues, another option might be Houston’s Joe Musgrove. If you look at his stats over the past month (when he’s been used entirely in relief), he’s got a 0.52 ERA, 1.74 FIP, 2.99 xFIP, 28.6% K%, 4.8% BB%, 2.72 SIERA, 51% GB%, 19.5% Hard-hit%, and 16.2 SwStr%. Those are sustainable numbers that most pitchers would love to have. I don’t see any weaknesses in those numbers. He’s a much safer bet than Lyons for rates, but he is very far from saves.
On to the updated closer rankings:
- Craig Kimbrel
- Kenley Jansen
- Roberto Osuna
- Felipe Rivero
- Corey Knebel
- Ken Giles
- Wade Davis
The Good Leads
- Zach Britton (A knee scare turned out to be nothing, so he should be good to go. He’s still not quite what he was at his peak, but he should be good enough to stay on this tier.)
- Raisel Iglesias
- Dellin Betances (Whether you think his beaning of James McCann was intentional or not, it looked ugly and I’m glad McCann seems fine. Betances escaped a suspension, so apparently the league office thinks it wasn’t intentional.)
- Sean Doolittle
- Fernando Rodney (I bumped him up a tier because he’s continued to surprise everyone, at least me anyway, by excelling. He has an 11.7 K/9, 59% GB%, and 2.70 ERA over the past month.)
- Brad Hand
The Weak Leads
- Cody Allen
- Arodys Vizcaino (I moved him up a couple spots because he’s locked down the closer’s job in the ATL.)
- Blake Treinen (For the second week in a row, I have to move up the A’s closer. He’s been a totally different pitcher in Oakland: 11.57 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 60% GB%, 2.76 ERA)
- Alex Colome (Although the skills are still very weak for a closer, he continues to get it done and leads baseball in saves for a competitive Rays team. I have to move him back up a tier this week.)
- Edwin Diaz (His walk rate is still awful and that is holding him back. He falls a couple spots this week.)
- Kelvin Herrera
- Hector Neris
- Shane Greene (Although his season numbers are bad, his numbers since he became closer are actually very encouraging, so I’m moving him out of the bottom tier.)
The Timeshares (these are just the lowest tier, they aren’t all in true committees)
- Sam Dyson
- AJ Ramos (He falls a tier this week due to the threat of Jeurys Familia taking back the job. Familia will get some time to ease in, but Ramos isn’t good enough to fend him off for long.)
- Alex Claudio/Jose Leclerc
- Matt Belisle
- Greg Holland (Sadly, the NL saves leader finds himself down here this week. His skills have eroded greatly. His job is certainly in jeopardy, with Pat Neshek right behind him.)
- Brad Ziegler
- Seung-Hwan Oh/Lyons
- Cam Bedrosian/Norris/Parker
- Juan Minaya/Bummer/Infante (Still a committee, still not very good. Juan Minaya is 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, Aaron Bummer
Just outside the red danger zone: AJ Ramos, Matt Belisle, Kelvin Herrera, Seung Hwan Oh, Sam Dyson
Greene is here because he was so awful early in the season. He’s been much better lately and is in no jeopardy of losing his job. His arrow is pointing up, so I was probably too hard on him the past few weeks.
Bummer is in a bad committee and can be ignored. Ramos has two strikes against him: he isn’t very good and he’s got a returning closer in Familia behind him. Ramos owners should have a backup plan, maybe even Familia.
Herrera and Dyson are just good enough to hold onto their jobs, especially when their main competition hasn’t been great for the most part. They are not in immediate danger. Seung Hwan Oh is in some sort of committee situation, but things are murky in St. Lou. He remains mediocre and worse than Lyons, but who knows how this will shake out. It is definitely in flux right now.
Belisle is certainly someone I don’t trust and Trevor Hildenberger behind him is a better pitcher, but I can’t argue with Belisle’s results so far. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but he has 11 Ks and 0 BBs in his last 7 innings (1.84 FIP, 1.78 xFIP). He’s certainly in no danger.
That’s all for this week. Tschus!