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Kelvin Herrera out, Dellin Betances too, and other late season bullpen news

The Week 24 edition has updates on the Royals and Yankees ‘pens, and much more!

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

A very short intro this week. Now that we are in the home stretch I wanted to look back at an incomplete list of the “rock solid” closers at the beginning of the season that lost their jobs this year for either part of the season or for good.

Aroldis Chapman

Kelvin Herrera

Zach Britton (injury)

Mark Melancon (injury)

Tony Watson

Seung Hwan Oh

Brandon Maurer

That’s just a reminder how there is no such thing as a sure thing with relievers in fantasy baseball. Even the elite closers can get hurt or falter and the mid-tier closers are even less reliable. It’s best to not invest too much in closers in drafts and rely on picking up one of the many closers to take over jobs in the middle of the season. Guys like Corey Knebel, Blake Treinen, Sean Doolittle, Hector Neris, Brad Hand, and Felipe Rivero emerge every season as great in-season closer pickups.

On to the updated closer rankings:

The Closers

  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Kenley Jansen
  • Corey Knebel

Cadillac Eldorados

  • Ken Giles
  • Wade Davis
  • Felipe Rivero
  • Roberto Osuna (He hasn’t been himself for a while now. Since the middle of August, his ERA is 5.23 and his K/9 has fallen from over 11 to 7.84. However, his walk rate has still been great during that time and his 3.14 xFIP is a good sign. He’s gotten help from a 70% GB% as well. He’s currently nursing a neck injury that has bothered him off and on all season. He drops one tier because the top tier requires near flawless pitching and because of the injury. I’m not overly concerned about him, however.)

The Good Leads

  • Raisel Iglesias
  • Sean Doolittle
  • Fernando Rodney
  • Brad Hand
  • Alex Colome
  • Cody Allen

The Weak Leads

  • Zach Britton
  • Arodys Vizcaino
  • Blake Treinen
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Hector Neris
  • Aroldis Chapman/Dellin Betances (This bullpen has been crazy this year. Chapman came into the year as one of the top 3 closers in baseball and lost his job due to poor performance. Betances has now seemingly lost the job back to Chapman after walking 6.5 batters per nine innings. Chapman is looking better lately and should take this job over again soon. I will move him up once it is clear he has the job.)
  • Blake Parker (Parker has taken over this bullpen and rightfully so. He has been great all year and should have no problems keeping the job the rest of the season. Cam Bedrosian should push him for the job next spring, however. I’m moving Parker up a tier this week, and not just because of his excellent surname.)
  • Shane Greene

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

  • Matt Belisle
  • AJ Ramos
  • Greg Holland (After overcoming a really bad stretch that cost him the closer role, he seems to have taken it back, but his strikeouts aren’t back to normal. In his last 5 innings, he has just 4 strikeouts, but no walks, a 1.8 ERA, and a 58% GB%, so he hasn’t been a disaster. I think he has earned back his manager’s trust.)
  • Brad Ziegler
  • Brandon Maurer/Scott Alexander/Mike Minor (Kelvin Herrera’s awful September numbers and injury problems finally cost him his job. Brandon Maurer, who has been bad himself since joining the Royals, is the clear leader right now. Minor would be my choice, but Ned Yost likes closers with experience, so Maurer will get most of the saves until he blows it. My case against Maurer: since August 1, his line reads 6.43 ERA, 5.64 FIP, 5.42 xFIP, 5.14 BB/9.)
  • Juan Nicasio (Seung Hwan Oh has not done enough to hold this job and recent addition Juan Nicasio has emerged as Matheny’s favorite closer. Don’t be surprised if Nicasio gets most of the saves from now on. Oh and Tyler Lyons are still in the mix, but only as backups.)
  • Alex Claudio/Barnette/Rodriguez (Despite being the “leader” among the closers in Texas, Claudio has not been used in a save situation for a long time. His last save was 8/21. Meanwhile, Tony Barnette and Ricky Rodriguez have picked up sporadic saves in the meantime. Rodriguez got the save on 8/24 and Barnette has the most recent save on 9/3. Claudio has the best ERA/FIP/xFIP but few strikeouts. The other two don’t really have closer profiles either, so this is just a big mess right now.)
  • Sam Dyson
  • Juan Minaya

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/near-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: Brandon Maurer, AJ Ramos, Matt Belisle, Kelvin Herrera, Seung Hwan Oh, Sam Dyson

Although his season-long stats don’t look great, his numbers in the past month have been greatly improved. His 2.30 ERA, 3.30 xFIP, and 9.77 K/9 with 2.87 BB/9 since the beginning of August make him a well-above average closing option. His presence on this danger list shouldn’t deter you from using him.

I don’t like Maurer and I don’t think he will keep the job the rest of the season, but he appears to be the leader in KC right now. Ramos, Belisle, and Dyson are just good enough to keep their jobs the rest of the way, but aren’t good enough to produce good rate stats for your fantasy team. They are below average closers that will get a few more saves.

Herrera is unlikely to get save opportunities the rest of the way after looking so bad lately. Seung Hwan Oh has been surpassed by both Lyons and Nicasio, but could still get a save or two with his diminished stuff.

That’s all for this week. Tschus!