If you’re still reading this, it means you are pushing for your fantasy baseball title. And that means there isn’t much season left or much to discuss in this space. I hope this weekly column has been helpful in carrying you into the playoffs. Closer changes are rare this late in the year, but we still have some very unstable bullpen situations around the league.
So, let’s get to the latest updates to the closer rankings and see how they are shaking out with just over a week to go.
- Craig Kimbrel
- Kenley Jansen
- Corey Knebel
- Ken Giles
- Wade Davis
- Felipe Rivero
- Roberto Osuna (After some rough stretches in August, Osuna seems to be back to normal, with his strikeout rate and ground ball rate bouncing back to elite levels.)
The Good Leads
- Raisel Iglesias
- Sean Doolittle
- Fernando Rodney
- Brad Hand
- Alex Colome
- Cody Allen
The Weak Leads
Zach BrittonBrad Brach (Britton is down for the rest of the year, so Brach will step in and get the save opportunities from here on out. This has been a difficult bullpen for fantasy owners this year. Britton was so dominant a year ago and now injuries have led to a poor season from him.)
- Arodys Vizcaino
- Blake Treinen
- Edwin Diaz
- Hector Neris
- Aroldis Chapman/Dellin Betances (Still a committee of sorts, but Chapman is the favorite from here on out for saves.)
- Blake Parker
- Shane Greene
- Greg Holland (He seems to have righted the ship in August and September and should be the closer the rest of the way as the Rockies try to hold onto a playoff spot, so I moved him back up a tier.)
The Timeshares (these are just the lowest tier, they aren’t all in true committees)
- Matt Belisle (He hasn’t been awful, but he hasn’t had many save opps lately, with just two saves in September. He should continue to be a mediocre closer the rest of the way.)
- AJ Ramos
- Brad Ziegler
- Scott Alexander/Mike Minor (Since Kelvin Herrera completely lost his skill and command this year, it’s been a wild mix of options in KC in the 9th inning. Minor is definitely the best pitcher in this ‘pen, but Alexander has the most saves this month, so he will likely get most of the opportunities.)
- Juan Nicasio (Tyler Lyons and Seung Hwan Oh are part of this mixed up bullpen, but Nicasio is the leader and has been good enough this month to deserve it.)
- Alex Claudio/Random Guy (Claudio is the “closer”, but a random assortment of other relievers have been getting save opportunities in the past month, with Claudio getting less than half the chances, so who knows what is going on here.)
- 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: AJ Ramos, Matt Belisle, Seung Hwan Oh, Sam Dyson, Juan Minaya, Tyler Lyons, Alex Colome
Greene’s season-long stats are still pulling him down on this chart, even though he has been more reliable lately. Ramos and Belisle are just barely good enough to keep their jobs and their skills have shown that all season long, even if Belisle had a very strong run in the mid-summer.
Dyson, Minaya, and Oh are all in the “just not very good” camp. They have survived mostly on smoke and mirrors to this point. Oh is nothing like the 2016 version of himself. All three of these guys are last resort options.
The last two of the “near danger” group are surprising because they’ve been good most of the season. Lyons has picked up some saves in the Cardinals committee and Colome leads baseball in saves by 5! Lyons was dominant for a stretch and even recently has looked very good by K% and BB%. He gets dinged in the graph for a lack of ground balls, but his stuff is excellent with a 13.5% SwStr% this month. He is probably the best reliever in St. Louis right now, so I’m not worried about him.
Colome has a 68% GB% this month, which is stellar, but everything else is awful. A 4.76 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, and 4.10 xFIP are not good enough for a 7th inning reliever, let alone a closer. He has racked up saves this season despite having diminished stuff. I don’t expect him to lose his job in the short time left, but I do expect someone else to lead the Rays in saves next season. Also, Colome will continue to be very shaky moving forward.
That’s all for this week. Good luck to all in your playoff matchups this week! Tschus!