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Felipe Rivero’s Stumbles, Herrera Playing Hurt, Melancon Done, and More!

We’ve made it to the last month of fantasy baseball! Join me for Week 23 of Coffee’s for Closers!

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

First, if you haven’t read this post yet, head over there now and come back. It’s much more important. I’ll wait.

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Ok, now that you’re back, let’s talk about Felipe Rivero. After being one of the most dominant closers in baseball most of the season, it appears he has been slipping. Much like his fellow closer Greg Holland. Here’s how it looks in number form:

April-July: 53.2 innings, 0.67/2.20/2.95 ERA/FIP/xFIP, 30.5% K%, 6.4% BB%, 55.6% GB%, 20.8% Hard%, 16.1 SwStr%

August: 11.2 innings, 5.40/3.82/2.66, 27.8% K%, 7.4% BB%, 51.4% GB%, 42.9% Hard%, 13.3% SwStr%

Now, other than the ERA, FIP, and hard contact %, his August numbers actually look very good still. His strikeout and walk rates are still very good, even if they’ve both gotten slightly worse. We do have to address the hard contact, though. He’s gone from one extreme to the other. 20.8% was way below league average and now he’s well above. Unsurprisingly, his BABIP has followed suit, going from 0.182 to 0.364. To make it worse, his HR/FB% went from 5.4% to 28.6%.

Basically both bad luck and leaving more pitches out over the plate have led to a very bad month. I expect him to find a happy middle ground in September. I don’t think Clint Hurdle is going to abandon Rivero and you shouldn’t either. This is a temporary hiccup. Both his HR/FB% and BABIP should stabilize and he never stopped getting strikeouts, so his margin for error is still high. It’s amazing that his ERA only went up to 5.40 given how many things went wrong for him. That’s a testament to his raw talent. Now Greg Holland, on the other hand, that’s a much less optimistic situation.

On to the updated closer rankings:

The Closers

  • Craig Kimbrel
  • Kenley Jansen
  • Roberto Osuna
  • Corey Knebel (The Brew Crew remains in the playoff hunt and this guy remains dominant. He takes Rivero’s vacated spot.)

Cadillac Eldorados

  • Ken Giles
  • Wade Davis
  • Felipe Rivero (Although I’m not worried long-term about Rivero, his recent stretch is enough to drop him one tier.)

The Good Leads

  • Raisel Iglesias
  • Dellin Betances
  • Sean Doolittle
  • Fernando Rodney
  • Brad Hand
  • Alex Colome (He continues to lead the AL in saves and August was his best month of the season so far, with a 28.6% K%-BB% based on improvements in both strikeout rate and walk rate. He’s slowly returning to his old form, so he moves up a tier.)
  • Cody Allen (I had to move him up a tier. He is trending up after posting a 33.3% K%-BB% in August, far better than May, June, or July, when he was 20% and under. Andrew Miller is still hurt, so there’s little competition.)

The Weak Leads

  • Zach Britton (Did you know that he had more walks than strikeouts in August? That’s not good. His 77% GB% during the month saved him, but he’s playing with fire right now and drops two tiers this week. His strikeouts have abandoned him since his injury.)
  • Arodys Vizcaino
  • Blake Treinen
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Hector Neris
  • Shane Greene

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

  • Matt Belisle (I still don’t trust him, but he’s been good enough to jump to the top of this bottom tier.)
  • AJ Ramos (Familia probably won’t get the job back this year. That’s my new theory, so Ramos should be good to go the rest of the way for a Mets team going nowhere.)
  • Seung-Hwan Oh (I think Oh has the job by himself now. He’ll be OK in the role and probably good enough to hold it the rest of the season. I moved him up because it doesn’t look like a committee anymore.)
  • Alex Claudio (Claudio has just 3 saves in the past 30 days, while other Rangers relievers have two. It’s been a tough time for Claudio owners like myself, but at least he hasn’t lost the job. There isn’t a clear competitor for his job right now, but no save chances either.)
  • Greg Holland/Jake McGee (Despite Pat Neshek being the best reliever in the bullpen at the moment, it looks like Holland and McGee are locked in a committee of some sort. The Rockies haven’t had a save chance as of this writing on September 2 since last Sunday, so we don’t know too much about how this will shake out.)
  • Brad Ziegler
  • Kelvin Herrera/Brandon Maurer/Scott Alexander (As I write this, Herrera is nursing a recurring forearm injury and may sit for a few days or more. He’s been below average for a while and may be pitching through pain. Maurer, Alexander, and Mike Minor could see opportunities in Herrera’s absence. I had to drop this bullpen way down this week.)
  • Cam Bedrosian/Blake Parker (Parker is probably the favorite right now and should get most of the chances. He’s been elite this year in a setup role and could keep the job to himself.)
  • Sam Dyson (Mark Melancon will be shut down for the rest of the season, so Dyson could keep the job the rest of the way for baseball’s (second?) worst team. He falls down here because I realized just how awful he’s been for a while now. See below the chart for more details.)
  • Juan Minaya (It looks like Minaya is the clear closer now, but he’s not very good, so...)

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: Jake McGee, Brandon Maurer, AJ Ramos, Matt Belisle, Kelvin Herrera, Seung Hwan Oh, Sam Dyson

Greene’s been better lately than his awful early-season numbers so I’m not worried about his appearance here. Ramos’ job is secure with Familia being eased back into things, but he’s still a shaky option in general. Belisle keeps succeeding somehow. I don’t understand, but he’s not in danger of losing his job soon.

Herrera’s got big injury issues going on, so his job is already in jeopardy. His injury is probably why he’s been so mediocre this year. Oh’s not striking anyone out and has a measly 11% GB% in August, but a lack of walks has stabilized things. He’s not in immediate danger, but is shaky overall. Dyson should lose his job, but Melancon’s surgery means he probably won’t. He’s got as many walks as strikeouts in the past month and a second-half xFIP of 5.50. I hope you aren’t counting on him for rates and he’s not getting saves, so..

Jake McGee isn’t getting the strikeouts he used to, but with Holland struggling and Ottavino not dominant, only Neshek, who appears to prefer a setup role, stands in his way. He’s good enough to be in the saves mix right now. That’s about all I can say. Brandon Maurer is in a similar, but worse situation. He’s been well below average in KC, but has previous closer experience and that could give him the edge over the currently-much-better Scott Alexander if Herrera misses more time. It should be noted that Alexander has the most recent non-Herrera saves, however.

That’s all for this week. Tschus!