Welcome back to Relief Pitcher Week! You know the drill by now. It’s time for some bold predictions...
1. For the 2nd time in the last four years, a team has over 56 saves.
Justification: The 2018 Seattle Mariners had 60 saves standing alone here. I think with such a huge group of potential closers mixed in with less and less starting pitching, we see some close opportunities allow a team to hit 57 or 58.
2. Taylor Rogers is in the top two in saves this year.
Justification: Don’t get me wrong, Josh Hader and Kirby Yates are amazing and so are Brad Hand and Aroldis Chapman. But with the constant turnover at this position, anyone can make a leap forward. Why not Taylor Rogers, who is on a heavily invested in Twins team with four years of proven improvement? His ERA has gone down from 3.96 to 2.61, his K/9 from 9.39 up to 11.74, his BB/9 from 2.35 to 1.43, his WHIP from 1.29 to 1.00, and finally his FIP from 3.57 to 2.85.
3. Kenley Jansen is not a top 12 closer in 2020.
Justification: I am very much against the grain here. A lot see optimism with his spring strikeouts and six consecutive years with 30+ saves. When you dig into the numbers, his xFIP jumped to 3.77 last year moving him from a excellent 2.90 area to a 3.50 above average (2018) to a very average 3.77. Likewise, his ERA was a career high 3.71, his BB/9 was 2.29 (a five-year high), his 80 strikeouts were a five-year low as well. The 32-year-old is trending in the wrong direction on everything, including innings pitched.
4. James Karinchak has 30+ holds and saves this year.
Justification: Brad Hand is starting to decline and if he doesn’t bounce back he could be on the wrong end of the closer’s role. Emmanuel Clase is battling injury and Karinchak has shown he is in contention for the top three closer/setup roles on this team with his recent performances. The 24-year-old had a crazy 13.5 K/9 with a 1.69 BB/9 last year, and that combination puts him among the elite relievers. If Karinchak achieves this, he would be among the top 10 for those who play in a combined format.
5. Toronto has not been in the top 15 in saves the last two years, but this year they are a top seven team.
Justification: With relief pitchers, I’m equally as invested in the team as the pitcher. The pitcher can be lights out but if you can’t hit the ball, it’s all in vain. The young squad of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette will be fun to watch and I think that plus Ken Giles (plus potential from Shun Yamaguchi or Nate Pearson shining) is a good recipe.
2019 (Last Year’s) Bold Relief Pitcher Predictions
1 . Last year 166 MLB players had a registered save, this year over 200 players will have one
Result: 196 players had a save last season, for fun context beyond that, 94 players had 1 save and 29 players had 2 saves. It really stretches out. Outlook: Essentially correct.
2. San Diego is in the top-10 in saves this season
Result: Well, I was bullish on Kirby Yates last year and man did that one pay out well. With 41 saves, he led the league in total saves and with 47 total saves, San Diego was 5th in the league. Fun side fact, Kirby Yates alone has more saves than 17 of the MLB teams. Outlook: Correct!
3. Cody Allen has a career-high number of saves (35+)
Result: Full disclosure, I was real bullish on the Angels having a big year last year and that flopped. Cody Allen ended up with 4 saves as two things happened. First the Angels were far from a dominant team with a 72-90 record (I might have been a year early as it looks like 2020 is going to be good to them). Second, Cody Allen would play 2nd fiddle to Hansel Robles who earned 23 saves last year. Outlook: way off!
4. Shane Greene finishes outside the top-25 in saves
Result: Shane Greene finished with 23 saves, good enough for 19th most. Remember when he was considered a top tier RP option? Outlook: incorrect but clearly not elite.
5. The Brewers have three closers among the top-40 in MLB.
Result: Josh Hader was fourth (37 saves) and after that it was Matt Albers who was 55th (4 saves) and then Junior Guerra who had 3 saves. Jeremy Jeffress and Cory Knebel (Tommy John Surgery) were not the 3-headed monster that preseason predicted. Outlook: for a team supposedly full of relievers last year this was way off