Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

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Neris Nixed?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ever since he ascended to closer last season, I’ve been calling Hector Neris an “acceptable steward.” The idea was simple – the Phillies weren’t contending so they could settle for a merely adequate closer. Neris’ occasional command hiccups made him that guy. Now Philadelphia is contending. Neris is no longer the right fit.


The Phillies bullpen will probably eventually supply us with a good closer. They may have to work through a couple more stopgaps before discovering the right guy. Ramos was the first to earn a save in the post-Neris era. Although I was an early adopter of Ramos this spring, I no longer believe he’s one of the Phillies top relievers. As a veteran, Tommy Hunter might be preferable. Luis Garcia has an interesting blend of ground balls and swinging strikes. His stuff could play up if his pitch usage were adjusted. Fantasy owners should root for Seranthony Dominguez. His blend of premium velocity, big breaking ball, and recent move from the rotation to the bullpen reminds me of Edwin Diaz’s debut. Even Victor Arano (returning from the disabled list today) could factor in the late innings. Despite a lack of name brand talent, it’s a crowded and deep bullpen.


EDIT: Shortly after publishing, the Phillies defeated the Orioles 4-1. In the process, they used the most confusing combination of relievers possible. Hunter and Garcia shared the eighth inning. Ramos started the ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts. He was then replaced with Neris who recorded the final out. Is Gabe Kapler the new Mike Scioscia?


Elsewhere, five pitchers tied for the weekly lead in saves with three apiece. The most impressive of the batch was probably Raisel Iglesias. He tossed a total of five scoreless innings. He also picked up seven strikeouts and a win for his owners. Sean Doolittle, Blake Treinen, Brad Hand, and Fernando Rodney round out the list of busy closers. The seasonal lead belongs to Wade Davis and his 15 saves. Edwin Diaz (14) is in hot pursuit followed by Brad Boxberger (12) and Hand (12).


Now, shall we go to the tiers?


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Tier 1: The Elite (2)


Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox


Kimbrel blew a save last Wednesday against the Yankees. Later in the same game, Chapman appeared to record the save while striking out the side. Kimbrel has since rebounded with a couple 1-2-3 frames.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (7)


Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Brad Hand, San Diego Padres

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies


Diaz blew a one-run lead yesterday. Admittedly, I was not watching this game live. The play-by-play report is a tad confusing. Diaz allowed a single to Jurickson Profar who later advanced to second on a wild pitch. Then he scored on a ground ball to first base? There’s a story here… Ah, here’s the video. The best part is when the ball disappeared from Diaz’s hand. Is Joey Gallo a magician?


Doolittle is in the midst of a majestic season. He’s allowed just seven hits and three walks in 18.2 innings. He’s paired the baserunner suppression with 28 strikeouts. The Nationals always seem to need a mercenary closer at the trade deadline. Perhaps this season will be the exception?


Jansen’s velocity remains infuriatingly inconsistent. In many ways, he’s the same pitcher as always. In other ways, such as those measured by ERA estimators like FIP and SIERA, he’s kind of a dud now. I’ll continue to split the difference until he starts racking up strikeouts or coughing up runs in bunches.


The Padres are aggressive with Hand’s workload. Over the last seven days, he’s pitched 5.1 innings. Aside from issues with free passes, Hand has looked the part of a top closer. The Padres have copious reinforcements on the way from the minors. They could climb out of this rebuilding phase by next season. A lot of people assume a trade is inevitable, but don’t be surprised if they hang onto Hand at the deadline.


I’m never going to get the kind of sample size I need to judge Davis’ performance at Coors Field. To this point, he’s pitched to a 5.14 ERA at home including a clunky blown save last week. Additionally, Adam Ottavino is clearly the best reliever in the Rockies bullpen (not that Davis is bad). There are some issues keeping me from moving Davis up the rankings even though he leads the league in saves.


Tier 3: The Core Performers (6)


Corey Knebel, Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals

Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks


Knebel has yet to earn a save in three appearances since returning from the disabled list. Hader even snagged the save on Friday – likely because Knebel had appeared the previous two days. On Monday, Hader worked the seventh and eighth innings. I think Knebel is back on top.


Iglesias was used heavily over the last week. On Wednesday, he threw a pair of innings. He recorded four outs in Thursday and two more on Friday before returning on Sunday for a three out save. All told, he was perfect through five innings.


Herrera was dinged for the loss yesterday. It was only the second run he’s allowed all season. Familia coughed up a solo home run while protecting a one-run deficit.


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You can read more from Brad Johnson on Rotoworld, FanGraphs, and RotoBaller. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.
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