Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

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Bad News Cubs

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


The playoff bound Cubs were pummeled with bad news over the last week. Not only is backup closer Pedro Strop probably out for the season, Brandon Morrow’s attempt to return utterly failed. Jesse Chavez and Steve Cishek are expected to take over with Justin Wilson filling in against tough lefty hitters. Cishek in particular has stark platoon splits which makes Chavez the better bet to nab the role outright. Strop hopes to pitch in the final two games of the regular season. However, hamstring injuries are notoriously finicky.

 

The Yankees activated Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday. How he’ll be used has yet to be addressed. Since the club isn’t exactly under any pressure, there’s no reason for them to avoid shoving him right back into the closer role – especially with Dellin Betances slumping. We could be looking at a highly talented committee while Chapman eases back into regular duty.

 

Five pitchers – Ken Giles, Will Smith, Craig Kimbrel, Sergio Romo, and Felipe Vazquez – tied for the weekly lead with three saves apiece. Edwin Diaz (56) maintains a dominating lead over Kimbrel (41) and Davis (40). They’re the only relievers to cross the 40 save threshold. It’s possible nobody else will join them.

 

Now, shall we go to the tiers?

 

 

Tier 1: The Elite (4)

 

Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

 

Edwin Diaz’s pursuit of a couple records – total strikeouts by a closer and saves – are seemingly out of reach. There’s still an outside chance the Mariners hand him the seven save opportunities he needs to surpass Francisco Rodriguez’s 62 save 2008 campaign. They have only 11 games remaining in their schedule. Diaz currently ranks third for single-season saves with 56. He’s just one behind second place Bobby Thigpen.

 

As somebody pointed out to me yesterday, Treinen has a 0.85 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP over a 74.1 inning season. The symmetry won’t hold up through his final few starts. Nor does it matter. It’s just a cool little factoid about a fantastic fantasy season.

 

Remember when everybody was panicking about Kimbrel a few weeks ago? He appears to be back to normal. His velocity has even increased in recent outings. The rest of the Red Sox bullpen is suspect. An ill-timed blip from Kimbrel could lead to a brief postseason experience for baseball’s winningest team.

 

I’ve included Chapman here as the sole Yankees closer. Realistically, Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, and David Robertson all have a chance to grab a couple saves before the end of the season. The Yankees may avoid using Chapman on consecutive days.

 

Tier 2: Nearly Elite (5)

 

Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros

Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Not the sharpest week for our “near elites.” Everybody except Leclerc had their share of hiccups. Vazquez allowed runs in four of his last six appearances. He was fortunate enough to still save three of those games. He blew a save on Tuesday. His velocity is down one mph. I’m unconcerned about Doolittle even though he took the loss last Thursday. He failed to defend a tied game. Since then, he’s cruised through a couple clean saves.

 

Tier 3: Core Performers (6)

 

Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers

Will Smith, San Francisco Giants

A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves

 

Home runs continue to dog Yates. He allowed another last Wednesday. They’ve been a long standing problem for the righty. I suspect the Padres will seek to push Yates back into a setup role over the offseason by signing a couple retread closer candidates like Greg Holland. As we saw with Brad Boxberger, a team can survive with a homer prone closer for a while. Eventually, they’ll prove too costly.

 

Arodys Vizcaino returned from the disabled list on Saturday. He’s pitched twice in the ninth inning – both times with a deficit. For now, I believe Minter remains the primary closer. Vizcaino struggled through an appearance on Monday.

 

Tier 4: Second Choice Closers (4)

 

Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

Brad Hand, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians

Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays

Sergio Romo, Tampa Bay Rays

 

As a starter, Martinez occasionally showed up with bad command. That’s a more glaring issue as a reliever when you’re not given multiple innings to rediscover the strike zone. CMart’s most recent appearance included three walks, one hit, and a run. As I worried last week, there are some small sample signs that he’s not comfortable pitching multiple days in a row.

 

In order to maximally confuse fantasy owners, the Indians called upon Miller for a save on Tuesday. The club has already clinched the AL Central – they’re simply preparing Miller for high leverage work in the postseason. All three relievers should be owned in 10-team and deeper for formats. It’s a shame they’ll share the workload over the final week and a half.

 

As several readers pointed out last week, Romo recorded only one save between August 22 and September 15. He also had a 20-day span over which he appeared just once. Normality reasserted itself this week. He appeared on four straight days and locked down three saves. He also coughed up a couple solo home runs.

 


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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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