Well, another week, another roulette wheel of closers and relievers we need to target.  The mixing and matching in many bullpens continues unabated, and probably will over the last 30+ games.

Isn’t it amazing, though?  I think of guys like Alex Colome, and his bizarre season. Initially it looked like he would be the guy in Minnesota.  And then it was a 60/40 split with Taylor Rogers. Then Hansel Robles emerged when both Colome and Rogers struggled out of the gate.  And then the moribund Twins moves Robles at the trade deadline. So they needed a closer, and by default, went back to Colome. And now he’s been one of the best in the business the last three weeks.  Things can turn on a dime, both in baseball and in life, and we always need to be ready to adjust and keep moving along. It has been an insanely busy week for me professionally, so do not judge my “takes” too hard here.

Paul Mammino (@pmamminofantasy) has created the Data Monster, a tool that I firmly believe can help you win your leagues.  A quick summary of how it works is here, but for a full glossary of the terms, how they are used and what they tell us, go to RotoFanatic and check it out.  It’s all there for you to play with to your heart’s content; we are all looking for that winning edge, and Paul’s work can help you to that end.

In_Whiff (0 is average) – This shows how much better a pitcher is at generating swinging strikes than their location would suggest. So essentially a pitcher gets more credit for a swing and miss on a fastball down the middle versus one up in the zone. It’s pretty much a measure of the “nastiness” of a given pitcher.
rfCommand (0 is average) – This is a combination of four metrics: XWhiff, XSwing In Zone, xSwing Out of Zone, xWoba. It’s a bit hard to explain but it’s an overall combination of those four metrics that shows how good a given pitcher locates with respect to expected results.  Thus a good rfCommand means a pitcher:
  1. Throws pitches with high expect whiffs rates.
  2. Throws pitches in zone with low expected swing rates; called strikes are a good thing.
  3. Throws pitches out of the zone that are likely to generate swings.
  4. Throws pitches that are hard to hit well (low location-based xWOBA)
Stuff ERA – This is an ERA estimator that combines In_Whiff, rfCommand, and a few of the other DM metrics. When compared to actual season results it performed better than FIP from 2015-2020.
Closer Workbook
All Data According To Data Monster
Player Name In_Whiff Command Stuff ERA
Josh Hader 7.5 1.07 1.93
Liam Hendriks 5.5 0.90 2.92
Aroldis Chapman 4.4 -1.92 3.23
Chad Green 2.7 -1.03 3.12
Craig Kimbrel 4.4 3.59 1.80
Andrew Chafin 1.6 -1.17 2.84
Matt Barnes 2.5 2.66 2.77
Adam Ottavino -0.6 -0.63 3.42
Edwin Diaz 3.9 -0.02 3.25
Mark Melancon -1.7 1.84 3.81
Alex Reyes 2.3 0.66 2.23
Kenley Jansen 3.6 -3.69 2.96
Ian Kennedy 1.7 -3.09 4.22
Emmanuel Clase 4.8 1.71 2.41
James Karinchak 1.9 -2.33 3.47
Ryan Pressly 0.5 4.90 3.18
Raisel Iglesias 6.6 4.97 2.34
Diego Castillo 2.5 3.69 3.12
Richard Rodriguez -0.2 -2.40 3.31
Will Smith 1.1 2.08 3.39
Jordan Romano 1.8 -1.92 3.56
Brad Hand -1.7 -3.24 3.98
Lou Trivino 0.6 -1.68 3.32
Daniel Bard 2.8 -0.74 4.34
Paul Fry -1.1 -1.17 3.46
Cole Sulser 1.3 1.89 3.32
Gregory Soto 1.8 -2.17 3.38
Scott Barlow 0.8 5.53 3.08
Jake McGee 1.0 -6.56 3.76
Lucas Sims 2.5 0.68 3.47
Paul Sewald 3.2 -2.99 3.26
Spencer Patton 0.2 -1.44 3.94
David Bednar 1.9 -0.05 3.32
Manuel Rodriguez 0.5 -3.58 4.42
Codi Heuer 1.6 2.61 3.61
Matt Wisler 0.3 3.23 3.84
Tyler Clippard 0.9 -1.60 3.84
Dillon Tate -0.7 0.23 3.60
Kyle Finnegan -0.1 -0.69 3.85
Michael Lorenzen 0.2 5.56 3.46
Dylan Floro -2.2 0.38 3.84
Alex Colome 4.7 -2.14 3.66
The greener the box, the better.  Even I know this. Fascinating stuff. Next week I will be using the RotoFanatic Data Monster to show us more details about which closers and relievers we should be targeting over the last month of the season.

Current Closers
1. Josh Hader: remains the gold standard.
2. Mark Melancon: The 34 saves are eye-popping, and he continues to just get the job done.
3. Raisel Iglesias: He has been quietly dominant over his last 30 games: four wins, 18 saves and 55 punchouts in 34.2 innings. Iglesias has been everything the Angels could have wanted in a closer this year.
4. Matt Barnes
5. Aroldis Chapman: Chapman is looking to get back in a groove after a recent IL stint, and looks healthy, which is key. He has struggled over the last month and the Yankees need him o be the elite closer he can be if they want to continue their charge in AL East.
6. Liam Hendriks/Craig Kimbrel: There has been quite a bit of talk in Chicago about the pecking order here, and whether Kimbrel might be having trouble preparing for the eighth inning, and that he and Liam Hendriks should switch. That being said, Hendriks has eight wins and 28 saves. Manager Tony La Russa continues the Kimbrel/Hendriks train for the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. The White Sox have run away with the AL Central, but really need to figure out their bullpen roles over the next month.
7. Edwin Diaz
8. Alex Reyes
9. Kenley Jansen
10. Ian Kennedy: Kennedy has shouldered much of the bullpen responsibility in Philadelphia, and his addition coincided with the Phillies getting back in the playoff race. I was surprised that he went to a team that would continue to use him as a closer, but he’s really helped this formerly answerless bullpen.
11. Ryan Pressly: Pressly seems to never get the respect other closers do for some reason, but he has five wins, 19 saves and 61 Ks in 49 innings this year for a top-notch Houston squad.
12. Jake McGee: All McGee has done this year is cobble together 27 saves. Kudos to manager Gabe Kapler for keeping him fresh and ready after McGee seemed to hit a wall early on. He’s a big reason they are in first place in the NL West.

13. Emmanuel Clase/James Karinchak

14. Paul Sewald: With the placement of Diego Castillo on the IL this past week, Sewald assumes the mantle of the closer role. Isn’t this a great example of how bullpens twist and turn? You just never know what is going to happen. Sewald wasn’t on the periphery of this role three months, ago, then got it, then the team traded for Castillo, he lost it, and now that Castillo is hurt again, Sewald has the role. This is why my fellow brethren who write about bullpens may seem a little weary or gun-shy around others. 😊
15. Gregory Soto
16. David Bednar
17. Jordan Romano
18. Lou Trivino:
19. Daniel Bard
20. Alex Colome: Don’t look now but Colome leads MLB in saves over the last two weeks. Those who may have stashed him earlier in the season can reap the benefits of it now. If he’s on your waiver wire, you may want to snag him.
21. Scott Barlow
22. Anthony Bender: Just as we are about to anoint him closer and remove the time share label, Bender gives up four earned runs last night, cranking his ERA up .75 runs in the process. Egads! I would not trust Miami for relief help at this time. Dylan Floro lurks as well.
23. Tyler Wells/Dillon Tate/Cole Sulser/Tanner Scott: according to manager Brandon Hyde, he plans to use Wells as the closer…but who knows? Could remain a committee situation, but whoever closes will not get too many opportunities here.
24. Cincinnati Reds: Mychal Givens/Michael Lorenzen/Lucas Sims/Heath Hembree: Is there a messier bullpen in baseball than this one? It looks to be Givens, maybe…he pitched the eighth on Friday and Michael Lorenzen closed down the game in the ninth. The Reds designated Hembree for assignment this week so he is out of the equation. Tejay Antone could rejoin the bullpen this week as well, and Lucas Sims lurks as well. The interesting thing is that the Reds are surging without having a definitive answer in their bullpen. One to watch, and I would look to stash away Antone if he is on your waiver wire.
25. Kyle Finnegan
26. Joe Barlow/Spencer Patton: Barlow just hit the IL with a finger blister, so it looks like Patton will be the guy for now in Texas should they be leading a game in the ninth…which is rare at 43-80.
27. Tyler Clippard: The Diamondbacks are 6-4 in their last ten games, and Clippard had two saves this week and is getting it done by limiting hard contact and can still get the occasional whiff too. Could move up if he keeps it up.
28. Chicago Cubs: Who cares?

Other Relievers to Target

We take a look at several relief arms here who could provide benefit to you depending on your league context. Looking for the next guy up for saves, especially this week when the looming Trade Deadline could reshape some bullpens? Looking for holds or strikeouts, maybe a vulture save or two in a really close league? Take a look below.
1. Blake Treinen: has 24 holds, and handcuff to questionably effective Kenley Jansen
2. Brent Suter: raise your hand if you realize he was fourth in MLB with 12 wins. Need wins? Sure, we all do.
3. David Bednar: I think Bednar is the guy who gets the save chances in Pittsburgh with the trade of Richard Rodriguez to Atlanta; in fact, Bednar got the first earned save more than three weeks after Rodriguez was traded. Good grief.
4. Tejay Antone: should be back in the Cincy mix this coming week, and he seems to be floating around on multiple waiver wires. At the least he is a multi-inning weapon with potential for strikeouts and holds, but he could also be in the volatile mix for saves in the Queen City as well. One to watch.
5. Collin McHugh: McHugh is not often thought of in the same breath as their other high leverage guys. But check this out: 3-1, 1.51 ERA, .91 WHIP, and a staggering 59 punchouts in 41.2 innings. The best part is that in most leagues, he has dual eligibility in the SP and RP slots, providing much value to savvy owners who know he will give you multiple good innings whether he is an opener, a bulk reliever, or coming in as a stopper. He should be far more owned than he is. And he got a save last night too.
6. Emilio Pagan: do not sleep on Pagan, who has closer experience. He is getting high leverage opps now and could get save chances should Mark Melancon become ineffective (which he has before) or injured (which he has before). With San Diego clawing to stay in the playoff hunt, Pagan could get chances here.
7. Andres Machado: has been getting the eighth before Kyle Finnegan in Washington, and could be one to watch for holds, vulture saves and strikeouts.
8. Devin Williams: Looks like himself again and could help you depending on your league context.
9. Jonathan Loaisiga: Just nasty.
10. Michael Kopech/Reynaldo Lopez: he’s just nasty and in a multiple-inning role can help you with Ks. Lopez has been a revelation since returning from the minors and will look to be in a bigger role, even after Carlos Rodon returns this week from the IL with shoulder fatigue. Watch this one. Could get interesting.