The calendar finally flipped to September this week, and with it, I hope your chances of a championship season are alive and well as we head into the last few weeks of the season.

I will admit, I am drained. Between the start of the school year, following Covid protocols and trying to keep my head above water, I am tired,  but rest will be coming soon. The focus right now needs to be on that final grind to the top this month in our fake leagues. You have spent hours analyzing your roster and your league, looking for any edge you can get. Need saves? Ratio control?  Wins? We have some players here who may be able to help you in your final push.

Keep the faith and finish strong.  I am only playing in two home fantasy football leagues this fall, to give myself a break and also double-down on fantasy baseball prep for next year. L

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
  2. Mark Melancon
  3. Raisel Iglesias
  4. Aroldis Chapman: Chapman is doing fine but the walks can be a tad bit alarming. The Yankees need him to be the elite closer he can be if they want to continue their charge in AL East.
  5. Liam Hendriks/Craig Kimbrel:
  6. Edwin Diaz: Don’t look now but he is hot again.
  7. Louis Cardinals: We shared weeks ago that a great handcuff for Alex Reyes was Giovanny Gallegos, especially knowing that the Cardinals’ brass planned to limit Reyes to 100 innings this year. Reyes was 0-3 with a 7.84 ERA in August; maybe he tired, but the command was also absent for large stretches of that month. Gallegos has some experience in the job, and has gotten the last two save chances in St. Louis. He’s probably gobbled up in most competitive leagues, but if he is there, adding him is a no-brainer right now.
  8. Kenley Jansen
  9. Ian Kennedy
  10. Ryan Pressly
  11. Jake McGee
  12. Emmanuel Clase
  13. Jordan Romano: He has had a tough start in September, surrendering runs in back-to-back outings last week. However, he has seven wins and 15 saves, and those who invested in Romano rather than Julian Merryweather (remember him?) have had their confidence rewarded.
  14. Boston Red Sox: What a mess we now have in Boston, eh? Ineffectiveness, and then illness, have scuttled the Boston bullpen. Matt Barnes is out as closer after an excellent couple of months, but in August, he looked like he was pitching for the BYB Pirates: poor command, lots of walks and stressful innings. Adam Ottavino appears to be the top option, but both Garrett Whitlock and Garrett Richards (mentioned here last week as a possible option) have been getting work in tough spots and doing the job. Whitlock may not be a bad add for vulture saves, especially if Ottavino needs break, or he is used in high leverage spots in a tie game. One to watch here.
  15. Paul Sewald: Interesting that when Diego Castillo was activated from the IL last week, he immediately was given a save situation, which he did convert. It appears that both Sewald and Drew Steckenrider were unavailable due to heavy usage the days before. This could be a committee; we will have to see how Scott Servais (and his new contract extension) decide to use these weapons.
  16. Gregory Soto
  17. Tampa Bay Rays: This amazing bullpen has struck again. They used their 13th pitcher to record a save in 2021 this weekend, a man named Dietrich Enns. It still appears that the preferred option is Andrew Kittredge, but the Rays continue to revolutionize baseball. Could using multiple closers be the next rage? As a guy who writes about bullpens, I surely hope not…😊
  18. Oakland A’s: Lou Trivino is getting the dreaded “break” in Oakland and has not been used in more than a week. The ageless Sergio Romo has gotten and converted two saves in a row. Recently acquired Andrew Chafin has been getting the seventh and eighth innings and seems to be the preferred choice over fellow lefty Jake Diekman. This is a tough one to call because skipper Bob Melvin loves to play matchups. As soon as you think it’s one guy, he uses someone else, which is why I stay away from this bullpen. Forced to choose, I would go Romo right now, but that could change today.
  19. Colorado Rockies: Daniel Bard’s comeback story is remarkable and a true testament to courage and perseverance. But his time as a closer has ended, with Carlos Estevez now the guy in Colorado. It seemed bound to happen that Estevez would eventually get a shot, as he surrendered zero runs in 11 August innings. Bard is 35, and on the downside and they need to find their next closer. Go Estevez here but keep in mind he might not get many chances on a team left for dead all season.
  20. Alex Colome
  21. Scott Barlow
  22. Miami Marlins: This is a tough one to crack here. The usage pattern is odd. Hard to say what is happening here and for those reasons, I stay away. If you are desperate for saves, you could try Bender and Floro and cross your fingers, but I would largely stay away.
  23. Tyler Wells/Dillon Tate/Cole Sulser/Tanner Scott: Still a dreaded committee as far as I can tell.
  24. Cincinnati Reds: Mychal Givens/Michael Lorenzen/Lucas Sims.  What a mess this has been for so many reasons all year. I was touting Sims all year, but injury and bouts of ineffectiveness derailed that train. Givens has the job, and outside of one bad outing last week, looks to keep it, especially as the Reds seem to have hit on a winning formula in Cincy.
  25. Kyle Finnegan
  26. David Bednar
  27. Joe Barlow/Spencer Patton: Barlow is back and looks to be the guy, but who knows for sure? Doesn’t matter because next year Jose Leclerc is going to run away with the job and hide. Ha, see my note on Cincinnati above and remind me when I am wrong in 2022.
  28. Tyler Clippard
  29. Rowan Wick: Quietly Wick came off the IL, and even more quietly, has gotten save opportunities in his last three outings. With little to play for, the Cubs figured to give him a shot this last month, and he could get a handful of chances.  The Cubs have been playing better the last two weeks and winning some games. Could be a good buying opportunity for you if you need saves at this late point of the game.

 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? Looking for holds or strikeouts, maybe a vulture save or two in a really close league?  Take a look below.

  1. Blake Treinen: has 26 holds, and handcuff to questionably effective Kenley Jansen
  2. Garrett Whitlock: Whitlock should get a handful of opps on nights when Adam Ottavino needs a rest, and he will vulture wins in late innings as well. He’s not rostered in many leagues but could provide you help this last month.
  3. Brent Suter: raise your hand if you realize he was fourth in MLB with 12 wins. Need wins?  Sure, we all do. 
  4. Collin McHugh: McHugh is not often thought of in the same breath as their other high leverage guys.  But check this out: 5-1, 1.52 ERA, .87 WHIP, and a staggering 66 punchouts in 50.1 innings.  The best part is that in most leagues, he has dual eligibility in the SP and RP slots, adding 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Michael Lorenzen: has quietly reemerged in the Cincy bullpen as a top setup guy for Mychal Givens. Given Givens’ (see what I did there) history of command issues, and the fact that the Reds are fighting to stay in the playoff picture, they will not mess around with this role, and Lorenzen could get a shot. Keep in mind too that he could also snatch the multi-inning stopper role that Tejay Antone filled before injuring his elbow.
  7. Devin Williams: Looks like himself again and could help you depending on your league context.  Brad Boxberger is also getting a ton of holds in Milwaukee.
  8. Luke Jackson: Very quietly, Jackson is third in MLB with 24 holds. The top two? Treinen, listed above, and Tyler Rogers.Jackson will chip in with a couple of strikeouts as well.
  9. Michael Kopech/Reynaldo Lopez: Both of these guys can provide you with innings, holds and a bevy of Ks.
  10. Drew Steckenrider: remember him? He’s got a high-leverage role in Seattle now and earned a two inning save last week.  Even with the return of Diego Castillo, Steckenrider could be a good source of holds in some leagues.