Mailbag Questions

We have quite a few mailbag questions this weekend, which always makes me happy. Thanks to those of you who reached out with them, and I will attempt to answer all of them each week. My coffee is ready, so here we go.

Is Anthony Bender viable for saves going forward? Closers are hard to find in 2021. David Crews @crewser128

David, first off, thanks for always reading and commenting here. I appreciate that! And yes, Bender is viable. There is a decent chance Yimi Garcia gets traded in the coming weeks, and even if he does not , he’s 31 and not the ideal closer for a young Marlins team. Bender is 26, fresh off independent baseball and he’s done well: 1-0, 1.78 ERA, .79 WHIP, and 40 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. I think he gets the opportunity especially if Garcia is moved at the deadline. Get those saves where and when you can!

Your pick for saves in Wrigley if Kimbrel is dealt? Jay Dub @JayDubTheGamer

Well I immediately jumped to Andrew Chafin. But last week I had the chance to chat with Nate Marcum and Greg Jewett, the astute bullpen gurus, and they suggested it could be a time share with Ryan Tepera.  That very well could happen! Looking at splits, Chafin is equally adept at getting both righties and lefties out, so my lean would be him. Neither are young guys (Chafin 31, Tepera 33)  and both would likely be stopgaps for this season. Now keep in mind both Chafin and Tepera have trade value as well, and could easily be moved if the expected Chicago Cubs purge comes to fruition. My gut says it would be Chafin if he stays in Chicago, but if both he and Tepera get moved, maybe Dan Winkler or Rex Brothers get chances. Egads! We will need to watch this one.

Best AL closers with chance to be traded to a team where they will no longer close? Bob Bonner @CoachBonner15

Hey Coach, Ian Kennedy leaps to mind as one for sure. He would slot in nicely to a high-leverage role on a winning team and not be the closer. Kendall Graveman, if Seattle decides to sell, would be another. Minnesota is awful, and I could see any and all of their triumvirate of badness get moved: Hansel Robles, Taylor Rogers and Alex Colome. I would add that Kansas City could move their closer….but who is it this week? Greg Holland? Josh Staumont? Scott Barlow? Kyle Zimmer? Jack Carter? We just don’t know, and I don’t believe Holland really slots in well anywhere else other than closer, and he’s not been good at that job this year. Those would be my best bets at the deadline.

When does Kimbrel get traded to Toronto? adambl5 @adambl555

Hey Adam, well I agree with your sentiment that Toronto needs to do something to shore up that bullpen. I do like Jordan Romano, at 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA and seven saves. The 40 punchouts in 32.2 innings help you too. In my mind Romano profiles better in the eighth inning. If we’re facing facts, the Blue Jays are 46-42, and if they want to get over that hump and into the playoffs, they are going to need to paint with some brazen strokes and add to their impressive core. They could really use a starter too, but Kimbrel to Toronto makes sense if they think they are in it to win it.  And he won’t be cheap with another year on his contract at $16 million (American dollars) and the trade capital needed to get him will be steep. He’s maybe the best chip on the market. If they go for him, they best do it soon before they get too far away from the Wild Card frontrunners.

Is Lorenzen on a late inning fast track and what’s the likelihood he’s the closer sooner rather than later? Barrett @84BRS

Barrett, this is a an interesting question. The Cincinnati bullpen has been impossible to predict all year due to a combination of ineffectiveness and injury. First we thought it would be a time share between Lucas Sims and Amir Garrett, then Sean Doolittle was a thought, then Tejay Antone, and now Heath Hembree. Hembree has done an admirable job but is miscast as a closer. Lorenzen has the type of stuff that could allow him to dominate in the role. One thing we need to consider though is that he has not pitched at all this year and ramping up to the closer role quickly may not be in the cards for him. Lorenzen has four nasty pitches and I would be intrigued to see him in the role. Sims is out indefinitely, Garrett continues to struggle with command and control, and Antone is out until at least August, and the opportunity for Lorenzen seems to be there. But keep in mind that Hembree has something to say about that too, with five saves in July. This could get really interesting. At 48-44, could the Reds make a play for bullpen reinforcements before the deadline?

Is Ranger Suarez a top 10 closer in next year’s drafts? Tim @whatevsnv

Tim, this is an intriguing situation. Suarez has four wins and three saves in a moribund Phillies’ bullpen, and nobody there has done enough to claim the job, whether it be Hector Neris or Jose Alvarado. In late June, they blew six saves in a row while continuing their second year of horrific relief work. Suarez has even blown two saves. Who knows what will happen next year? My concern here is that there will not be belief in anyone left here, and Philadelphia will again look outside of the organization for reinforcements. Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand, Raisel Iglesias and Kirby Yates are all free agents-to-be in 2022. If they don’t go that route, maybe Suarez gets that chance. Top 10? I am not sure I would put him there based on the pending situation; I am not sure h keeps he job next year. But he’s been really good for the Phils.

Diego Castillo usage is so baffling. Not only doesn’t he get the first save opportunity out of the break but he doesn’t even pitch in what turned out to be essentially a bullpen game. What’s your take on that? Rocco D @roccodepaqual1

Rocco, as I always say to no one in particular as no one listens to me rant in my house about bullpens, Tampa Bay is gonna Tampa Bay. Good grief. Pete Fairbanks earned his fourth save in an extra innings affair this weekend. Frustrating as it may be, I still think Castillo is the best and most consistent source of saves in Tampa Bay. That being said, I totally understand if you seek a higher level of consistency than what is provided here. To your point Castillo has only thrown three times in July.

Antone’s last year as a reliever? Jesse Winker Stan @WinkerStan

That is a great question. The guy is a weapon but can he stay healthy enough to pitch maximum effort every fifth day? He’s had two forearm strains this year already that have shelved him for weeks at a time. Is he best suited to the multi-inning role that manage David Bell has envisioned for him, a la vintage Josh Hader? I do think that a pitching-depleted team like the Reds has several options for him, and he is really intriguing in any role, but I would love to see him start. The biggest question to me is which role allows him to remain upright and not spend more time on the IL.

Data Monster as Bullpen Metrics

Closer Workbook
All Data According To Data Monster
Player Name In_Whiff Command Stuff ERA
Josh Hader 7.4 1.21 1.78
Liam Hendriks 5.1 -0.12 3.13
Aroldis Chapman 4.2 -2.52 3.56
Craig Kimbrel 4.4 3.27 1.51
Matt Barnes 2.2 2.11 3.04
Edwin Diaz 3.3 -0.26 3.28
Mark Melancon -1.2 2.09 3.61
Alex Reyes 2.0 0.30 2.44
Kenley Jansen 3.2 -4.01 2.20
Ian Kennedy 2.1 -4.01 3.96
Emmanuel Clase 4.9 1.11 2.63
James Karinchak 2.4 -2.10 3.32
Ryan Pressly -0.4 4.51 3.09
Raisel Iglesias 7.0 4.79 2.44
Diego Castillo 3.1 4.24 3.23
Richard Rodriguez -0.4 -1.78 3.06
Will Smith 1.4 2.11 3.21
Jordan Romano 1.1 -2.26 3.31
Brad Hand -2.1 -3.64 3.84
Lou Trivino 0.3 -1.95 3.30
Daniel Bard 2.7 -0.98 4.59
Paul Fry -1.2 -1.72 3.52
Cole Sulser 1.6 1.14 3.42
Taylor Rogers 1.5 -0.95 4.00
Hansel Robles -1.5 -1.60 4.16
Michael Fulmer 1.1 3.83 3.59
Gregory Soto 1.6 -2.26 3.32
Greg Holland -0.4 2.00 4.34
Yimi Garcia 0.9 -1.78 3.81
Tyler Rogers -1.2 -6.14 3.87
Jake McGee 0.3 -6.68 4.24
Kendall Graveman 0.3 -0.73 2.92
Hector Neris 3.1 2.70 3.50
Jose Alvarado 3.0 -6.74 3.38
Brad Brach -0.2 6.12 3.56
Amir Garrett 1.8 0.83 4.10
Sean Doolittle 0.8 -4.71 5.08
Joakim Soria 1.0 1.59 4.25

Here is a quick guide on how to use the Data Monster at RotoFanatic. This is from the mind of Paul Mammino, who has been kind enough to explain this to my smaller mind and allow me to use it in our weekly Closing Remarks pieces.

In_Whiff (0 is average)- This shows how much better a pitcher is at generating swinging strikes than their location would suggest. 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 a measure of how “nasty” a given pitcher’s stuff is.
rfCommand (0 is average) – This is a combination of four metrics. XWhiff, XSwing In Zone, xSwing Out of Zone, xWoba (Location based). 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. A a good rfCommand means the pitchers:
  1. Throw pitches with high expect whiffs rates
  2. Throw pitches in zone with low expected swing rates (Called strikes good)
  3. Throw pitches out of the zone that are likely to swung at
  4. Throw 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 this stat performed better than FIP from 2015-2020.

Closer Ranks

  1. Josh Hader: Highest in_Whiff in the game at 7.4 and Stuff ERA 1.78. That will play.
  2. Liam Hendriks
  3. Craig Kimbrel
  4. Matt Barnes
  5. Edwin Diaz
  6. Mark Melancon: Melancon leads the free world with 27 saves and gets the job done without sexy peripherals. Should he falter, Drew Pomeranz is back from the IL.
  7. Alex Reyes:  A couple of rough outings in July, but the numbers are still really good. Now might be a good time to stash Giovanny Gallegos if you have bench space. Keep in mind Reyes will be on an innings limit and may be tiring some. Watch this one.
  8. Kenley Jansen
  9. Will Smith
  10. Ian Kennedy: Could be Ian Kennedy’s last week as closer if he gets traded as expected in coming days.  Would Joely Rodriguez get the call in the Lone Star State? Methinks so, but he’s not been great.
  11. Ryan Pressly
  12. Raisel Iglesias
  13. Emmanuel Clase/James Karinchak: I won’t rate one over the other anymore. Both are terrific but have their warts too. This weekend Clase blew a save on Friday, then Saturday, Karinchak was shaky in getting the save. Who knows? Terry Francona had been playing matchups, with Karinchak being murder on lefties early on. This looks like a time share right now.
  14. Aroldis Chapman: so what do we make of Aroldis Chapman down the stretch here? He pitched Friday night, walking one and striking out one in an inning of work. Yes, it was a mop-up role in a 4-0 losing effort. It was his second consecutive scoreless appearance in a row after a disastrous two weeks. My advice:  don’t give up on him. Chad Green is not a viable long-term option, and Zack Britton just returned from the IL. Chapman was said to have worked on some mechanical flaws over the last week. Let’s see what happens. Look at what the rfCommand metric says about Chapman: -2.62. And even I know that negative number is not good!. He needs to work this out. His inWhiff is still a robust 4.2.
  15. Diego Castillo
  16. Ranger Suarez
  17. Richard Rodriguez
  18. Jordan Romano
  19. Brad Hand: Could Hand get moved if Washington decides to become sellers? Could happen. Daniel Hudson and Austin Voth could be in line for save opps if this happens. Look at Paul’s chart above and see the metrics on Hand: all in the red, and not very promising.
  20. Jake McGee: Looks like he has worked out the kinks as evidenced by his 0.00 ERA in July and seven consecutive saves.
  21. Yimi Garcia/Anthony Bender
  22. Lou Trivino
  23. Daniel Bard: worst Stuff ERA of the closer group at 4.59. Egads. Pass.
  24. Kendall Graveman
  25. Taylor Rogers/Hansel Robles
  26. Gregory Soto: Soto has moved to the top of the food chain in Detroit and has eight saves. Jose Cisnero has been used in the middle innings again, and Michael Fulmer remains on the IL.
  27. Greg Holland
  28. Tanner Scott: Is Baltimore going to let Tanner Scott close games? Many of us have been waiting for a long time. Maybe? Paul Fry has been pitching in the middle innings and Cole Sulser has their most recent save opportunity. There could be trades here as well, with many teams looking for viable bullpen arms. The Data Monster will take a deeper dive on him next week.
  29. Heath Hembree
  30. Joakim Soria