Don’t let anyone tell you that teachers aren’t working hard to plan for your kids, whether they are in person or remote.  I have never seen our staff work harder.

NEWS and NOTES for the week of 8/24/2020

  • San Diego closer Kirby Yates is done for the year. Yates was replaced by Drew Pomeranz, who this week was suffering from a tight shoulder. He was day-to-day, just like me….until he hit the IL Friday night for it.
  • Big trade was announced on Friday night. The Phillies acquired Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree from Boston for Nick Pivetta and pitching prospect Connor Seabold. How will this impact the Philadelphia bullpen? Who closes in Boston now? Philadelphia has had the worst bullpen by far in MLB this season.
  • Zack Britton of the New York Yankees hit the IL this week with a strained hamstring. Aroldis Chapman is back but looked rusty. What is his  role? Who to target if Chapman isn’t ready?
  • Liam Hendriks and Kenley Jansen continue to be perfect.
  • Over in Queens, the New York Mets have taken erstwhile closer Seth Lugo and moved him to the rotation. Is Edwin Diaz back in the role? Manager Luis Rojas said yes on Wednesday, and then Diaz proceeded to walk in a run before capturing the win next inning.
  • Taylor Rogers has an uneasy grip on the job in Minnesota. Who’s up next?
  • What is happening in St. Louis?  Andrew Miller has been the choice so far. Who do we target here?
  • Daniel Hudson has been solid in Washington while an unheralded reliever has been lights out. Who is that?
  • Keone Kela is down again for the Pirates.
  • The Colorado Rockies may have a full-blown committee on their hands. My man crush Carlos Estevez (not Charlie Sheen) got a save this week in relief of Jairo Diaz.
  • Craig Kimbrel looked more like himself this week, earning a save on Wednesday. Is he back, or this an aberration?
  • Tampa Bay has another three arms on the IL, moving the struggling Jose Alvarado, who has a lat strain, there this week.  Alvarado will be shut down 10-14 days. Chaz Roe is out with a sore elbow. And this morning Nick Anderson went down with forearm inflammation. That doesn’t sound good.
  • If you needed a reminder, Trevor Gott is not good for you or your fantasy team.

As a reminder, here is our rubric to grade the closers if you need to refresh your memory:

  • Mastery: the best. Nothing else to be learned here.  Move forward with confidence.
  • Distinguished: just a notch below mastery, excellent work, but still some room for improvement.
  • Proficient: is average.  Think of this as a solid “C” on your term paper.
  • Marginal: poorly constructed, issues with organization, and unclear what is happening.
  • Unacceptable: failure due to lack of planning or execution.

 

Mastery

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers

Hader remains the best in the business. Hader has five saves and 12 strikeouts in seven innings. He is elite, and he is seeing a huge increase in his slider usage which makes him even nastier:

chart (38)

The slider usage, albeit in a small sample size, has gone from 15.1% in 2019 to a whopping 35% in 2020.

Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics

Hendriks looks fine right now with a 14.5 K/9 rate. Hendriks has a firm grip on the job with nine saves (three more this week), a 1.26 ERA and a .87 WHIP.  He’s a top three guy right now, and leads MLB in saves. The four-seamer is thrown 68% of the time, and he throws it with some odd backspin that induces many swings and misses. The slider and curveball are great secondary offerings that lead to many popups and whiffs too.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (1)

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers: moving up

Jansen has seven saves and a microscopic 0.79 ERA. Deploy him with confidence.

 

 

Distinguished

Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

As stated last week, Britton has been terrific: eight saves, a 1.23 ERA and .84 WHIP.  But Britton landed on the IL due to a strained hamstring, and Chapman is not at full power yet.  Could Adam Ottavino get a spot save or two until Chapman is ready? Maybe, but the best guess here is that manager Aaron Boone injects Chapman into the role quicker than he may have last week. Moved down this week due to the cloudy uncertainty right now.

Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox

Colome retains the job without competition this week as he has been perfect for the White Sox. He has been untouched in nine appearances with six saves. Continue to use him with confidence.

Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks

Bradley added a save this week and now has six on the year. No need to look over his shoulder and the job is his; will he continue to move up to the elite level this year? Time will tell.

Brad HandJames Karinchak, Cleveland Indians

Hand has seven saves and does not seem in danger of losing the spot. Karinchak has been terrific with 26 strikeouts in 13 innings. He waits for an opportunity. Could Cleveland trade Hand for future considerations?

Proficient

Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, San Diego Padres: wait and see

What a mess. Yates goes down with the elbow injury last week, and Pomeranz takes over and the Padres don’t miss a beat.  Then Pomeranz goes to the IL this week with a shoulder strain. This is troubling news. It would appear that Emilio Pagan is the next man up, but he has been inconsistent this year. Could Craig Stammen get some vulture chances as well? I added Pagan in several leagues this week in hopes that he gets the fist opportunity. Pagan did earn a save on Friday night.

 

chart (39)

Pagan’s velocity is down on both his four-seamer and his cutter; one MPH on each seems to have made him more hittable this season. The four-seamer shows a WOBA of .413 and XWOBA of .430. He throws the four-seamer about 66% of the time, so here’s hoping he regains that velocity drop with more usage.

Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals: moving up

It’s Hudson’s job now in Washington. He earned a save this week and he is the guy to own here. Doolittle went to the IL with knee trouble last week.  Hudson could quickly move up our rankings.    Hudson earned a save yesterday afternoon, his sixth. One guy to keep an eye on: Tanner Rainey. Look at his velocity:

rainey

Rainey has seven holds thus far and a minuscule 0.75 ERA. If Hudson falters or becomes injured (significant injury history), Rainey might be the guy in D.C.

Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers: holding on 

Montero was hot with three saves two weeks ago, but got shelled on Wednesday night. The role is still his. Remember Jonathan Hernandez…

Brandon Workman/Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Workman was traded to the Phillies in Friday night as stated above.  Who will close? The Phillies have the worst bullpen in baseball with an 8.07 ERA. Manager Joe Girardi said they needed to wok that out. Our guess: Neris moves to the eighth inning and Workman gets the ninth, for now. Let’s get to know Brandon Workman:

chart (40)

Workman throws a 78 MPH curveball 46% of the time. The four-seamer is down from 33% to 24% this year, and we have seen an uptick in his cutter usage. While his ERA is 4.05, his peripherals show a better pitcher. His biggest bugaboo is walks. His WHIP is 1.80 right now. Watch this one and see what happens.

Last night. the Phillies used Neris in the eighth and Workman in the ninth, both with terrible results.  Combined they gave up four earned runs on six hits and two walks. Egads. Not a good start for Workman in his first go-round for the Phillies. If this is any indication, though, it looks like Workman is the closer.  For now.

Mark Melancon/Will Smith, Atlanta Braves: steady as she goes

Melancon has four saves and a win in Atlanta. The rumors of his demise may have been exaggerated. Melancon struggled in his last outing but Will Smith is still working himself back to shape, and doesn’t seem to be a threat right now.

Taylor Rogers/Sergio Romo/Trevor May, Minnesota Twins: a conundrum

We told you last week this was one to watch, and it is. Rogers struggled in his last outing Tuesday, giving up two hits and a run and leading to unrest in the Twin Cities. Manager Rocco Baldelli would not commit to Rogers as his close this week. Romo has been untouched in his last three outings, and his veteran status might lead to him getting the opportunity. But do not sleep on Trevor May. Check out his rankings:

May

May is mostly a four-seamer and a slider guy. The four-seamer is heavy and thrown about 96 MPH, about 44% of the time.  The slide is thrown slower, at 85 MPH and is featured about 33% of the time. As far as stuff goes, May has the best stuff in the Minnesota bullpen. Look for Romo to get chances in the short-term, but keep in mind that May could be the best fit for this contending team.

Committee, Tampa Bay Rays

The most frustrating proposition in owning a fantasy baseball team may be determining the Tampa Bay closer.  Jalen Beeks got a save this week. Chaz Roe got a save, then got hurt this week. Anderson did not get any saves. Oliver Drake remains out. Ugh.  Good luck trying to figure this one out. Anderson went to the IL this morning with forearm inflammation. Who is going to get these opportunities? It’s maddening for fantasy owners, but Tampa is 13-9, and they know what they are doing. Diego Castillo, who just returned from injury, may get the bulk of the opportunities, but manager Kevin Cash may continue to simply play matchups, which means you may not want to touch this situation unless you have a crystal ball and can predict the future.

Jairo Diaz/Committee, Colorado Rockies

Diaz continues to get opportunities, but this looks to be a committee situation. No saves this week for him and five walks this week. Not good. The Rockies are sinking. Carlos Estevez has been inconsistent, and Daniel Bard has been a revelation.  Estevez probably has the best arm, but we will need to see how this shakes out in coming days. Bard took the loss last night when he got walked off by Cody Bellinger in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth. Will watch this week.

Trevor Rosenthal, Kansas City Royals

Rosenthal has been terrific: six saves, 0.87 ERA. No reason to think anyone else will get opportunities.

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds: the enigma

Iglesias was horrible on Thursday night, and then rebounded Friday night to get a save. Based on his usage, it looks like he continues to be in the chair, but that seat might be getting hot soon.

Roberto Osuna*, Ryan Pressley, Houston Astros

Osuna was thought to be preparing for Tommy John surgery soon, but instead is going to try and rehab and return later this season. These types of injuries don’t usually respond to this regimen, but Osuna will try it. Pressly got a win and a save this week, and is stabilizing the role for the Astros with three saves in his last seven games. Expect Pressly to rise in these rankings soon.

Craig Kimbrel/Rowan Wick, Chicago Cubs 

So what is happening on the North Side of Chicago? It looked like it was going to be Wick, but then Craig Kimbel got the save on Wednesday, striking out all three batters he faced. He has seven strikeouts in his last three outings? Is he turning a corner? I don’t buy it, and need to see more. The decrease in K percentage is alarming the last two years:

chart (43)

Andrew Miller/Giovanny Gallegos/Alex Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals

Miller got two saves for the Cardinals this week, and then got shellacked by the Cubs on Thursday. Reyes was used as an opener the other night. Gallegos has great stuff and it looks like the Cardinals will continue to play matchups. I would lean Miller right now but tough to call when manager Mike Shildt says he will continue to play the matchups. To that end, Gallegos got the save last night for St. Louis.

Taylor Williams, Seattle Mariners

Williams has been solid and showed no signs this past week of relinquishing the job right now. Two saves and untouched this week. The Mariners are 9-19, though, so do not grab Williams expecting lots of save opportunities.

Joe Jimenez, Detroit Tigers: dropping 

Jimenez was torched by the White Sox on Thursday night in a non-save situation. The Tigers have cooled and Jimenez has not had any recent chances. Ho hum.

Brandon Kintzler, Miami Marlins

The veteran has four saves and a 3.46 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He’s holding steady for a surprising Miami Marlins squad. They don’t really have anyone else.

Unacceptable

 Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox have not anointed a new closer to replace Brandon Workman, but we would bet on Matt Barnes. Barnes really only uses a four-seamer and a curveball, but has had some success in the past with the Red Sox. He uses the curveball 51% of the time. He will likely be the first choice. Again, there may not be many opportunities for a closer in Boston.

chart (44)

Barnes took the loss last night for the Red Sox in a save situation in the bottom of the tenth. Long season for Boston.

Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels: could be moving up soon

Buttrey has been good in the role, but the Angels are 9-19, which limits his opportunities. He has three saves and a 2.84 ERA, including one last night, and the job appears to be his for now.

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets:

Diaz has been better since his rough first week. I am intrigued by Diaz and think he could regain elite status. The Mets have moved Seth Lugo to the rotation, finally, and Diaz is back in the closer role. Take a look at his swing and  miss percentage below and see if you see what I see:

chart (42)

Diaz is throwing the slider far more than he has in the past: almost 40%, up from 33% last year, and he’s getting a high number of swinging strikes on it.  He’s using the four-seamer less, from 65% to 49% this year. Granted, small sample sizes, but check out the whiff rate on the sinker. He’s throwing it almost 98 MPH and using it almost 10% of the time after barely using it in 2019 (less than one percent). Could this be a new wrinkle for Diaz? I am buying low on him, right now.

Cole SulserMiguel CastroMychal GivensBaltimore Orioles

Sulser got a save on Wednesday, and the Orioles are 13-14. Sulser took the loss on Friday night, giving up two walks while earning a loss. Sulser also got touched up on Saturday night, when manager Brandon Hyde turned to Castro in a bases loaded jam in the top of the 10th. Givens has a 0.00 ERA and has been lights out. Could there be a switch? Manager Brandon Hyde is mum on it. We will watch and see.

Keone Kela/Richard Rodriguez Pittsburgh Pirates

Kela was activated a little more than a week ago, and he’s hurt again now, throwing five pitches before exiting. The dreaded forearm tightness. He looked to be a trade chip, but who knows now? Look for Richard Rodriguez to get the call in the ninth…but keep in mind the Bucs are 6-17, so opportunities might be few and far between.

Committee, San Francisco Giants

I just don’t want to talk about this anymore. Gott? Watson? Rogers? No. Don’t do this to yourself. Life is hard enough as it is.

Anthony BassJordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays

Bass continues to hold the job but keep an eye on Romano. Bass took the loss last night in ten against Tampa, but has been decent since replacing the injured Ken Giles. Giles played long toss on Friday but seems to have a long way to go to get back for Toronto.