This is the first week all season where I felt I was starting to fly off the edge of the world while following bullpens.  I love the assignment, but with work ratcheting back up again this week, I admittedly missed so much.

For example, raise your hand if you thought you would say “Joe Barlow is the Rangers’ closer” over coffee one morning this week. Or, “the Nationals have someone names Klobosits in a high-leverage role…I think I had a disease called Klobosits in college.”  I told you, I’m losing it.

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

Current Closers

  1. Josh Hader
  2. Mark Melancon: The 34 saves are eye-popping. He continues to out-perform his peripherals; his Stuff ERA using the Data Monster is over 3.80. Not ideal for a closer but he gets the job done.
  3. Alex Reyes
  4. Matt Barnes:  The Data Monster continues to like his work.  Look above: green all the way through his line.
  5. Raisel Iglesias: moved back to my top five, where I had him preseason.
  6. New York Yankees: With Aroldis Chapman on the IL with a shoulder issue, Zach Britton got a save chance in the Field of Dreams game and failed very publicly. Britton got the ninth for the Yankees in each opportunity since Chapman went down, but could that change with the loss last Thursday? Britton did not look good on Saturday night either against the White Sox.  Word spread last night that Chapman is travelling with the team, which could mean that he’s going to be activated when first eligible.  That would be good because the Yankees’ bullpen has struggled mightily without him.
  7. Edwin Diaz:  Diaz continues to collect saves and strikeouts since a mid-July blowout.  The one issue with Diaz is often his control; he walked eight guys in July but only one so far in August.  The guy is lights out when he’s on.
  8. Kenley Jansen: Gets saves but look at that -3.69 Command score.  Egads!  The strike zone does elude him at inopportune times.
  9. Liam Hendriks/Craig Kimbrel: Based on usage the last week, Hendriks looks to be the closer, even though he was rocked in the Field of Dreams game. Kimbrel has been pitching the eighth. And it happened again on Saturday night, with Kimbrel and Hendriks both giving up bombs to the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo.  The biggest issue with both seemed to be location of pitches, which I hope (as a Sox fan) they can fix quickly. Kimbrel has a 3.59 Command score according to the Data Monster, so this may be just a blip on the radar screen. The White Sox have some sorting out to do in what could be (and should be) a dominant bullpen down the stretch. Need to move them down the list this week.
  10. Will Smith
  11. Ian Kennedy: As thought, Kennedy continues to close in Philadelphia.  Quietly Archie Bradley has been pitching well and getting higher-leverage opps as well.  With the Phillies catching fire, this could lead to more save chances for Kennedy.
  12. Ryan Pressly
  13. Emmanuel Clase/James Karinchak
  14. Diego Castillo/Paul Sewald: Appears to be Castillo in the top spot.
  15. Jake McGee
  16. 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. Note Colome’s In_Whiff in the Data Monster above; he has turned the corner. Moving up this week.
  17. Gregory Soto
  18. David Bednar: I prefer Bednar to their other options, but Chris Stratton could also get opps here.  Who knows?  The Pirates don’t win enough to make this situation very palatable to most fantasy players.
  19. Jordan Romano/Brad Hand/Joakim Soria/Adam Cimber: If you’re going with any of these guys, make it Romano.
  20. Lou Trivino
  21. Daniel Bard
  22. Scott Barlow
  23. Dylan Floro/Anthony Bender: Could this be a time share, or could Bender be moving back into the role? He has the last two saves for the Marlins, and Floro has been touched up for runs in his last three outings. One to watch.  Would not be surprised in the least if Don Mattingly went back to Bender as his top option.  Floro may be better-suited to an eighth inning role. Stay tuned.
  24. 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.
  25. Cincinnati Reds: Mychal Givens/Lucas Sims/Heath Hembree; I am dying alone here, but I still think Sims will take the job, even though Givens has been good for the Reds.
  26. Kyle Finnegan: Has the job in Washington right now, but Gabe Klobosits could get an opportunity here as well.
  27. Joe Barlow/Spencer Patton: There has been some juggling here and it appears that Barlow is at the top of the heap right now.  Could change as we move along, but he’s got the stuff to do the job.
  28. Tyler Clippard:
  29. Chicago Cubs: In limbo, but Rowan Wick just came off the IL last week, and I would not be surprised in the least if he ends up getting chances as soon as he is loosened up and ready on the North Side.

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

  1. Blake Treinen: has 22 holds, and is a quality handcuff to questionably effective Kenley Jansen
  2. Adam Ottavino: Ottavino has 17 holds on the year, but he also, very quietly, has eight saves. He’s also got 52 strikeouts in 46 innings and has value if you are looking for depth, vulture saves, or strikeout help. He’s had some rough times the last two weeks, but he should be able to iron out these wrinkles.
  3. Emilio Pagan: The season-ending surgery for Drew Pomeranz could open up a huger leverage role for Pagan, who is 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA and been consistent for the Padres. Could see a bump in holds and vulture saves?
  4. Nick Anderson: grab and stash if you have room.
  5. Collin McHugh: staying in the Tampa bullpen, McHugh is not 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.
  6. Rowan Wick: there may not be any real competition in the Cubs’ bullpen, he is healthy again, and has dine the job before.  Grab him and see what happens.
  7. Anthony Bender: may be on your waiver wire, and he should not be.  He has the last two save chances in Miami. Grab him if you are looking for cheap saves.
  8. Devin Williams: Even with Hader back in the closer’s role, Williams has value for holds and strikeouts.
  9. Jonathan Loaisiga: This guy powers a 100 MPH fastball up there despite his diminutive frame.  Chapman will be back before long but he appears to be the next best option with others struggling in the Bronx. Could source of wins (he has eight) and strikeouts, and the occasional vulture save should the Yankees need to rest the aging Chapman as they go down the stretch here.
  10. Michael Kopech: he’s just nasty and in a multiple-inning role can help you with Ks. The one drawback is that he will not pitch consecutive days if he throws multiple innings the day before.  But he has been dazzling, and with his performance, begging for a larger role.