Mailbag Questions

Thanks to some awesome readers, we have a couple of excellent questions that I will attempt to answer here between raindrops and baseball games this weekend. The heat and humidity yesterday did in the BYB Pirates in a 12-6 loss to the BYB Rockies. On to the next. Here’s hoping your teams are still in it and ready to make a run to league titles in coming weeks. Let’s dig in to this week on bullpens. Changes in Oakland, Boston and Colorado; we update you here as we try to stay on top of each bullpen situation in the game.

How deep would the league have to be for you to roster Kansas City’s or Pittsburgh’s “closer” at this point?  JayDub @JayDubTheGamer

Hey Jay, it would have to be at least a 15 teamer for me, I think. When we evaluate closers, the first thing we look for is opportunity, and not necessarily talent.  I mean, talent is important as a closer’s job is to get guys out and save the game, but you can have all the arm talent in the world and not be a closer. Look currently at James Karinchak, who is now toiling in AAA.  He has as much talent as anyone but can’t hammer down that job; he may or may not one day.  As much as I wish I had a crystal ball and could tell everyone, I do not. To get away from too much meandering here, both Kansas City and Pittsburgh have some intriguing options, but the opportunities for saves in both cities is nil and none of those guys are worth rostering in shallow formats.

Question: why do I even bother at this point? The Minor League Baseball @MinorLeagueFun

Ah. the existential dread of the last month of fantasy baseball. We have all been there. My reasons for continuing on in leagues where I was bringing up the rear was as duty to my peers in the leagues. We all despise when someone gives up on their team and has three IL guys on their starting roster. By the same token, we hate when our peers draw these teams in crucial weeks, right?  It happens to all of us. But you stick with it and find ways to make it fun; maybe you roll the dice on an up-and-coming player and he becomes a keeper for you next year. Or maybe you grind out an unexpected victory and help a buddy out by beating an opponent. I think the main reason you keep doing it is that deep down, as much as we might complain about it, we love the daily grind of managing these teams, or we wouldn’t do it. It’s the same way we come to accept and then rely upon the daily grind in our lives. You come to appreciate it, and then when you win, the success is even sweeter. Use those moments to inspire you when Lance Lynn gives up six earned runs in three innings against the godforsaken Chicago Cubs when you are fighting for your playoff life in the dying weeks of your season, like I did last night.

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
  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: The debate rages on in Chicago about sorting out these bullpen roles. Manager Tony La Russa will use these last 30 games to determine the pecking order for the coming playoffs. My gut tells me he uses Kimbrel in the eighth, and Hendriks in the ninth. I held on to Kimbrel in most leagues but may need to drop him now if he is not going to get save opps.
  6. Edwin Diaz
  7. Alex Reyes
  8. Kenley Jansen: This is a bit of mild overstatement, but the Kenley Death Watch continues, and he just keeps getting guys out, in spite of his -3.69 Command score from the Data Monster. Take a look at the Dodgers’ bullpen, and you will see a bevy of options behind him, which is probably a great reminder to him every time he takes the mound: Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, Victor Gonzalez, Joe Kelly, Shane Greene…lots of experience behind him there.
  9. Ian Kennedy
  10. Ryan Pressly
  11. Jake McGee
  12. Emmanuel Clase/James Karinchak: In a surprising move to many, Karinchak was sent down this weekend, thus further tightening Clase’s grip on the job at this time for a .500 Cleveland team. Karinchak’s high wire act has become too much, with an ERA over 7 since the All-Star break, and he will go to AAA and work on refining his unbelievable offerings and working on his command. He will be back. Looking at the Data Monster, we see his -2.33 Command score as an issue that highlights his need to work on his control and his command.
  13. Matt Barnes: What a mess we now have in Boston, eh? Adam Ottavino, mentioned here often as handcuff to Barnes, has gotten the last two saves here. Garrett Whitlock is also in the mix. Barnes has a 14.21 ERA and 2.68 WHIP in August. That is a shellacking that even the BYB Pirates don’t take these days. Barnes has been awful and manager Alex Cora confirmed he would be out of the role “for a time.” I would guess Ottavino, but don’t discount Whitlock or other options like Hansel Robles or Garrett Richards either.
  14. Paul Sewald
  15. Gregory Soto
  16. Jordan Romano
  17. Andrew Kittredge
  18. Lou Trivino: Trivino is getting the dreaded “break” in Oakland. He’s 2-3 with a 5.23 ERA in August and had three shaky outings in a row last week. Maybe he’s gassed? Oakland uses their relief pitchers at very high rates. Your gut instinct would be Jake Diekman here, but Sergio Romo got the first chance. Recall though that manager Bob Melvin constantly plays matchups, so this looks like it will be a time share for the time being. Diekman might have a slight edge, but Romo has tons of experience, and we know how skippers love that. Watch out for Andrew Chafin to vulture a few too, depending on how long they sit Trivino. I am still kind of surprised that Oakland did not add a closer at the trade deadline. They will make do with what they have, as always. Interesting to look at Trivino’s stats above in the Data Monster chart; seems like the DM sees his work as merely average, so maybe this was bound to happen?
  19. Daniel Bard: Bard’s comeback story is remarkable and a true testament to courage and perseverance. But his time as a closer may have come to an end, with Carlos Estevez now seemingly the guy in Colorado. Last Friday Bard pitched the eighth and Estevez the ninth. It seemed bound to happen that Estevez would eventually get a shot, as Bard is 35, and on the downside and they need to find their next closer. Who knows how long he keeps the job, but with little to play for except auditioning for next year, look for Estevez to get the chances the rest of season. Bard’s 4.34 Stuff Era score is not the “stuff” of closers.
  20. Alex Colome
  21. Scott Barlow
  22. Anthony Bender: This is a tough one to crack here. The usage pattern is odd. Last week in a game manager Don Mattingly used Bender in the seventh and eighth, and Dylan Floro got the save. Is Bender the stopper, the fireman who comes in and gets big outs? In that game, Bender came in to a four-run lead. Hard to say what is happening here and for those reasons, I stay away. If you are desperate for saves, I would lean Bender still. But who knows?
  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. This bullpen has given us headaches all season, hasn’t it? Givens is the closer with Lorenzen appearing to be next in line right now; Lorenzen bailed him out and earned a save last weekend after Givens created a jam. This is a great example of how we can often be wrong; so much time spent in the spring trying to determine if it would be Sims or Amir Garrett, and turns out, it is neither. Heath Hembree got opportunities this summer but isn’t with the team anymore. The nature of being a closer is that it can happen for fleeting moments before teams move on to the next guy, or you can even see guys that you think should get opportunities not get them. But in truth, this is what makes the game we play fun, right? If we knew everything all the time it would cease to be enjoyable.
  25. Kyle Finnegan
  26. David Bednar
  27. Joe Barlow/Spencer Patton: Barlow remains on the IL with a finger blister, so Patton gets the limited opps now. 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. Chicago Cubs: Who cares? If you do


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 25 holds, and handcuff to questionably effective Kenley Jansen
  2. Adam Ottavino: see above. With the struggles of Matt Barnes, grab Ottavino if he is on your waiver wire.
  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, 1.43 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. And he got a save last night too.
  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. Andres Machado: has been getting the eighth before Kyle Finnegan in Washington, and could be one to watch for holds, vulture saves and strikeouts.
  7. Devin Williams: Looks like himself again and could help you depending on your league context.
  8. Jonathan Loaisiga: Just nasty.
  9. Michael Kopech/Reynaldo Lopez: Lopez came on Friday night in relief of the tattered Dallas Keuchel and was perfect for five innings, tallying seven whiffs. He could help you down the stretch here in a multiple inning role.
  10. Drew Steckenrider: remember him? He’s got a high-leverage role in Seattle now and earned a two inning save last week. With Diego Castillo on the IL, Steckenrider could be a good source of holds in some leagues.