May 28, 2014
Before we get into the unfortunate stuff, let’s go back to the preseason and check in on the top five closers, as ranked by Paul Sporer.
Kimbrel is dominating as he boasts a 1.96 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. He had a few health scares, but he’s shown very few ill effects. He’s got a 5.14 K:BB ratio and is striking out 47.4 percent of batters faced.
Chapman took a line drive to the face, which resulted in an extended DL stint. He’s done fine in a very small sample. He’s faced 27 batters and has struck out 12 of them.
The Dodger reliever had a meltdown outing on May 11 and was just okay in his appearances before then. The strikeouts are there, which is very nice, but he’s been uneven and is just now riding a hot streak in the wake of the disaster outing.
He’s been rock solid in Kansas City with only one blown save to his name and a 36 percent strikeout rate compared to an 8 percent walk rate.
He’s been scuffling all year and is just now on a hot streak as the closer. Rosenthal’s outings have been uneven at best, and he’s been by far the most mystifying closer in the preseason top five.
Four of the five closers are providing big value in the present. One took a line drive to the face and is still pitching well in the advent of the injury.
Relievers are constantly seen as a fungible commodity and I agree with that philosophy at the lower levels. I’ve long maintained that paying for saves is a fool’s folly but there’s been enough evidence on display to sway me from this opinion. I mentioned Mike Gianella’s article on the subject last week. Between Mike’s piece and how well the top five have maintained their value I might be rethinking some things next offseason.
Back to the fungibility:
New York Mets
Jose Valverde was released 25 minutes after the Mets tried to use him in a save situation. Valverde has been bad so the release isn’t a surprise. Jenrry Mejia has a clear path to saves now as the closer with only Jeurys Familia as the serious threat behind him.
Looks like I’ll have to start eating some crow on Zach Britton. I made a dismissive comment on Britton a few weeks back on his closer candidacy. He blew the save on May 27 but he’s been very good thus far as he entered action with a 0.65 ERA. His particular brand of 17.3-percent-strikeout-rate pitching isn’t my cup of tea, and I still don’t think it’s a profile that fits great in the ninth inning, but it’s hard to disparage a guy when he’s getting the results Britton is getting.
Hector Rondon continues to impress as a high-leverage reliever. Rondon gave up the lead against the Yankees on May 21 but I put that one squarely on Darwin Barney more than Rondon. Neil Ramirez is a good security blanket to pick up if Rondon loses command of the zone again, but I think Rondon is the guy here.
Chicago White Sox
It figures that as soon as I give any kind of endorsement to a White Sox reliever, they either get hurt, are ineffective, get lost in a bottomless pit, or they’re some combination of all three. Ronald Belisario has been bad since becoming the closer and it was all capped with an absolute disaster against the Yankees on May 24, as he gave up three earned runs on four hits in one inning of work. The ERA is back over 5.00, and the contact looked louder in his last stint. I’m very, very close to just throwing up my hands and getting Zach Putnam.
Rex Brothers gave up three earned runs against Philadelphia on May 26. LaTroy Hawkins, 30-save closer became just a bit more likely in 2014.
I cried a single tear as I dropped Cody Allen for Bryan Shaw this week. I think Shaw gets the saves, but I’m not terribly confident in that assessment.
Corey Knebel got the call up recently. I don’t think he pays dividends this year, but that arm is for real and worth keeping tabs on.
Jason Grilli came back and will close games in Pittsburgh. He struck out the side last night.
Huston Street is following up a 99.5 percent LOB rate in 2013 with a 98.5 percent LOB rate in 2014. That’s regression if I’ve ever seen it.
Mauricio Rubio is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Click here to see Mauricio's other articles.
You can contact Mauricio by clicking here