Welcome to another installment of The Bullpen Report. As a reminder, closers are rated in five tiers from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, a pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week this factors into the ranking as well.

Tier 1 – Money in the Bank

Melancon has mostly picked up where the injured Jason Grilli left off. He hadn’t allowed a run in eight appearances before last night’s unearned run. While the strikeout rate isn’t dominant, everything else is.

Reed blows a save, and I either move him down or leave him here and get clobbered for leaving a pitcher with so many blown saves in the top tier. Reed’s strong peripherals keep moving him back into the top tier. Neither Nate Jones nor Matt Lindstrom should be viewed as a threat right now, though if the team were going to make a change, I’d prefer Jones.

Chapman’s last two weeks are an example of why I loathe moving pitchers like him out of the top tier. Chapman has struck out over 20 batters per nine innings in the last two weeks. Small-sample-size caveats with relievers are always significant, but Chapman’s dominance makes him nearly impossible to keep out of the upper echelon.

Tier 2 – Solid and Reliable

I had to do it.

In one sense, moving Rivera down for any reason is an absurdist exercise for the greatest closer ever, or at least the greatest closer in the era of one-inning saves. On the other hand, blowing three saves in a row cannot simply be ignored, and my ratings do lean heavily on recency bias. Rivera moves down, even though his job is as safe as any closer’s in the game.

Farquhar has been absolutely dominant since taking over from Tom Wilhelmsen. His performance alone is worthy of the top tier, but I would like to see another week or two of Farquhar pitching at an elite level before moving him up to the top rung.

Notwithstanding last night’s shaky save, Soriano has righted the ship after some subpar outings a few weeks back. He has likely put a little breathing room between him and Tyler Clippard and should be safe in the ninth for the time being.

It is anticipated that Rafael Betancourt will be back this weekend. Rex Brothers might hang on for another save or two, but Betancourt is expected to get the job back at some point.

Tier 3 – Yeah…You’re…Good

Based on my recency bias, perhaps Street should rank higher. Since July 1, he hasn’t allowed a home run and is striking out well over a batter an inning. He has been extremely effective and maybe belongs with some of the arms above given that his job is safe. However, YTD performance is part of the rankings, and Street’s overall numbers still aren’t very good.

Tier 4 Uninspiring Choices

Like Farquhar, Hawkins could be rated a little higher if he had been in the role for a few weeks longer. There is talk that Bobby Parnell might miss the rest of the season; with the way Hawkins is going, there is no reason to revert to the committee that manager Terry Collins was discussing at the onset of Parnell’s injury.

Tier 5 – On the Bubble

After speculating last week that there seemed to be no indications that Ernesto Frieri might lose his job, the Angels decided to yank him from the closer role. Dane de a Rosa steps in and will serve as the closer for the time being. De la Rosa has been the Angels best reliever this season, although he doesn’t have the overpowering strikeout percentage you might look for in a closer. De la Rosa should be picked up in all deeper mixed and only formats.

At 27, Chia-Jen Lo is old for a prospect, but he missed a significant chunk of time rehabbing a partially torn UCL he suffered in 2011. Lo picked up a four-out save on Tuesday and could easily capitalize on a thin bullpen to close for the rest of the season. Lo’s two-pitch combination of a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider serves him better in the bullpen than it would in the rotation. I included Josh Fields in this space last week, but don’t be surprised if Fields isn’t a factor this year and Lo is.


Holland is entrenched in Kansas City, so it’s unlikely that Kelvin Herrera or Tim Collins would supplant him. This is the time of the year in start-limit leagues when you should start considering relievers with high whiff totals. Herrera in particular fits the bill. The control problems that plagued him prior to his demotion to the minors are mostly behind him, and hitters have a hard time catching up on his stuff. Collins is on the other end of the spectrum; he is someone I would really avoid unless I was desperate for strikeouts. His walk rate is terrible, and Collins doesn’t keep the ball on the ground enough to stay away from the potentially disastrous inning. If you’re trolling for whiffs, Herrera and not Collins is the play here.

Jordan Walden has missed most of this week with a minor injury and should be back this coming weekend. His injury has put the spotlight on David Carpenter. The converted catcher is dominating in late relief with a power fastball/power slider combination that has been blowing hitters away of late. His improved command has led to some terrific numbers. Craig Kimbrel is money and Walden has also been terrific, but Carpenter adds another quality arm to a deep pen.

Luis Avilan continues to have a relatively high ownership percentage (five percent in CBS leagues) but isn’t a guy I’d want to own, even in a super-deep league. Yes, he has been one of the better middle relief earners all season long in terms of Roto earnings, but Avilan’s low whiff total combined with his extremely low BABIP makes him a risky proposition.

On the $ Values

Dollar values in the charts below represent my 2012 dollar valuations for 5×5 “only” Rotisserie-style formats using 2013 player statistics. These values use a Standings Gain Points (or SGP) model that is similar to the SGP model used in Baseball Prospectus’ Player Forecast Manager.

Earnings Through Games of Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Closer Earnings to Date

Overall Rank




Craig Kimbrel



Joe Nathan



Greg Holland



Edward Mujica



Kenley Jansen



Koji Uehara



Aroldis Chapman



Glen Perkins



Mariano Rivera



Addison Reed



Grant Balfour



Jim Johnson



Sergio Romo



Mark Melancon



Steve Cishek



Rafael Soriano



Jim Henderson



Joaquin Benoit



Casey Janssen



Jonathan Papelbon



Fernando Rodney



Kevin Gregg



Brad Ziegler



Chris Perez



Huston Street



Rex Brothers



LaTroy Hawkins



Dane de la Rosa



Danny Farquhar



Chia-Jen Lo


Top Reliever Earnings, Non-Closers

Overall Rank




Jason Grilli



Bobby Parnell



Drew Smyly



Jose Veras



Tyler Clippard



Justin Wilson



Ryan Cook



David Robertson



Alex Torres



Luis Avilan



Luke Hochevar



Darren O’Day



Brett Cecil



Neal Cotts



Paco Rodriguez



Tanner Scheppers



Francisco Rodriguez



Tommy Hunter



Brandon Kintzler



Aaron Loup



David Carpenter



Junichi Tazawa



Ernesto Frieri



Alfredo Simon



Sean Doolittle



Casey Fien



Heath Bell



Cody Allen



J.J. Hoover



Tony Watson


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One of the drawbacks of columns like this is that I'm on a deadline, and can't always react to late night events. Josh Fields picked up the save last night for the Astros - something I obviously would have mentioned. It seems like Lo is still the closer. Lo had pitched two nights in a row and manager Bo Porter said that Lo was receiving a scheduled night off. However, this is why Lo - and most new closers - start in the bottom tier. I'll stick with Lo, but monitor this situation, and don't go crazy with a FAAB bid/waiver claim on Lo if he's available.
Don't forget to mention the blown saves by Farquhar and Hawkins last night justifying your skepticism.
Had I submitted this at 3 a.m., I would have expressed little concern over Farquhar's blown save and some concern over Hawkins's.
I don't like "saves". I like pitchers who record have good looking whip and k/9. Why do BP staff still care about the save?
Possibly because it's a category in virtually every fantasy format? And this is a fantasy column?
Right. My opinion of whether or not I think saves or good or bad for fantasy baseball or whether or not you should use them or not is irrelevant. If you're playing fantasy baseball, chances are excellent that you use saves. I am trying to help you win your fantasy leagues first and foremost. While I do try to figure out which relievers are better than others using a more metrics-oriented approach, I am trying to help my readers win their fantasy leagues first and foremost.
As a baseball fan, I don't like saves either. Furthermore, I loathe the idea that there is a "closer's mentality" and that 3 outs in the ninth inning of a 6-3 game with the bases empty are somehow more difficult than three outs in the seventh inning of a 4-4 game with the bases loaded. So, yes, I agree that saves are a silly statistic in terms of the value of a relief pitcher.

All that being said, we are catering to fantasy baseball players with articles like these. I do try to use statistics like K%, BB%, HR% and other markers to determine which pitchers are better closers than others and which closers will stay closers, but I am still writing with a fantasy audience in mind. If there is ever a move away from using saves in fantasy baseball, I will limit or eliminate this topic in the future.
Hence the big F to the left of the column heading... Noob here just navigating this site. Thanks.