Not a whole lot happened on the closer front this past week, but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to talk about. There’s a lot of uncertainty to be straightened out over the next couple of days, and it’s important to try to stay one step ahead of everyone in your league. It’s the welcome-back-from-the-DL version of the Closer Report. You can keep up with the changes with the closer grid, and as always the changes since last week are highlighted yellow.
The New-Look A’s Look Like The Old-Look A’s
Oakland has had a fairly interesting closer situation all season. It began with Sean Doolittle’s comeback year, which ended quickly and turned into shared duties between him and Ryan Madson. The former’s early-season struggles led to the shared duties being terminated and Madson taking over the ninth inning by himself. It had been that way for a few weeks, but Doolittle has been much better of late—14 strikeouts to two walks over his last 9 2/3 innings—and Madson blew two saves in a seven-day stretch. As such, it appears they are going to go back to splitting duties after Doolittle notched the save on Sunday with Madson pitching the eighth. Now, to be fair, this was more about leverage as Madson was brought in to face the heart of Detroit’s lineup and he picked up the save on Monday. With that being said, his strikeouts have been trending downward as the season has gone on and Doolittle has the more appealing peripherals. Both should be owned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Doolittle takes the job back. I’d be fairly aggressive in trying to acquire him while he should still come relatively cheap.
The Return of Brad Boxberger
There’s not a whole lot to say on this one, as I’ve discussed this a lot over the last few weeks. Boxberger is, of course, the incumbent and Kevin Cash has made it known he’d like to give his old closer his job back. However, he’s gone back on that lately, loosening his stance and saying he’ll ease him back into the role. To me, that sounds like a manager who realizes his current closer, Alex Colomé in this case, has done more than enough to keep his job. That’s not to say Boxberger won’t get his save chances, of course. I have him listed as the “Plan B” on the grid, but I think it’ll be something close to an even split. If I had to choose one, I’d definitely go with Colomé, who has been incredible this season. He looks a whole lot like Zach Britton of 2015, with a lower ground-ball rate but better DRA and cFIP. Boxberger, on the other hand, has shown some control issues in the past to go along with his great strikeout stuff. Both should be rostered, but they lose some value with the shared duties.
I Was Going To Put A Will Smith Pun Here, But You Deserve Better Than That
Back in spring training, there was a semi-interesting closer battle in Milwaukee that Will Smith appeared poised to win. Instead, he got hurt and Jeremy Jeffress took the job by default. To be fair to Jeffress, he has run with the role, blowing just one save and taking another loss. Because of his early success, one has to think he’ll keep the job even after Smith comes back since the latter never had claim of the job. That doesn’t mean you should be excited about Smith’s return, however, and that should come this week. He’s quietly been one of the better relievers in baseball for the last couple of years. In a shallower league I wouldn’t worry about grabbing him now, but I’d be keeping a close eye on what he looks like when he’s back to the mound. Smith will almost certainly be the closer at some point in the next six weeks. Jeffress’ peripherals don’t look great, with his strikeouts falling down significantly this season. Even if he does keep this success going, he’ll likely be trade bait for the rebuilding Brewers. In fact, the only reason Smith wouldn’t see time as a closer is if he’s traded as well.
Huston Street is Back, Too
Everybody is back! Street was activated last night, taking the closer job right back from Joe Smith. I was worried about Smith in the ninth inning, but he held down the job well enough. He was far from perfect, but he managed to keep the job for the duration of Street’s absence, which is more than I expected. There’s not much else to report here, other than saying I’d be dropping Smith even if it were a holds league. There are plenty of better setup men available in every league. Even Fernando Salas might be a better option.
Glen Perkins is starting a throwing program soon, so he should be back in a few weeks barring any setbacks. That will be a welcomed return, as Kevin Jepsen has been beyond shaky and no one else is stepping up. If you’re looking for short-term speculative saves, take a look at Fernando Abad.
It was a rough week for Jeurys Familia, who had two terrible outings and watched his ERA jump from 2.01 to 4.07 in his last two outings. His strikeout rate is down this year, but the indicators haven’t changed much and he’s still been good for most of the year. I wouldn’t worry.
For those of you in holds leagues, Carson Smith is out for the year and is undergoing Tommy John surgery. He lost most of his value in standard leagues after being traded to Craig Kimbrel’s squad, but he should’ve been one of the best holds pitchers in baseball. Injuries are dumb.
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