Brad Johnson

Saves and Steals

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Familia Turmoil

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Considering we're barely over two weeks into the season, we've witnessed an awful lot of closer upheaval since last Wednesday. Zach Britton and Sam Dyson landed on the disabled list. Britton is dealing with a forearm strain near the wrist. He claims to be feeling much better. It's possible he'll return before May. I've seen no updates on Dyson's timetable from a hand contusion. I assume he'll rehab until his sinker is working.

 

Blake Treinen lost his job last night, and we got official confirmation that Ryan Madson will be working the middle innings. Go ahead and check on Santiago Casilla, Sean Doolittle, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover. I'll wait.

 

There's turmoil in Houston and St. Louis. The Astros may have secretly demoted Ken Giles. More on that below. Seung Hwan Oh is struggling. While I think he's fine, there will be pressure to change his role if he continues to blow leads.

 

Greg Holland leads all closers with eight saves. Craig Kimbrel is second with six saves. Four others are tied with five saves apiece. Teammates Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza each have six steals. They share the lead. Five more rabbits have five steals. Elvis Andrus was the busiest of the bunch last week. He stole four in five attempts.

 

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Tier 1: The Elite (3)

 

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

 

We lost one elite closer to the disabled list and gained another via superb performance. Chapman earned four saves in a busy week. He tossed a total of 3.1 innings and notched four strikeouts. Jansen pitched twice. He recorded two saves and three strikeouts in 2.1 innings.

 

I've said all along that Kimbrel was on the bubble between the top two tiers. He recorded four saves in four innings. The only hit he allowed was erased via double play. He walked none and struck out seven. The rest of the Red Sox bullpen is a bit of a dumpster fire.

 

Tier 2: Nearly Elite (7)

 

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals

Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants

Addison Reed, Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

 

I still worry about Allen's penchant for early season command issues. He had a shaky save on Monday in which he allowed two hits and a walk. He also struck out two and somehow held the Twins scoreless. His only other outing was a non-save situation.

 

Osuna vultured a win in his only appearance of the week. He failed to protect a one-run lead against the Orioles. Kendrys Morales bailed him out with a game winning home run. Don't be too hard on Osuna. He only allowed an infield hit. A pinch runner stole second then scored on two consecutive sac flies.

 

Diaz joined the vulture win parade on Sunday. He allowed a solo home run to Nomar Mazara while defending a 6-6 tie. The Mariners bats saved the day. Diaz also earned a save earlier in the week.

 

Herrera hasn't dominated in the way I expected, but I'm confident the results will come. The Royals finally had need of their fireman, using him four times. He allowed one solo home run. He recorded a win, two saves, and three strikeouts.

 

Last night, Melancon worked around a couple hits by striking out the side. He also pitched well in a non-save situation on Sunday.

 

The Mets will welcome back Familia on Thursday. Entering the season, I thought there was a chance Reed could steal the job from Familia. It required perfection. Unfortunately, Reed was charged with a blown save loss on Sunday. He was used for multiple innings on Thursday – despite also pitching on Wednesday. I suspect he'll be used as a two-inning reliever going forward. Familia has pitched well while on “rehab” assignment. He's returning from a strangely brief domestic violence suspension. Familia might get a couple setup appearances before reclaiming the closer job.

 

Colome faced five batters and induced five outs. He did not pitch in a save situation. An update on his repertoire: he calls his 89 mph slider a “cutter.” True cutters aren't over five mph slower than a straight fastball. True sliders are usually more than six mph slower. Whatever you call it – cutter, slider, slutter, baby slider – he's using it nearly 70 percent of the time.

 

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Tier 3: The Mid Tier (6)

 

Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins

Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles

Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

 

It's funny how scouting reports will suddenly change when a pitcher doesn't allow a run through his first seven appearances. Now I'm hearing Davis' stuff is close to peak after everybody was insisting the cutter had declined. I'll give it another week before I bump him into the second tier. He recorded four strikeouts and one save in a nearly perfect week.

 

Robertson is putting on an excellent audition for contending teams. Through 5.2 innings, he's recorded 11 strikeouts compared to two walks and one hit. The White Sox somehow handed him four saves in the least week. He's yet to allow a run. Even his 0.08 FIP and 0.36 xFIP agree with the success.

 

Everybody always asks me what to do about Ramos. Use him? Even if the Marlins appear eager to replace him, he's still a very good reliever. He allowed a run last Wednesday – his only of the young season. Unfortunately, he was pitching in a tied game. He took the loss. Since then, he's earned a win and a save in two hitless innings.

 

With Britton sidelined, Brach is the most reliable pitcher in the Orioles bullpen. He experienced a command breakout last season. With only six innings to date, it's unclear if he's still hitting spots. For Brach, command is the difference between a 2.50 ERA or a 3.50 ERA. Either plays as a temporary closer. Darren O'Day is supposedly in the picture for saves too. His first three outings were heinous – six runs, five walks, and one strikeout in 2.2 innings. He looked like his usual self last week – no runs, two hits, and three strikeouts in a pair of innings.

 

Now that Andrew Bailey is on the disabled list, Bedrosian's job is fully secured. He was called upon for a two-inning save last night. The Angels may need to use him for multi-inning saves if they want to contend. The bullpen and rotation is awfully thin. There's only so much Mike Trout can do.

 

The Reds bullpen will remain frustrating all season long. Iglesias is clearly the top option. He allowed a solo home run in his only outing. The Reds gave him enough run support to pick up a vulture win. Michael Lorenzen earned a save one day after allowing four runs. Lorenzen and Drew Storen will pick up occasional saves.

 


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Brad Johnson is a baseball writer for Rotoworld, FanGraphs, The Hardball Times, MLBTradeRumors and The Fake Baseball. He can be found on Twitter @BaseballATeam.
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