After this weekend, we only have six more weeks of the baseball regular season! For those of you in head-to-head leagues, that also probably means you only have two to three more weeks before you start your playoffs.
Around The League:
- Aroldis Chapman has been dealing with hamstring tightness, but it looks like he's going to avoid the disabled list according to manager Joe Girardi. That's good news from the perspective that his owners will continue to get saves, but as I forewarned in the pre-season, one must wonder how much the abuse from last year's post-season is contributing to this year's issues and ineffectiveness. Chapman's walk rate has regressed back to 11% this year, one year after improving to 8%. Normally the walk rate doesn't turn into a huge problem for him because of his circus strikeout rates - well more than 40% the last few seasons - but that too has dipped to "just" 32%. He remains a nice option, but the regression across the board is clear.
- We haven't talked about Roberto Osuna too much in this column this year. Admittedly, he wasn't one of my primary targets during the draft season and I certainly had my concerns about his stability given his anxiety challenges a couple months ago, but he has performed like a top-10 closer for much of the year. His 34.5% strikeout rate and 3.5% walk rate are sparkling, and he's managing to limit opponents to just a 66% contact rate while inducing missed bats 18.5% of the time - that's a tremendous combination.
- The Cardinals were forced to place Trevor Rosenthal on the disabled list with "posterior elbow irritation", which in Layman's terms, means elbow ligament irritation. In experienced baseball fans' terms, that means a call to Dr. James Andrews. Regardless of what the doctors find, it's doubtful Rosenthal will be much of a contributor to fantasy teams the rest of the season, so he can be safely dropped if you do not have a DL spot. In the Cardinals' first save opportunity since making the roster move, Matt Bowman got the keys to the ninth inning with an 11-8 lead. Unfortunately, he loaded the bases before Mike Matheny brought in Zach Duke, who walked in run before getting pulled. Matheny then turned to former closer Seung Hwan Oh, who managed to get the final two outs for his 19th save. For what it's worth, it appeared the Cardinals were planning to give Oh the save chance on Wednesday night based on their reliever usage, but a save chance never arose. Given the way tonight unfolded, I'd expect Oh to have the first crack at the next save, with Bowman serving as his primary handcuff. Buckle your seatbelts, folks.
- Andrew Miller was activated by the Indians today. He can immediately be re-inserted into your lineups to be used in whichever function you normally use him.
- Matt Belisle is locked and loaded as the Twins' closer despite a rocky outing where he took the loss last Saturday. Belisle still walks too many batters (10% walk rate), but his strikeout rate is pretty nice for a guy that is 37 years old. He's playing for a contract, so he'll continue to do anything he can to either re-sign or latch somewhere else. Motivation can be half the battle with some players, so at least he has that working for you. For what it's worth, former closer Glen Perkins is back from the disabled list (out since April 2016), but he struggled with hittability and walks. He was sitting between 89-91 on his fastball, so he's not much of an immediate threat right now.
- Gregory Infante was the latest White Sox pitcher to get the save on Wednesday night. Infante began his career in the White Sox organization before bouncing between three other teams before ending up back on the South Side. Infante is a fastball / slider / changeup pitcher with no pitch that stands out among the others. He's not a strikeout pitcher (20% strikeout rate), but he's not really a pitch-to-contact type of guy either (77% contact rate). He does tend to give up more flyballs than groundballs, but thanks to a league average hard hit rate allowed, he's able to keep those flyballs in play. No closer on the White Sox is going to hold much fantasy value, especially not one who lacks the ideal skillset in the first place.
- The Angels utilized their bullpen in a new way on Friday night, bringing in Cam Bedrosian (who had been closing games) in the 6th inning with a two-run lead, then followed by Blake Parker, Yusmerio Petit, and Keynan Middleton. Unfortunately, the latter two each gave up two earned runs with Middleton getting hit with the blown save. Middleton had been getting spot saves here or there and he's been decent out of relief this year, although it's not immediately clear why Bedrosian was used in the sixth. He's been very good since the calendar flipped to August and after tonight's debacle, it's likely he'll see the next chances too.
- This doesn't directly impact a closer, but the Nationals' Ryan Madson was placed on the disabled list with a sprained finger. Brandon Kintzler moves into the primary set-up role and would vulture any saves from Sean Doolittle on a day of, etc.
As we mentioned earlier, Aroldis Chapman has battled ineffectiveness and injuries for most of the season. Up until recently, Yankees' set-up man Dellin Betances had struggled and never fully took the reigns when given a shot. Since July 29th, however, Betances has allowed just one hit with a 13:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 65% groundball rate over 10 innings pitched. Chapman is supposedly healthy now, but depending how Chapman's hamstring feels over the next few outings could still leave the door open for a trip to the disabled list. The Yankees are in the thick of the playoff race and while they certainly need him now, the playoffs are substantially more important. Betances would immediately become a must-own player across all formats if he filled in at closer and thanks to his first-half struggles, he's probably not universally owned now despite likely being universally drafted. Betances now has five straight seasons of decreasing contact rate allowed, where it currently sits at an elite 61%. Additionally, when batters do make contact, they're hitting is hard just 19% of the time, which is nearly 11% below league average. Betances is as unhittable as the come when he's on his game, and it certainly looks like he's in a groove right now. David Robertson will also be looked to in the ninth inning (should Chapman go down) and like Betances, he has also been on quite a roll. Compared with Betances, he's actually striking out more batters with a similar contact rate and just a slightly higher hard hit rate allowed of 25%. If Chapman did hit the disabled list, Girardi would likely play the matchups. If both players happen to be available in your league, they're both nice high-usage options with a good strikeout rate and certainly deserve to be owned. From a dynasty perspective, Betances is still my preference, but Robertson probably has a slightly better chance at saves the rest of the season.
Click on the following link for the rest of the closer report (including more "Around The League" notes, our closer rankings & statistics, as well as handcuff grades) in the member area: http://www.fantistics.com/baseball00/M-Closer.htm.
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