A Closer Look - Week 12
Don't look now, but we're down to just seven closer committees in major league baseball! That may seem like a lot, but considering that over one-third of the league had one earlier this year, we have to call it what it is - progress. This week alone, we dropped the committees for Oakland, Texas, and Baltimore. Here are the rest of the updates around the league.
Around the League:
-Michael Fulmer is back from the injured list for the Tigers and converted his first save on Wednesday. Jose Cisnero pitched the 8th inning. Fulmer did give up two runs on three hits, but it's clear the Tigers would like to give him the opportunity to lead the committee in Detroit. Overall, the experiment that put Fulmer in the bullpen has largely been a success and Fulmer has adapted to the role seemingly effortlessly. The most interesting aspect about his dominance in the bullpen is within his pitch mix. It's not unusual for former starting pitchers to gain velocity when they move to the bullpen because they no longer than to worry about holding back and saving energy. As a result, their fastball usage usually goes up. With Fulmer, he has actually dropped his fastball usage by about 20% this year and has relied more heavily on his secondary stuff. Fulmer has burned so many fantasy owners over the last several seasons, so their own biases may prevent them from completely buying in - but don't be like them.
-The Rangers also welcomed back Ian Kennedy on Wednesday and like Fulmer, he also gave up a run in his return. Nonetheless, the Rangers will absolutely slot him right back into the closing role. He bounced back with a scoreless inning on Friday night, but once again, it wasn't a save chance. If there's an area of Ian Kennedy's stat line that's most at-risk of regression, it's probably the rate of save chances he sees the remainder of the season after racking up 12 saves through May 17th.
-Here's your weekly Tampa Bay closer update. Pete Fairbanks locked down the save on Monday, so naturally he took a loss in his next two outings, including a blown save on Thursday. Diego Castillo seems the most likely option for the next save, but JP Feyereisen is still in the mix.
-Lou Trivino seems to be pulling away from Jake Diekman in the Athletics closer committee, but as I noted on our SiriusXM show last weekend, this is largely a consequence of Diekman being the only left-hander in the Oakland bullpen (besides Jesus Luzardo who is struggling). Trivino is less of an enticing option than Diekman, but the most important thing, particularly in 2021 major league baseball, is getting save opportunities and Trivino is absolutely doing that right now.
-Zack Britton was activated from the injured list last weekend. He hasn't had awful results, but he definitely has some rust to shake off. Nonetheless, Aaron Boone hasn't hesitated throwing him back into important situations, working the 8th and 9th innings (non-save situation) in his most recent two appearances. Aroldis Chapman has righted the ship after a couple shaky outings last week, but Britton remains a nice pickup in most formats, even in traditional 5x5 leagues.
-Remember in Spring Training when it looked like Craig Kimbrel would have lost his role as closer if they Cubs had any reasonable alternative? Well fast forward to June 19th and Kimbrel leads the league with 19 saves and the Cubs bullpen is tied with the Yankees in team WAR. That's why we play the games, folks!
-Mark Melancon blew his third save of the season this week, but overall, Melancon's stat line remains strong and since June his strikeout rate is up substantially (28.6% vs 21.6% overall). It's worth mentioning that set-up man Emilio Pagan hasn't been great recently, giving up runs in 3 of his last 6 appearances, yet has still managed to record 3 holds.
-Emmanuel Clase has received and converted each of his last two save chances for the Indians and James Karinchak is back in the set-up role. This sequence was been extremely successful for the Indians this season so it's possible Terry Francona will stick with it.
Handcuffs to Watch:
Luke Jackson (ATL) - Those in holds leagues may benefit from taking a look at Luke Jackson, who has seen an uptick in usage since May 31st, working in 8 games and recording 4 saves during that stretch. Jackson hasn't allowed an earned run since May 12th and while he doesn't strike out many batters, his 54% groundball rate helps limit the damage against him.
Anthony Bender (MIA) - Rookie Anthony Bender now has 18 scoreless (earned run) appearances since making his major league debut with a 22:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He hasn't been used in many high leverage situations, but he still has 3 holds and should continue to see more important appearances moving forward.
Closer Chart & Handcuff Ranking By Team:
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