Welcome to the 15th edition of A Closer Look. Tuesday marks the unofficial halfway mark in the major league baseball season as the All-Star Game shifts to Colorado, so in honor of halfway mile marker, here's a view of the current "on-pace for" leaderboards:
50+ Season: Mark Melancon
40+ Season: Liam Hendriks, Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Alex Reyes
Relievers on pace for 100+ Strikeouts: James Karinchak, Raisel Iglesias, Matt Barnes, Scott Barlow, Josh Hader, Mike Mayers, Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, Alex Reyes, Giovanny Gallegos, Aroldis Chapman, Taylor Rogers, Craig Stammen, Devin Williams, Rex Brothers, Jeffrey Springs
For those who lost count at home, that's 16 relievers. For context, 2019, 2018 and 2016 all had 8, while 2017 had 7. The fact this year has twice as many as any other year over the last 5 years is telling. Despite the volatility in saves this season, one overlooked positive is that any of the 100+ strikeout pitchers above can return enough value to be rostered in mixed leagues, regardless of their size.
Here's an update from across the league.
Around the League:
-Lou Trivino owners received good news on Friday at the expense of Trevor Rosenthal, who will now miss the rest of the season after undergoing hip surgery. Rosenthal's absence means that Trivino will likely remain the primary closer for the A's, despite the fact Jake Diekman saved the most recent opportunity for Oakland. The save was his first since May 26th. Trivino has greatly outperformed his underlying metrics this season - highlighted by his 4.38 xFIP compared to his 1.96 ERA. If you can take advantage of the Rosenthal news and shop Trivino across your league as a long-term closing option, now is the time to do it.
-It's been a nightmarish month for Aroldis Chapman, who has 4 blown saves since May 23rd and has allowed 10 earned runs over his last 6 appearances. Aaron Boone has suggested that Chad Green might see more save chances in the interim until Chapman turns things around, but Boone did indicate that he still views Chapman as the team's longterm closer. Chapman's problem hasn't been velocity or strikeouts - he's been walking batters at the highest levels of his career (17%) and giving up home runs at the highest rate of his career (31%).
-The Reds seem committed to giving the save chances to Heath Hembree, who isn't your big brother's Heath Hembree. The longtime Red Sox reliever has breathed new life into his career thanks to the development of his slider, which has contributed to his higher strikeout rate, although not necessarily the swinging strike variety. Interestingly, he's getting more called strikes despite posting his lowest zone% of his career. This is concerning from a continuation perspective, especially since his 16% barrel rate is also really high. Brad Brach continues to serve in the "fireman" role and has the more rock solid underlying metric. From a longevity perspective, he's probably the better value right now.
-The Giants seem to be settling on Jake McGee as their primary closer after he has converted four of the last five saves for the team. McGee has the bigger contract and he profiles as the more dominant reliever, so it's logical the team would look to him as their preferred option.
-After Scott Barlow took a loss and a blown save in two consecutive games and Greg Holland took a loss in his latest outing, it's logical Josh Staumont could see the next save chance for the Royals, whenever that might come for last place Kansas City.
-Emmanuel Clase blew his third save of the season on Friday after giving up the lead in the 8th. James Karinchak ended up with the win after pitching a scoreless 9th inning.
Relievers On The Rise:
-Anthony Bender continues to pitch well for the Marlins amid a rough month from current closer Yimi Garcia. Bender thrives from deception and movement on his pitches, which as you'd expect results in plenty of groundballs (52% GB rate) and a remarkable 38% called + swinging strike rate. The righty is pitching like one of the best relievers in baseball right now and could be one more Garcia blown save from moving into the closing role.
-A pair of late inning relievers were activated from the injured list this week. Daniel Hudson will slide back into the 8th inning duties ahead of Brad Hand and Mychal Givens will move back into the set-up role for Daniel Bard.
Closer Chart & Handcuff Ranking By Team:
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR IN-SEASON PACKAGE TO GAIN ACCESS TO OUR ENTIRE CLOSER REPORT!