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Reviewing each MLB teams 2015 closer situation


At the beginning of the season, we scanned through each team’s closer situation and ranked every one listed in terms of his fantasy value and job security. The list made sense at the time, and a lot of it has held true as the year has gone along. However, as it happens every season, more than a few closers lose their job or are demoted to a lesser role, whether due to poor performance, injury, or a manager handing the ball to a promising prospect.

So, as the season is coming to its final stages, how many closers have actually held their status for the whole season? Are any of them still at risk of losing their jobs? And, how have they affected fantasy teams? Today we try to answer these questions and take a look at the numbers regarding baseball’s most controversial “position”, assessing every MLB team’s closing situation.

AL EAST

Orioles
Started – Zach Britton
Current – Britton

Britton was probably ranked too low on my preseason standings, as he seemed due to regress. However, he is striking out more people than ever before (10.3 K/9) while dropping his FIP to below-2 levels. He has racked 29 of the team’s 32 saves, and he isn’t going anywhere.

Red Sox
Started – Koji Uehara
Current – Jean Machi

With the team a hot mess as a whole, the bullpen couldn’t escape. Uehara was mostly effective as the closer, but nowhere near his dominant days of 2013 and 2014. He got 25 of the team’s 27 saves before succumbing to an injury that may keep him off the field for the year, leading to mid-season pickup Jean Machi to be the closer. Machi, who was great for the Giants in 2014, has already earned his first save for Boston (and third for his career), and could prove to be a cheap option for fantasy saves down the stretch.

Yankees
Started – Andrew Miller
Current – Miller

The Yankees picked up Miller very close to the start of the season, displacing Dellin Betances from the closer role and instead creating the best one-two relief punch in the league. Miller has picked up 26 of the team’s 36 saves, mostly because he missed some time with an injury. That is where Betances picked up the slack with 7 saves, as part of his 3.2 WAR that lead all Yankee pitchers. With a big contract that ties him to New York, Miller will hold the spot for a long time.

Rays
Started – Kevin Jepsen
Current – Brad Boxberger

The Tampa situation was unclear from the start, and it has played out as a nice closer-by-committee tandem with Boxberger emerging as a primary option. While the righty has accrued 29 of the team’s 47 saves, 6 other players have at least one save. With former full-time closer Jake McGee back in action, expect the duo to be the main options as the Rays chase a playoff spot.

Blue Jays
Started – Brett Cecil
Current – Roberto Osuna

The Cecil experiment didn’t pan out to begin the year, and in fact six pitchers have recorded at least one save for Toronto, but that all changed when the 20-year-old Osuna was anointed as the closer. With a 2.01 ERA in 53.2 innings, along with his 13 saves, Osuna is making a case as one of the best closers in the AL, and one that is partly responsible for the Blue Jays’ improved postseason odds.

AL CENTRAL

White Sox
Started – David Robertson
Current – Robertson

Robertson is making a cool $10 million this year, so it was likely that only a complete collapse would have seen him demoted. Still, he has been as good as advertised, with 24 saves and a 2.87 ERA fueled by his elite strikeout rate. The White Sox only have 27 saves as a team, but Robertson has made the most of his limited action.

Indians
Started – Cody Allen
Current – Allen

Allen’s superficial numbers, 1-4 record, 3.94 ERA, only 23 saves, do look mediocre, but he has been victim of a poor Cleveland defense and lousy luck, with his FIP being nearly two runs lower than his ERA. Despite a few implosions, he has never lost his status as closer, totaling 23 of the team’s 27 saves. He is still the favorite to retain the job in 2016.

Tigers
Started – Joe Nathan/Joakim Soria
Current – Bruce Rondon

Detroit’s bullpen situation has again been mostly a disaster, and it started with Nathan recording a one-out save and then being lost for the season. In stepped Soria, who was pretty much effective with 23 saves before being shipped to the Pirates. This opened the door to Rondon, who has already racked 2 saves and blown a chance since being named the closer. The situation should still be in flux, with arms like Blaine Hardy and Alex Wilson ready to close.

Royals
Started – Greg Holland
Current – Holland

Holland remains a top-tier closer, and is in the middle of another classic Holland season. Even as Wade Davis has emerged as Kansas City’s top reliever, Holland still pitches the ninth, with 26 of the team’s 40 saves (Holland missed time due to injury). Davis filled the role admirably and had 9 saves of his own, but we know who will be closing in October.

Twins

Started – Glen Perkins
Current – Perkins

Perkins ranked high on the preseason list, and he has kept his steady, underrated work for the surprising Twins. Even after slipping a bit with a 3.44 FIP, Perkins has still saved 31 out of Minnesota’s 33 saves, and still features some of the strongest job security in the league.

AL WEST

Astros

Started – Chad Qualls
Current – Luke Gregerson

One of Houston’s underrated traits towards becoming a contender was its willingness to spend top dollar to build a good bullpen. It has paid off and then some, with placeholder Qualls quickly losing his job to the effective Gregerson. While 5 players have recorded at least one save for the Astros, Gregerson has been steady with 23 saves and a 3.20 ERA. While his hold on the job is strong, don’t be surprised if other pitchers like Pat Neshek and Will Harris get opportunities.

Angels

Started – Huston Street
Current – Street

With 28 of the Anaheim’s 29 saves, Street features the highest percentage among closers in proportion to his team’s total saves in the AL. He continues to amass saves despite his low strikeout totals, which always makes Street seem a bit vulnerable compared to other top-tier stoppers. Still, his job security is never in doubt, and his performance is key for the Angels as they chase the Astros.

Athletics

Started – Tyler Clippard
Current – Edward Mujica/Fernando Rodriguez

With a league-low 20 saves, the A’s have been a disappointment both in the real standings and for fantasy purposes. Clippard could only muster 17 rescues, even as he provided his solid numbers all around. After his departure towards the Mets, the closer role has been a disaster, with multiple blown saves and no real defined pitcher. Sean Doolittle is due to return shortly, which could provide value in September, but for now it seems best to avoid Oakland late-inning men.

Mariners

Started – Fernando Rodney
Current – Carson Smith

With a 5.19 ERA for the season, Rodney has been a complete disaster that worked himself off the closing gig. In his place, Carson Smith took over in great fashion, but his numbers have started to worsen as the season has advanced, and his job could be in jeopardy even as the Mariners are well away from playoff contention. Look for former closer Tom Wilhelmsen to get a few looks; with six, the Mariners are tied with the Rays for the most pitchers with at least 1 save on the season.

Rangers

Started – Neftali Feliz
Current – Shawn Tolleson

As expected, Feliz was pretty bad as the team’s closer, with only six saves and a 4.58 ERA before being demoted and then released. While Texas has had five pitchers record a save, the nomination of Shawn Tolleson as the full-time closer has been a revelation, with Tolleson racking up 23 saves and a 2.65 ERA for the fringe-contender Rangers. He is safe for the rest of the season, and has a good case to retain the role further.

NL EAST

Braves

Started – Jason Grilli
Current – Arodys Vizcaino

The original preseason post was published before the Craig Kimbrel trade, which made Jason Grilli the official closer for Atlanta as the season began. Grilli was mostly good and had 24 saves before injuring his knee and being done for the year. In stepped Jim Johnson, who had 9 saves before being traded away. With the Braves now in full experimentation mode, the role has been given to Vizcaino, who has recorded his first 3 career saves with Atlanta. However, with management trying anything to see what sticks be wary of potential bullpen arms that could also close for the Braves.

Marlins

Started – Steve Cishek
Current – AJ Ramos

Miami’s 22 saves have been split by two arms: Cishek’s 3, who had been pretty good in 2013-14 before fading in 2015, and then Ramos’ 19. Still, Ramos has slowed down after embracing the role in his first few turns, seeing his ERA jump almost by a full run since the All-Star break. The team could give someone like Carter Capps a spot opportunity or two, but Ramos should still see the bulk of the rare save chances provided by the Marlins.

Mets

Started – Jenrry Mejia
Current – Jeurys Familia

Mejia was all set to begin the season as the closer when he was suspended 80 games for PED use. That created the chance for Familia, who has become one of the league’s best closers with 32 saves and a 1.87 ERA. Even as six total pitchers have at least one save for the Mets, counting the trade for Tyler Clippard, Familia’s role should be bulletproof and ready for the stretch run and potential playoffs in Flushing.

Phillies

Started – Jon Papelbon
Current – Ken Giles

Predictably, Papelbon was pretty good while closing for the hapless Phillies. Also predictably, he was traded mid-season, leaving his seat for Ken Giles, who had already shown flashes of dominance to be considered a future closer. Papelbon provided 17 of the team’s total 25 saves, while Giles has already accumulated 7, both with a sub-2 ERA. Even in another bad season, the Phillies have at least featured supreme late-inning work to preserve their precious leads.

Nationals

Started – Drew Storen
Current – Jon Papelbon

Papelbon’s trade to Washington assured that no NL East team would finish the season with the closer it originally named, even if it all was a bit unfair for playoff goat Drew Storen. As the full-time closer, Storen had 29 saves and a stellar 2.44 FIP (11 K/9), only to see his role usurped by Papelbon, who has handled his only two save chances as a National. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see Storen getting a few chances, the alpha dog will be Papelbon.

NL CENTRAL

Cubs

Started – Hector Rondon
Current – Rondon

The Cubs are the only team in MLB with 7 pitchers recording at least 1 save, and yet they now find themselves with one of the steadiest late-inning situations. Rondon had a few blowups to start the season, which led to a closing committee that saw the likes Jason Motte, Justin Grimm, and Pedro Strop record saves. However, Rondon reclaimed the full time job and has been stellar, with 21 saves and a 1.65 ERA for the season.

Reds

Started – Aroldis Chapman
Current – Chapman

With all the trade rumors failing to materialize, the Reds retained their top-flight closer, with Chapman getting 24 of Cincinnati’s 25 saves for the year. He has been the same steady presence in the back of the bullpen, with 88 strikeouts in 48.2 innings and a huge dose of 100-mph fastballs. Chapman remains in the select club of the game’s elite closers.

Brewers

Started – Francisco Rodriguez
Current – Rodriguez

Quietly, K-Rod has been the Brewers’ most valuable pitcher with a 1.2 WAR from the closer role, racking up all of the team’s 29 saves in the year. Still somewhat young at age 33, and with 377 career saves, Rodriguez has an outside shot of challenging Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera on the all-time list. With a superb season that has produced a 1.90 ERA, he should be getting plenty of chances beyond 2015.

Pirates

Started – Mark Melancon
Current – Melancon

Melancon’s ascent to become an excellent closer has been an essential part of Pittsburgh’s status as a contender in the Central, with his league-leading 37 saves being part of the Pirates’ total of 40. Melancon features a pristine 1.66 ERA, and his low strikeout rate is offset by the staggering amount of soft contact he produces.

Cardinals

Started – Trevor Rosenthal
Current – Rosenthal

Rosenthal makes it 5-for-5 in terms of closer stability for the NL Central. Five other pitchers have combined for 12 saves, but Rosenthal’s 37 are tied with Melancon for the league lead. Heading into the playoffs, the Cardinals again feature a great bullpen, and Rosenthal’s job should be safe despite his occasional flare for the dramatic.

NL WEST

Diamondbacks

Started – Addison Reed
Current – Brad Ziegler

Six different players have recorded a save for the feisty Dbacks, who found stability by handing the role to Ziegler, who had been one of the league’s top set-up men for a while. With his funky side-arm delivery, Ziegler continues to get groundballs and weak contact, and sits at a very nice 1.58 ERA with 21 saves. His job is safe, but it could change next season.

Rockies

Started – LaTroy Hawkins
Current – Tommy Kahnle

Hawkins saved only two games before getting injured, demoted, and then sent to Toronto. That may be the most fortunate fate for a Colorado closer in a while, as the Rockies have given a save to at six pitchers on the year. The team’s 25 saves included 16 by John Axford, but now the role has fallen on Tommy Kahnle, who could be nothing more than a placeholder. Never expect consistency from the Rockies.

Dodgers

Started – Brandon League
Current – Kenley Jansen

League didn’t even begin the season with the Dodgers, which became a blessing in disguise for a team that was to start the season without its closer. That led to the Dodgers mixing and matching with the bullpen, as five other pitchers got at least one save, including Yimi Garcia, JP Howell, and Joel Peralta. Still, Jansen came back as good as ever, with a 0.704 WHIP and 16.3 K/9 being more impressive than his 24 saves. His job is secured, as the Dodgers hope to finally reach the World Series.

Padres

Started – Craig Kimbrel
Current – Kimbrel

Before the Kimbrel trade, the Padres looked to be in good shape with Joaquin Benoit as closer. However, it has been pretty much the same, with Kimbrel getting 34 of the team’s 35 total saves, albeit with a significant drop from his insane numbers with Atlanta. Kimbrel sits at a 2.66 ERA and 12.4 K/9, which would be excellent for any closer, but seem a bit off with what he had us accustomed to.

Giants

Started – Santiago Casilla
Current – Casilla

Even with Bruce Bochy’s reputation as a master bullpen handler, he has always been consistent with his closers. By that measure, Casilla getting 28 of the team’s 31 saves seems well in line with the status quo in San Francisco. However, as the team pursues a playoff spot to defend its title, Casilla’s position seems a bit shaky, with calls to return Sergio Romo to the ninth being more present. With a 3.79 ERA and 1.488 WHIP, Casilla could be on a very short leash, so it will be important to pay attention to how it plays out.



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