Can you believe it's September? Four of the six divisions appear to be up for grabs, which means it's all-hands-on-deck for about half of the league. The other half might be thinking about taking it easy on their best relievers. Indeed, that's already the story out of Boston.
You'll soon notice that 14 of 30 closers are ranked in either Tier 5 or Tier 6. Between league-wide instability and uncompetitive teams managing workloads, we're liable to see a lot of spot saves.
We discussed setup men two weeks ago. Those picks still hold true for 26 teams. The Reds shipped Jonathan Broxton to Milwaukee where he'll fill the eighth inning. Sam LeCure appears to be the setup man in Cincy. San Diego had to bump Kevin Quackenbush to the ninth inning while Joaquin Benoit rests. We discussed the A's situation last week.
Tier 1: Elite (4)
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
You may notice that a regular of this section is conspicuously absent. The rest of the group did well. Kimbrel appeared three times for three no-run saves. Chapman and Jansen picked up two scoreless saves apiece.
Holland was leaned on heavily in non-save situations as the Royals use all the tricks in the bag to win the division. They're currently half a game up on the Tigers. Holland appeared five times, but only once in a save situation. He did allow two runs in one outing, but was otherwise sharp.
Tier 2: Nearly Elite (4)
David Robertson, New York Yankees
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels
Robertson appeared once for a four out save. Street had the opposite sort of week. He pitched on four straight days – only one of which was a save opportunity.
Perkins had a three appearance week with mixed results. He allowed a solo home run on Monday, but he still recorded the save. The other two outings were non-save situations.
And that brings us to the elephant in the room – Uehara. He appeared yesterday for the first time since last Monday. He allowed a solo home run, which didn't affect the outcome of the game. Even though he's a free agent at the end of the year, Boston appears to have every intention of bringing him back for the 2015 season. John Farrell reiterated that Uehara's workload would be reduced in September. Time to dust off Edward Mujica for a few spot saves.
Tier 3: Rock Steady (4)
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners
Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins
Britton continues his season-long march up my rankings board. For a while, I expected regression to come kick his butt. A 78.6 percent ground ball rate doesn't sound sustainable. However, I was saying that back when the rate was closer to 72 percent. Maybe he's this good. He's also increased his strikeout rate. The only blemish remains a 23.5 percent HR/FB ratio, which is fine when only 10 percent of your balls in play are flies. He picked up four no-nonsense saves this week.
Allen had a week to forget, although his owners should remain calm. He blew saves in his two most recent appearances, both with the assistance of home runs. He took the loss yesterday on a J.D. Martinez bomb.
It was a hittable week for Rodney. He allowed three runs, six hits, and a walk in three innings. He still picked up two saves and didn't blow any, but those aren't the numbers you want to see heading into the stretch run. Rodney's history makes everyone sensitive to these little blips in performance, but I think he's fine.
Tier 4: The Mid-Tier (4)
Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays
Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals
The top trio in the mid-tier had easy weeks. Melancon nailed down three saves and faced one batter more than the minimum. McGee pitched just two innings and saved one game. He faced the minimum. Papelbon put the finishing touches on a joint no-hitter for the Phillies. He appeared in one other game and also faced the minimum.
And then there's Soriano. With the playoffs around the corner and a healthy seven game lead on the Braves, Washington has a conundrum. Soriano allowed a run in two of three appearances last week. He didn't blow any saves, but he did allow eight base runners – on seven hits and a walk. He's allowed runs in five of his last ten outings. Will the Nationals let him work out his troubles over September or will they turn to Tyler Clippard? Probably the former.
Tier 5: Questions (7)
Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs
Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks
Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays
Chad Qualls, Houston Astros
Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants
Rodriguez appeared once in the last week and allowed a solo home run. It was his fifth blown save of the season and also the third time in four outings where he allowed a solo shot. With 12 home runs on the season, Rodriguez is looking like an iffy option for a playoff closer. The Brewers recently brought in Jonathan Broxton who has massively outperformed his peripherals this season. Still, he could sneak into Rodriguez's job.
Pat Neshek picked up the save last night, but it was only because Rosenthal saved the previous two games. Rosenthal remains “the guy,” but you should expect Neshek to sponge a couple more saves over the remainder of the season.
Qualls had a three run, walk off loss last Wednesday. He retired the side in his only other outing. I expect him to finish the season as the Astros closer, but I also suspect they'll acquire a better option over the offseason.
A three appearance week for Casilla yielded two saves and a vulture win. Casilla would appear to be on thin ice after allowing runs in two outings, but Sergio Romo has done little to recapture the closer's mantle. The Giants are just two games back of the Dodgers in the NL West. I think they may eventually regret failing to acquire a reliever like Papelbon or Benoit.
Tier 6: Roller Coasters (7)
Kevin Quackenbush, San Diego Padres
Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets
Eric O'Flaherty, Luke Gregerson, Oakland Athletics
LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies
Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers
Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers
Jake Petricka, Chicago White Sox
Benoit is supposedly out for no more than ten days with shoulder inflammation. Such injuries don't always allow for quick returns. As of now, Quackenbush appears set to earn a few saves with decent peripherals. We'll have to keep an eye on Benoit.
Mejia saved three games and allowed one run last week. I guess the Mets are going to let him finish out the season despite his nagging injuries. They could shut him down a week or two early.
The A's had a bad week. O'Flaherty picked up the only save last Wednesday while allowing a solo home run to the Astros. He still appears to be the guy while Sean Doolittle is sidelined.
Hawkins has improved his strikeout rate since the beginning of July. He picked up a save and a vulture win last week.
The Rangers called on their closer once, and he proceeded to pitch one-third of an inning with two hits and a walk. This is one mess of a bullpen. At least they aren't competing.
The Tigers must be happy that Joakim Soria is nearing a return, since Nathan, Joba Chamberlain, and Al Alburquerque are doing their best to sell indigestion medicine. Nathan was fine in two appearances.
Jesse Crain (calf, biceps), Houston Astros
Bobby Parnell (elbow), New York Mets
Jim Henderson (shoulder), Milwaukee Brewers
Joakim Soria (oblique), Detroit Tigers
Sean Doolittle (intercostal strain), Oakland Athletics
Joaquin Benoit (shoulder inflammation), San Diego Padres
Doolittle is throwing from flat ground and could be back in the next 10 days. Soria threw without pain in his injured oblique yesterday. Expect him back in action soon. Benoit will avoid the disabled list by virtue of September's expanded rosters (sorry fantasy owners). He's expected to be out another eight to ten days.
Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers
Jose Veras, Chicago Cubs
Josh Fields, Houston Astros
John Axford, Cleveland Indians
Jim Johnson, Oakland Athletics
Jason Grilli, Anaheim Angels
Ernesto Frieri, Pittsburgh Pirates
Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
Grant Balfour, Tampa Bay Rays
Ronald Belisario, Chicago White Sox
Joe Smith, Los Angeles Angels
Joakim Soria, Detroit Tigers
Zach Putnam, Chicago White Sox
The Steals Department
If you still need to scrounge up steals, it's waiver wire or bust. September callups will push some speed types to the bench more frequently. Let's take a look at guys who should keep playing regularly.
Alcides Escobar could be a nice option if you can afford to sacrifice production in three categories. He'll also provide a few runs while hitting at the bottom of the Royals lineup. Another Royal, Lorenzo Cain, makes for a little more well-rounded production, although the replacement level is higher in the outfield. Chances are, you would sub Escobar for a similarly mediocre hitter. The same probably isn't true for Cain.
Coco Crisp is banged up, which has caused his ownership to drop. He's expected to return sometime in the next few days. He probably won't steal too many bases when he's back, but I can't rule out the chance for a handful of swipes.
If you want a couple platoon guys, Drew Stubbs has performed wonderfully against lefties. He has 17 steals on the year despite limited action. Craig Gentry makes for more of a pure steals option.