Regression Bites Trivino

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For a third straight week, a seemingly safe closer has lost his role. After months of playing beyond his means, Lou Trivino has now allowed runs in five straight appearances. Dating back to August 21, he’s coughed up 13 runs in just 3.2 innings on eight hits and five walks. It’s truly one of the worst small sample performances of any reliever this season. A glance under the hood suggests it’s just that – a small sample blip. While his velocity has declined a tick from his mid-season peak, it’s still well within his normal range. He’s using his stuff much the same as before too. Even with this slump, his 3.52 ERA is a bit better than the roughly 4.20 ERA projection he’s had all along. For now, Andrew Chafin and Sergio Romo have officially taken over in Oakland. Trivino could return if he rebounds this week. There’s no sense clinging to him in most leagues – roster someone who can help you today.

On the week, Liam Hendriks and Alex Colome were the only closers to save three games. This is Colome’s second straight week atop the saves leaderboard. He’s tossed an inning in four straight games, something no team would ask a club-controlled player to do. Mark Melancon’s (36) seasonal lead has declined to three saves over Hendriks (33). Will Smith (31), Raisel Iglesias (30), and Kenley Jansen (30) round out the top five.

Now, shall we go to the tiers?

Closer Tiers

Tier 1: The Elite (7)

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers
Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox
Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland Indians
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Raisel Iglesias, Los Angeles Angels

Much of this tier had a ho-hum week. Pressly and Clase allow a run apiece, but their clubs won those games.

Chapman pitched three times. It was a decent week despite suffering a loss on Saturday. Ryan Mountcastle struck out but reached on a dropped third strike. A single, walk, and sac fly led to the run. He also struck out three batters for the second straight appearance. I remain concerned about his velocity which is sitting around 97.7-mph – well below his normal cheddar.

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Tier 2: Nearly Elite (5)

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
Jake McGee, San Francisco Giants
Will Smith, Atlanta Braves
Mark Melancon, San Diego Padres

With the exception of Smith, this whole tier had an off week. Diaz is coming off a couple shoddy outings. His velocity is down recently. Unlike Chapman, he’s not coming off a recent elbow injury so it’s less likely to signal a lingering injury. Diaz allowed two runs in two straight appearances. The Mets charged back to win on Friday but weren’t given the opportunity on Monday. They likely still fancy themselves as playoff contenders. Another clunker could open the door for Trevor May or Seth Lugo to step in.

On the surface, Melancon had a fine week. His lone appearance yielded a win on no hits. He also issued three walks and was bailed out by a double play. Romano and McGee didn’t escape unscathed though their struggles didn’t lead to losses. It’s easier to forgive home runs in high leverage situations when the team walks away with the victory.

Tier 3: Core Performers (4)

Giovanny Gallegos, St. Louis Cardinals
Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals
Adam Ottavino, Boston Red Sox
Andrew Kittredge, Pete Fairbanks, Collin McHugh, Tampa Bay Rays

While protecting a 5-1 lead, the Cardinals ran into trouble getting to the ninth inning on Sunday. They called upon Giovanny Gallegos a couple outs early. When he returned for the ninth, he allowed four of five batters to reach base. Seeing enough, manager Mike Shildt turned to his former closer Alex Reyes. He promptly served up a grand slam. Most of those runs go on Gallegos’ line, but it was Reyes who took the loss. He also allowed a solo home run on Tuesday in a low leverage situation. Consider this a fluid situation. Gallegos is easily a second-tier closer if he can improve his grip on the job.

Ottavino’s week began on a couple high notes, a save and a win. He picked up a second win on Saturday, but it was of the “vulture” variety. He allowed three runs before the Boston offense bailed him out. A costly solo home run on Monday led to a Boston loss. Ottavino was credited with a hold. Garrett’s Whitlock and Richards also earned a save apiece this week.

Kittredge was asked to preserve a tie on Sunday and failed. He allowed a run on two hits and a walk. Incredibly, the Rays seem to have settled into a high leverage usage pattern. Never fear, veteran David Robertson (yes, that David Robertson) is lurking in the shadows. I have little doubt he could find himself earning saves down the stretch.

Tier 4: Upside (8)

Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
Ian Kennedy, Philadelphia Phillies
David Bednar, Chris Stratton, Pittsburgh Pirates
Alex Colome, Minnesota Twins
Dylan Floro, Miami Marlins
Mychal Givens, Cincinnati Reds
Joe Barlow, Texas Rangers
Kyle Finnegan, Washington Nationals

Since the Buccos dumped Richard Rodriguez, Bednar and Stratton have both recorded two saves. This week, they both recorded a save and a hold on consecutive days, swapping roles in the process. Bednar should get the majority of Pirates save opportunities. There aren’t enough of those to justify putting him in the third tier if he’s also sharing the job. Obviously, I’d still take his healthy supporting stats over Colome, Floro, and the others.

Speaking of Floro, he was jabbed with one of those obnoxious extra innings losses. You know the kind – a ghost runner materializes on second base and scores on a limp 100-hopper single. Like Kennedy, Givens is poorly matched to his new home venue. After a two-save week, he also seems to have a firm-ish grasp on the job. Finnegan pitched both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday, snagging a save and… a loss. The “L” happened in the earlier game and hurt all the more because the Nationals had recovered from a 3-9 deficit.

Tier 5: Mess Hall (6)

Paul Sewald, Diego Castillo, Drew Steckenrider, Seattle Mariners
Sergio Romo, Andrew Chafin, Oakland Athletics
Rowan Wick, Codi Heuer, Adam Morgan, Chicago Cubs
Carlos Estevez, Colorado Rockies
Cole Sulser, Baltimore Orioles
J.B. Wendelken, Joe Mantiply, Taylor Widener, Arizona Diamondbacks

Just when it looked like Steckenrider might get the bulk of the Mariners saves, Sewald and Castillo step back into the picture. They both picked up one save (none for Steck). However, Sewald was also dinged with two blown saves. Sewald and Castillo are able relievers, but a lack of role clarity will continue to frustrate their fantasy managers.

The Athletics aren’t giving us much information – they’ve hardly needed their bullpen of late. Romo was scraped up for a loss on Friday after a fairly lengthy save the previous day.

Wick seems to be the closer of choice for the Cubs. It’s a lazy choice that won’t ruffle any feathers. After a 37-pitch save on Sunday, he was available for the Labor Day game. Morgan notched the save. This probably isn’t a committee, but I’ll leave it up for another week just in case. Manuel Rodriguez is kicking around the late-innings too.

Tyler Wells got the Orioles only save of the week. That seems to be a function of availability more than anything else. It might indicate he’s preferred to Tanner Scott. Sulser still seems to be first-chair.

With Clippard temporarily sidelined, the Diamondbacks will throw their spaghetti at the wall to see if anything sticks. Personally, I’d tab Caleb Smith as my closer. They haven’t been using him as a leveraged reliever.

Injured

Trevor Rosenthal, Oakland Athletics (out for season)
Julian Merryweather, Toronto Blue Jays (oblique)
Tejay Antone, Cincinnati Reds (elbow)
Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins (finger)
Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox (COVID-IL)
Tyler Clippard, Arizona DBacks (COVID-IL)

As of this writing, Clippard is on the injured list for COVID-like symptoms. He does not yet have a positive test. At least not publicly.

Deposed

Anthony Bass, Miami Marlins
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Rafael Montero, Seattle Mariners
Cesar Valdez, Baltimore Orioles
Stefan Crichton, Arizona Diamondbacks
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
Kendall Graveman, Houston Astros (via trade)
Yimi Garcia, Houston Astros (via trade)
Richard Rodriguez, Atlanta Braves (via trade)
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago White Sox (via trade)
Joakim Soria, Toronto Blue Jays (via trade)
Brad Hand, Toronto Blue Jays (via trade)
Hansel Robles, Boston Red Sox (via trade)
Ranger Suarez, Philadelphia Phillies (promoted to rotation)
Amir Garrett, Cincinnati Reds
Heath Hembree, Cincinnati Reds
Craig Kimbrel, Chicago White Sox (via trade)
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Alex Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals
Lou Trivino, Oakland Athletics

Steals Department

Weekly Leaderboard

Adalberto Mondesi, 6 SB (7 SB total)
Andres Gimenez, 3 SB (10)
Yonny Hernandez, 3 SB (7)

Once again, it was a tame week on the basepaths. Our old friend Mondesi is back in action, reminding all the other big leaguers that stealing with reckless abandon IS an option. For the season, Starling Marte (43) and Whit Merrifield (39) are competing for the crown. Think there’s enough time left for Mondesi to interject himself? No.

Gimenez has a modicum of pop and speed, but it could take years for it all to come together. With the Indians not playing for anything, they might as well give him some action. In Triple-A, he hit .287/.342/.502 with 10 home runs and eight steals in 233 plate appearances. He already has 10 swipes in just 152 big league plate appearances. Unfortunately, his power has vacated the premises (two home runs). Aggression and a too-high swinging strike rate render his a risky hitting profile. However, he does have 72nd-percentile max exit velocity and 91st-percentile sprint speed.

Hernandez has appeared a couple times in the Speed Spotlight. His willingness to run belies just league average speed. His bat is all contact, no sizzle. On the plus side, he also has excellent plate discipline. There aren’t many successful examples of his profile at large. He’s vaguely similar to David Fletcher.

Speed Spotlight

Leody Taveras does things fantasy managers should like. At Triple-A, he hit .245/.343/.475 with 17 home runs and 13 steals in 381 plate appearances. That’s a below average batting line for the league but also aptly demonstrates his ability to compile the stats that matter in fantasy. The Rangers have shoehorned him into their lineup as the leadoff hitter. Of course, the good comes with plenty of bad. Over 234 career plate appearances in the Majors, he’s hitting a miserable .189/.259/.325. Yes, he’s willing to run, but he’s not reaching base.

Those with long time horizons (i.e. dynasty leagues) can look forward to a future when the 23-year-old’s (today is his birthday!) plate discipline and decent contact rate produce a sub-30 percent strikeout rate. Presently, he’s too passive at the plate, allowing himself to fall into uncompetitive pitcher’s counts. Statcast likes what it sees from the prospect. He has above average exit velocities and 99th-percentile sprint speed. The Rangers actually have a difficult schedule through the remainder of the season. Taveras won’t face as many Triple-A-caliber pitchers as hitters on other clubs. Still, if you pick your spots, you might find some easy swipes. Look for pitchers with poor command.