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The Closer Catch-Up: Fantasy Baseball Week 21

August is kinda like the Sunday of summer. Only now, we’re not so sure the Yankees or the Rockies will be going back to work in September.

Capturing confidence has been as difficult as capturing saves for closers this season, and after such a dominant first half, here we are talking about Aroldis Chapman and Greg Holland’s misadventures for the 53rd time. To bring you up to speed, it happened again! Chapman allowed seven earned runs across seven games last week, so he’s out in New York. As for Holland, well, he was dealt his fourth loss of the season on Saturday night. A home run to Jesus Aguilar in the bottom of the eighth did the trick, untying the game and more importantly, possibly untying Holland’s stranglehold on the closer position even further in Colorado.

I won’t get too geeky, but there’s a serious velo-depresso going on with these two. Chapman has some kind of hamstring issue, but he went full “no-fastball-for-you” late last week against the Red Sox. Holland, on the other hand, threw a bunch of lazy 83 MPH sliders during Saturday night’s schmozzle, an uncharacteristic display considering that very pitch created a 62% swing rate way back in May. Aside from the obvious stuff, though, there’s clearly some kind of psychological mumbo-jumbo going on with these two guys. Their composure has gone bust, along with the 20 earned runs both combined for so far in August. Just to remind you, that’s 10 more than Chapman allowed all of last year!

Anyway, this is the kinda stuff that could cost not only the Yankees and Rockies their seasons, but also yours. So, still convinced drafting closers is necessary?

The Big Board

 Team  Closer  Next in Line  Plan C
 Arizona Diamondbacks  Fernando Rodney  Archie Bradley  David Hernandez
 Atlanta Braves  Arodys Vizcaino  Jim Johnson  Jose Ramirez
 Baltimore Orioles  Zach Britton  Mychal Givens  Brad Brach
 Boston Red Sox  Craig Kimbrel  Addison Reed  Matt Barnes
 Chicago Cubs  Wade Davis  Justin Wilson  Carl Edwards Jr.
 Chicago White Sox  Juan Minaya  Gregory Infante  Andrew Bummer
 Cincinnati Reds  Raisel Iglesias  Michael Lorenzon  Drew Storen
 Cleveland Indians  Cody Allen  Andrew Miller  Joe Smith
 Colorado Rockies  Greg Holland  Pat Neshek  Adam Ottavino
 Detroit Tigers  Shane Greene  Alex Wilson  Joe Jimenez
 Houston Astros  Ken Giles  Chris Devenski  Luke Gregerson
 Kansas City Royals  Kelvin Herrera  Joakim Soria  Brandon Maurer
 Los Angeles Angels  Cam Bedrosian  Blake Parker  Keynan Middleton
 Los Angeles Dodgers  Kenley Jansen  Luis Avilan  Pedro Baez
 Miami Marlins  Brad Ziegler  Kyle Barraclough Junichi Tazawa
 Milwaukee Brewers  Corey Knebel  Anthony Swarzak  Jacob Barnes
 Minnesota Twins  Matt Belisle  Trevor Hildenberger  Glen Perkins
 New York Mets  A.J. Ramos  Paul Sewald  Jerry Blevins
 New York Yankees  Dellin Betances  Aroldis Chapman  David Robertson
 Oakland Athletics  Blake Treinen  Ryan Dull  Santiago Casilla
 Philadelphia Phillies  Hector Neris  Luis Garcia  Jesen Therrien
 Pittsburgh Pirates  Felipe Rivero  Juan Nicasio  Joaquin Benoit
 St. Louis Cardinals  Seung Hwan Oh  Tyler Lyons  Matt Bowman
 San Diego Padres  Brad Hand  Kirby Yates  Phil Maton
 San Francisco Giants  Sam Dyson  Hunter Strickland  Mark Melancon
 Seattle Mariners  Edwin Diaz  Nick Vincent  Tony Zych
 Tampa Bay Rays  Alex Colome  Tommy Hunter  Steve Cishek
 Texas Rangers  Alex Claudio  Jose Leclerc Matt Bush
 Toronto Blue Jays  Roberto Osuna  Ryan Tepera Dominic Leone
 Washington Nationals  Sean Doolittle  Brandon Kintzler  Matt Albers

The Worry Warts

Atlanta Braves: I feel like part of Brian Snitker’s job is to have his bullpen ready in tip-top shape prior to a Julio Teheran outing. On Saturday, Teheran gave up four earned runs in six innings, and just to paint the picture, only two of the Reds’ hitters went hitless. Obviously, it was always going to be a bullpen kinda night for the Braves, but Jim Johnson was flustered as soon as he got on the team bus. Trailing 7-4 in the ninth, Johnson gave up a single to Jose Peraza and Joey Votto, walked Adam Duvall, and then gave up a bases-loaded grand slam to Scooter Gennett. All of this took place within 18 pitches, mind you, and with Arodys Vizcaino resting, the Braves were toast. Johnson is still owned in just over 47% of leagues, but he can easily be dropped now. For whatever reason, he’s using his sinker nearly five percent more than he was back in April, which has helped result in seven earned runs across his last three starts.

[the_ad id=”384″]Chicago White Sox: I’ll let the numbers do the talking. How do 26 earned runs over the last week sound? Not good? Compare that to the measly 20 strikeouts the White Sox bullpen has scraped together, and it only sounds more miserable. I watched the White Sox muddle things up again on Sunday. They entered the ninth with a 3-0 lead over the Rangers, protecting Miguel Gonzalez’s third dominant performance this month. Then… Aaron Bummer and Juan Minaya happened. The two combined for, get this, eight straight consecutive balls, walking both Drew Robinson and Robinson Chirinos in the process. Fortunately, Minaya got Shin-Soo Choo to ground into a double play, but up stepped Rougned Odor, who hit a two-run homer to make things interesting. The White Sox clung to a 3-2 win, but the future looks bleak. Virtually every member of Chicago’s bullpen looks unownable, and unless Minaya suddenly lowers his 14.3% HR/FB rate, don’t even bother scrounging for closers in the South Side.

The DL D-Low

  • Trevor Rosenthal hit the 10-day DL on Thursday. The same old elbow problems have flared up, so this throws Seung Hwan Oh back into the spotlight. There are some concerns for Tommy John surgery, but we’re still waiting on the doc’s orders.
  • There’s still some waiting to do as far as Keone Kela is concerned. He resumed playing catch on Sunday, but he still hasn’t been cleared for mound work, so it’s doubtful he returns to the Rangers bullpen before the end of August.
  • Ryan Madson’s sprained finger doesn’t sound too serious, and it’s a good thing the Nationals bullpen is chugging on along without him. The Nats relievers have allowed just four earned runs over the last week, and since there’s no structural damage to Madson’s finger, there’s no real reason for concern.
  • Thank god the Mets are taking their sweet time with Jeurys Familia. He’s about a step away from returning to the Majors after throwing a scoreless inning in Triple-A last week, and it seems Terry Collins wants to increasworkloadk load a little more before Familia is called back up.

Middle of the Pack (Middle Relievers)

  • Mike Scioscia made life difficult again on Sunday. The Angels were clinging to a 4-3 lead over the Orioles in the sixth inning as Keynan Middleton came in to replace Parker Bridwell. With Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop still on base, it was always going to be tough for Middleton to get through the inning unscathed, and after striking out Trey Mancini, Mark Trumbo doubled to tie the game 4-4. That was it for Middleton, who went on to close out the inning, but funnily enough, Scioscia brought in Cam Bedrosian in the seventh to calm the storm. He flew through the inning without allowing a single hit, but Scioscia wasn’t done raising eyebrows. Now up 5-4 in the ninth, Bud Norris came in to close the game for the Angels. Anything short of disaster could be labeled as a minor victory, but Norris still made a meal of the save situation. Allowing a single to Graig Gentry and a walk to Seth Smith, the Orioles had their chances, but Norris went on to strike out Caleb Joseph and induce a Tim Beckham groundout to earn his 19th save of the year. Predicting this bullpen is really, really hard work.
  • Don’t sweat it if you don’t know the name Craig Stammen. Do sweat it if you don’t know about his three strikeout performance against the Nationals on Sunday. At 31 years old, this is fascinating. Stammen was signed for peanuts by the Padres back in March, and now has the 46th most strikeouts among relievers. To put that in perspective, he’s totaled more strikeouts than Wade Davis this season, and even though the Padres bullpen looks firm and stable, Stammen is still a fantasy name that could be worth watching purely for Ks heading into next year.

Everything Else I’ve Seen

  • Dare I say it: is this is the Cubs of old? Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays was a throwback to last season, and it was nice to see Wade Davis on the right end of a close ball game for a change. Entering the ninth tied 3-3, Davis made short work of the heart of the Blue Jays order, eventually striking out Raffy Lopez on a mean swinging sinker. The game wound up in extras, as the Cubs eventually rallied for the 6-5 victory. Koji Uehara’s woeful tenth inning is also worth mentioning, and it became even worse once Justin Wilson was thrown into the deep end to replace him (yeah, he still earned the win). It feels like this is the first time the Cubs have rallied against their bullpen dramas in forever, though, and if you’re a Davis owner, I know you’ve been wanting that.
  • The Marlins had everything going for them on Sunday afternoon, then Odrisamer Despaigne nearly threw it all away (literally!). None of this matters because no one owns the 30-year-old Cuban, but the real story here is Brad Ziegler. He earned his sixth save of the year after nailing down the 6-4 victory against the Mets, and has now put up eight straight games without allowing an earned run. Ziegler is owned in just 20.8% of leagues, and if you’re after some last minute save opportunities, this is your money man.
  • Maybe, just maybe, the Phillies have found their guy. Hector Neris looked the goods once again during a 4-2 victory against the Giants. Okay fine, things got a little iffy, but Neris earned his 15th save of the season in impressive fashion. With men on first and third and two out, Hunter Pence grounded hard towards the mound, but Neris had the moxy to underhand the ball to catcher Jorge Alfaro, forcing Brandon Crawford out at the plate. He then went on to strike out Denard Span for the third out on a nice hanging sinker towards the outside of the plate, a pitch that has been good for a 66% swing rate so far this month. Neris had that little hiccup two days earlier where he gave up three earned runs against the Giants. He’s still striking out players at a steady rate, though (25.2%), and his lack of home run balls make him a valuable own in deeper leagues.
  • Just quietly, how about Blake Treinen? Two innings of three strikeout ball against the Astros on Sunday, notching his fourth save of the year. This game was no gimme either, as the Astros pressed hard down 2-3 in the ninth. Treinen allowed a single to Carlos Beltran with two outs, but then threw a deceiving 92 MPH fastball towards the inside part of the plate to get Jake Marisnick looking. Treinen has the makings of a big league strikeout guy, as he’s put up 22 K’s since joining the A’s. His fastball normally rounds out at around 96 MPH, so he’s not a huge flamethrower, making these numbers even more impressive – and probably a little salty for the Nationals. There is a big command problem, though, so it might be a while before he’s totally fantasy ownable.
  • And finally, here’s your weekly Corey Knebel fix. He looked absolutely golden against the Rockies on Saturday night, and I’m not sure if it was Greg Holland’s meltdown in the previous inning, but it finally dawned on me that Knebel really is towards the top of the food chain now. He hasn’t allowed a hit in three consecutive innings of work, and the fact that he now leads all relievers in walks (33) and strikeouts (98) just makes this all the more marvelous.
  • The Winners Circle: Justin Wilson, Cam Bedrosian, Brandon Maurer.
  • With An ‘L’ on Their Forehead: Danny Barnes, Greg Holland, Brad Brach, Hunter Strickland.


Pat Neshek: Be afraid, be very afraid of Rockies pitchers. There’s still no news about Holland’s long-term job security, but you’d still do well to own shares in Neshek, especially in deeper leagues. He’s owned by just 6.5% of people, and since he’s allowed just three earned runs since jumping ship to Colorado, sooner or later Bud Black will need to make a big boy decision. As of Sunday, the Rockies are only a game up on the Diamondbacks in the Wild Card standings, and if any more bullpen blunders like Saturday nights fiasco occur, it’s opening the door for other teams like the Brewers and Cardinals. If you don’t want to add Neshek for speculation purposes, at least ‘watch list’ him, this story ain’t over yet.

Follow Ryan Cook on Twitter: @RyanCook13

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