Roenis Elias picks up his fourth save; Cody Allen struggles again

April 20, 2019

Seattle Mariners — Roenis Elias closed out another game last night, pitching a clean bottom of the ninth after Seattle took the lead in the top. That makes four saves on the year for Elias, most on the team. We still see Anthony Swarzak as the best bet for saves — he was unavailable last night after throwing back-to-back games — but Elias is perfect in save chances, and is likely to get a few more while Hunter Strickland is out. 

Hierarchy remains: *Swarzak | Elias | Sadzeck.
* = closer-by-committee

Los Angeles Angels — Cody Allen took the loss for the second day in a row, giving up two runs without recording an out. Allen started the year 4-for-4 in save opportunites, but has now given up runs in three straight games, while Ty Buttrey has remained perfect. Allen isn’t in immediate danger of losing the closer’s spot, but with the Angels in a five-game slide, his seat is getting warmer. 

Hierarchy remains: Allen | Buttrey | Robles.

Cincinnati Reds — The Reds used Raisel Iglesias and Jared Hughes to get through the tied ninth and tenth innings, so when the Reds scored two in the eleventh, they used Zach Duke and Michael Lorenzen to close things out. Duke retired two, but Fernando Tatis Jr. scored on a walk, two stolen bases, and a groundout. Lorenzen came in and got the last out after a single. Lorenzen has gotten into a lot of games for the Reds — not always as a pitcher — but he’s not in the hierarchy at this point. 

Hierarchy remains: Iglesias | Hughes | Garrett.

1. Scott Alexander/Pedro Baez — Kenley Jansen has pitched in three in a row and four out of five, and will get a rest today. Joe Kelly has also gone back-to-back and in three of four, so Alexander or Baez may get the call.
2. Jared Hughes — Raisel Iglesias has pitched in two straight, and even though his pitch count is low, the Reds haven’t used any reliever for three games in a row this year.
3. Buck Farmer — Shane Greene might get a second day of rest after pitching three straight, and Farmer is more rested than Joe Jimenez.
4. Alex Wilson — Josh Hader threw 34 pitches last night and might get a day off.
5. Joe Biagini — Ken Giles has pitched in three of four.

1. Seunghwan Oh — Today would be three straight for Wade Davis and Scott Oberg.
2. Ty Buttrey — An appearance today would be three straight for Cody Allen.
3. Kyle Barraclough — Today would mark three appearances in four days for Sean Doolittle.

Updated MLB Closer Depth Chart

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* = closer-by-committee

Roenis Elias records another save

April 19, 2019

Seattle Mariners — Staked with a one-run lead in the eighth inning and the 9-1-2 hitters (including Mike Trout) due up, committee leader Anthony Swarzak got the call, but he promptly allowed a game-tying blast to 9-hole man David Fletcher. Of course, the Mariners took the lead again the top half of the ninth, giving Roenis Elias a chance to earn his third save, which he did. The M’s hit a bit of a skid recently but they are never truly out of a game given how well their bats have hit, so save chances will be plentiful for this bunch. Connor Sadzeck may get another opportunity soon (see below), but keep an eye on Brandon Brennan, who has been dubbed the “secret weapon” thanks to a filthy changeup.

Hierarchy remains: *Swarzak | Elias | Sadzeck.
* = closer-by-committee

Atlanta Braves — Chad Sobotka has allowed runs in three straight appearances, including two more earned runs Thursday to inflate his ERA to 12.38. He’s probably not in line for save chances these days. Luke Jackson, who recorded a hold earlier this month, has good swing-and-miss stuff (13.5 K/9) and could be used in higher-leverage spots. Keep an eye, too, on Dan Winkler, who was called up from Triple-A earlier this week and tossed a scoreless sixth inning Thursday. Both pitchers should be ahead of Sobotka at this point.

Updated hierarchy: Minter | Biddle | Jackson.

Toronto Blue Jays – Ryan Tepera was activated from the injured list Thursday and was immediately thrust into game action, throwing a scoreless sixth inning on just nine pitches. Tepera will probably factor into the team’s late-inning plans right away, but he might still be behind Tim Mayza, who pitched the seventh, and Joe Biagini, who pitched the eighth ahead of closer Ken Giles.

Hierarchy remains: Giles | Biagini | Mayza.

Arizona Diamondbacks – As the Vulture Save Watch predicted, Yoshihisa Hirano was called upon in the ninth inning Thursday and nailed down his first save of the season. Greg Holland, who had pitched in three of four, and Archie Bradley (36 pitches Wednesday) each got a day of rest.

Hierarchy remains: Holland | Bradley | Hirano.

Kansas City Royals — In yesterday’s update, we moved Wily Peralta a tick ahead of Ian Kennedy in the team’s hierarchy, as Kennedy appears to be the team’s fireman based on recent usage. Peralta has one save under his belt this season and could be in line for another chance today after Kennedy pitched part of the eighth and closed out the ninth Thursday with a five-run lead, giving him 57 overall pitches thrown over two straight outings.

Hierarchy remains: *Peralta | Kennedy | Diekman.
* = closer-by-committee

Baltimore Orioles – Mychal Givens had a chance to finally pick up his first save on Thursday, but he blew it by allowing a game-tying homer. The Orioles still won the game, but Givens will have to give it a go another time. Chances will be few and far between for the O’s this season.

Hierarchy remains: *Givens | Fry | Yacabonis.
* = closer-by-committee

Cincinnati Reds – Raisel Iglesias looked more comfortable on the rubber Thursday, striking out the side for his third save. His numbers are still ugly (5.87 ERA, 1.70 WHIP), but this latest outing is encouraging.

Hierarchy remains: Iglesias | Hughes | Garrett.

1. Joe Kelly — Kenley Jansen has pitched in three of four.
2. Joe Jimenez — Shane Greene has gone in three straight.

1. Kyle Barraclough — Friday would be a third straight appearance for Sean Doolittle. The same is true for Barraclough, though he only threw two pitches Thursday.
2. Joe Biagini — An appearance Friday would be three of four for Ken Giles. Biagini has already pitched in three of four, so a night off Friday would be an indicator that he’d be called upon Saturday, if needed.
3. Diego Castillo/Chaz Roe — Entering Friday, Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo have each pitched in two of three.
4. Connor Sadzeck — Entering Friday, Anthony Swarzak has gone in two straight and Roenis Elias has already pitched in three of four.

Arodys Vizcaino out for the year

April 18, 2019

Atlanta Braves — Arodys Vizcaino underwent shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season. With Atlanta’s bullpen in shambles, AJ Minter will likely continue to get the bulk of the save chances — unless the team decides to sign Craig Kimbrel. If they’re interested in Kimbrel, the Braves may have to act quickly to stave off the Brewers.

Hierarchy remains: Minter | Sobotka | Biddle.

Kansas City Royals — KC is in true committee mode. Ian Kennedy came in with the score tied and got the sixth and part of the seventh. Jake Diekman spelled him, but loaded the bases with no one out in the eighth. Wily Peralta escaped with only one run allowed and stayed on for the ninth. When the Royals took the lead in the tenth, this left Scott Barlow to convert his first career save. Anything can happen with this group, but given today’s usage, we’ll edge Peralta ever-so-slightly ahead of Kennedy. 

Updated hierarchy: *Peralta | Kennedy | Diekman.
* = closer-by-committee

Cleveland Indians – Although it was no surprise to see Brad Hand get the day off after three straight games pitched, few expected a two-inning save from Nick Wittgren. Wittgren’s previous three appearances had been in low-leverage spots with the team trailing, but he set down six straight Mariners for his first career save. We’ll take this as a sign that Terry Francona prefers Wittgren to Dan Otero and Neil Ramirez.

Updated hierarchy: Hand | Cimber | Wittgren.

Philadelphia Phillies — After inheriting two runners with a two-run lead, Hector Neris loaded the bases with an RBI infield single and a hit-by-pitch before getting a second strikeout to escape with his second save of the year.

Hierarchy remains: *Neris | Dominguez | Arano.

Boston Red Sox — Boston’s bullpen, till now the high point of a shockingly bad season, turned back into a pumpkin Wednesday night. Brandon Workman loaded the bases and Ryan Brasier gave up a grand slam, wasting a great start by Nathan Eovaldi.

Hierarchy remains: *Brasier | Barnes | Workman.
* = closer-by-committee

1. Yoshihisa Hirano — Greg Holland has pitched in three of four, and Archie Bradley threw 36 pitches last night.
2. Chad Sobotka — Sobotka struggled in his last appearance, but it’s not likely that AJ Minter will pitch for a fourth day out of five.

1. Joe Kelly — Kenley Jansen has pitched in two of three.
2. Joe Jimenez — Shane Greene has gone in two straight.

A pair of NL Central relievers return from the injured list

April 17, 2019

Pittsburgh Pirates – Felipe Vazquez got another day off after throwing 47 pitches on Sunday, so Keone Kela pitched the ninth inning on Tuesday with the Pirates holding a 3-2 lead. Kela gave up the tying run, but the Pirates scored twice in the 10th and paved the way for Nick Kingham to earn his first career save. Kyle Crick returned from the IL on Tuesday, but it looks like he’ll be eased back into high-leverage work since Richard Rodriguez pitched the eighth inning on Tuesday.

Hierarchy remains: Vazquez | Kela | Rodriguez.

Milwaukee Brewers — The Brewers activated Jeremy Jeffress from the IL on Tuesday, but Craig Counsell said that Jeffress won’t see any high-leverage work right away. We’ll see how long it takes before Counsell deems Jeffress ready to return to his usual late-inning role.

Hierarchy remains: Hader | Wilson | Guerra.

Tampa Bay Rays — Jose Alvarado faced the top of the Orioles’ order in the eighth inning with the Rays clinging to a one-run lead and retired all three batters he faced. After Tampa added another run in the bottom of the inning, Diego Castillo followed with a 1-2-3 ninth to get the save. Both Alvarado and Castillo have been terrific this season and will continue to lock down the eighth and ninth innings when the Rays have a lead.

Hierarchy remains: *Alvarado | Castillo | Roe. 
* = closer-by-committee

Philadelphia Phillies — Jerad Eickhoff struck out six Mets in four scoreless innings to earn his first career save in a 14-3 win. Eickhoff currently has more saves than David Robertson but does not normally factor into the Phillies’ late-inning plans.

Hierarchy remains: *Neris | Dominguez | Arano.
* = closer-by-committee

Los Angeles Dodgers — Scott Alexander struck out Joey Votto to end the seventh inning and keep the Dodgers’ 4-1 advantage intact. The Dodgers haven’t had many close leads to protect lately,  but Alexander should factor into the Dodgers’ late-inning plans, especially against left-handed hitters.

Updated hierarchy: Jansen | Kelly | Alexander.


1. Kelvin Herrera – Alex Colome has pitched in three straight games.
2. Adam Cimber/Dan Otero – So has Brad Hand. If Cimber gets used to get one out in a tight spot before the ninth inning, Otero could see today’s save chance.

1. Archie Bradley – If Greg Holland goes tonight, it’ll be two straight and three of four.
2. Chad Sobotka/Jesse Biddle – Same goes for AJ Minter. Sobotka threw 20 pitches on Tuesday, so his usage should be monitored as well.

David Robertson injured; Raisel Iglesias struggling

April 16, 2019

Toronto Blue Jays – Ken Giles wasn’t feeling well, so it was Joe Biagini on for the 9th inning to protect a 2-run lead for the Blue Jays. Biagini converted and remains the handcuff in Toronto.

Hierarchy remains: Giles | Biagini | Mayza.

Cincinnati Reds – Staked to a 1-run lead in the 9th, Raisel Iglesias walked David Freese on 5 pitches and then gave up a walkoff 2-run homer to Joc Pederson. Iglesias has now surrendered runs in four of his six outings to start the season and should be monitored closely going forward.

Hierarchy remains: Iglesias | Hughes | Garrett.

Philadelphia Phillies — David Robertson was placed on the injured list Monday afternoon with right elbow soreness. The Phillies’ ninth-inning situation will become even more unsettled, with Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, and possibly the revitalized Victor Arano contending for saves.

Updated hierarchy: *Neris | Dominguez | Arano.
* = closer-by-committee


1. Jared Hughes – If Raisel Iglesias needs a day to clear his head, Hughes is probably the best bet for a save chance.
2. Joe Biagini – If Ken Giles still isn’t feeling well, look for Biagini to get another chance.

1. Kelvin Herrera – If Alex Colome goes tonight, it’ll be three straight.
2. Adam Cimber – If Brad Hand goes tonight, it’ll be three straight.
3. Chris Martin – If Jose Leclerc goes tonight, it’ll be three straight.