Monkey Bytes, May 19: Edwin on the Hot Seat, Walk-off Wins, and more

It’s difficult to quantify how missing a season will affect a pitcher, especially with the introduction of the pitch clock. Edwin Díaz has been placed on the hot seat based on recent rough outings, especially his non-save outing on Saturday which resulted in four earned runs and an eventual loss in extra-innings. He may receive the Craig Kimbrel pitching in lower leveraged innings treatment, but it’s about commanding his pitches, not velocity.

Saturday’s slate featured three extra-inning contests and interesting high-leverage outcomes, covered below in our condensed and full recaps. Also, for those in leagues with holds or SOLDS, our Week 9 streamer suggestions with relievers of interest and thoughts about ancillary save opportunities for next week were published last night.

Closer CliffsNotes

American League

(RP | BAL): Taking over a tied game in the top of the eighth, Yennier Cano gave up a lead-off single followed by an RBI double to Julio Rodríguez, ceding the lead. He suffered his second loss, allowing two earned runs during his one-third of the eighth. 

Hierarchy remains: *Craig Kimbrel | *Yennier Cano | *Danny Coulombe

*= closer-by-committee

(RP | BOS): Taking over a tied game in the bottom of the seventh, Justin Slaten stranded two runners while retiring Paul Goldschmidt on an inning-ending groundout. However, when he returned for the eighth, things went awry. He allowed five hits, and five runs (four earned) while recording one strikeout during his combined inning of relief, resulting in his second loss.

Hierarchy remains: Kenley Jansen | Chris Martin | Justin Slaten

(RP | KCR): Navigating around two hits, James McArthur retired the next three batters, two via strikeout while securing his 11th save.

(RP | LAA): An almost fitting end to a weird back-and-forth contest, Carson Fulmer suffered his second loss, loading the bases in the bottom of the 13th and then hitting Nathaniel Lowe resulting in a walk-off hit-by-pitch. 

(RP | SEA): Despite serving up a solo home run by Gunnar Henderson, Andrés Muńoz recorded his eighth save, preserving a one-run win in Baltimore while striking out two. 

(RP | TBR)Receiving the save chance with two left-handed hitters scheduled for the ninth, Garrett Cleavinger retired the side despite facing two right-handed pinch hitters and struck out one, preserving a one-run win in Toronto. 

(RP | TEX): Benefiting from a walk-off in the bottom of the 13th, Yerry Rodríguez collected his first major league win. He logged two scoreless frames, allowing a walk and striking out one. 

(RP | TOR): Suffering his first loss, and his first blown save, Nate Pearson gave up three hits, including a go-ahead two-run home run, and issued a walk without recording an out in the top of the eighth. 

National League

(RP | CHC): Benefiting from a walk-off rally scoring the game’s only run, Héctor Neris collected his fourth win, and third this month, retiring the side and striking out two in the top of the ninth. 

(RP | MIA): After retiring the side in order in the top of the tenth, Tanner Scott collected his third win during a walk-off rally in the bottom of the frame. 

(RP | MIL): Locking down his sixth save, Trevor Megill gave up a hit and recorded all three outs via strikeout, closing out a two-run win in Houston. 

(RP | NYM): Taking over in the bottom of the ninth with a four-run lead, Edwin Díaz could not finish the game. He allowed a lead-off double, recorded an out, gave up an RBI single, followed by another single, and a game-tying three-run home run, forcing his removal from the contest. 

(RP | PHI): Navigating around the “place” runner in the top of the tenth, despite uncorking a wild pitch, Gregory Soto turned in a scoreless outing and collected his first win courtesy of a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning. 

(RP | PIT): Taking over a tied game in the bottom of the ninth, David Bednar suffered his third loss, allowing a one-out double and a walk-off, RBI single

(RP | STL): Although he allowed three hits, including a solo home run by Rafael Devers, JoJo Romero was tagged with his first blown save, he also collected his first win courtesy of a five-run rally in the bottom of the eighth.

Hierarchy remains: Ryan Helsley | Andrew Kittredge | JoJo Romero

(RP | WSH): Handed a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, Kyle Finnegan allowed a game-tying solo home run (Kody Clemens) and suffered his third loss, giving up two fly-outs, including a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the tenth. 

Vulture Save Options for Sunday, May 19

CHC: Neris and Leiter Jr. have pitched on consecutive days, which may provide insight into who emerges as a high-leverage option between Ben Brown and Hayden Wesneski. We are leaning toward Brown, but how the Cubs handle high-leverage innings today may determine leverage patterns moving forward.

LAD: Hudson and Grove have pitched in two straight. Blake Treinen has matched up against Elly De La Cruz in this series, so he could receive the save chance depending on how lineup pockets progress. Also in play, Alex Vesia against a left-handed hitting pocket or J.P. Feyereisen versus a right-handed one if Treinen works in the eighth, it’s complex.

NYM: Díaz will likely be unavailable today, placing Adam Ottavino in line for the potential vulture save this afternoon in Miami.

WSH: Finnegan pitched 1.2 innings yesterday, which may provide Hunter Harvey with the save chance in their game with the Phillies today.

Vulture Save Options for Monday, May 20

KCR: If McArthur pitches again on Sunday it will be back-to-back outings putting Chris Stratton on the radar for an ancillary save chance on Monday.

Game Recaps – American League

Kansas City Royals – Despite allowing consecutive hits leading off the top of the ninth, James McArthur settled in, recording an out on a lineout then striking out the last two batters, preserving a two-run win and securing his 11th save. He threw 17 pitches (12 strikes – 70.6 Strike%) and generated four whiffs (23.5 SwStr%). Angel Zerpa notched his seventh hold, firing a clean eighth and striking out one. He’s posted nine straight scoreless appearances, recording five holds and eight strikeouts versus zero walks through 7.2 innings. John Schreiber gave up three hits and an earned run but was credited with his 11th hold.

Adjusted Hierarchy: James McArthur | John Schreiber | Angel Zerpa

Los Angeles Angels – In a strange finish, Carson Fulmer suffered his second loss, on a walk-off hit-by-pitch while facing Nathaniel Lowe in the bottom of the 13th. He finished his 1.1-inning outing with a hit against, an unearned run, and two walks (one intentional). Carlos Estévez tossed two scoreless frames, navigating around a hit and a walk (intentional) while striking out two. He threw 24 pitches (14 strikes – 58.3 Strike%) and produced three whiffs (12.5 SwStr%). Hunter Strickland retired the side in the ninth. Luis García was tagged with his first blown save, giving up a hit, an earned run, and a walk in the eighth. Adam Cimber fired a clean seventh, striking out one for his sixth hold.

Updated Hierarchy: Carlos Estévez | Luis García | Adam Cimber

Seattle Mariners – Although he allowed a solo home run by Gunnar Henderson with two outs, Andrés Muñoz recorded his eighth save, closing out a one-run win in Baltimore. He threw 19 pitches (12 strikes – 63.2 Strike%) and induced two whiffs while striking out two. This snapped his nine-game scoreless streak, but he’s converted six straight save chances with 15 strikeouts against one walk over his last 12 innings. Trent Thornton secured his fourth hold, walking one and striking out one in a scoreless eighth. Ryne Stanek collected his second win, retiring both batters, one via strikeout, and stranding two runners in the seventh. Gabe Speier gave up a hit and a walk over one-third scoreless in the seventh.

Hierarchy remains: Andrés Muñoz | Ryne Stanek | Gabe Speier

Tampa Bay Rays – With two left-handed hitters scheduled in the 8-9-1 lineup pocket in the ninth, the Rays summoned Garrett Cleavinger to protect a one-run lead, Even though he faced two right-handed pinch hitters, Cleavinger fired a clean bottom of the ninth and recorded a game-ending strikeout for his third save. He threw 14 pitches (11 strikes – 78.6 Strike%) and produced one whiff. Jason Adam notched his 10th hold, navigated around a hit and a hit-batter during a scoreless eighth, and struck out one. This extended his scoreless streak to seven games. Erasmo Ramírez collected his third win, retiring the side in the seventh ahead of his team’s rally in the top of the eighth. 

Hierarchy remains: *Pete Fairbanks | *Jason Adam | *Garrett Cleavinger

*= closer-by-committee

Texas Rangers – Earning his first major league win, Yerry Rodríguez stranded the “place” runner in the 12th and 13th innings, tossing two scoreless frames while issuing a walk and striking out one. David Robertson fired two clean innings, striking out three on 25 pitches (60 Strike%) with three whiffs (15 SwStr%). Kirby Yates worked a scoreless top of the ninth, allowing a walk and striking out two preserving the tie score. He owns a 0.82 WHIP with 22 strikeouts through 18.1 innings. Jonathan Hernández retired the side in the eighth, recording two strikeouts. José Leclerc allowed a solo home run (Jo Adell) and a walk while striking out one in the seventh.

Hierarchy remains: Kirby Yates | David Robertson | José Leclerc

Toronto Blue Jays –Matched up with the 9-1-2 lineup pocket in the seventh, Yimi García secured his seventh hold, issuing a walk and striking out one during a scoreless outing. Nate Pearson earned a larger leverage moment, but suffered his first loss, and first blown save, giving up three hits, including a two-run home run by Jonny DeLuca, and a walk without recording an out in the eighth. Trevor Richards stranded two runners for him, working a scoreless eighth, allowing a walk and striking out two. Tim Mayza turned in a scoreless ninth, yielding a hit and striking out one.

Hierarchy remains (for now): Jordan Romano | Yimi García (HLR) | Erik Swanson

Game Recaps – National League

Chicago Cubs – After retiring the side in the top of the ninth, Héctor Neris collected his fourth win following a walk-off rally in the bottom of the inning, scoring the game’s only run. This represents his second clean appearance through 18 outings. He threw 12 pitches (75 Strike%) and produced three whiffs (25 SwStr%) while striking out two against the Pirates’ 3-4-5 lineup pocket. In May, he recorded three wins and two saves with five strikeouts versus three walks over seven innings. Mark Leiter Jr. fired a clean eighth, striking out the side on 16 pitches (56.3 Strike%) and inducing three whiffs (18.8 Strike%).

Hierarchy remains: Héctor Neris | Mark Leiter Jr. | Ben Brown

Miami Marlins – Taking over a tied game in the top of the tenth, Tanner Scott retired the side while stranding the “place” runner with two groundouts and a strikeout. He collected his third win courtesy of a walk-off rally in the bottom of the inning. He threw 13 pitches (7 strikes – 53.8 Strike%) with three whiffs (23.1 SwStr%) against the Mets’ 2-3-4 lineup pocket. He’s recorded six scoreless appearances in May with eight strikeouts versus four walks over 6.1 innings. Andrew Nardi stranded two runners and retired his only batter faced in the ninth.

Hierarchy remains: Tanner Scott | A.J. Puk| Anthony Bender

Milwaukee Brewers – Slamming the door on his sixth save, Trevor Megill fired a scoreless bottom of the ninth, giving up a hit and striking out three during a two-run win in Houston. He threw 16 pitches (75 Strike%) and produced three whiffs (18.8 SwStr%). He’s converted six straight save chances since April 25 with eight strikeouts versus zero walks over seven innings. Bryan Hudson held on for his sixth hold, navigating around a hit and a walk while striking out one in a scoreless eighth. Elvis Peguero fired a clean seventh, striking out one for his sixth hold. Hoby Milner collected his second win, logging 1.1 scoreless frames, yielding a hit and striking out one.

Adjusted Hierarchy: Trevor Megill | Elvis Peguero | Bryan Hudson

New York Mets – During a non-save appearance, things went sideways again for Edwin Díaz. He took over with a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, giving up a lead-off double, recorded a pop-out, gave up an RBI single, another single, and a three-run home run game-tying home run (Josh Bell). Upon removal, his final line was four hits against and four earned runs over one-third of an inning. He’s allowed at least a run in three consecutive games, and four of his last six while converting one of four save chances. Jake Diekman retired both batters in the ninth via strikeout, ending the inning. Jorge López suffered his first loss, letting the “place” runner score on a walk-off single. Before the ninth, Adam Ottavino secured his eighth hold, striking out one in a clean eighth. Reed Garrett permitted an inherited runner to score in the seventh, yielding two hits during one-third of an inning for his fourth hold.

Placing a talented reliever like Díaz on the hot seat is tough, but he may need some time in lower-leveraged outings before resuming closer duties. If this happens, plan on a match-up-based approach with Ottavino being the preferred save option, but not exclusive as the closer.

Per Mike Puma in this tweet on “X”, the ninth inning will be “fluid” as the Mets hope they get Edwin Díaz back on track. With this in mind: 

Updated Hierarchy: *Adam Ottavino | *Reed Garrett | Edwin Díaz

*= closer-by-committee

Philadelphia Phillies – Tasked with the top of the tenth, Gregory Soto stranded the “place” runner despite throwing a wild pitch while retiring all three batters, two via strikeout. He collected his first win courtesy of a walk-off in the bottom of the frame. Orion Kerkering allowed two hits, including a go-ahead RBI single by Jesse Winker, and a hit-batter, while striking out one in the ninth. He threw 24 pitches (17 strikes – 70.8 Strike%) with three whiffs (12.5 SwStr%). Matt Strahm tossed a scoreless eighth, yielding a hit and striking out one. He owns an 18-game scoreless streak with a 29:1 K:BB over 18.2 innings (0.59 WHIP).

Hierarchy remains: *José Alvarado | *Jeff Hoffman | Orion Kerkering

*= closer-by-committee

Pittsburgh Pirates – Suffering his third loss, David Bednar allowed a one-out, opposite-field double by Cody Bellinger and a walk-off RBI single by Christopher Morel, on a tag play where the catcher could not hold onto the ball. He threw 13 pitches (69.2 Strike%) and induced two whiffs (15.4 SwStr%). This snapped his three-game scoreless streak. Colin Holderman issued a walk and recorded a strikeout while stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth.

Hierarchy remains: David Bednar | Aroldis Chapman | Colin Holderman

Washington Nationals – Suffering only his second blown save this season, Kyle Finnegan allowed a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the ninth. He returned for the tenth and was tagged with his third loss, letting the “place” runner score on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Bryce Harper. His final line was one hit against, two runs (one earned), and an intentional walk over 1.2 innings. Hunter Harvey retired his only batter in the eighth, stranding two runners. Robert Garcia recorded two outs and yielded a hit with one strikeout in the eighth. Dylan Floro gave up two hits and retired two in the seventh. 

Hierarchy Remains: Kyle Finnegan | Hunter Harvey | Dylan Floro

Closer Monkey’s filthy pitch of the day goes to James McArthur‘s curveball, courtesy of the Pitching Ninja.

Thanks for being a part of the Closer Monkey community, stay safe and be well.

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Streaming for Holds and SOLDS; Week 9

Given the volatility of high-leverage roles and performances, many prefer streaming relievers in leagues with separate categories for holds or those that combine saves plus holds (SOLDS). With this in mind, a snapshot, by league with their leverage trends in chart form.

American League Leverage Trends

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/3U0Dm/11/

AL Teams with 7 Games in Week 9

  • Baltimore Orioles: 3 @ STL; 4 @ CWS
  • Chicago White Sox: 3 @ TOR; 4 vs. BAL
  • Detroit Tigers: 3 @ KC; 4 vs. TOR
  • New York Yankees: 4 vs. SEA; 3 @ SDP
  • Seattle Mariners: 4 @ NYY; 3 @ WSH
  • Toronto Blue Jays: 3 vs. CWS; 4 @ DET

National League Leverage Trends

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/Bk2vG/10/

NL Teams with 8 games in Week 9

  • Atlanta Braves: 2 vs. SD (DH); 3 @ CHC; 3 @ PIT
  • San Diego Padres: 2 @ ATL (DH); 3 @ CIN; 3 vs. NYY

SOLDS (Saves plus Holds) Leaders Last 14 Days

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/Z1EKq/8/

Holds Leaders Last 14 Days

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/mAABk/15/

Players of Interest for Week 9

  • Jeremiah Estrada (SDP): Recorded his first career save while striking out the side against Atlanta. His team will play eight games next scoring period and he could receive another save chance, along with a larger leverage with continued strong outings. He owns a 7:1 K:BB (40 K-BB percentage) over his last four outings with a 0.75 WHIP.
  • Ben Brown (CHC): With his team’s leverage ladder decimated by injuries, fantasy managers hope he starts making shorter appearances in higher-leverage situations. It’s a small sample, but he’s posted a 36.4 swinging strike percentage with his curve in May.
  • Matt Strahm (PHI): He’s not sexy from a fantasy perspective, but for those managing ratios Strahm’s a viable option. He owns an 18-game scoreless streak with a 29:1 K:BB over 18.2 innings (0.59 WHIP).

Relievers on the Rise

  • Luke Weaver (NYY): He’s produced multiple strikeouts in eight straight appearances, posting a robust 21 strikeouts versus two walks with a 0.47 WHIP through his last 15 innings while securing four holds.
  • Ángel Zerpa (KCR): He owns a nine-game scoreless streak with five holds and eight strikeouts versus zero walks through 7.2 innings.
  • Lucas Sims (CIN): While the other two members of his team’s leverage triumvirate struggle, Sims has racked up six strikeouts against zero walks over his last five innings with a 0.60 WHIP, 35.3 K-BB percentage, and a 2.27 SIERA.

Ancillary/Vulture Save Options for Week 9

Alexis and Edwin Díaz currently reside in their respective teams’ hot seats for save opportunities, those seeking saves in the near term can take a chance on Lucas Sims and Adam Ottavino.

Also of interest for this scoring period:

Atlanta Braves: A.J. Minter; Pierce Johnson

Chicago White Sox: Jordan Leasure

Detroit Tigers: Beau Brieske

Los Angeles Dodgers: J.P. Feyereisen; Blake Treinen

San Diego Padres: Jeremiah Estrada; Yuki Matsui

Toronto Blue Jays: Yimi García

Thanks for being a part of the Closer Monkey community. If playing in leagues with holds or SOLDS, check out our team page game recaps, which include full capsules for relievers, not just saves. Until next time, stay safe and be well.

Monkey Bytes, May 18: Durán’s loss results in Clase’s 13th save, Hader shuts the door on Milwaukee, and Estrada records his first MLB save

Remaining on brand this season, Rocco Baldelli used Jhoan Durán as his HLR (highest-leveraged reliever), matching him up with José Ramírez’s lineup pocket during a tied contest in the bottom of the eighth. Fantasy managers must adjust their expectations for the talented Twins reliever moving forward.

The Padres altered its high-leverage approach in Atlanta, though it’s likely a result of the opponent more than a new trend. Robert Suarez held on for his first hold, entering against the 2-3-4 lineup pocket, which resulted in the first major league save for Jeremiah Estrada and a hierarchy adjustment.

Josh Hader exacted some revenge against a former employer, securing his sixth save while preserving a one-run over Milwaukee. These games and the remaining high-leverage events of interest from last night will be covered below in our condensed and full recaps.

Closer CliffsNotes

American League

(RP | BAL): Leading by three with two runners on and one out in the top of the seventh, Brandon Hyde called upon Yennier Cano as his “fireman”. He responded with a noteworthy HLR performance, inducing an inning-ending double play groundout by Dylan Moore. Cano recorded his 10th hold and threw three pitches, all strikeouts.

Hierarchy remains: *Craig Kimbrel | *Yennier Cano | *Danny Coulombe

*= closer-by-committee

(RP | CLE): Save number 13 for Emmanuel Clase. He retired the side and recorded one strikeout during a one-run win over the Twins. 

(RP | HOU): Locking down his sixth save, Josh Hader fired a clean ninth against one of his former teams while striking out one.

(RP | MIN): With the game tied, Jhoan Durán entered against the Guardians’ top of the lineup, matching up with José Ramírez, but the move backfired resulting in his first loss after giving up a go-ahead solo home run against him after recording two quick outs. 

(RP | NYY): Closing out his 13th save, Clay Holmes issued a walk and recorded a strikeout during a scoreless ninth against the White Sox. 

(RP | TBR): Firing a clean bottom of the ninth, Pete Fairbanks secured his fourth save and recorded one strikeout during a one-run win in Toronto. 

National League

(RP | ATL): Tossing a scoreless top of the ninth during an eventual loss, Raisel Iglesias navigated around two hits with two groundouts and a pop-out. He threw 16 pitches (11 strikes – 68.8 Strike%) without a whiff. He’s given up a hit in five of six outings in May, and multiple hits in consecutive contests.

Hierarchy remains: Raisel Iglesias | A.J. Minter | Joe Jiménez

(RP | CHC): Appearing during a six-run loss, Héctor Neris tossed a scoreless top of the ninth, allowing a lead-off single by Connor Joe then retired the next three hitters. He threw 22 pitches (16 strikes – 72.7 Strike%) and induced two whiffs. This marked his first outing since May 12 and he’s been scoreless in five of six during May.

Hierarchy remains: Héctor Neris | Mark Leiter Jr. | Ben Brown

(RP | CIN): Another rough outing for Alexis Díaz. He entered with his team trailing for the bottom of the eighth and allowed a one-out single by Andy Pages followed by Jason Heyward’s two-run home run. He rebounded by retiring the next two, including an inning-ending pop-out by Mookie Betts. He’s given up two runs in his last two appearances, and multiple runs in three of five games this month (3.1 IP, five hits, eight earned runs, six walks, and three strikeouts) while converting one of two save chances.

Although his manager has not placed his closer on the hot seat, we will. Lucas Sims could receive a save chance soon or the team will trade for a potential replacement at the backend of the bullpen. 

Hierarchy remains (for now): Alexis Díaz | Lucas Sims| Fernando Cruz

(RP | LAD): During a non-save outing, Daniel Hudson tossed a clean top of the ninth, closing out a four-run victory over Cincinnati.

(RP | PHI): During his third save, Jeff Hoffman worked around a hit for a scoreless ninth, preserving a two-run win over the Nationals. 

(RP | SDP): Handed a two-run in the bottom of the ninth in Atlanta, Jeremiah Estrada recorded his first MLB save by striking out the side against the 7-8-9 lineup pocket. 

(RP | SFG): Working as the “bulk reliever“, Sean Hjelle collected his first win. He took over in the fourth and tossed two scoreless innings against the Rockies.

Vulture Save Options for Saturday, May 18

PHI: Alvarado and Hoffman have appeared on consecutive days, which means it may be Orion Kerkering or Gregory Soto for the save, depending on lineup pockets. Matt Strahm could be a sneaky play for a vulture win as well.

TBR: Fairbanks has pitched in three of the last four days, which may yield a save chance for Jason Adam today, barring a rules violation.

Vulture Save Stashes for Sunday, May 19

ATL: If Iglesias records a save today, it will be two outings in a row placing A.J. Minter in line for a save on Sunday.

CIN: With Díaz struggling, Lucas Sims could be called upon for the save chance on Sunday.

HOU: If Hader pitches today, Ryan Pressly could benefit and receive the save opportunity on Sunday.

NYY: Holmes locked down a save on Friday, and if he pitches again today, perhaps Luke Weaver will get his first save chance on Sunday. Stay tuned.

Game Recaps – American League

Cleveland Guardians –  Shutting the door on his 13th save, Emmanuel Clase fired a clean top while striking out one, finishing a one-run win over the Twins. He threw 13 pitches (9 strikes – 69.2 Strike%) and induced one whiff. This outing extended his scoreless streak to eight games during which he’s converted all five save chances with eight strikeouts against one walk and a 0.25 WHIP over eight innings. Tim Herrin collected his second win, and first blown save, allowing his only inherited runner to score on a pinch-hit RBI double. Scott Barlow gave up a hit and an earned run while striking out two in two-thirds of the eighth for his 10th hold.

Hierarchy remains: Emmanuel Clase | Scott Barlow | Nick Sandlin

Houston Astros – Firing a clean top of the ninth, Josh Hader nailed down his sixth save while striking out one against Milwaukee. He’s now recorded a save against all 30 MLB teams. He threw 12 pitches (75 Strike%) and generated four whiffs (33.3 SwStr%). He’s converted his last six save chances. Bryan Abreu secured his ninth hold, tossing a scoreless eighth, allowing a walk, and striking out one.

Hierarchy remains: Josh Hader | Ryan Pressly | Bryan Abreu

Minnesota Twins – Taking over a tied game in the bottom of the eighth, Jhoan Durán allowed two hits, including a go-ahead solo home run by José Ramírez, resulting in his first loss. This also marked his first earned run allowed this season through his first eight appearances. He threw 10 pitches (80 Strike%) and produced two whiffs. Griffin Jax fired a clean seventh, striking out two. Steven Okert served up a game-tying home run by David Fry, scoring an inherited runner and putting one earned on his ledger.

Hierarchy remains: *Jhoan Durán (HLR/PSS) | *Griffin Jax | *Caleb Thielbar

*An HLR/PSS means he’s the preferred save option, but will be used in the highest-leverage moment in games when deemed necessary. 

New York Yankees – Securing his 13th save, Clay Holmes tossed a scoreless top of the ninth, walking one and striking out one against the White Sox. He threw 18 pitches (66.7 Strike%) and induced two whiffs (11.1 SwStr%). He remains the only qualified reliever without an earned run allowed this season and has converted He’s recorded multiple strikeouts in seven of nine outings with a 17:2 K:BB over 9.1 innings. Caleb Ferguson stranded two runners and recorded two outs in the eighth, striking out one for his seventh hold. Ian Hamilton gave up three hits and an earned run while striking out one over one-third of the eighth, receiving credit for his sixth hold.

Hierarchy remains: Clay Holmes | Luke Weaver | Victor González

Tampa Bay Rays – Closing out a one-run win in Toronto and his fourth save, Pete Fairbanks fired a clean bottom of the ninth, striking out one. He threw six pitches (83.3 Strike%) and induced one whiff (16.7 SwStr%). Since returning from the injured list, he’s recorded four clean appearances with six strikeouts. Manuel Rodríguez was credited with his first hold, letting his only inherited runner score while giving up a hit during his two-thirds of the eighth inning.

Hierarchy remains: *Pete Fairbanks | *Jason Adam | Garrett Cleavinger

*= closer-by-committee

Game Recaps – National League

Los Angeles Dodgers – Although there was no save, Daniel Hudson turned in a clean top of the ninth, finishing a four-run win over the Reds. He retired the 3-4-5 hitters on eight pitches (75 Strike%) and induced one whiff. He’s been scoreless over his last three games but has not secured a save since May 8. Blake Treinen match-up with the 9-1-2 lineup pocket, recording his third hold with a clean outing and striking out one on seven pitches (all strikes) with two whiffs (28.6 SwStr%). He’s racked up three holds and a win while producing five shutout innings since his return from the injured list. Michael Grove collected his second win, tossing a clean top of the seventh and striking out one ahead of his team’s rally in the bottom of the inning.

Hierarchy remains: *Daniel Hudson | *Blake Treinen | *Alex Vesia

*= closer-by-committee

Philadelphia Phillies – Save number three for Jeff Hoffman. He worked around a one-out double by Joey Gallo by retiring the next two batters for a scoreless ninth, preserving the two-run win. He threw 10 pitches (80 Strike%) without a whiff. This represents his first save since April 30. José Alvarado faced the first two hitters in the Nationals lineup, both left-handed, in the eighth and retired both for his third hold. He’s finished five of his eight appearances this month (62.5 Games-Finished%).

Hierarchy remains: *José Alvarado | *Jeff Hoffman | Orion Kerkering

*= closer-by-committee

San Diego Padres –  Representing one of the last relievers with all of his team’s saves this season, the streak ended for Robert Suarez. He was tasked with the top of Atlanta’s batting order and navigated around two hits for a scoreless outing in the eighth inning while striking out two. Jeremiah Estrada notched his first MLB save by firing a clean ninth and striking out the side. He threw 16 pitches (62.5 Strike%) and generated three whiffs (18.8 SwStr%). Enyel De Los Santos secured his fifth hold, retiring both batters in the seventh and striking out one. Yuki Matsui tossed two-thirds combined innings, issuing a walk and striking out two during his fifth hold. 

Adjusted Hierarchy: Robert Suarez | Yuki Matsui | Jeremiah Estrada

San Francisco Giants – Benefiting from his team’s four-run bottom of the fifth, Sean Hjelle garnered his first win while tossing two shutout frames giving up three hits and striking out one against the Rockies. Luke Jackson was credited with his first hold, allowing a hit, an earned run, and a walk with one strikeout over two-thirds of the sixth. Erik Miller notched his seventh hold walking one over one-third of the sixth and stranding a runner. Ryan Walker secured his fifth hold, firing a clean seventh and striking out one. Tyler Rogers worked a clean eighth and recorded a strikeout during his eighth hold. Richard Rodríguez turned in a scoreless top of the ninth, yielding a hit and a walk while striking out one finishing a five-run win over Colorado.

Hierarchy remains: Camilo Doval | Tyler Rogers | Ryan Walker

Closer Monkey’s filthy outing of the day goes to Nate Pearson. He worked a scoreless top of the ninth and may emerge with a larger leverage share soon, video courtesy of the Pitching Ninja.

In case you missed it, What to Watch For during high-leverage events this weekend was posted yesterday. Thanks for being a part of the Closer Monkey community, stay safe and be well.

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Updated MLB Closer Depth Chart

Closer1st in line2nd in lineUpdatedCloser1st in line2nd in lineUpdated
BAL*Kimbrel*Cano*Coulombe5/17/24ATLIglesiasMinterJiménez5/17/24
BOSJansenMartinSlaten5/17/24MIAScottPukBender5/17/24
NYYHolmesWeaverV González5/17/24NYME.DíazOttavinoGarrett5/17/24
TB*Fairbanks*Adam*Cleavinger5/18/24PHI*Alvarado*HoffmanKerkering5/17/24
TORRomanoY GarcíaSwanson5/17/24WASFinneganHarveyFloro5/17/24
        
CHWKopechBrebbiaLeasure5/17/24CHCNerisLeiter Jr.Brown5/17/24
CLEClaseBarlowSandlin5/17/24CINAl.DíazSimsCruz5/17/24
DET*Foley*Chafin*Lange5/15/24MILMegillPegueroHudson5/17/24
KCMcArthurSchreiberZerpa5/18/24PITBednarChapmanHolderman5/17/24
MIN*Durán*Jax*Thielbar5/17/24STLHelsleyKittredgeRomero5/17/24
        
HOUHaderPresslyAbreu5/17/24ARISewaldGinkelThompson5/17/24
LAAEstévezGarcíaCimber5/18/24COLBeeksLawrenceKinley5/17/24
OAKMillerErcegAdams5/17/24LAD*Hudson*Treinen*Vesia5/17/24
SEAMuñozStanekSpeier5/17/24SDSuarezMatsuiEstrada5/17/24
TEXYatesRobertsonLeclerc5/17/24SFDovalTy.RogersWalker5/17/24

* = closer-by-committee

What to Watch For: Weekend of May 17-through-19

Although many bullpens have settled into structured hierarchies, many situations remain in flux whether its performance by the team’s closer or the relievers setting him up. Here are the situations which require our focus this weekend.

American League

Baltimore Orioles

  • How does the team use Craig Kimbrel? He’s recorded three consecutive scoreless appearances and a win while striking out four of 10 batters. However, he entered during the seventh inning in two of these contests. Will the team keep using a match-up-based approach or will the veteran reliever reassume his familiar role in the ninth inning?

Boston Red Sox

  • Another veteran closer has struggled in recent outings, though Kenley Jansen did convert both save chances in May. He has also allowed multiple runs in two of his last five appearances while posting a 1.60 WHIP over five innings. Can Justin Slaten forge a larger leverage share?

Chicago White Sox

  • The team may trade Michael Kopech and John Brebbia before the trade deadline, which opens the door for future Jordan Leasure saves. Those with space on their bench may want to stash him sooner rather than later.

Detroit Tigers

  • Who receives the next save chance? How does A.J. Hinch structure his leverage ladder during it? Can fantasy managers trust this bullpen?

Kansas City Royals

  • Will James McArthur solve his home run problem? He’s allowed four through his last five outings. The good news is he’s secured the save in his past three games.

Los Angeles Angels

  • Through four games in May, Carlos Estévez has recorded two clean outings and a save. He’s also suffered a blown save and a loss, allowing two earned runs. Volume caps his upside and if the ratios do not improve, it will be tough earning a leverage share when he’s traded.

Minnesota Twins

  • How will Rocco Baldelli use his best reliever against Cleveland? Does Jhoan Durán match up exclusively against José Ramírez’s lineup pocket or will he operate as the preferred save share?

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Going through some heavy usage patterns recently will make discerning roles going forward tough. Pete Fairbanks was used in the eighth during a win on Wednesday against Boston’s 4-5-6 hitters, not in a save situation. This went against his established closer role from last year, will this continue?

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Closer Jordan Romano has allowed at least a run in three of his five appearances in May resulting in a 2.00 WHIP over five innings. It’s a small sample size but fantasy players should track his results moving forward.

National League

Chicago Cubs

  • Which young starting pitcher converted into the bullpen emerges as a potential high-leverage option: Ben Brown, Hayden Wesneski, or Porter Hodge?

Cincinnati Reds

  • Can Alexis Díaz improve his command?

Colorado Rockies

  • Jalen Beeks has emerged as the preferred save option, can he remain atop the hierarchy? Counterpoint, can Tyler Kinely become the second or first in line with continued strong outings?

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Who receives the next save chance for the Dodgers? Injury news regarding the pending return of Evan Phillips?

Miami Marlins

  • Will Tanner Scott continue his recent success, and parlay it into trade value for his team? Does A.J. Puk receive another ancillary save chance soon? When the fire sale commences, will the team both southpaw relievers?

New York Mets

  • Remember when Hader struggled but the metrics suggested bad luck, same goes for Edwin Díaz. Remain patient and understand he’s working with the new pitch clock fatigue for the first time, unlike his peers. For comparison’s sake, his pitch splits from 2022 and 2024:

Philadelphia Phillies

  • Does Orion Kerkering earn a larger leverage role soon? He’s recorded three consecutive scoreless outings and struck out five of 10 batters.

Thanks for being a part of the Closer Monkey community, until next time, stay safe and be well.

Statistical Credits:

Baseball-Reference.com

Fangrapghs.com

Monkey Bytes, May 17: Another blown save for Edwin, A Rays blunder costs Adam a save, and The Renegade notched his ninth

Thursday’s slate was small in size featuring only six games, but not in its provision of high-leverage event content. Philadelphia and the Mets played 11 innings, Tampa Bay tried making a mound visit in the ninth with none left, forcing the removal of its reliever during a save chance, and David Bednar recorded a second straight clean appearance while closing out a one-run win against the Cubs. These games and the remaining high-leverage events of interest from last night will be covered below in our condensed and full recaps.

Closer CliffsNotes

(RP | BOS): Suffering his first loss, Kenley Jansen allowed two hits, two earned runs, and a walk while striking out two against the Rays. 

(RP | CHC): Taking over in the top of the sixth, Hayden Wesneski tossed 1.1 scoreless frames and recorded three strikeouts. He threw 21 pitches (66.7 Strike%) and induced four whiffs (19 SwStr%). He or Ben Brown may earn a larger leverage share over the next two weeks, track their results closely. 

Updated Hierarchy: Héctor Neris | Mark Leiter Jr. | Ben Brown

(RP | CIN): Facing the Dodgers, Cincinnati ran a bullpen game which yielded a win for Nick Martinez. He threw five shutout innings and allowed one hit while striking out four after taking over in the third inning.

(RP | HOU): Going old school, Shawn Dubin registered his first major-league save during a three-inning outing against Oakland, preserving a lopsided win. He allowed two hits and an earned run while striking out two on 39 pitches (66.7 Strike%) with six whiffs (15.4 SwStr%).

Hierarchy remains: Josh Hader | Ryan Pressly | Bryan Abreu

(RP | NYM): Hanging on for his first save, Jake Diekman navigated around a hit-batter and a walk, scoring the “place” runner, but preserved the one-run win in the bottom of the 11th. 

(RP | PHI): Entering in the top of the 11th, José Alvarado suffered his second loss, giving up two hits, two runs (one earned), and striking out two against the Mets. 

(RP | PIT): Nailing down his ninth save, David Bednar fired a clean bottom of the ninth, striking out one while securing a one-run win over the Cubs in Chicago. 

(RP | TBR): Pressed into action because of a rules violation, Erasmo Ramírez recorded his first save after retiring his only batter faced, preserving a two-run win in Boston. 

Game Recaps – May 16

Boston Red Sox Veteran closer Kenley Jansen took over a tied game in the top of the ninth and suffered his first loss of the season. He issued a one-out walk and allowed consecutive singles, scoring the go-ahead run, then a sacrifice fly, resulting in a two-run deficit. Jansen did record two strikeouts, throwing 18 pitches (13 strikes – 72.2 Strike%) and inducing three whiffs (16.7 SwStr%). He’s allowed multiple runs in two of his last five contests. Chris Martin worked a scoreless eighth, yielding a hit. Justin Slaten fired a clean seventh, striking out the side on 16 pitches (13 strikes – 81.3 Strike%) while generating six whiffs (37.5 SwStr%).

Hierarchy remains: Kenley Jansen | Chris Martin | Justin Slaten

Cincinnati Reds Appearing as the “bulk follower” in a bullpen game, Nick Martinez took over in the third inning producing five shutout frames while giving up one hit and striking out four for his first win. He threw 68 pitches (45 strikes – 66.2 Strike%) and generated 11 whiffs (16.7 SwStr%). Lucas Sims fired a clean eighth while striking out two on 15 pitches (80 Strike%) with two whiffs (13.3 SwStr%).

Hierarchy remains: Alexis Díaz | Lucas Sims| Fernando Cruz

New York Mets – Entering with a two-run lead in the bottom of the 11th, Jake Diekman escaped with his first save. He retired his first batter-faced, followed by Brandon Marsh reaching on an error and a walk. After inducing a run-scoring fielder’s choice ground out, he produced a game-ending strikeout of Kyle Schwarber. Jorge López collected his first win, issuing an intentional walk (Bryce Harper) during a scoreless tenth. Edwin Díaz suffered his third blown save of the season, and third in four outings. He issued Marsh a lead-off walk after 10 pitches and recorded a strikeout but threw a wild pitch, advancing the runner who scored on a game-tying RBI single by Bryson Stott. Díaz struck out Schwarber and produced a lineout by J.T. Realmuto, ending the inning. Adam Ottavino notched his seventh hold, allowing a hit in a scoreless eighth. Reed Garrett was tagged with his second blown save, yielding two hits, an earned run, and a walk while striking out two over 1.2 innings.

Many will want Díaz placed on the hot seat, especially since he’s already matched his blown save total from 2022 this season. However, his underlying data does not imply a reduction in skills, he must refine his command and improve his strikeout rates moving forward.

Hierarchy remains: Edwin Díaz | Adam Ottavino | Reed Garrett

Philadelphia Phillies – Suffering his second loss, José Alvarado gave up two hits, including a go-ahead RBI single by J.D. Martinez leading off the 11th, a double, and a run on a wild pitch. He also recorded two strikeouts in his outing, throwing 15 pitches (66.7 Strike%) while producing three whiffs (20 SwStr%). José Ruiz logged two clean frames, striking out three. Jeff Hoffman was tagged with his third blown save, allowing a hit, two unearned runs, and a walk while striking out two in the eighth, courtesy of a throwing error by Bryson Stott. Gregory Soto retired the side in the seventh. Orion Kerkering worked a scoreless sixth, yielding a hit and striking out three. Matt Strahm fired 1.2 clean innings, striking out two.

One should note, that Kerkering has been scoreless over his last three allowing one hit while recording five strikeouts (50 K%).

Hierarchy remains: *José Alvarado | *Jeff Hoffman | Orion Kerkering

*= closer-by-committee

Pittsburgh Pirates – Raise the Jolly Roger following a second straight clean appearance by David Bednar, locking down his ninth save. He threw eight pitches (7 strikes – 87.5 Strike%) and produced one while recording one strikeout. He’s converted all four save chances in May and been scoreless in five of his last six games with five strikeouts against one walk. Colin Holderman held on for his fourth hold, giving up an unearned run, a hit-by-pitch, and a walk while striking out one in a scoreless eighth. Aroldis Chapman fired a clean seventh, striking out two, and securing his ninth hold.

Hierarchy remains: David Bednar | Aroldis Chapman | Colin Holderman

Tampa Bay Rays – With two outs, and two runners on, the Rays pitching coach tried making a mound visit without one remaining, causing the removal of Jason Adam from the save chance. Erasmo Ramírez stranded both inherited runners, inducing a game-ending groundout by Romy Gonzalez for his first save this season, and first since 2020. Adam gets credit for his ninth hold, giving up a hit and a walk while striking out one on 23 pitches (15 strikes – 65.2 Strike%) while producing four whiffs (17.4 SwStr%). Manuel Rodríguez collected his first win, striking out one during a clean bottom of the eighth, ahead of his team’s rally. Garrett Cleavinger turned in a scoreless seventh, walking one and striking out one.

Hierarchy remains: *Pete Fairbanks | *Jason Adam | Garrett Cleavinger

*= closer-by-committee

Closer Monkey’s filthy outing of the day goes to Justin Slaten, recording all three outs via strikeout during his outing against the Rays, courtesy of the Pitching Ninja.

Thanks for being a part of the Closer Monkey community, stay safe and be well.

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Under the Hood: What’s going on with David Bednar and Héctor Neris

Life, like underlying data, can be tricky. Although time did not allow itself last week, it’s time for another Under the Hood session featuring two relievers in the National League Central. Acknowledging ERA can be a fluky statistic, lets post some surface numbers for the two relievers:

  • Reliever A: 17 games, 19:5 K:BB, 1.53 WHIP
  • Reliever B: 16 games, 13:14 K:BB, 1.80 WHIP

Which one owns the lower ERA? As one can assume, it’s Reliever B, Héctor Neris. Despite his inflated WHIP, he’s posted a 3.00 ERA through 15 innings this season. Reliever A, David Bednar has a 9.00 ERA even though he allows less contact, throws more strikes, and induces more whiffs. Using season-to-date results, each reliever’s outcomes, and outlook will be explored in today’s post.

David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s tough not rooting for the “Renegade“. He’s a hometown talent playing in front of friends and family. However, he missed most of the spring with a latissimus dorsi issue and had a rough start to his season. Fantasy managers assumed with more repetitions that Bednar would find past form, which can still happen.

Seeing his current ERA, and his 3.03 SIERA, a metric on Fangraphs that predicts in-season ERA better than other ones such as FIP, one envisions him as a potential buy low from a fantasy perspective. But he must improve his results, especially in contact allowed and with his four-seam fastball placement.

Beginning with his contact trends this season, he’s produced a career-worst 30.4 percent line drive rate, fueling a disparity in his quality of contact:

  • 2.2 pop-up percentage plus 4.3 percent weak contact = 6.5 percent poor contact-induced
  • 8.7 solid contact percentage plus a 13 percent barrel rate = 21.7 good contact allowed

As a comparison, here’s his heatmap from Statcast with his pitches this year:

However, on hits this season, one notices most are on fastballs at the middle or bottom third of the strike zone:

Location may play a part in his early struggles, but when viewing his splits-by-pitch this year versus past results, the fastball results jump off the chart:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/J2Lfr/2/

One would think he would throw more of his secondary pitches, but he’s increased his four-seam use early on this year:

Hope lies in improved results with the curve, which has suffered a steep drop in swinging strike percentage in 2024. Delving into his leverage trends, there are no major differences, which may mean better outcomes lie in the offing:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/rwSLw/3/

It’s tough giving up on a closer like Bednar, especially when he’s produced a 19.4 K-BB percentage with a 65.4 strike percentage and a 72.9 percent contact rate allowed. Monitor his results over the next two weeks closely, especially the curve, and hope this will be a small sample fantasy players forget about as the year progresses.

Héctor Neris, Chicago Cubs

It’s been a running joke in the game recaps, but he’s been the “Teflon” man during high-leverage events. He’s logged 16 appearances this year with one clean outing. He’s issued at least a walk during 10 games, and multiple walks in three.

He’s staved off trouble by increasing his ground ball percentage, currently at a career-best 54.8 percent. Despite the high volume of traffic on the bases in his outings, he’s only induced one groundball double play out of 22 opportunities. Like Bednar, he’s not performed great in terms of quality of contact, but it does not have as large of a disparity:

  • 2.4 pop-up percentage plus a 9.5 percent weak contact rate = 11.9 percent poor contact-induced
  • 7.1 solid percentage plus an 11.9 percent barrel rate = 18.9 percent good contact allowed

Leaning into his split-finger fastball has helped him avoid implosions:

But, when diving into his splits by pitch this year compared with past results, there are some eye-opening numbers:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/juCNv/1/

Taking this step further, his leverage trends in this updated chart:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/ZmOLj/3/

One cannot refute Neris being a valuable component of Chicago’s leverage ladder, but it’s tough staving off this much pending migration, especially with a negative K-BB percentage. He’s relied on and produced results with the split-finger fastball, but he will be forced to adjust if hitters lay off this pitch moving forward. It will be intriguing to see how he performs through the end of May, and into June. Note his 5.75 SIERA entering his next appearance.

Thanks for being a part of the Closer Monkey community. Stay safe and be well.

Statistical Credits:

Baseball-Reference.com

Fangrapghs.com

Month in Review for Relievers: Results of Interest and Trends through the End of April

Remembering the sample size this season remains small, with only a month-plus of results in the rearview mirror, it helps to review how relievers performed, which will be the process for today’s post. Using underlying metrics and hard statistical data, we try to remain ahead of the curve in the ever-changing world of high-leverage events.

Team Saves

  • 2024: 248 saves recorded between March and April
  • 2023: 210 saves recorded between March and April

Blown Saves

  • 2024: 132 blown saves between March and April
  • 2023: 118 blown saves between March and April

Save Opportunities

  • 2024: 380 save chances between March and April
  • 2023: 328 save chances between March and April

As one can observe, there’s been more saves recorded, and save opportunities provided, over the first month-plus of this season compared with last year’s results. This coincides with offense on the decline, illustrated by runs scored:

  • 2024: 3,408 runs scored between March and April
  • 2023: 3, 744 runs scored between March and April

Before delving into individual performances, there’s a small difference between the numbers of pitchers recording at least one save with 72 through the end of April this year and 69 with one through this same timeframe last season. Despite the rise in save chances, the distribution has remained mostly stable.

Individual Results and Trends

At the end of April, there were four relievers with at least eight saves without suffering a blown one:

  • Robert Suarez (SDP) – 10 saves
  • Jason Foley (DET) – 9 saves
  • Mason Miller (OAK) – 8 saves
  • Evan Phillips (LAD) – 8 saves

Not only has Miller been terrific as his team’s closer, he’s also the only qualified reliever at the end of April with a K-BB percentage greater than 20, a swinging strike rate above 15 percent, a strike percentage over 65 percent, and a contact rate allowed below 65 percent. He finished with a 47.1 K-BB percentage, a 22.4 swinging strike percentage, a 68.7 strike percentage, and a 58.4 percent contact rate allowed, just dominant.

These relievers qualified for three of the four categories described above:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/tRu81/7/

Shifting gears, here were the SOLDS (saves plus holds) at the conclusion of April:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/wXS38/8/

These relievers have the most SOLDS without suffering a blown save, knock on wood:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/hMCId/1/

For those who play in leagues with holds as a separate category, here are the leaders from March and April in them:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/VI04i/1/

Two key indicators for sustained success by relievers are K-BB percentage and swinging strike rate. Leaders from each category are as follows:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/Lpx9L/1/

Strikeouts and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) should also be monitored closely by fantasy managers. Here are the leaders in these categories during the first month-plus this season:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/Lpx9L/1/

It’s been a great first-month providing information for the Closer Monkey community. More volatility lies on the horizon, so stay safe and be well until these situations arise.

Statistical Credits:

Fangraphs.com

Baseball-Reference.com

Under the Hood: Alzolay and Hader outlooks moving forward

This week’s under the hood sets its sights on the early struggles by Adbert Alzolay, removing him from the closer role in Chicago in the near-term, and Josh Hader suffering from some bad luck in his results.

Adbert Alzolay, Chicago Cubs

Not much has gone right for Alzolay, he’s already suffered more blown saves (four) in 2024 through 11 games than he did last year (three) over 58 appearances. He’s given up four home runs in only 31 batted ball events and gave up five all last year across 168 batted ball events. He’s matched last season’s home run total with his slider (three) in only 14 batted balls in play.

He’s not throwing with a drastic reduction in velocity and increased his first-strike percent rate. However, when diving into his results on Statcast, one notices an increase in sweet spot percentage by over five percentage points, a boost in his expected batting average (.278), and a 5.02 expected ERA (xERA).

In terms of quality of contact, he’s struggling:

  • 3.2 solid percentage allowed plus 12.9 percent barrel rate = 16.1 good contact allowed
  • 0 percent weak contact and 0 percent pop-ups = 0 percent poor contact-induced

Taking this a step further, here’s his 10-game rolling chart from beginning of last year through his last outing, using strikeout percentage, walk rate, swinging strike percentage, and contact rate allowed:

One notices some shifts in his outcomes during the second half before he landed on the injured list and at the start of this season. With this in mind, here are his splits in some key leverage categories:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/R2jww/1/

If he retakes the ninth inning for Cubs relies on his slider. Comparing his outcomes by pitch, the lack of whiffs, and increased expected results against his most used pitch accounts for his early struggles:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/vUjx0/2/

Focus on his slider over the next two weeks, and his usage patterns. It’s tough being patient with a struggling closer, but if he finds his past production with the pitch, better days may happen. However, it’s a tough needle for a reliever to thread during the season.

Josh Hader, Houston Astros

Expecting a repeat of his 1.28 ERA from 2023 would not be realistic, but seeing Hader’s 8.38 ERA entering game play on Monday, April 22 seems like some sort of cruel joke. While sorting out qualified relievers by ERA minus SIERA, he ranks eighth in bad luck with a 5.95 run difference between the metrics. He owns a 2.43 SIERA, almost in line with his 2.34 expected ERA (xERA) from last year.

In fact, his SIERA and 2024 xERA (3.35) set a nice baseline of expectations for his results going forward. Despite his inflated ERA, he owns a 25.6 K-BB percentage, a 14.9 percent swinging strike rate, and a 64.1 strike percentage through his first 11 appearances.

As upsetting as his ERA may be, his usage patterns under first year manager Joe Espada proves more confusing. Hader’s appeared in four games with a lead, in three tied games, and worked in four games with his team trailing. Using Baseball Reference’s leverage ratings, he’s turned in four high-leverage outings, two medium leverage appearances, and pitched in five low leverage contests. Not ideal.

Viewing his underlying data from Statcast, his barrel rate remains in line with last year but he’s allowed a spike in hard hit percentage (45.5 percent) versus his career 32.9 percent barrel rate allowed. Hope lies in his .223 xBA with the sinker against his current .375 batting average against with the pitch, and a .278 expected slugging (xSLG) versus a .458 slugging percent allowed by the pitch. Things migrate toward the mean, and his results will even out.

It’s tough seeing a closer with such a high price point struggle, but focus on his past production with his pitches, and know things will improve:

Link: https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/SoiKP/1/

Houston gets a break with the schedule over the next two weeks, here’s hoping Hader and his leverage teammates turn the tide with regression working in their favor.

Thanks for being a part of the Closer Monkey community, until next time, stay safe and be well.

Tiered Rankings for SOLDS, April 5

Once again, noting these rankings remain fluid, here’s an updated tiered look at relievers in SOLDS formats. Those in leagues with holds as a separate category can use this list as well.

Tier One

  • Emmanuel Clase (CLE)
  • Evan Phillips (LAD)
  • Edwin Díaz (NYM)
  • Andrés Muñoz (SEA)
  • David Bednar (PIT)
  • Raisel Iglesias (ATL)
  • Pete Fairbanks (TBR)
  • Ryan Helsley (STL)
  • Josh Hader (HOU)
  • Griffin Jax (MIN)

Tier Two

  • Craig Kimbrel (BAL)
  • Adbert Alzolay (CHC)
  • Robert Suarez (SDP)
  • Jason Foley (DET)
  • Carlos Estévez (LAA)
  • Clay Holmes (NYY)
  • Abner Uribe (MIL)
  • Kyle Finnegan (WSH)
  • Alexis Díaz (CIN)
  • Camilo Doval (SFG)
  • Kenley Jansen (BOS)
  • Kevin Ginkel (ARI)

Tier Three

  • José Alvarado (PHI)
  • Aroldis Chapman (PIT)
  • Chris Martin (BOS)
  • Tanner Scott (MIA)
  • A.J. Minter (ATL)
  • Giovanny Gallegos (STL)
  • Jason Adam (TBR)
  • Joel Payamps (MIL)
  • Jeff Hoffman (PHI)
  • Hunter Harvey (WSH)
  • Hector Neris (CHC)
  • Ryan Pressly (HOU)
  • Ian Hamilton (NYY)
  • Yennier Cano (BAL)
  • Bryan Abreu (HOU)
  • Mason Miller (OAK)

Tier Four

  • Pierce Johnson (ATL)
  • Lucas Sims (CIN)
  • Fernando Cruz (CIN)
  • Scott Barlow (CLE)
  • Daniel Hudson (LAD)
  • Justin Lawrence (COL)
  • Kirby Yates (TEX)
  • David Robertson (TEX)
  • José Leclerc (TEX)
  • Brock Stewart (MIN)
  • Tyler Rogers (SFG)
  • Shelby Miller (DET)
  • JoJo Romero (STL)
  • Andrew Chafin (DET)
  • Ryne Stanek (SEA)
  • Yimi García (TOR)
  • Taylor Rogers (SFG)

Tier Five

  • Michael Kopech (CWS)
  • Gabe Speier (SEA)
  • John Schreiber (KCR)
  • Ryan Borucki (PIT)
  • Will Smith (KCR)
  • Chad Green (TOR)
  • James McArthur (KCR)
  • Matt Moore (LAA)
  • Ryan Thompson (ARI)
  • Julian Merryweather (CHC)
  • Emilio Pagán (CIN)
  • Joe Kelly (LAD)
  • Josh Sborz (TEX)
  • Gregory Soto (PHI)

Tiered Rankings for Saves, April 5

Noting these rankings remain fluid, here’s an updated tiered look at relievers for saves-only formats entering the weekend.

Tier One

  • Emmanuel Clase (CLE)
  • Edwin Díaz (NYM)
  • Evan Phillips (LAD)
  • David Bednar (PIT)
  • Raisel Iglesias (ATL)
  • Pete Fairbanks (TBR)
  • Ryan Helsley (STL)
  • Josh Hader (HOU)

Tier Two

  • Craig Kimbrel (BAL)
  • Andrés Muñoz (SEA)
  • Adbert Alzolay (CHC)
  • Robert Suarez (SDP)
  • Carlos Estévez (LAA)
  • Clay Holmes (NYY)
  • Abner Uribe (MIL)
  • Jason Foley (DET)
  • Kyle Finnegan (WSH)
  • Alexis Díaz (CIN)
  • Camilo Doval (SFG)
  • Kenley Jansen (BOS)
  • Kevin Ginkel (ARI)

Tier Three

  • Griffin Jax (MIN)
  • José Alvarado (PHI)
  • Tanner Scott (MIA)
  • Mason Miller (OAK)
  • José Leclerc (TEX)
  • Michael Kopech (CWS)
  • Justin Lawrence (COL)
  • Aroldis Chapman (PIT)
  • Brock Stewart (MIN)
  • Joel Payamps (MIL)
  • Giovanny Gallegos (STL)
  • Daniel Hudson (LAD)
  • Will Smith (KCR)

Tier Four

  • Hunter Harvey (WSH)
  • Ian Hamilton (NYY)
  • Ryan Pressly (HOU)
  • Chris Martin (BOS)
  • Jason Adam (TBR)
  • Shelby Miller (DET)
  • David Robertson (TEX)
  • Kirby Yates (TEX)
  • Bryan Abreu (HOU)
  • Yennier Cano (BAL)
  • Chad Green (TOR)
  • Yimi García (TOR)
  • John Schreiber (KCR)
  • James McArthur (KCR)
  • Jeff Hoffman (PHI)
  • Scott Barlow (CLE)
  • Dany Jiménez (OAK)

Tier Five

  • A.J. Minter (ATL)
  • Lucas Sims (CIN)
  • Fernando Cruz (CIN)
  • Hector Neris (CHC)
  • José Soriano (LAA)
  • John Brebbia (CWS)
  • Anthony Bender (MIA)
  • Yuki Matsui (SDP)
  • Josh Sborz (TEX)

Thanks for being a part of the Closer Monkey community.

American League Central 2024 Preview

Chicago White Sox: Way more questions than answers for the White Sox bullpen coming into 2024. If looking for the most likely reliever to land 10 or more saves, you may consider Michael Kopech. The once highly-touted starter turned emergency reliever is as good a bet as anyone to hit the double-digit mark. Other potential SV leaders include John Brebbia, although the veteran is ailing this spring. Young Jordan Leasure is a deep roster name to monitor too. This situation is best avoided as currently constructed.

Here are the three-year high-leverage results for Chicago:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Michael Kopech | John Brebbia | Steven Wilson | Jordan Leasure

Primary hold candidates: Brebbia, Wilson, Leasure, Tim Hill, Prelander Berroa

Cleveland Guardians: Lock Emmanuel Clase in as a top fantasy option once in 2024. He sits atop the Cleveland depth chart and was the top SV getter in baseball in 2023, with 44. The depth behind Clase, however, will be tested. Veteran Scott Barlow is in the fray, while Sam Hentges‘ finger must remain calm throughout the year. Carlos Carrasco may end up providing high-leverage outings for Cleveland, as well.

Here is how the Guardians high-leverage relievers have fared over the past three seasons:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Emmanuel Clase | Scott Barlow | Nick Sandlin

Primary holds candidates: Barlow, Hentges, Sandlin, Eli Morgan

Detroit Tigers: Command, command, command are the three keys to Alex Lange remaining as the Detroit closer in 2024. Gone are the days when he was the only option in town, as Jason Foley, Beau Briske, and Shelby Miller all pose threats to Lange’s hold on the ninth.

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Alex Lange | Jason Foley | Shelby Miller | Andrew Chafin

Primary holds candidates: Chafin, Foley, Miller, Briske

Kansas City Royals: It’s not sexy, but Will Smith again finds himself in a fantasy-friendly position within the Royals bullpen. Now, it may not last all season, as his fastball is god-awful and James McArthur lurks, but Smith is a near certainty to get the role and a leash pre-trade deadline for KC. There are a few other names of interest including John Schreiber, Nick Anderson, and Chris Stratton.

High leverage results for the past three seasons in Kansas City:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Will Smith | James McArthur(HLR) | John Schreiber | Chris Stratton

Primary holds candidates: Schreiber, Anderson, Stratton, McArthur, John McMillon

Minnesota Twins: A repeat performance in 2024 from Jhoan Durán would make the Twins’ closer a Top 5 relief pitching option. Any progression could have Durán landing as the overall best fantasy reliever this year. The Minnesota bullpen is a collection of powerful arms behind their closer too. Griffin Jax led the team in appearance over the past two seasons, posting a 68:19 K:BB ratio in 2023. While Brock Stewart was unscored upon in 27 of 28 relief appearances.

Below is a look at the Twins high-leverage results over the last three seasons:

Projected 2024 Hierachy: Jhoan Durán | Griffin Jax | Brock Stewart

Primary holds candidates: Jax, Stewart, Caleb Thielbar

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Spring Vibes, March 17: White Sox Leverage Updates, Colorado closer choice emerging, Kimbrel improving, and Game Recaps

Chicago White Sox – Making his first spring relief appearance, Michael Kopech retired the side in order, and in the recap by Scott Merkin of MLB.com, the reliever hit 100 m.p.h. on the stadium radar. Although he’s not focused on being the “closer“, he would welcome it but remains focused on doing the “best job he can”. Stay tuned.

In a separate post for the Chicago Sun-Times, Daryl Van Schouwen featured quotes about Jordan Leasure being a potential ninth-inning option by Pedro Grifol as well. Until the lights go on, it appears the manager will keep his high-leverage plans close to the vest. Also in the mix is John Brebbia, though he’s not appeared in a Cactus League game yet.

Projected Hierarchy: *Michael Kopech | *Jordan Leasure | *John Brebbia

Colorado Rockies – Perhaps a pivotal day in the “closer” competition. During Saturday’s contest, Tyler Kinley retired the side in order in the sixth inning. He owns a 0.50 WHIP with seven strikeouts against two walks over six innings. Justin Lawrence went nuclear in one-third of the eighth. He allowed five hits, six runs (five earned), and a walk while striking out one. This spiked his WHIP to 2.05 with 10 strikeouts versus two walks through 6.1 innings this spring. Patrick Saunders, of the Denver Post, penned in his game recap, Kinley “continues to show why he’s likely to begin the season as the closer“.  Once Bud Black echoes this sentiment, the committee designation will be removed. Our bullpen depth chart leaned Kinley from the jump, hopefully he fares well in the role this season, or until Daniel Bard returns.

Hierarchy remains: *Tyler Kinley | *Justin Lawrence | Jake Bird

Baltimore Orioles –  Appearing in the sixth inning, Craig Kimbrel issued a walk and recorded two strikeouts during a scoreless outing. Following his rough start this spring, he’s scoreless in his last three contests with three strikeouts. He’s on schedule for Opening Day, and his manager agrees in this column by Jake Rill for MLB.com. As for his last hurdle, working on consecutive days will be the last test for the veteran reliever. He enters this season eighth in MLB history with 417 saves. 

Hierarchy: Craig Kimbrel | Yennier Cano | Dillon Tate

Boston Red Sox –  Veteran reliever Chris Martin successfully completed his live batting practice throwing session and will move forward in his preparations for the season. His next step will be another live batting practice or his Grapefruit League debut per the injuries and roster moves page on MLB.com. He’s a key component in the leverage ladder recording four wins, three saves, and 23 holds last year with a 1.03 WHIP and 19.1 K-BB percentage. 

Hierarchy remains: Kenley Jansen | Chris Martin | Josh Winckowski

Seattle Mariners – Multiple updates about the Mariners bullpen were posted on “X”. First, Ryan Divish shared Ryne Stanek will appear in a Cactus League game in the coming days. He also reported Matt Brash will long toss at max effort then progress to a mound in the next few days if there’s no lingering soreness. Last, but not least, Gregory Santos is rehabbing and resting, but not throwing. No timetable for his return until he commences a throwing program. 

Hierarchy for Opening Day remains: Andrés Muñoz | Ryne Stanek | Gabe Speier

Quick Hits (Game Recaps from March 16)

Atlanta Braves – A traffic-laden outing by Raisel Iglesias did not result in any runs despite allowing a hit and two walks during his two-thirds of the sixth. He did record one strikeout in this outing but owns a 1.93 WHIP with six strikeouts against four walks through 4.2 innings this spring.

Chicago CubsHector Neris notched his first spring hold, allowing two hits and an earned run while striking out one. Adbert Alzolay fired a clean eighth, striking out two for his first hold. He owns a 0.50 WHIP with six strikeouts against one walk over six innings. Julian Merryweather recorded his first spring save with a clean ninth, striking out the side.

Cincinnati Reds – Suffering his first blown save this spring, Alexis Díaz allowed two hits, including a two-run home run, and recorded two strikeouts. This marked his fourth outing and he owns a 1.50 WHIP with seven strikeouts versus two walks.

Houston Astros – In an eventual loss, Ryan Pressly fired a clean fifth, striking out one. He’s posted a 1.00 WHIP with three strikeouts over four innings. Bryan Abreu gave up two hits, four earned runs, and two walks during two-thirds of the sixth. He’s struggled this spring and owns a 2.73 WHIP with five strikeouts against six walks through 3.2 innings.

Miami Marlins –  In an eventual tie, George Soriano worked a scoreless fifth, giving up a hit. Tanner Scott completed an inning, this is not a test. He allowed a hit and recorded a strikeout during a scoreless sixth. He threw 17 pitches (12 strikes – 70.6 Strike%) and induced three whiffs (17.6 SwStr%). Hopefully, this will be an outing he can build on moving forward:

Milwaukee Brewers –  Collecting his first win, Hoby Milner fired 1.1 clean innings. Trevor Megill took the baton in the seventh, facing two hitters, and retired both for his second hold. Suddenly on fantasy players’ radars, he owns a 1.33 WHIIP with five strikeouts against one walk over six innings.

Oakland A’s – In a split-squad game against Milwaukee,  a rough outing alert by Trevor Gott. He was tagged with his first loss, giving up four hits, five earned runs, and two walks without recording an out in the fifth inning. Lucas Erceg also struggled, allowing two hits, three earned runs, and two walks in the sixth.

Seattle Mariners – For a second straight outing, Andrés Muñoz struggled, giving up two hits and an earned run in two-thirds of the sixth. He’s made five appearances this spring, posting a 1.07 WHIP with five strikeouts and zero walks over 4.2 innings.

Texas Rangers – During a split-squad game against Arizona, Kirby Yates fired a clean sixth, striking out one. Through five appearances this spring, he owns a 0.80 WHIP with eight strikeouts versus one walk. 

Closer Monkey’s filthy sequence of the day winner goes to Luis Gil, featuring his change-up and slider.

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Until next time, stay safe and be well, especially on this celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

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American League East 2024 Preview

March 13, 2024

Baltimore Orioles – As a team last year, the Orioles finished second in the American League in saves, fueled by the breakout season turned in by Félix Bautista. He will miss the season after undergoing elbow surgery, but all will not be lost for the franchise. Craig Kimbrel signed as a free agent and will take over as the primary save share. He finished third in strikeouts among qualified relievers in the National League in 2023 and converted 23 of 28 save chances for the Phillies. Yennier Cano will operate as the eighth inning option, and will often take on the toughest lineup pockets on opposing teams. He logged 72 appearances last year and tied for the major-league lead in holds (31). Getting Dillon Tate back and using Danny Coulombe versus left-handed pockets will enhance the bridge options for the upcoming season.

With this in mind, here’s the team’s high-leverage results over the last three years:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Craig Kimbrel | Yennier Cano | Dillon Tate

Primary Holds Candidates: Cano, Coulombe, Mike Baumann, Keegan Akin

Boston Red Sox After tipping their hand about potentially trading Kenley Jansen, he remains a Red Sox as of this writing. He will open the season as their “closer” unless a last-minute deal occurs. Even though he missed time down the stretch, he went 29-for-33 in save opportunities last year (87.9 save percentage) and he’s tied for ninth all-time with nine seasons with 30 or more saves. How he performs early on may set his trade market. He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Chris Martin played Robin to Jansen’s Batman well last year, recording a team-high 23 holds along with three saves, and 46 strikeouts against eight walks over 51.1 innings. His 1.03 WHIP makes him an alluring target in leagues with holds or SOLDS categories. With eyes on the future, the team signed Liam Hendriks. He plans on returning near the Trade Deadline (August 2), but how much and in what situations Boston deploys him in will be determined as the season progresses.

Here’s Boston’s high-leverage results since 2021:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Kenley Jansen | Chris Martin | Josh Winckowski

Primary Holds Candidates: Martin, Winckowski, Isaiah Campbell, Brennan Bernardino, Justin Slaten, Greg Weissert

New York Yankees – This bullpen may lean heavily on Clay Holmes early on this year. He turned in a career-high 24 saves last season and finished strong being scoreless in 12 of his last 13 outings. His 66 appearances in 2023 represent the second most in his career and he will utilize his 64.8 ground ball percentage in leverage events. However, getting him to save situations may be a weak link for this bullpen. Tommy Kahnle will open the season on the injured list and oft injured Jonathan Loáisiga projects as the main set-up option early on. One bright spot will be Ian Hamilton. He will take over the vacated multi-inning role filled by Michael King last year, and has shoved so far this spring. In deeper formats, he will retain value by providing vulture wins, ancillary saves, and strikeout upside.

Since 2021, here’s how this leverage ladder has performed in high-leverage events:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Clay Holmes | Jonathan Loáisiga | Ian Hamilton

Primary Holds Candidates: Loáisiga, Caleb Ferguson, Nick Burdi

Tampa Bay Rays – It happened, the Rays stopped spreading the wealth in the bullpen and relied upon Pete Fairbanks as their “closer” when he was not on the injured list. He set career highs in appearances (49), innings (45.1), strikeouts (68), and saves (25). He also ranked seventh among American League relievers with an 86.2 save percentage. His save total represented the most by a Tampa Bay reliever since Sergio Romo recorded 25 in 2018. Setting him up affably, and filling in as the “closer” when necessary, Jason Adam remains a rock in this leverage ladder. Through 117.2 innings with the Rays, he ons a 0.875 WHIP with 144 strikeouts versus 37 walks, and secured 20 saves. Colin Poche led all relievers with 12 wins last season, but it’s a tough feat to repeat. He’s only the sixth reliever in team history with consecutive 65-plus game seasons.

Taking all of this in, here’s the teams high-leverage results since 2021:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Pete Fairbanks | Jason Adam | Colin Poche

Primary Holds Candidates: Adam, Poche, Shawn Armstrong, Garrett Cleavinger

Toronto Blue Jays – Anchoring a deep, and pliable leverage ladder, Jordan Romano has recorded 36 saves in back-to-back seasons. He accomplished this total despite missing 18 days with back inflammation during the second half. His durability will determine his ceiling for 2024, along with how he handles left-handed hitters, but from a saves standpoint, he remains a reliable source. Erik Swanson set career-bests in games (69), innings (66.2), and strikeouts (75) in his first season with Toronto. He also finished third in the American League with 29 holds. Tim Mayza, Yimi García, Chad Green, and Trevor Richards will also factor as bridge relievers this year.

Here’s the Blue Jays high-leverage trends since 2021:

Projected 2024 Hierarchy: Jordan Romano | Erik Swanson | Yimi García

Primary Holds Candidates: Swanson, García, Tim Mayza, Chad Green, Trevor Richards

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Spring Vibes, March 13: Injury Updates, Colorado’s Closer Competition, Game Recaps and more

With Opening Day (stateside) just over two weeks away, injury news may determine a player’s availability when the season begins. Results in games will vary as well with relievers experiencing a “dead arm” phase in their buildups. Here are the notes of interest from a fantasy perspective.

Milwaukee Brewers – Per Sophia Minnaert of Bally Sport Wisconsin, Devin Williams will see a spine specialist on Wednesday, while the fantasy community holds its collective breath about the severity of his back issues. He will undergo further imaging at his appointment.

Chicago White Sox – For a bullpen already stretched thin on talent, updates on Wednesday did not go well for the leverage ladder. Jimmy Lambert has been experiencing lingering shoulder issues and will see Dr. ElAttrache in Los Angeles for a second opinion. Later on, Daryl Van Schouwen reported Prelander Berroa will be sidelined with an arm/shoulder area issue, with an update pending clarification. On MLB.com’s injuries and roster moves page, manager Pedro Grifol said Berroa pitched with reduced velocity in his last outing against Colorado and will see the team doctors. Less than optimal, unless one prefers taking a “Leasure“-ly approach for targeting saves in this bullpen.

Updated hierarchy for the White Sox: John Brebbia | Jordan Leasure | Tim Hill

Seattle Mariners – In the never ending injury saga for the this leverage ladder, Gregory Santos felt a pinch” in his lat, and will be shut down for a few days, which will keep him sidelined on Opening Day. Daniel Kramer and Ryan Divish broke the news on “X”. 

In a separate column by Daniel Kramer of MLB.com about how Seattle’s bullpen will take shape after Santos’ injury, he speculated Andrés Muñoz will work almost exclusively in the save situations. Because of this, Ryne Stanek will open the season as the primary set-up reliever. However, two relievers may be selected from the “Steckenrider” bucket. 

Updated hierarchy for Seattle: Andrés Muñoz | Ryne Stanek | Gabe Speier

These next two teams feature a camp battle for the “closer” role.

Colorado Rockies – As each game passes, the “closer” competition heats up. On Tuesday, Tyler Kinley notched his first hold this spring, firing a clean seventh, striking out one. He threw 11 pitches (54.5 Strike%) and induced two whiffs (18.2 SwStr%). He owns a 0.60 WHIP with seven strikeouts versus two walks over five innings. Justin Lawrence also worked a clean outing in the eighth, recording a strikeout for his second hold on 12 pitches (50 Strike%) with one whiff. He’s made six appearances this spring, posting a 1.17 WHIP with nine strikeouts against one walk through six innings. 

Oakland A’s –  In his latest roster projection for MLB.com, Martín Gallegos wrote Mason Millerlines up as the closer“, with Lucas Erceg, Dany Jiménez, and Trevor Gott all in the mix for high-leverage situations. Until Mark Kotsay confirms Miller’s role, it’s purely speculation. However, the talented pitcher’s outings and eye-popping velocities may result in a reliable reliever in save opportunities. 

Quick Hits (Game Recaps from March 12)

Baltimore Orioles – Making his third appearance this spring, Yennier Cano retired the side in order, recording two strikeouts. He owns a 0.33 WHIP with five strikeouts against zero walks over three innings. Cionel Pérez navigated around two hits and a walk for a scoreless sixth.

Los Angeles DodgersEvan Phillips worked a scoreless eighth inning, walking one and striking out one. He’s made five appearances this spring, recording a 0.40 WHIP with six strikeouts versus one walk over five innings.

Oakland A’s –  Although he let his only inherited runner score, Dany Jiménez collected his first spring win, giving up a hit and a walk while retiring two batters in the fifth. After five outings this spring, he owns a 1.07 WHIP with five strikeouts against two walks through 4.2 innings.

San Francisco Giants – Getting in work during the fourth inning, Camilo Doval navigated around two hits for a scoreless outing. This marked his fourth outing this spring, he owns a 1.25 WHIP with five strikeouts against two walks over four innings.

Washington NationalsHunter Harvey fired 1.1 clean frames while striking out two. He’s made five spring outings and owns a 1.13 WHIP with a 9:1 K:BB over 5.1 innings. Kyle Finnegan faced two batters, striking both out, in the top of the ninth. He’s logged five appearances and posed a 0.43 WHIP with nine strikeouts against one walk.

Closer Monkey’s filthy outing of the day goes to prospect, Jackson Jobe. He will be a starting pitcher, but recorded his first spring save, turning in a clean ninth, and striking out two while hitting triple digits on the radar.

Until next time, stay safe and be well.

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Tiered Rankings (March 1, 2024)

With March upon us and draft season on the horizon, it’s time for the first run of tiered rankings. It’s difficult to choose which reliever will be the “closer” for a few teams, and many may prefer avoiding certain situations, like these three:

At present, there are three writers ready at the wheel for Closer Monkey fueled by Reliever Recon. Myself (Greg Jewett), Nate Marcum, and Aaron Pags. Being three individuals, there will be different relievers in each of our tiers, but they will be shared at the same time with quick thoughts or explanations of why our tier differs from the perceived consensus. As with any rankings, they are our own, not gospel. If anyone feels differently about a reliever, then it’s clear how they should handle him during their draft or auction. Enjoy.

Tier One

Greg

  • Edwin Díaz (NYM)
  • Jhoan Durán (MIN)
  • Devin Williams (MIL)
  • Emmanuel Clase (CLE)

Nothing crazy here. Strong “closer” candidates with ratio insulation, and three with strikeout upside. Many remain wary of Emmanuel Clase but he’s entering his Age-26 season coming off a career-worst WHIP courtesy of an inflated batting average on balls in play (BAbip). His team construct helps save chances accumulate. If he cuts his blown saves in half last year, he would have made a run at 50. Jhoan Durán remains the reliever I believe will turn in the breakout performance of the year. He could record 100 strikeouts, last year 473 of his 1,017 pitches were 100 m.p.h. or faster in 2023, most among MLB pitchers. He’s thrown 865 100-plus pitches since 2022, also the most among major-league pitchers.

Nate

  • Edwin Díaz (NYM)
  • Raisel Iglesias (ATL)
  • Emmanuel Clase (CLE)
  • Jhoan Durán (MIN)

The common names atop most draft boards when it’s time for RP.  A notable exception is Devin Williams, which is not a slight on his potential, but based on the potential for a trade when the Brewers are no longer contenders.  While the fire has supposedly been extinguished, I still have my reservations.  The name I have in my 1st Tier that could seem out of place to some is Raisel Iglesias.  Iglesias’ strikeout percentage was a tick down, but his ground ball rate was supported by a solid Braves infield.  As good a chance as there is in baseball for 30 saves, that is if the Braves don’t win every game by 10.

Aaron

  • Josh Hader (HOU)
  • Devin Williams (MIL)
  • Emmanuel Clase (CLE)
  • Camilo Doval (SFG)
  • Edwin Díaz (NYM)

The Doval Guy

So, I am the Doval guy! And it has nothing to do with his ability but is 100 percent about his stability. For me, he is one of five relievers with a less than one percent chance of losing their job to anyone on their team’s roster. That makes him a tier-one closer.
But also, Camilo Doval‘s 2023 season showcased him as a vital force for the San Francisco Giants, marked by impressive stats, including a 2.93 ERA over 67.2 innings and 87 strikeouts. Despite a rocky start and a notable streak of four consecutive blown saves, a first for a Giants closer, Doval demonstrated resilience and excellence, especially from May onwards, significantly contributing to the team’s midseason turnaround. His stellar performance, underscored by his All-Star selection, solidified his status as a key player, despite a late-season slump that raised questions about overuse.

Tier Two

Greg:

  • Raisel Iglesias (ATL)
  • Josh Hader (HOU)
  • Andrés Muñoz (SEA)
  • Camilo Doval (SFG)
  • Pete Fairbanks (TBR)
  • Jordan Romano (TOR)
  • David Bednar (PIT)

Some veterans mixed in with a little bit of upside. Recent news about Matt Brash means Andrés Muñoz could gain the primary save share like Paul Sewald held last year. If he notches 30 or more saves and remains healthy, he’s a top-five reliever in fantasy. There may be some migration toward the mean for David Bednar and Camilo Doval, but they each secured 39 saves last year. For Pete Fairbanks, it’s all about health. More innings yield more fantasy goodness. I’m likely the low man on Josh Hader. He’s seen his K-BB percentage decline in each of the last two years, he’s in a deep bullpen, and not recorded more than 60 innings since 2019.

**With the recent injury news about Bednar, he’s been moved to the end of this tier.**

Nate:

  • Devin Williams (MIL)
  • Josh Hader (HOU)
  • Pete Fairbanks (TBR)
  • David Bednar (PIT)
  • Evan Phillips (LAD)
  • Camilo Doval (SFG)
  • Andrés Muñoz (SEA)

This tier is where I will most likely do most of my RP fishing during drafts.  The concerns I have for Williams’ team security are minimal.  Hader may have his hiccups, but with a track record as long as his, the double-digit walk percentage in three of the last four years is a wart worth looking past.  The fact that he hasn’t had 60-plus innings means the days of 100 strikeouts are gone.  If I could get a full season out of Fairbanks guaranteed, he may appear in the first tier in 2025. The Rays’ neglect for a true closer may be over.  Evan Phillips may be the “outlier” in this tier for me.  Similar to Iglesias and others, his team construct is set to build up his save total “floor”, but may limit his “ceiling” with their offensive output.  Over the past two seasons, Phillips has a combined 1.59 ERA and 0.80 WHIP.  Andrés Muñoz’s value remains intact with the news of Matt Brash’s injury.  Both Camilo Doval and David Bednar are convenient RP1 anchors for those who want to cast their line into the second tier.

Aaron:

  • Jordan Romano (TOR)
  • Raisel Iglesias (ATL)
  • Alexis Díaz (CIN)
  • Jhoan Durán (MIN)
  • David Bednar (PIT)
  • Paul Sewald (ARI)
  • Evan Phillips (LAD)
  • Andrés Muñoz (SEA)

Durán’s Health


I know you can say, “But health…” for anyone, however, Jhoan Durán has a history that shouldn’t be dismissed quickly. He missed the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and experienced arm issues in 2021. Despite a strong start post-recovery, he struggled in June and was shut down for the season without undergoing surgery. In 2022, he showed promise in spring training, secured a spot on the Opening Day roster, and became a key bullpen arm, cautiously managing to avoid overuse. His performance in 2023 was strong, marked by a slight increase in ERA and WHIP but maintained a high strikeout rate, despite not being selected as an All-Star. But, he was unleashed more often than last year. His powerful pitching arm also raises concerns about potential injury risks, as has been noted in many studies of the past.

Tier Three

Greg

  • Alexis Díaz (CIN)
  • Evan Phillips (LAD)
  • Tanner Scott (MIA)
  • Ryan Helsley (STL)
  • Paul Sewald (ARI)
  • Craig Kimbrel (BAL)
  • Clay Holmes (NYY)
  • Adbert Alzolay (CHC)

If the Reds can keep Alexis Díaz fresh, he may finish the season strong, but it’s still an if. When viewing his end-of-year statistics, do not forget he owned a 2.10 ERA and 36 saves through his first 66 games (until September 15). Tanner Scott provides strikeout upside if the command gains hold. Evan Phillips represents the only qualified reliever to do this over the last two years. Ryan Helsley could be the steal in this tier if he’s healthy all season. Steady and unsexy options also lie in this tier like Craig Kimbrel, Paul Sewald, Clay Holmes, and Adbert Alzolay.

Nate

  • Paul Sewald (ARI)
  • Tanner Scott (MIA)
  • Ryan Helsley (STL)
  • Alexis Díaz (CIN)
  • Jordan Romano (TOR)
  • Clay Holmes (NYY)

The best “values” could be in my third tier.  Alexis Diaz flashed in his first season as “the guy” in Cincy.  Diaz’s 37 saves still only accounted for 70 percent of the Reds’ total saves.  Seeing how his second half compared to his first, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him with a similar team save percentage. Oliver Marmol turned to Ryan Helsley down the stretch of 2023 and was rewarded with a 0.77 ERA, a .108 batting average against, and a 0.86 WHIP.  There will be many who don’t trust the Cardinals’ to stick with Helsley, but I think they will. 

Aaron

  • Tanner Scott (MIA)
  • Clay Holmes (NYY)
  • Pete Fairbanks (TBR)
  • Craig Kimbrel (BAL)
  • José Alvarado (PHI)
  • Ryan Helsley (STL)
  • Kenley Jansen (BOS)

Tier Four

Greg:

  • Kenley Jansen (BOS)
  • José Alvarado (PHI)
  • Hunter Harvey (WSH)
  • Carlos Estévez (LAA)
  • Robert Suarez (SDP)
  • Alex Lange (DET)

Welcome into the volatile tier of relievers. This could be where many see a cliff during their drafts. Kenley Jansen could be a fallback option for many, but where he pitches will make a difference. A trade could move him up, or down in this process. José Alvarado has the velocity and skillset, but his pre-and-post-injury splits last year cannot be ignored. Carlos Estévez and Alex Lange may open the year as the preferred save option for their respective teams, but can they stay there?

Nate

  • Craig Kimbrel (BAL)
  • Adbert Alzolay (CHC)
  • Kenley Jansen (BOS)
  • José Alvarado (PHI)

If you don’t have your first reliever by now, let’s hold hands and say a prayer.  While there are many household names (Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen), it will require some guts to trust as your RP anchor.  Both of those two are in situations that are conducive to plenty of opportunities, but what they do with those opportunities is yet to be seen.   Jansen is also “most likely to screw up a good closer situation for another team” in 2024.

Alvarado will get the first crack this season, but injuries were rough last year, and we have Pags along with my favorite “closer in waiting”, Orion Kerkering lurking.  Say that five times fast.

Aaron

  • Robert Suarez (SDP)
  • Kyle Finnegan (WSH)
  • Mason Miller (OAK)
  • Alex Lange (DET)
  • Will Smith (KCR)
  • Adbert Alzolay (CHC)
  • Robert Stephenson (LAA)

Wild for Will

If you told me that I would ever be the high-man on Will Smith in reliever rankings, I would have laughed in your face. His fastball STINKS ON ICE! However, he always seems to wriggle his way into promising fantasy baseball situations. Kansas City is no different. Veteran presence during a rebuild is a must, especially in high leverage spots. Sure, a trade is always likely with the Royals and their relievers, but saves in April, May, June, and July can equate to value. Just jump off the bucking horse before it’s too late.

Tier Five

Greg

  • José Leclerc (TEX)
  • Kyle Finnegan (WSH)
  • Will Smith (KCR)
  • Yuki Matsui (SDP)
  • Mason Miller (OAK)
  • Tyler Kinley (COL)
  • John Brebbia (CWS)

Pick your poison in this tier. It’s sort of wide open and should be used as an end-game option during a build. For the “never pay for saves” crowd, this will be what it looks like at the end of your draft. Feeling lucky? From purely a skills perspective, Miller could be a steal in this tier if the A’s make him their primary save share. But it’s speculative until his manager anoints him.

Nate:

  • José Leclerc (TEX)
  • Alex Lange (DET)
  • Yuki Matsui (SDP)
  • Kyle Finnegan (WSH)

I would love to have one of these relievers as my third RP, but grabbing three RPs in a draft and still having balance is nearly impossible.  That being said, each of these as your RP2 could result in a full season of production, but most likely indigestion.  Alex Lange gets mentioned in the same breath as Mark Melancon, which is gross.  I can’t quit José Leclerc, but I acknowledge that he needs to throw strikes to keep his job.  Yuki Matsui could see his draft stock rise during the Spring, but I still think it could be an uphill battle to overtake Suarez.  I have Matsui here and not Suarez because I think Matsui will eventually take the job.  In Washington, it’s choose your stance.  Harvey is the better pitcher.  Finnegan has a “proven” track record of saves.

Aaron:

  • Hunter Harvey (WSH)
  • José Leclerc (TEX)
  • Jason Adam (TBR)
  • Ryan Pressly (HOU)
  • Hector Neris (CHC)
  • David Robertson (TEX)

Thanks for checking out our reliever tiers. If interested, check out Closer Monkey’s updated bullpen depth charts.