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September 29, 2015

Closer Report

2015 Wrap-Up Awards

by Matt Collins

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The fantasy year is just about over, and hopefully you’ve won or are on your way to winning your league. If not, hopefully you didn’t lose because of something I said. It’s been a typically frustrating season in the world of closers, and to end the year I figured I’d hand out completely subjective awards that were chosen by a panel of one.

Most Unheralded

This is the most subjective of my subjective awards, as its based solely on who/what I hear other people discussing. If youre in a different social circle than I, you may disagree with me!

Winner: Zach Britton

When you talk about starters-turned-dominant-relievers, the discussion typically revolves around Wade Davis with a little bit of Andrew Miller sprinkled in, and for good reason. They are two of the five best relievers in all of baseball. However, after the year he just had, Britton deserves to be included in that discussion, too. It’s not as if this is the first time he’s been a fantasy-relevant closer, as he pitched well enough in 2014 to make him the 15th reliever off the board in drafts this spring. However, he took a huge step forward and his success looks much more sustainable than it did a year ago at this time. Britton has been one of the premier relievers across the board this year with a 1.97 ERA, 2.04 FIP, and an 80 percent (!!!) groundball rate to go with his 34 saves. Among all pitchers with at least 50 innings, he ranks eighth in DRA- and seventh in cFIP. Sure, he got an All-Star bid, but it’s time for him to be talked about like one of the most exciting relievers in all of baseball.

Honorable Mentions: Francisco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen

Most Frustrating

This goes to that closer that is not worth owning solely because of what he does to you mentally. Hes too good to drop, but hes capable of imploding at any given moment.

Winner: Brad Boxberger

A perfect storm was created for Boxberger to win this honor. He was touted as a highly talented pitcher who could finally get his chance in the limelight coming into the year. To be fair, the comments about his talent were completely true. However, the risk of him blowing a save was always there, as his six blown saves were tied for fifth most in all of baseball. On top of that, he played for the Rays, who were progressive enough to not tie their best reliever to the ninth inning. Especially when Jake McGee was healthy, fantasy players always had to worry about Boxberger missing out on a save because the matchups made it more likely for him to appear in the seventh or eighth innings. He ended up putting together a very solid year, but week-to-week and day-to-day, it was not fun benefiting from his skills.

Honorably Mentions: Jonathan Papelbon, Santiago Casilla

Best Midseason Closer

This is for the players who didnt take over as the closer until after the season began. Guys like Andrew Miller and Luke Gregerson, who are in their first year of closing but won the job before the season started, arent eligible.

Winner: Jeurys Familia

This might be kind of cheating, since Familia took the role over about a second into the season, but any excuse to talk about how good he’s been is fine with me. He’s had a ridiculous 2015, racking up 42 saves to go along with a 1.88 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 61 percent groundball rate, 2.91 DRA, and 82 cFIP. After stepping onto the scene as a solid reliever in 2014, he’s jumped up to the elite category this year. It looks like he’s locked up the Mets’ closer job for the foreseeable future, which is good news for all of us who enjoy watching mid-90s splitters with huge movement.

Honorable Mentions: Shawn Tolleson, A.J. Ramos

Biggest Disappointment

This goes to well, the most disappointing closer relative to his preseason expectations.

Winner: Steve Cishek

This may have been the easiest call of all of these. Cishek came into the year coming off a four-year run in which he pitched to a 2.70 ERA with a 2.59 FIP, striking out 10 batters per inning. He’d held down the closer job in Miami for two-and-a-half years, and the Marlins were a somewhat trendy pick to be competitive this year. It all added up for Cishek, entering his age-29 season, to make the leap into the elite closer conversation in 2015. Instead, after being selected as the 13th closer off the board in drafts, he got off to a rocky start. He allowed 14 runs in his first 15 outings and was taken out of the ninth inning in mid-May, eventually getting traded to St. Louis. The only possible solace for those that drafted him as their first closer was if they jumped to add his replacement, A.J. Ramos, as quickly as possible.

Honorable Mentions: Fernando Rodney, Neftali Feliz

Best Value

This is for the player who brought back the most value relative to their draft position. Players like Familia, Tolleso,n and Ramos, who werent drafted in most leagues, arent eligible.

Winner: Andrew Miller

According to Fantasy Pros, Miller was the 35th closer off the board, taken in the 18th or 19th round in 12-team leagues. The reason, of course, is because most thought Dellin Betances (the ninth reliever taken in drafts last spring) would get the majority of the save chances. Even I, who was higher on Miller than most heading into the year, figured there would be more of a split than Miller winning the job outright. We all knew he had the talent to be a solid closing option, but we didn’t think he’d get the chances. Instead, he’s been the fourth-most-valuable reliever according to Yahoo’s rankings and the third-most-valuable on CBS.

Honorable Mentions: Wade Davis, Brad Boxberger

Best Closer

This is pretty simple. Best closer. MVP. Player of the Year. Whatever you want to call it.

Winner: Mark Melancon

This was a tough race between a few different guys, but Melancon’s 51 saves and sub-2.00 ERA won out. This is truly amazing if you consider that there were some who were worried about him keeping the job all year back in April, after a rocky start in which he pitched to a 5.23 ERA with an uninspiring 7-to-4 K:BB. Since then, he’s put up an impressive 1.42 ERA with a much-more-manageable 51-to-10 K:BB. The one knock on Melancon would be his lack of strikeouts this year, as he only set down just seven batters per nine innings. However, he more than made up for that with his league-leading save total as well as his low ERA and WHIP. He was the fifth reliever picked in fantasy drafts and wound up as the no. 1 reliever on both Yahoo and CBS.

Honorable Mentions: Andrew Miller, Jeurys Familia

Matt Collins is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Matt's other articles. You can contact Matt by clicking here

Related Content:  Awards,  Saves,  Closers,  Fantasy

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