May 17, 2016
Although there weren’t any concrete changes in the closer landscape this week, it was a very interesting time in Reliever Land with respect to speculation. We may be reaching the breaking point with some of the struggling ninth-inning men around the league. As always, you can keep up with everyone’s movement with the closer grid. Now, to the news.
Changes coming in Texas?
The Rangers were home to one of the first closer controversies of the year after Shawn Tolleson got off to a rocky start. After that, he pulled things together and things were quiet in Texas. Now, things are back to the shaky side of things and there’s a good chance Tolleson is on his last leg. He blew a save on Saturday in a blowup outing in which he allowed three runs. He’s now allowed runs in three of his six outings in May, and has had just four outings all year in which he’s allowed neither a hit nor a walk. Through his first 17 appearances, he has a 7.07 ERA, a 6.01 FIP, a 111 cFIP, and a 5.21 DRA, so there’s little reason for optimism that he’ll turn it around. The clear replacement would be Sam Dyson. I’m not as big of a Dyson fan as many as he relies more on weak contact than strikeouts to do his damage. Now, we’ve seen that work with guys like Brad Ziegler, but it’s a fine line to walk. With that being said, he’s certainly worth an add if you’re looking to speculate on near-future saves, and he’s been solid enough for the last few years to earn a relatively long leash. I would also keep an eye on Jake Diekman, who may be the most talented arm in that whole bullpen with Keone Kela on the shelf.
Houston may have a problem
Like their in-state rival, the Astros made some closer news early in the year when Luke Gregerson was named the closer over Ken Giles. The team looked like geniuses over the first few weeks of the year, as the latter struggled mightily and the former provided steady production. Gregerson blew two of his three save chances last week, giving him three losing outings in the month of May. He’s an interesting case, as his FIP looks quite good, but his cFIP and DRA tell a very different story. His strikeouts are down, but his swinging -strike rate is way up. It’s also worth noting that he’s missing the zone more than ever before with the 10th-lowest zone rate among the 326 pitchers with at least 200 pitches. Giles, on the other hand, has allowed runs in just one outing this month (out of seven) and more importantly has not allowed a long ball. The dingers are what really killed him in April, as his strikeouts are still way up and his walks didn’t balloon by any significant margin. I don’t think a change is necessarily imminent, but if the Giles owner in your league got frustrated and dropped him, now may be the time to pick him up. Gregerson is no sure bet to keep this job, especially given what the Astros invested in Giles, and the latter has the ability to help your rates in the meantime.
Things are not going super well in Minnesota
Glen Perkins is still on the disabled list, and he should be out for at least a few more weeks. In the meantime, Kevin Jepsen has been inconsistent as the Twins’ closer. He’s allowed runs in three of his last four outings, and he allowed two hits in the only scoreless outing in that stretch. Nothing looks good with him right now, as his strikeouts are way down as is his ground ball rate. The only good news for Jepsen owners is that his likely replacement, Trevor May, has struggled lately as well. Last week, he blew a save on Friday and followed that up by allowing a run in his outing on Sunday. That could’ve been May’s chance to take the job and run with it, but now we’ll have to wait a little while longer. Really, the only thing holding back May at this point is the impending return of Perkins. May is clearly better than Jepsen, and as long as Perkins doesn’t come back within the next couple of weeks, I’d expect May to start getting some save chances soon. If he’s available, go snatch him up now.
The Reds got two saves last week, and both were converted by Tony Cingrani. It should be mentioned that he also blew a save and has a troubling walk rate that will hurt him all year. He’s the closer right now, but I expect many more changes in Cincinnati through the rest of the season.
Steve Cishek’s comeback season hit a bump last week with two blown saves over the weekend. He’s earned himself a little bit of a leash, but given last year’s struggles it’s a situation to keep an eye on. Joaquin Benoit should be back soon and is the favorite to take over if a change is made. Nick Vincent has also been fantastic, and is someone to keep an eye on for later in the year.
Brad Boxberger is nearing his return, and the Rays solidified my belief that they’ll be playing matchups with their closers. Alex Colome has been fantastic this year, and was used in the eighth inning against the middle of the order on Sunday. Both should get some save chances when the former returns, which makes them both rosterable but hinders both of their ceilings.
The A’s officially announced that Ryan Madson is their closer, making them the last group of people to be made aware of this fact.