The Closer: A Vote of Confidence

The Closer Logo 1If you’ve paid attention to the late innings for any period of time, you know that a vote of confidence is the kiss of death. If you own a closer who has gotten a vote of confidence you have shuddered I imagine. In recent seasons a veritable fantasy baseball rogue’s gallery has received votes of confidence, including Jim Johnson, John Axford, and Fernando Rodney (I don’t care how well he is pitching this year, I’m still using him as a punchline). A vote of confidence means that their days of getting saves are nearly over.

Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, and Aroldis Chapman don’t need votes of confidence. They give you reason to be confident nearly every time out because they blow hitters away. Even if they have a rough outing, or even a rough week, they regain their form and right the ship in short order.  When Kimbrel struggled early in the season, there was no talk about a vote of confidence. He just went out there and started getting saves again.

Minnesota is a runner-up to Cincinnati as the most repugnant bullpen to discuss, but we are going to have to discuss it because Kevin Jepsen recently received a vote of confidence from manager Paul Molitor. Jepsen owners out there were probably relieved. No, not because Jepsen’s job was secure, but because they’d probably be able to drop him without care. I hate to break it to you guys, but Jepsen is still a decent bet to close for a while, and those of you desperate for saves may have to hang on to him and hope for a stretch where he doesn’t torch your ratios.

First of all, Glen Perkins had a setback in his recovery and was shifted to the 60-day DL. Obviously, he won’t be back any time soon. Second of all, Trevor May (the man touted as a future closer in this very space) relieved Ricky Nolasco in the third inning of a game earlier this week. Not exactly a high-leverage situation (plus he ended up coughing up another run). Those late innings are going to Fernando Abad, who is not a bad pitcher, but not someone who screams closer-in-waiting.

On Monday Jepsen got rocked in a non-save situation, but he came back out Wednesday and picked up a save in an uneventful outing. He’s hard to love, but without much competition for the closer role he has to be owned. I am moving Abad up in the grid, but I am keeping May on as a lurker. He still has the best stuff and the most promise in this pen and may win out in the end.

This column’s version of a vote of confidence is a 1 rating on the closer grid. If you start the season with a 1 and pitch well enough, it’s easy enough to hang on to that stability. However, you’ve got to earn your way to a 1 if you take over after the season begins. I have been very, very, stingy on this front, but I finally broke down last week and moved Ryan Madson up to 1. However, this week he’s getting bumped down again. He has given up two runs in two of his last three outings, and he has only 14 strikeouts in 20 innings. His 2:1 k/BB ratio isn’t going to cut it either.

Other vote of confidence candidates include Jeanmar Gomez, Steve Cishek, and Sam Dyson. They have talent and are good pitchers, but they can ill-afford a rough patch. Be ready to grab the next pitcher in line when this happens.

News and Notes

John Axford has been handling the 8th inning, but he couldn’t record an out in his last outing and gave up two runs. On the other hand, Sean Doolittle has only allowed one run in his last eight appearances and has seemingly turned his season around. Health will always be a concern, but Doolittle may be worth a stash.

Returning to the Rockies and the Closer Grid is Miguel Castro. He has flashed some fine stuff in Colorado, and I believe he would be next in line if Jake McGee falters. McGee could also get traded by the time Adam Ottavino is expected back. It’s hard to say whether Ottavino will be effective immediately, but he could give your team a boost down the stretch so keep an eye on him.

We talked a bit about the Matt Bush story, and he has regularly been pitching in the 8th inning making him a must own in holds leagues – probably worthy of a reserve spot in mixed leagues as well. Whatever baggage he has in his past is irrelevant right now; he’s been throwing hard and clearly has the trust of manager Jeff Bannister.

In other Texas bullpen news; Shawn Tolleson got lit up again, and in a bullpen this deep he has a long road back to the ninth inning. Move on.

In spite of being a charter member of the Hunter Strickland fan club, I have to move him off of the grid. Other San Francisco relievers have been used in more important situations for most of the season, and they’ve also been more effective. I still like Strickland in keeper leagues.

Those of us expecting big things from Carson Smith have to wait a while. The Red Sox righty has undergone Tommy John surgery. See you next year.

Last but not least, 19-year-old Julio Urias has been called up to start for the Dodgers on Friday night. You don’t need to remind me that this is the Closer Report and not the Prospect Report. I mention it here because Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman has said that Urias could see some time in the bullpen. Obviously he is a must own in all formats, but he could be especially valuable in holds leagues since the Dodgers bullpen is weak after Kenley Jansen.

The Closer LogoThe Closer Grid

The Closer Grid tells you who is getting saves, how secure they are, and who is next in line. For security rankings: 1 = Rock Solid, 2 = Secure, 3= Shaky, and 4 = Worrisome. If you think someone was ranked higher or lower than they should be, let me know in the comment section below.

  Team Security Closer Set Up Lurker
1 Dodgers 1 Kenley Jansen Pedro Baez Chris Hatcher
2 Royals 1 Wade Davis Kelvin Herrera Luke Hochever
3 Orioles 1 Zach Britton Darren O’Day Mychal Givens
4 Yankees 1 Aroldis Chapman Andrew Miller Dellin Betances
5 Red Sox 1 Craig Kimbrel Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa
6 Mets 1 Jeurys Familia Addison Reed Jim Henderson
7 Cardinals 1 Trevor Rosenthal Kevin Siegrist Seung-Hwan Oh
8 White Sox 1 David Robertson Nate Jones Zach Duke
9 Pirates 1 Mark Melancon Tony Watson Neftali Feliz
10 Cubs 1 Hector Rendon Pedro Strop Justin Grimm
11 Blue Jays 1 Roberto Osuna Gavin Floyd Jesse Chavez
12 Indians 1 Cody Allen Bryan Shaw Zach McAllister
13 Nationals 1 Jonathan Papelbon Blake Treinen Shawn Kelley
14 Tigers 1 K Rod Mark Lowe Justin Wilson
15 Marlins 1 AJ Ramos David Phelps Kyle Barraclough
16 Rockies 1 Jake McGee Miguel Castro Chad Qualls
17 Astros 2 Luke Gregerson Will Harris Ken Giles
18 Brewers 2 Jeremy Jeffress Tyler Thornburg Michael Blazek
19 Dbacks 2 Brad Ziegler Daniel Hudson Tyler Clippard
20 Giants 2 Santiago Casilla Cody Gearrin Brad Osich
21 Rangers 2 Sam Dyson Jake Diekman Shawn Tolleson
22 Padres 2 Fernando Rodney Brandon Maurer Matt Buchter
23 Braves 2 Arodys Vizcaino Jason Grilli Jim Johnson
24 Phillies 2 Jeanmar Gomez Hector Neris David Hernandez
25 Angels 2 Joe Smith Fernando Salas Jose Alvarez
26 Rays 3 Alex Colome Xavier Cedeno Erasmo Ramirez
27 Mariners 3 Steve Cishek Joaquin Benoit Joel Peralta
28 Athletics 3 Ryan Madson Sean Doolittle John Axford
29 Twins 4 Kevin Jepsen Fernando Abad Trevor May
30 Reds 4 Ross Ohlendorf Tony Cingrani Blake Wood

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Michael Zakhar

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Michael lives in New Jersey with his beautiful wife Virginia and his adorable son Johnny. We enjoy going to see the Lakewood BlueClaws, who play 20 minutes from home. In addition to baseball, Mike loves reading, music and professional wrestling.