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The Closer Catch-Up: Fantasy Baseball Week 20

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

So the calculator tells me Greg Holland and Jake McGee have combined for a 48.60 ERA over the last week. The toaster also tells me the Rockies could be lucky to make the Wild Card. What? That’s normal …? Anyway, that sure is a big crooked number in the Rockies clubhouse. Feels like only yesterday we were talking about Holland in the same sentence as Kenley Jansen. I now ask you to all join hands, because I’d like to reflect on what was a pretty awesome… um, half season.

Holland before the All-Star Game: 1.62 ERA, 18 hits allowed, two home runs, .159 AVG against, 43 strikeouts.

Holland after the All-Star Game: 7.27 ERA, 10 hits allowed, one home run, .286 AVG against, 11 strikeouts.

I know, it’s only August, but, how? Holland’s velocity is only down a tad on his sinker, and he’s even lowered his hard hit rate to a season-low 23.1%. Chalk this one up to bad luck and old lady Coors. If you’re stuck with him on your roster, you obviously can’t drop him, but hopefully, this doesn’t go pear-shaped anymore. Here are rest of the closer happenings as we head into Week 20:

The Big Board

 Team  Closer  Next in Line  Plan C
 Arizona Diamondbacks  Fernando Rodney  Archie Bradley  David Hernandez
 Atlanta Braves  Arodys Vizcaino  Jim Johnson  Jose Ramirez
 Baltimore Orioles  Zach Britton  Mychal Givens  Brad Brach
 Boston Red Sox  Craig Kimbrel  Addison Reed  Matt Barnes
 Chicago Cubs  Wade Davis  Justin Wilson  Carl Edwards Jr.
 Chicago White Sox  Tyler Clippard  Gregory Infante  Jake Petricka
 Cincinnati Reds  Raisel Iglesias  Michael Lorenzon  Drew Storen
 Cleveland Indians  Cody Allen  Joe Smith  Bryan Shaw
 Colorado Rockies  Greg Holland  Pat Neshek  Adam Ottavino
 Detroit Tigers  Shane Greene  Alex Wilson  Bruce Rondon
 Houston Astros  Ken Giles  Chris Devenski  Luke Gregerson
 Kansas City Royals  Kelvin Herrera  Joakim Soria  Brandon Maurer
 Los Angeles Angels  Cam Bedrosian  Blake Parker  Yusmerio Petit
 Los Angeles Dodgers  Kenley Jansen  Tony Watson  Pedro Baez
 Miami Marlins  Brad Ziegler Junichi Tazawa Drew Steckenrider
 Milwaukee Brewers  Corey Knebel  Anthony Swarzak  Jacob Barnes
 Minnesota Twins  Matt Belisle  Taylor Rogers  Trevor Hildenberger
 New York Mets  A.J. Ramos  Paul Sewald  Jerry Blevins
 New York Yankees  Aroldis Chapman  Dellin Betances  David Robertson
 Oakland Athletics  Blake Treinen  Ryan Dull  Santiago Casilla
 Philadelphia Phillies  Hector Neris  Luis Garcia  Jessen Therrien
 Pittsburgh Pirates  Felipe Rivero  Juan Nicasio  Joaquin Benoit
 St. Louis Cardinals  Trevor Rosenthal  Seung Hwan Oh Matt Bowman
 San Diego Padres  Brad Hand  Kirby Yates  Phil Maton
 San Francisco Giants  Sam Dyson  Hunter Strickland  Albert Suarez
 Seattle Mariners  Edwin Diaz  Nick Vincent  Tony Zych
 Tampa Bay Rays  Alex Colome  Tommy Hunter  Steve Cishek
 Texas Rangers  Alex Claudio  Jose Leclerc Matt Bush
 Toronto Blue Jays  Roberto Osuna  Ryan Tepera Dominic Leone
 Washington Nationals  Sean Doolittle  Ryan Madson  Brandon Kintzler

The Worry Warts

Cincinnati Reds: This is like giving a drowning man a drink of water. Only that water is clearly tainted because something is definitely up with the closers in Cincy. I watched the Reds fumble their way through the final few innings of Saturday’s marathon against the Brewers. Most of this was thanks to Eric Thames’ game-tying home run in the sixth, but after Drew Storen locked down the ninth for the Reds, Tim Adleman completely went haywire. The 10th inning started with an Eric Sogard double, eventually followed by walks to Jesus Aguilar and Thames. Ryan Braun stepped up to be the hero, but who really cares, because the wild pitch from Adleman that squeaked past Devin Mesoraco bought Sogard enough time to race home and walk the game off for the Brew Crew. Luckily, no one owns any real shares in the Reds’ bullpen, and it’ll probably be a long time before any reliever is somewhat fantasy relevant.

[the_ad id=”384″]San Diego Padres: Well, no-duh. The Dodgers made mince-meat of the Padres on Saturday night. Jhoulys Chacin lasted all of five innings, which forced Andy Green’s hand toward, well, everybody. Jose Torres got his turn first, allowing a leadoff walk to Yasmani Grandal and a double to Chase Utley before Craig Stammen took over. Next up, Yasiel Puig walked, and eventually, Corey Seager made killer contact on a sharp line drive to right field that brought home three runs. Keep in mind, by this point the Dodgers now led 4-3, but the Padres weren’t done stinking up the joint just yet. Carter Capps stepped in for the seventh, and not long after Codey Bellinger hit his 34th home run to left. Phil Maton was the poor soul stuck with eighth-inning duties, and he too surrendered a home run to Chris Taylor, good enough for the Dodgers to drive home with a 6-3 win. The Padres bullpen now ranks third in the league in ERA (4.71) but somehow still has the ninth highest K-rate (24.9%).

The Middle of the Pack (Middle Relievers)

  • The Phillies did their best to make things interesting on Saturday against the Mets. Holby Milner entered the ninth with a 3-1 lead, but things got hairy after he allowed a single to Asdrubal Cabrera. Luis Garcia immediately took over, striking out Wilmer Flores and forcing a groundout from Travis d’Arnaud to earn his second save of the year. The Phillies bullpen has reverted back to its old self as of late, and with Hector Neris allowing five hits and a home run over the last week, there could definitely be a time where we see Garcia in line for more save opportunities.
  • Another week of Trevor Hildenberger lovin’. Only this time, he was not so good. In fact, the entire Twins rotation has been awful lately. Saturday’s barn burner against the Tigers was perhaps one of the best games of the year, but after Jose Berrios allowed a grand slam to James McCann in the first inning, the Twins were always on the back foot. Give them credit, Minnesota did fight back, even leading the game 8-6 at one point. That was until Hildenberger allowed a home run in the eighth inning to Jose Iglesias, followed by Matt Belisle’s dud fastball against Justin Upton, resulting in one of the more exciting walk-offs this season. The Twins lost the game 12-11, and since this is Hildenberger’s first real screw up, he’s still worth keeping an eye on. He did lock down the save in Sunday’s 6-4 victory, but I’m still not so sure the Twins will stumble upon the answer to their bullpen woes before the season ends.  After allowing base runners in six consecutive innings on Saturday, there are question marks everywhere.
  • After weeks of bashing the Angels, it feels good to finally have some positives to chat about. Blake Parker, Yusmeiro Petit and Keynan Middleton flashed four innings of four-hit, one-run, two-strikeout ball against the Mariners on Sunday. With Cam Bedrosian needing a rest, surprisingly Middleton closed the game for the Halos. Things got a little testy after Robinson Cano singled and Nelson Cruz doubled to lead off the ninth, but Middleton went full “cool cucumber” mode after Cano scored via a single from Jarrod Dyson, and induced two ground outs to earn his second save of the season. I don’t want to jinx it, but Bedrosian looks ownable again in all leagues. His slider has been good for a career-low 52% contact rate, and with Bud Norris well and truly exiled, his mind should be clear of any distractions.

Everything Else I’ve Seen

  • Wade Davis is pretty hard on himself. After nearly a week off from the mound, the Cubs found themselves in cruise control heading into the ninth inning on Sunday. Leading 7-1, Brian Duensing struck out Jake Lamb, but was then replaced by Davis immediately after, and suddenly things got tricky. Paul Goldschmidt sent a line drive over the fence in left, and after walking J.D. Martinez and Ketel Marte, all of a sudden Davis was looking nervous again. Of course, in typical Davis fashion, he went on to strike out Chris Herrmann swinging on an 0-2 count, but he was noticeably disgusted with himself. It wasn’t the usual confident and triumphant Davis we’re used to seeing, shrugging his shoulders and staring at the ground. He allowed only six hits in July and has already allowed five through two weeks in August.
  • The Nationals continue to surprise us. Just when you thought Brandon Kintzler was the guy, here comes Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle like a force. Saturday’s game had a lot to take in — a rain delay, Bryce Harper’s injury — but the biggest story was definitely Doolittle. After Madson nailed down the eighth inning, Doolittle came in for the save, and boy did he make it look easy-peasy. As if striking out Hunter Pence with a 98 MPH high fastball wasn’t enough, Doolittle then went to work on Kelby Tomlinson, who also suffered the same fate. Nick Hundley finally grounded out, and Doolittle earned his 11th save of the season.
  • I’m not sure what was up in Milwaukee on Saturday. Corey Knebel doesn’t need any help getting strikes, but it appeared the home plate umpire wanted to make his life even easier. Knebel entered the ninth in a tie ball game and struck out Patrick Kivlehan with a controversially high fastball. The Reds challenged that Kivlehan was hit by the pitch (and lost), but it certainly wouldn’t be the last time. In the tenth inning after allowing a single to Joey Votto, Knebel again threw a high fastball around the hands of Adam Duvall that was called a third strike. The Reds again challenged and lost, but since Knebel was throwing around 98 MPH, I guess the umpire has an excuse, right?
  • Brad Ziegler earned his third save of the year against the Rockies in Miami on Saturday. He struck out Gerardo Parra with a mean slider on the outside of the plate to seal a 4-3 win for the Marlins. That very pitch is creating a 55% swing rate so far this month.
  • Kelvin Herrera quietly just keeps on doing his thing. Melky Cabrera’s heroics on Satuday gave the Royals a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning, and although Herrera didn’t do anything that special, Mike Moustakas’ diving grab to throw out Adam Engel to end the game is simply worth noting. Saturday marked Herrera’s 25th save. He’s now tied for sixth in the majors with Edwin Diaz.
  • Don’t look now, but the Cardinals won their eighth straight game on Saturday against the Braves. It was in large part thanks to Trevor Rosenthal, who worked around a Brandon Phillips walk and a Freddie Freeman single in the ninth to eventually get Nick Markakis swinging with a 92 MPH fastball. Rosenthal is owned in all of 60% of leagues, and since he’s thrown five strikeouts over the last week alone, that number certainly deserves to be higher.
  • Jim Johnson was determined to throw the game on Sunday against the Cardinals. The Braves entered the eighth with a 5-1 lead. That was until Paul DeJong homered to left. Jose Martinez and Randal Grichuk both singled moments later, and after Johnson was replaced by Sam Freeman, who in turn was replaced by Jose Ramirez, suddenly the bases were loaded. Ramirez went on to strike out Greg Garcia and induce a ground out against Yadier Molina, ending the inning in impeccable fashion. Arodys Vizcaino finished the game out, striking out DeJong for his sixth save of the year.
  • Red Sox/Yankees, here’s the skinny: 2-2 game heading into the 10th, Aroldis Chapman starts the inning by striking out Mitch Moreland. Cool, right? Wrong. Jackie Bradley Jr. is then hit by a pitch, Eduardo Nunez and Mookie Betts walk, Andrew Benintendi singles to bring home Bradley, and all of a sudden it’s 3-2 Red Sox. Chapman was then replaced by Tommy Kahnle, a storyline within itself, but let’s go bigger picture: Chapman’s 3.00 K/BB is now the lowest it’s been since 2011. Oh, and he was also handed the loss.
  • The Winners Circle: Corey Knebel, Scott Alexander, Tony Watson, Shane Greene, Keynan Middleton, Craig Kimbrel, Matt Albers, Tyler Duffey, Javy Guerra.
  • With An ‘L’ On Their Forehead: Matt Belisle, Aaron Bummer, Tim Adleman, Tony Zych, Greg Holland, Craig Stammen, Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Hunter, Albert Suarez.


Sean Doolittle: Owned in just 52% of leagues, Doolittle is still someone that you should own in any league, especially ones that count saves. I said last week that you’d do well to own various shares in the Nats bullpen, and after Doolittle pitched another near flawless inning during Sunday’s double header, it seems like he’s the favorite to close out games going forward. Doolittle’s stuff has been good, and kinda like, pretty fast, too! His splitter, slider and change up are all creating ground ball rates well over 80%, and his fastball has allowed a staggering .168 AVG against. Doolittle is in his 30s, don’t forget, but don’t treat him like a washed-up dinosaur. He’s still throwing heat with some of the league’s best this season.

Follow Ryan on Twitter here! @RyanCook13

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