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The Closer Catch-Up: Fantasy Baseball Week 22

The Pirates are playing for nothing more than pocket money at this stage, but it’s important to recognize even the smallest of victories during this tedious rebuild. There’s, of course, that Andrew McCutchen guy, but often lost in the fray is Felipe Rivero, basking in all of his 1.29 ERA glory. I watched as Rivero completely pulled the rug from beneath the Reds on Saturday night. He struck out Jose Peraza, Joey Votto and Adam Duvall on 16 pitches, and didn’t allow a single ball in play. Rivero has registered at least one strikeout in 12 consecutive games and has now pitched in 19.2 high leverage innings while allowing just a .177 AVG against.

I guess it was in between this and those nasty 88 MPH curveballs that I soon realized, hey, Rivero is actually in my Top 10 relievers ahead of next season. He’s sandwiched in between Wade Davis and Roberto Osuna, of course, but just as a reminder, he’s still available in 20% of leagues! Rivero also went on to earn his 16th save of the year on Sunday, so if you’re after a little somethin’ somethin’ in your playoff matchups, it’s worth checking your waiver wire.

Anywho, here’s the 411 on everything reliever related following the weekend. My apologies if you don’t want to hear anything more about Aroldis Chapman.

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  Brad Brach  Mychal Givens
 Boston Red Sox  Craig Kimbrel  Addison Reed  Matt Barnes
 Chicago Cubs  Wade Davis  Pedro Strop  Carl Edwards Jr.
 Chicago White Sox  Juan Minaya  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  Jake McGee
 Detroit Tigers  Shane Greene  Alex Wilson  Joe Jimenez
 Houston Astros  Ken Giles  Chris Devenski  Luke Gregerson
 Kansas City Royals  Kelvin Herrera  Brandon Maurer  Ryan Buchter
 Los Angeles Angels  Bud Norris  Cam Bedrosian  Blake Parker
 Los Angeles Dodgers  Kenley Jansen  Brandon Morrow  Pedro Baez
 Miami Marlins  Brad Ziegler  Kyle Barraclough Junichi Tazawa
 Milwaukee Brewers  Corey Knebel  Anthony Swarzak  Jacob Barnes
 Minnesota Twins  Matt Belisle  Trevor Hildenberger  Glen Perkins
 New York Mets  A.J. Ramos  Paul Sewald  Jerry Blevins
 New York Yankees  Dellin Betances  David Robertson  Aroldis Chapman
 Oakland Athletics  Blake Treinen  Ryan Dull  Santiago Casilla
 Philadelphia Phillies  Hector Neris  Luis Garcia  Jesen Therrien
 Pittsburgh Pirates  Felipe Rivero  Juan Nicasio  Joaquin Benoit
 St. Louis Cardinals  Seung Hwan Oh  Tyler Lyons  Matt Bowman
 San Diego Padres  Brad Hand  Kirby Yates  Phil Maton
 San Francisco Giants  Sam Dyson  Hunter Strickland  Mark Melancon
 Seattle Mariners  Edwin Diaz  Nick Vincent  David Phelps
 Tampa Bay Rays  Alex Colome  Tommy Hunter  Steve Cishek
 Texas Rangers  Alex Claudio  Jose Leclerc  Ricardo Rodriguez
 Toronto Blue Jays  Roberto Osuna  Ryan Tepera  Dominic Leone
 Washington Nationals  Sean Doolittle  Brandon Kintzler  Matt Albers

The Worry Warts

Colorado Rockies: Statistically, the Rockies bullpen hasn’t been all that bad over the last week. Greg Holland happened again on Saturday, though, as he entered the ninth inning protecting a 7-4 lead against the Braves. Ozzie Albies singled to right, and then Holland decided to throw a lazy 87 MPH slider over the heart of the plate, gifting Matt Adams a two-run home run. The Braves now trailed 7-6, keeping in mind, all of this happened on just seven pitches. Luckily, Jake McGee’s cooler head prevailed, inducing a groundout against Brandon Phillips. However, that Holland slider really is a worry. It’s now allowed 14 hits and three home runs this season, and even though the two MPH velocity drop is cause for concern, the lack of spin and movement is almost un-Holland like. This is the second time in a week he’s been pulled from the ninth, but Bud Black still twiddles his thumbs on the fence. Pat Neshek is clearly the man for the job unless the Rockies really want to make this whole Wild Card thing that much more difficult.

[the_ad id=”384″]Los Angeles Angels: I’m convinced this is just one big Mike Scioscia episode of Punk’d. On Sunday, the Angels clung to a 5-4 lead against the Astros heading into the eighth. A normal person would’ve assumed Keynan Middleton was the man for the job, but Scioscia decided to call on Cam Bedrosian in another high-leverage situation. The inning started with a slow roller from Jose Altuve, who hustled to get to first, followed by a Josh Reddick single, and finally, a Yuli Gurriel walk. Up stepped Brian McCann with the bases loaded, quickly sending a triple to right that Mike Trout was unable to field. All three runners scored, and the Astros now led 7-5. Suddenly, it was bedlam for Bed Rock (that’s Bedrosian, by the way) in an inning he had no business pitching in. Scioscia seems determined to stick with Bud Norris in the closer role, but for what? He gave up two hits and an earned run in Saturday’s equally close affair with the Astros, and since Middleton wound up pitching the ninth in Sunday’s close loss, none of this makes any sense. Pitchers need to know their role for their own mental stability, and clearly, this closer by committee thing isn’t working.

The DL D-Low

  • I thought we’d be talking about another DL stint for Zach Britton, but so far so good. An MRI has revealed some soreness in his left knee, but none of it sounds serious. He’ll likely be back sometime next week, and with any luck, will probably avoid any kind of minor offseason surgery.
  • Trevor Rosenthal hit the DL last Thursday, but surprisingly, the Cardinals haven’t called upon Seung Hwan Oh to close out games. Instead, Samuel Tuivailala was given a save opportunity late last week, and also entered the 10th inning of Sunday’s 2-2 tie against the Rays. Unfortunately, a Logan Morrison home run put a dampener on the day and handed the 24-year-old his second loss in four days.
  • As expected, Andrew Miller was placed on the DL on Friday with right knee tendinitis. This looks like it will only be a short stint, but he has been shut down from throwing until September.
  • Looks like Ryan Madson’s finger injury is a little more serious than originally thought. Don’t be surprised if we don’t see him back until the postseason.
  • Matt Bush and Keone Kela played catch on Sunday. Both could be back as early as late September.

Middle of the Pack (Middle Relievers)

  • The Yankees nearly butchered a 6-1 lead against the Mariners on Saturday. Chasen Shreve came in to pitch the eighth, but quickly ran into trouble, giving up a single to Danny Valencia. Chase Headley then overthrew Nelson Cruz, who reached on a weak ground ball, followed by another single to Kyle Seager who brought home Valencia. Now 6-2, Tommy Kahnle took over, striking out Mitch Haniger, but not before allowing a single to Guillermo Heredia to bring home Cruz for the score. The Yankees’ middle men have looked just as shaky as their closers, allowing 10 runs over the last week.
  • For whatever reason, Dusty Baker really wants Brandon Kintzler to reach 30 saves. He even opted for Kintzler over Sean Doolittle to close out Thursday’s showdown against the Astros, but on Sunday, Kintzler slipped back into the setup role, and boy was it nasty. Kintzler gave up two earned runs on four hits against the Mets, and even though the Nats were up 9-2, Kintzler’s performance in garbage time was still a little sideways. His fastball is generating its lowest swing rate (46%) since the 2014 season, and after now allowing multiple hits in three consecutive games, there’s even more reason to start pushing the drop button.
  • I spoke earlier about Felipe Rivero, but Saturday night’s 1-0 win may not have happened if it wasn’t for the magic of Juan Nicasio. Following a rough patch earlier in August, Nicasio has now thrown four innings of no-hit, three-strikeout ball. He’s about as fantasy relevant as a box of Mallomars, but the Pirates bullpen ranked sixth in the league in strikeouts last week, another small victory in itself.

Everything Else I’ve Seen

  • The Padres pulled their own version of Mike Scioscia on Saturday night. Brad Hand entered the eighth inning in a tied game against the Marlins, pitching a near flawless inning of two-strikeout, one-walk ball. I guess you could see what manager Andy Green was going for in a 1-1 game, and while trusting Hand in a high-leverage situation is a no-brainer, throwing Craig Stammen in the deep end during the ninth was a little more sketchy. To his credit, Stammen threw a great ninth inning, striking out Miguel Rojas and Dee Gordon. He then ran into some trouble in the 10th, but managed to escape unscathed. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Jose Torres, who lost the game for the Padres. The Marlins went on to win the game on a Rojas sacrifice fly, but really, pitching Hand an inning later could’ve changed everything.
  • All right, let’s talk Aroldis Chapman. Yonder Alonso was the hero on Friday night, hitting a walk-off homer in the 11th on a 100.1 MPH fastball. Only three lefties have ever homered against Chapman, and after hearing boos from the Yankee faithful, it’s no wonder Joe Girardi shut him down over the weekend. Until he sorts out his demons, expect plenty of Dellin Betances in your life.
  • Alex Colome earned his 39th save on Sunday in mighty fine fashion. He entered the bottom of the tenth with a 3-2 lead, and made short work of the entire Cardinals’ lineup. On just 14 pitches, Colome struck out Paul DeJong on a filthy 3-2  breaking ball in the dirt, followed by Dexter Fowler, who also suffered the same nasty fate. Colome continues to lead the league in saves, further widening the gap between himself and Greg Holland. 
  • Going back to Dellin Betances for a moment, Saturday’s game against the Mariners showcased just how calm and collected he can really be. He struck out Carlos Ruiz and Danny Valencia looking with the exact same 89 MPH breaking ball and earned his 10th save of the season. Betances is now 10 for his last 12 in save opportunities.
  • Pitching at Dodger Stadium is a toughie, and although Corey Knebel was bent, he did not break. In the bottom of the ninth with a 3-2 lead, Knebel hit Curtis Granderson with a pitch to lead off the inning. He then went on to strike out Yasmani Grandal, but a walk to Logan Forsythe made things interesting. In classic Knebel fashion, though, he eventually struck out Kyle Farmer swinging on a 3-2 fastball. The best part about this was Knebel’s heart to fight back even when he was down in the count. He’s now struck out 20 batters when faced with a 3-2 count and has given up just seven hits with men in scoring position. This is certainly your top closer heading into next season.
  • Not to be outdone, of course, was Kenley Jansen. He threw his 12th three-strikeout game of the season and seems to have calmed down after his slight hiccup a week and a half ago. Philadelphia’s Hector Neris also earned his 16th save of the year against the Cubs and remains available in 70% of leagues.
  • The Winners Circle: Kyle Barraclough, Pat Neshek. 
  • With An ‘L’ On Their Forehead: Mike Foltynewicz, Sam Tuivailala, Cam Bedrosian, Greg Holland, Jose Torres, Aroydys Vizcaino. 


Kyle Barraclough: Look at this as nothing more than a simple strikeout replacement for Andrew Miller. Barraclough has struck out eight batters over the last week, and while he’s still a ways away from securing the closer role in Miami, we can’t forget Don Mattingly saying he would be the No. 1 guy in line to take over from A.J. Ramos back in July. Unfortunately, Barraclough was on the DL with a shoulder injury by the time Ramos was traded, but now that he’s back and firing, this is one to watch.

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