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The Closer Catch-Up: Fantasy Baseball Week 23

The writing was on the wall in San Diego on Saturday night, and once again, the message read loud and clear: ban the freakin’ win.

Allow me to set the table. It’s Game 1 of the Dodgers/Padres doubleheader. Brad Hand slides in for the ninth. He’s protecting a 5-3 lead on the back of two masterful innings from Craig Stammen – a tough act to follow indeed. Hand gives up a leadoff double to Rob Segedin and then strikes out O’Koyea Dickson swinging on a power-packed high fastball. That very pitch is a tasty fruit that’s driven many batters hit-hungry this season, but apparently, Justin Turner doesn’t really give two craps about that kinda stuff. He stepped up and delivered a two-run home run to left, his 18th of the year. Suddenly we’re looking at a tied game until Yangervis Solarte sent the Padres home walk-off winners in the very next half inning.

No hate for the Hand man here; he’s been a sure-thing all season long. But after such a “wtf” inning on, might I add, just 14 pitches, he certainly doesn’t deserve the praise, let alone the win, for this fiasco. Anyway, that’s my gripe with baseball this week. Here’s a look at all things reliever related.

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  Jake McGee  Pat Neshek
 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  Blake Parker  Cam Bedrosian  Yusmeiro Petit
 Los Angeles Dodgers  Kenley Jansen  Brandon Morrow  Pedro Baez
 Miami Marlins  Brad Ziegler  Kyle Barraclough  Jarlin Garcia
 Milwaukee Brewers  Corey Knebel  Anthony Swarzak  Josh Hader
 Minnesota Twins  Matt Belisle  Trevor Hildenberger  Glen Perkins
 New York Mets  A.J. Ramos  Jeurys Familia  Paul Sewald
 New York Yankees  Dellin Betances  David Robertson  Aroldis Chapman
 Oakland Athletics  Blake Treinen  Chris Hatcher  Santiago Casilla
 Philadelphia Phillies  Hector Neris  Luis Garcia  Liam Hendriks
 Pittsburgh Pirates  Felipe Rivero  Juan Nicasio  Joaquin Benoit
 St. Louis Cardinals  Seung Hwan Oh  Tyler Lyons  John Brebbia
 San Diego Padres  Brad Hand  Kirby Yates  Phil Maton
 San Francisco Giants  Sam Dyson  Hunter Strickland  Mark Melancon
 Seattle Mariners  Edwin Diaz  Nick Vincent  Marc Rzepczynski
 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 DL D-Low

  • Bud Norris hit the DL last Tuesday with knee inflammation. It seemed like great news for fantasy owners, but alas, just when we thought Cam Bedrosian finally had a real chance, here’s Mike Scioscia throwing us his 27th curveball this season. Looks like Blake Parker is now the preferred guy in LA. This could really make a great episode of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not now.
  • The Nationals activated Ryan Madson on Friday, and already he looks to be primed for a long and steady postseason run. Madson earned the win on Saturday night against the Brewers, striking out Orlando Arcia along the way. Once again, the Nats bullpen resembled a well-oiled machine. Madson dazzled in the seventh, Brandon Kintzler did his thing in the eighth, and Sean Doolittle avoided near disaster in the ninth to earn the save.
  • Don’t panic on the Kelvin Herrera front; it’s just a forearm strain, so come down off the ledge. He’s been shut down for three days, but after giving up two walks on just a handful of pitches against the Twins on Friday night, this could turn into quite the ordeal if the Royals rush him back.
  • Andrew Miller is toss, toss, tossing – so I guess that’s good news? There’s still a whole bunch of wait-and-see going on, though, as he’ll be re-evaluated next week.

The Worry Warts

Miami Marlins: The Marlins actually made the Phillies look good on Friday. The Phillies hadn’t scored a run in the ninth inning in over ten days, or at least that was the case until Brad Ziegler went into full meltdown mode protecting a 1-0 lead. Ziegler hadn’t allowed an earned run in 13 straight innings, but a double to Maikel Franco to lead off the ninth was his ultimate undoing. The Phillies went on to put up two runs in the ninth, handing Ziegler his third loss of the season. The only consolation is the Phillies picked up both runs on weak groundballs, and with a 27% soft contact rate this season, it’s hard to say that Ziegler was anything but unlucky this time around. Things did get worse on Sunday, mind you … for Junichi Tazawa, that is. Tied 1-1 heading into the 12th, Tazawa gave up a crucial single to Nick Williams with men on first and second, gifting the Phillies another easy 3-1 lead. He too was slapped with a loss, and all of a sudden, the Marlins have now given up 20 earned runs over the last week.

If you’re a Ziegler owner, this really means zilch. His slider is creating a crazy 80% swing rate this month (a career high) and typically, September is usually his safest month. Ziegler has allowed just 20 earned runs in September across his nine-year career, and if he reverts back to his steady old self this week, you’re still looking at one of the more trustworthy and reliable veteran arms heading into next season. If this ship does start to sink, though, keeping an eye on Kyle Barraclough would be your next move. He’s racked up nine strikeouts and allowed just three hits over the last two weeks.

Middle Of the Pack (Middle Relievers)

  • There’s been plenty of good/bad to take in with Justin Wilson since his move to the Cubs. He put up two strikeouts on 22 pitches against the Pirates last week, and got through the eighth inning of last Wednesday’s game without allowing a single ball in play. He backed that up on Thursday with another three-K performance on 22 pitches against the Braves, but of course, along came Saturday. Three earned runs in just 0.1 innings work, and that’s not even mentioning the two walks Wilson surrendered. Fantasy wise, this is meaningless; Wilson is basically unownable unless you’re scoring holds. But for real life purposes, the Cubs bullpen is still far from reliable entering the postseason.
  • Luke Gregerson, take me away. He got three pretty special strikeouts on Saturday night against the Mets, all of which came on slow-mo 81 MPH sliders to get Travis Taijeron, Juan Lagaraes, and Jose Reyes swinging. Gregerson has had a killer few weeks on the mound, not allowing an earned run since August 16. In what could be his very last season, he’s certainly complementing Ken Giles and Chris Devenski nicely.
  • The one thing the Padres can take away from this season is how quietly good the bullpen has been. San Diego ranks seventh in the league in K%, smack bang in the middle of nine playoff contending teams. Brad Hand has largely contributed to that number, but Craig Stammen just keeps chugging right along. He locked down the eighth inning before Hand’s implosion on Saturday night and has now struck out five batters over the last week alone. Stammen ranks 35th among relievers in Ks, and although I’ve said this before, here’s a reminder: he’s now struck out more hitters than Wade Davis and Fernando Rodney. 

Everything Else I’ve Seen

  • And in other Brad Hand news, he did it again on Sunday. Entering the top of the ninth with a three-run lead, Hand allowed Cody Bellinger his 36th home run on a lazy 92 MPH flyball over the inside part of the plate. The shot to right field means Hand has now given up back to back home runs in consecutive games, but he did escape the inning with no further damage, earning his 15th save on the year.
  • It’s hard to steal the headlines away from Corey Kuber, but Cody Allen came close on Saturday night. Bryan Shaw ran into trouble in the ninth, allowing singles to Mikie Mahtook and Jeimer Candelario before Terry Francona visited the mound. With a 5-1 lead, Allen then stepped in, but allowed a base hit to Jose Iglesias that scored a run. Ian Kinsler grounded out on the very next pitch, which earned Allen his 23rd save this season. It wasn’t pretty, and since he’s now allowed five hits in two days, Andrew Miller’s return couldn’t come quickly enough.
  • More Felipe Rivero brilliance in another high-leverage situation. Okay, he allowed a run and a couple of walks, but most of that is on Max Moroff’s fielding error. Still, after striking out Eugenio Suarez swinging and catching Scott Schebler looking on Sunday, Rivero easily could have let the 3-1 lead slip. He keeps edging higher on my closer rankings heading into next season, and if the Pirates could actually offer up some run support one of these days, you could be looking at a Top 10 arm one day soon.
  • The Royals’ situation could get pretty nasty in a hurry, but it’s good to know Brandon Maurer has things under control while Kelvin Herrera rests. That’s probably not going to last, but Maurer has allowed only four hits over the last two weeks and earned his first save of the season on Sunday against the Twins.
  • With Ken Giles resting, Chris Devenski came in for both the eighth and ninth on Sunday against the Mets, and boy was it shades of April. On the back of another glorious seventh inning from Gregerson, Devenski struck out Asdrubal Cabrera, Dominic Smith and Brandon Nimmo on his patented slider. He allowed just one hit across the two frames, and now has 87 strikeouts on the year. It’s almost criminal that Devenski isn’t in the closer role, because he’s the closer our fantasy teams deserve.
  • There was no room for another Aroldis Chapman meltdown on Sunday, as the Yankees pummeled the Red Sox 9-1. Tommy Kahnle took over nicely from Luis Severino, who racked up nine strikeouts while allowing just two hits in six innings. Kahnle had a pair of strikeouts himself and now has six multi-strikeout innings since joining the Yankees on July 19.
  • The Winners’ Circle: Cody Allen, Alex Claudio.

Want more Fantasy Baseball rumblings? Follow Ryan on Twitter! @RyanCook13

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