When the Astros acquired Roberto Osuna, we all wondered how long it would take him to become their closer. At the time, Hector Rondon was well-entrenched in the role. My take: Rondon would keep the job until he cracked open the door. He did just that over the last few weeks by blowing a couple saves and struggling to induce whiffs. Osuna also flubbed a game or else he might have arisen sooner. In any case, the wait is over. Osuna is now officially the Astros closer.
The Nationals threw in the towel yesterday, trading a couple impending free agents for bit parts. Kelvin Herrera, another free agent-to-be, returned from the disabled list. He may be traded again before the end of the month. Until then, he’s back in the closer chair. The Dodgers, Phillies, and Rockies are the likeliest matches.
One last bit of recent news – Aroldis Chapman was removed from a save opportunity last night due to knee soreness. As yet, there’s no word if he’ll require a stint on the disabled list. At least a minimum 10 day stay seems likely. David Robertson is dealing with some minor shoulder discomfort which suggests to me that Dellin Betances will take over if Chapman misses time. We’re still waiting on an update.
Bud Norris bounced back from his own minor injury to save four games in the last week. Jose Leclerc and Wade Davis notched three saves apiece. The season lead still belongs to Edwin Diaz (48) with Craig Kimbrel (37) and Davis (35) a distant second and third.
Now, shall we go to the tiers?
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Tier 1: The Elite (4)
Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox
Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics
Last week, I choose to leave Chapman in the king’s chair due to his long track record. Now that his knee has flared up for a second time, it’s time to anoint Diaz the new king. All hail King Edwin (sorry Felix). Diaz did actually blow a save via a Max Muncy solo home run. It’s ok though, the Mariners won in the 10th inning.
Tier 2: Nearly Elite (6)
Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros
Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers
Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres
Although Osuna is the Astros closer, Rondon remains a part of the late-inning formula. Yesterday, Osuna was called on in the eighth inning of a tied game – evidence that he’ll be used at the highest leverage moment. He allowed a run on a trio of singles.
Jansen returned to fireworks on Monday. A pair of solo home runs led to an ignominious loss. He sat around 91 mph on the radar gun, a sign that things might not be all right. It could just be a little rust from a 13 day layoff. No need to overreact yet.
While Hader is the nominal closer in Milwaukee, others will continue to snipe occasional saves. Such was the case on Monday when Hader was tasked with protecting a one-run lead through the seventh and eighth innings. He navigated the heart of the Reds lineup in the process. Jeffress entered in the ninth for the save.
Yates had an eventful week. He was called upon to defend a couple tied games. He wound up with two losses via solo home runs. He rebounded at Coors Field yesterday with a save.
Tier 3: Core Performers (7)
Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek, Philadelphia Phillies
Cody Allen, Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians
Will Smith, San Francisco Giants
Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers
A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves
Bud Norris, St. Louis Cardinals
Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies
Dominguez is still the primary closer in Philadelphia. A couple rough games from Victor Arano probably pushed Neshek into the second seat. Dominguez is often used for more than one inning. He also has a shaky track record when working multiple days in a row. Neshek can’t be counted on for a high volume of saves, but he may add a handful over the remainder of the season.
Hand set up Allen for the save on Monday. Then Hand notched a save for himself on Tuesday. He’s worked a couple days in a row which means it’s Allen’s turn. The Indians will continue to play matchups.
The Giants haven’t produced a save opportunity since Hunter Strickland returned. However, there’s no evidence Smith will lose his job. The apparent lack of security is a worry in the event of a brief slump. To this point, his 1.96 ERA and 12.63 K/9 are comparable with second tier closers.
Leclerc too has second tier quality numbers. The most amazing part of his season is a sharp drop in his walk rate (career 6.12 BB/9). It was much worse prior to this season. A 3.86 BB/9 is acceptable – especially when paired with 13.11 K/9.
Minter is battling a minor back injury. He hopes to return today. In his absence, Daniel Winker, Brad Brach, and Jesse Biddle are the best options for cheap saves. As for Davis, he looked sharp in recent outings, enough to justify a bump back into the third tier.