Tagged: Craig Kimbrel

Very early 2015 Closer rankings

Teams are dancing the Depth Chart Shuffle, but the closer landscape has remained relatively steadfast. Per MLB.com, 27 of 30 teams have denoted who will be their respective 9th-inning man on their depth charts (labeled “(CL)”, for reference). For reasons largely pertaining to simplicity, I have completed a preliminary round of projections for closers and have provided it for your viewing pleasure. Keep in mind that things will (likely) change as the offseason progresses into the preseason progresses into the real, authentic season.

The rankings are catered to classic 5-by-5 rotisserie leagues with $260 budgets. Bonus feature: You can manually input a budget amount as well as an expected share of total spending on closers. For example, the teams in my league historically spend about 10 percent of the aggregate wealth on closers. If your league values closers more highly, you can accordingly adjust for such.

The players on teams that have not solidified their closer situations are marked with asterisks. Note that the very elite Dellin Betances is one of these players. This will inevitably be sorted out by March.

Some reflections:

Craig Kimbrel will likely fall short of 49 saves — although, if the Braves can compete in the few games they are expected to win, he may have a lot of small-margin-of-victory save chances coming his way. Tough call, but there’s legitimate arguments to be made about him being maybe only a top-3 RP — which is really nothing about which to write home.

The aforementioned Betances is projected for the second-best ERA, second-most strikeouts and third-best WHIP among all closers. Betances threw a ton of innings last year, so it suffices to say I’m eager to see how his usage shakes out. Given how the Yankees have historically used closers, however, I think he’ll be closer to his projected 63 innings than his 90 last year.

Sean Doolittle isn’t an upside play, but I suspect he will be underrated on draft day. Koji Uehara is perhaps an upside play: his projection factors in his health concerns, so if he can stay healthy all year, he should bolster his return on investment.

David Robertson: he’s good, but his competition is great. Not a top-10 RP in my book. Likewise with Trevor Rosenthal, who has never really had a good grasp on where the strike zone is.

Will Zach Britton continue to induce an absurd number of ground balls? Yes, although perhaps not as extremely as he did last year.

No offense to Brett Cecil, but I think the Blue Jays will trade for someone in due time.

Dark horse candidates in Mark Melancon and Jake McGee as they round out the top 10. I think they may be a bit overrated, but I would take them over literally everyone below them except maybe Cishek, if we’re pulling hairs.

Bobby Parnell is competing, so to speak, with Jenrry Mejia; Jonathan Broxton is competing with who the heck knows. Santiago Casilla could likely cede the role back to Sergio Romo. Other pitchers in some sort of danger of losing their jobs during the seasons include Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, Drew Storen, LaTroy Hawkins, Neftali Feliz and Chad Qualls.

Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Addison Reed seem to have some semblance of job security, but they also seem to have a semblance of not being very reliable anymore. Papelbon and Nathan will be the most interesting bullpen storylines, especially if Nathan struggles again and the Tigers are competing.

I haven’t contextualized these rankings for points leagues or a top-300 type of thing for roto formats, but hey, that’s why it’s preliminary.

Updated closers rankings

New standings reflect Aroldis Chapman’s injury and Joakim Soria’s victory over Neftali Feliz for the Texas 9th-inning job.

Based on standard 10-team 5×5 rotisserie format.
Updated 3/25/14.

Name – Saves / ERA / WHIP / K’s

  1. Craig Kimbrel – 47 / 2.32 / 0.65 / 106
  2. Kenley Jansen – 39 / 2.48 / 0.87 / 103
  3. Greg Holland – 42 / 2.21 / 0.99 / 97
  4. Trevor Rosenthal – 39 / 2.41 / 1.00 / 90
  5. Koji Uehara – 34 / 2.42 / 0.69 / 81
  6. Aroldis Chapman – 30 / 2.42 / 0.83 / 81 … down 4 spots (CIN committee: J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek)
  7. Joe Nathan – 40 / 3.15 / 0.95 / 72
  8. David Robertson – 38 / 3.13 / 1.05 / 82
  9. Jason Grilli – 34 / 2.80 / 1.14 / 78
  10. Sergio Romo – 36 / 2.93 / 0.99 / 67
  11. Grant Balfour – 43 / 3.46 / 1.11 / 74
  12. Glen Perkins – 34 / 2.93 / 0.98 / 68
  13. Ernesto Frieri – 36 / 3.74 / 1.14 / 91
  14. Steve Cishek – 31 / 2.92 / 1.14 / 70
  15. Casey Janssen – 34 / 2.91 / 1.01 / 54
  16. Addison Reed – 32 / 3.19 / 1.18 / 71
  17. Jonathan Papelbon – 33 / 3.30 / 1.14 / 66
  18. Jim Henderson – 32 / 3.76 / 1.18 / 80
  19. Fernando Rodney – 32 / 3.26 / 1.32 / 74
  20. Bobby Parnell – 32 / 2.76 / 1.16 / 48
  21. Nate Jones – 30 / 2.64 / 1.22 / 52
  22. Jose Veras – 33 / 3.62 / 1.22 / 69 … up 1 spot
  23. Huston Street – 29 / 2.52 / 1.15 / 47
  24. Rafael Soriano – 43 / 3.85 / 1.25 / 52
  25. Joakim Soria – 32 / 3.55 / 1.12 / 54 … up 3 spots; won closer role from Neftali Feliz
  26. John Axford – 35 / 4.36 / 1.33 / 80
  27. Jim Johnson – 36 / 3.42 / 1.17 / 41 … down 1 spot
  28. Tommy Hunter – 30 / 3.85 / 1.10 / 43
  29. COL time bomb: LaTroy Hawkins or Rex Brothers
  30. HOU committee: Chad QuallsMatt AlbersJosh Fields … Jesse Crain injured

2014 Rankings: Closers

Rankings based on standard 5×5 rotisserie format.

Name – Saves / ERA / WHIP / K’s

  1. Craig Kimbrel – 47 / 2.32 / 0.65 / 106
  2. Aroldis Chapman – 41 / 2.42 / 0.83 / 114
  3. Kenley Jansen – 39 / 2.48 / 0.87 / 103
  4. Greg Holland – 42 / 2.21 / 0.99 / 97
  5. Trevor Rosenthal – 39 / 2.41 / 1.00 / 90
  6. Koji Uehara – 34 / 2.42 / 0.69 / 81
  7. Joe Nathan – 40 / 3.15 / 0.95 / 72
  8. David Robertson – 38 / 3.13 / 1.05 / 82
  9. Jason Grilli – 34 / 2.80 / 1.14 / 78
  10. Sergio Romo – 36 / 2.93 / 0.99 / 67
  11. Grant Balfour – 43 / 3.46 / 1.11 / 74
  12. Glen Perkins – 34 / 2.93 / 0.98 / 68
  13. Ernesto Frieri – 36 / 3.74 / 1.14 / 91
  14. Steve Cishek – 31 / 2.92 / 1.14 / 70
  15. Casey Janssen – 34 / 2.91 / 1.01 / 54
  16. Addison Reed – 32 / 3.19 / 1.18 / 71
  17. Jonathan Papelbon – 33 / 3.30 / 1.14 / 66
  18. Jim Henderson – 32 / 3.76 / 1.18 / 80
  19. Fernando Rodney – 32 / 3.26 / 1.32 / 74
  20. Bobby Parnell – 32 / 2.76 / 1.16 / 48
  21. Nate Jones – 30 / 2.64 / 1.22 / 52
  22. Jesse Crain – 27 / 3.13 / 1.09 / 61
  23. Huston Street – 29 / 2.52 / 1.15 / 47
  24. Jose Veras – 33 / 3.62 / 1.22 / 69
  25. Rafael Soriano – 43 / 3.85 / 1.25 / 52
  26. Jim Johnson – 36 / 3.42 / 1.17 / 41
  27. John Axford – 35 / 4.36 / 1.33 / 80
  28. Neftali Feliz – 29 / 4.13 / 1.19 / 43
  29. Rex Brothers or LaTroy Hawkins
  30. Chad Qualls – pending

Thoughts:

  • All ERAs are inflated a little bit. Closers (and relievers in general) tend to strand more runners than starters and, thus, prevent runs from scoring as often. My model fails to capture this nuance, but the difference isn’t a huge one, as a 2.32 ERA from Kimbrel is still really, really good. But for a guy with a career 1.38 ERA, it makes sense to expect even better from him.
  • The top 5 are pretty much consensus picks. I think Uehara is worth considering as part of a potential “Top 6” elite tier of closers, and he is absolutely better than Nathan. Are you aware that Uehara has posted a 0.702 WHIP in 219-1/3 innings since 2009? Are you serious? And he still strikes out double-digit batters per nine innings.
  • Johnson is absolutely overrated. The Baltimore Orioles generated 113 save situations the past two years. The Oakland Athletics, Johnson’s new employer, generated only 83. That’s two-thirds the opportunities he used to get. If you’re expecting 50 saves again, you’re crazy. He also strikes almost no one out. Try to catch lightning in a bottle if you want, but I think he is one of the worst investments in the game for saves.
  • Henderson and Crain are really underrated (compared to ESPN), but they also don’t have the job security. That leaves Frieri as the last true bargain. He walks too many batters, but at least he strikes out twice as many as Johnson does. Also, if the Angels bounce back in a big way, he will be the beneficiary of greater workload.
  • Sorry, I was too lazy to project Brothers or Hawkins. I just don’t think Hawkins will last long, but it’s tough to say exactly how long, and it’s not worth guessing. Just get him on the cheap, handcuff Brothers to him and be ready to jump ship.

Did they really break out? A look at line drive rates

Sort FanGraphs’ 2013 hitting statistics by line drive percentage (LD%) and you’ll see an eclectic, albeit very talented, group of hitters. Weirdly enough, Tampa Bay Rays first baseman James Loney tops the list, and the increasingly mystical (perhaps mythical) Chris Johnson of the Atlanta Braves rounds out the top three. Two other names in there are of particular interest to me: the St. Louis Cardinals’ Allen Craig and Johnson’s teammate Freddie Freeman.

One could argue both were poised to break out this year. Craig, in a span of 119 games last year, notched 22 home runs and 92 RBI with a .307 batting average. That’s incredible. It’s hard to fathom would he could do in 162 games.

Well, you’re seeing it, folks: he’s on pace for 16 home runs, 17 tops. He’s hitting .321 (his BAbip is inflated, so treat his average as the icing on the cake rather than the cake itself) and will easily crack 100 RBI barring injury. But where’s the power? He’s already a top-30 player overall, but he potentially be top-15 material.

Bringing it full circle to the line drive rate. It’s 27 percent this year, up from 22.7 percent last year, which had been the highest of his career (Craig debuted in 2010). Elsewhere, his HR/FB rate is 11 percent, down from 17.1 percent last year, aka about two-thirds as many of Craig’s fly balls are turning into home runs as last year. (His career HR/FB rate before this year was above 15 percent.)

The verdict: gap power for days. And I don’t think that’s a permanent change. This year will be the anomaly, not the norm.

Normalizing Craig’s line drive rate to his career mark would net him about 14 fewer line drives. One can argue some of those would be ground balls, but given the nature of a line drive (as in, it’s elevated), I think it’s safe to assume they turn into balls in play characterized as fly balls. So, with 114 fly balls instead of 100 (quick note: 11% HR/FB * 100 FB = 11 HR), let’s normalize his HR/FB rate to something closer to his career norm — it’s about 15 percent now, which is modest, but let’s do it anyway. 15% HR/FB * 114 FB = 17 HR.

SEVENTEEN HOME RUNS. That’s a huge difference. With the season about 70 percent complete, Craig would be on pace for 24 or 25 home runs rather than 16 or 17. And that is the type of hitter I think Allen Craig is.

Sprinkle in a .300 batting average (it’s totally real) and a filthy Cardinals lineup and I think you’re looking at a top-20 overall fantasy contributor, not just top-30. It may not seem like much, but that’s second-round production from a third-round player in a head-to-head snake-style draft or $5 in extra value in a rotisserie auction. And if there’s value to be extracted, by the beard of Zeus I’ll do it.

Freddie, on the other hand, is a bit different. after an impressive rookie campaign — he was in the mix for Rookie of the Year honors but lost out to teammate Craig Kimbrel — has had two weird years since. His batting average tanked to .259 in 2012 only to vault way up to .311 this year. Contrarily, he is on pace to fall short of 20 home runs for the first time in his career during arguably his best hitting year.

So is it? Is it Freddie’s break-out year — batting .311, but on pace to hit his fewest home runs in any season — or will next year be his break-out year? (Sheesh, we have such strict criteria for “break outs”.)

Owners who think this is the type of hitter Freddie is are, I think, sorely mistaken. He’s not a .300 hitter — his BAbip is through the roof this year (his 2011 batting average and BAbip are much more indicative of the type of hitter he will likely be as far as batting average is concerned). And, although he has somewhat disappointed this year, he will certainly hit for power. His LD% and HR/FB rate have fluctuated similarly to Craig’s (they’re the highest and lowest, respectively, of Freddie’s career), although not as severely.

Ultimately, Freddie will probably hit in the neighborhood of 18 home runs this year, which isn’t that many fewer than last year’s total. But I think as Freddie develops as a hitter (and physically as a human being), he will start to elevate those line drives and turn his gap power into 30-homer power. Entering his age-24 year next season, I wouldn’t bet against it. As former manager Bobby Cox once (allegedly) said when Freddie first took batting practice with the Braves, “That’s one of the sweetest left-handed swings I’ve ever seen.”

I’ll bring it back in early 2014, but count on it: Craig and Freddie have true break-out seasons in 2014.

(Note: I called Freddie “Freddie” throughout this post instead of “Freeman.” That’s because I played ball with Freddie — we went to high school together — and it’s weird to call him anything else. Yes, this was a shameless brag. Carry on.)