Tagged: David Robertson

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.

An impossibly hot stove and an embarrassingly long absence

The stove is hot, people. HOT! And as Every Time I Die once said: I been gone a long time. Sorry about that. I finished the first term of my last year of graduate school. It was probably the hardest one, and it should be smooth sailing from here on out.

I’m also pretty proud of a research paper I just completed regarding the probability of future success of minor leagues. The results are robust and I couldn’t be more pleased. It was a school project, so I didn’t have time to make it nearly as complex as I would have hoped, but it’s something I plan to further investigate in the coming days, weeks, months, what-have-you.

Anyway, there is plenty of news flying around as well as plenty of analysis. I’ll do my best to recap, but surely I’ll miss some things:

And I’m ignoring all the prospects involved as well. Marcus Semien, Austin Barnes, Jairo Diaz and others got shipped. I can only imagine a whole lot more action will be happening soon, as there still are teams with surpluses and deficits at all positions and some big-name free agents left on the market, including Max Scherzer and James Shields.

It is clear, however, that the Cubs  and Blue Jays intend to more than simply contend. I would say the Marlins intend to as well, but I don’t even think they know what they’re doing, let alone we do. The White Sox are looking like a trendy sleeper with some key pitching additions (LaRoche is also an addition, but far from what I would call a “key” one), but they are far from a championship team.

But with so much more yet to happen, maybe it’s best to wait and see. There are obviously some ballpark and team-skill implications that will affect all these players’ projections, but I’ll get around to those in 2015.

I’ve finished my preliminary set of pitcher projections. I’ll share them but they’ll see some refining by the time March rolls around.

I’m also looking at how my projections fared last year. That will come in the next couple of days.

Keep your ear to the ground, people. Or to the stove. Never mind. Terrible idea. You’ll burn yourself. Just keep it to the ground.

Pitchers to sell high, buy low or cut bait

All right. It’s April. It’s horrifying, unless you’re doing well, and then it’s not. But, full disclosure, I’m not. Chicago White Sox staff ace Chris Sale just hit the 15-day disabled list yesterday, joining the Philadelphia Phillies’ Cole Hamels, Seattle Mariners’ James Paxton, Tampa Bay Rays’ Alex Cobb, Cincinnati Reds’ Mat Latos, New York Yankees’ David Robertson and the Detroit Tigers’ Doug Fister on my teams’ DLs. It’s killing me, really. It’s incredibly painful.

What I’m saying is I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit frolicking in free agency, trying to figure out which early-season studs are legit or not. I’ve been pondering various buy-low situations as well. So I jumped into a pool of peripherals and PITCHf/x data to look for answers.

The list below is not remotely exhaustive. It’s mostly players I am watching or already using as replacements for my teams. Here they are, in no particular order.

Jake Peavy, BOS | 0-0, 3.33 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 9.25 K/9
Peavy’s prime came and went about five years ago, so, full disclosure, I don’t know as much about him off the top of my head as I should. But I do know one thing: he doesn’t strike out a batter per inning anymore. In his defense, batters’ contact rate against him is the best it has been since 2009, his last truly good year. So maybe he will strike out a few more batters than last year, but I think it’ll be closer to 2012’s 7.97 K/9, not 2009’s 9.74 K/9. The WHIP is atrocious;  the walk rate is through the roof. If there’s a guy in your league who will pay for what will end up being the illusion of ERA and strikeouts, by all means, trade him. He’s owned in 100 percent of leagues but doesn’t deserve to be.
Verdict: Sell high

John Lackey, BOS | 2-2, 5.25 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 8.63 K/9
Another Boston pitcher, another bad start to the season. I like Lackey a lot more, though, for a variety of reasons. One, last year’s renaissance was legitimate. Two, he’s not walking many batters right now, so his unspectacular ratios are more a result of an unlucky batting average on balls in play (.333 BABIP) than incompetence. Three, his swinging strike and contact rates are currently career bests. Again, we’re working with small sample sizes here, and this could easily regress. But considering his velocity is also at a career high, I don’t find it improbable that Lackey actually does better than he did last season. If an owner in your league has already dropped him, put in your waiver claim now.
Verdict: Buy low

Jesse Chavez, OAK | 1-0, 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 9.69 K/9
Talk about unexpected. Chavez, who has been relevant about zero times, is making for an intriguing play in all leagues. It’s a given he will regress, especially considering the .242 BABIP, but his improved walk rate could be here to stay, as he is pounding the zone more than he ever has in his career. The strikeouts are somewhat of a mirage, but it looks like he can be a low-WHIP, moderate-strikeout guy, and that’s still valuable.
Verdict: Sell really high, or just ride the hot hand

Nathan Eovaldi, MIA | 1-1, 3.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.17 K/9
I wouldn’t call Eovaldi a trendy sleeper, but he certainly was a sleeper coming into 2014. It was all about whether he could command his pitchers better — and, like magic, it appears he has, walking only 1.07 batters per nine innings as opposed to 3.39-per-nine last year. The swinging strike and contact rates are concerning, as they are the lowest of his career, so it’s hard to see his strikeout rate going anywhere but down. However, he’s throwing 65 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, highest of all qualified pitchers. So there are two ways to look at this. His control has probably legitimate improved. Unfortunately, even the masterful Cliff Lee only threw 53.3 percent of pitches in the zone last year, and I am hesitant to claim Eovaldi has better control than Lee. This could be a “breakout” year of sorts for Eovaldi, but I’m using that term liberally here. He’s only owned in 20.5 percent of leagues, so this makes him more of a ride-the-hot-hand type, like Mr. Chavez above.
Verdict: Eventually drop, ideally before he does damage to your team

Mark Buehrle, TOR | 4-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 6.11 K/9
Look, I have had a long-standing man crush on Buehrle, but this is ridiculous. You know better than I that these happy dreams will soon become nightmares, not because Buehrle is awful or anything, but because regression rears its head in occasionally very brutal ways.
Verdict: Sell high

Alfredo Simon, CIN | 0.86 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 5.57 K/9
Something isn’t right here. A 0.81 WHIP and… fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings? As you become more familiar with sabermetrics, you quickly realize certain things don’t mesh. A low WHIP combined with the low strikeout rate is one of those things. I can tell you without looking that his BABIP is impossibly low — and, now looking, I see I’m right: it’s .197. Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN is all about Simon, and in his defense, Simon’s PITCHf/x data foreshadows some positive regression coming his way in the strikeout department. But it can only get worse from here for Simon. However, I think he has a bit of a Dan Straily look to him, and that’s certainly serviceable.
Verdict: Sell high, or just ride the hot hand

Yovani Gallardo, MIL | 1.46 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 6.93 K/9
This is a disaster waiting to happen. Like Simon, his strikeout rate is low, but for Gallardo, it is deservedly so: his swinging strike and contact rates are, by far, career worsts. Meanwhile, his ratios are buoyed by a .264 BABIP and 89.8% LOB% (left-on-base percentage), despite his 74.7% career LOB%. The Brewers will fall with him. Sell high, and sell fast.
Verdict: Sell high

Shelby Miller, STL | 3.57 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 8.34 K/9
Miller is the first pitcher on this list in whom owners actually invested a lot. Be patient. The 98.3-percent of owners who didn’t cut bait before his last start were surely rewarded. I imagine he’s leaving his pitches up in the zone, given his increased percentage of pitches thrown in the zone coupled with his home run rate. Speaking of which, he shouldn’t be walking five batters per nine innings when he’s throwing more than 50 percent of his pitches in the zone. He’ll be fine.
Verdict: Buy low

Homer Bailey, CIN | 5.75 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, 11.07 K/9
Two words: .421 BABIP. Yowza. Again, owners invested way too much in this guy. Perfect buy-low opportunity here if you know your fellow owner is impatient.
Verdict: Buy low

Drew Hutchison, TOR | 3.60 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 10.80 K/9
I’ll be honest, I was surprised to see Hutchison’s xFIP stand at 3.43. It seems like he has been much worse — but has he really? The walks are problematic but not unmanageable (see: Matt Moore), and they’ve actually shored up a bit in his last couple of starts. Moreover, he is still striking out batters at an elite rate, and the PITCHf/x data supports his success, albeit probably not with quite as much success as he’s having now. As for the WHIP? A .365 BABIP sure doesn’t help. Hutchison was once a highly-touted prospect. Your window of opportunity to gamble on this live arm may be closing if he can keep his ERA down.
Verdict: Add via free agency, sooner rather than later

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.