Tagged: Koji Uehara

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.

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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.

Three new* Red Sox, three new* Yankees. Who fared better?

*Each team re-signed one player, so they’re technically not all “new.” Moving on.

Maybe I missed something, but have any AL East teams other than the Red Sox and Yankees made moves this offseason? Boston and New York has made three signings a piece. That sets up a pretty easy comparison for the question to which everyone wants an answer: Which team “wins” this postseason so far?

(I get really self-conscious when using questions in my writing.  My high school English teachers drilled into my brain that using rhetorical questions is a crutch in persuasive writing, as is asking yourself a question to simply answer it later. But really, am I trying to impress Advanced Placement test graders anymore? No. No I’m not.

If you are an AP test grader, I apologize.)

BOS signs C A.J. Pierzynski
AJP bounced back from down years in 2010 and 2011, and his 2013 was pretty much in line with how he has typically produced throughout his career. He’s 36 — that kind of tread on a catcher’s tires is always a red flag — but he’ll be hitting in the friendly confines of Fenway Park, so maybe another 15+-HR season and .275 average is not out of the question. Pierzynski is probably an upgrade over Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the dish, despite Salty’s productive 2013.

Winner: Both parties
Pierzynski’s preseason rank: No. 2 catcher in deep leagues

NYY signs OF Carlos Beltran
Man, I love Beltran. Who doesn’t? (Answer: Mets fans.) (Shit, I used a rhetorical question again…) But where does he fit in the Yankees’ plans? That team is just flat-out old now. Their outfield is already bursting at the seams with Jacoby Ellsbury (spoiler alert), Ichiro Suzuki, Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells (negligible) and Brett Gardner. Meanwhile, the average age of their potential starting outfielders is 35, and that’s before Ellsbury joined the crew. I’m guessing Wells will be relegated to bench duty. But I have also heard Gardner figures to play into the Yankees’ everyday plans. Sounds like Ichiro is on the market, and I’ve read that the Giants are possible suitors. Anyway, Beltran is good, but he’s not a solution to the Yankees’ problems, which is zero preparedness for beyond 2015 when every single one of their players falls apart.

Winner: Beltran
Preseason rank: Probably a top-3o OF — full rankings pending

BOS signs RP Edward Mujica
Mujica made a name for himself as Jason Motte‘s replacement at the back end of the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen, and there’s no reason he can’t do it again. Some people argue he broke down at the end of the year, but manager Mike Matheny wore him down with consecutive (two, if not three) multi-inning outings in August, and even Mujica said it wore him out. It’s fair to worried about durability, but if you’re going to write off a solid closer for a good team because he might wear down in September, you have bigger things to worry about. HOWEVER… Koji Uehara is still there. And so is Junichi Tazawa. And given Uehara’s incredible success last year, Mujica would only see chances for saves on Uehara’s rest days at best. Unfortunately, I must politely ask everyone who rode the Mujica train last year, myself included, to disembark.

Winner: Red Sox
Preseason rank: Unranked/not draftworthy

NYY re-sign SP Hiroki Kuroda
Not much to see here — he’s old, but it’s a one-year deal and he has proven he’s still plenty effective. It still doesn’t solve the Yankees’ age problem, though.

Winner: Kuroda
Preseason rank: 40th

BOS re-signs 1B Mike Napoli
Feels weird to call Napoli a first baseman and only a first baseman. Again, nothing to see here, but Napoli’s lack of eligibility at catcher is kind of a deal breaker.

Winner: Both
Preseason rank: Low-tier 1B

And finally…

NYY signs OF Jacoby Ellsbury
Yes, I couldn’t help but spoil the surprise earlier (even though it’s not really a surprise). Ellsbury has joined the archenemy, and of course all Red Sox fans are really flustered. Meanwhile, the Yankees overpaid… Way overpaid. Something like $20 million a year for seven years. Look, guys who rely on their wheels for productivity have been known to break down at about his age (see: Michael Bourn). Give it another couple of years and 50 stolen bases will only be 20, or maybe even 10. His power will likely decline, too, as will his defensive range. It’s just not a good situation. Seven years was way too long to begin with, and the price makes it worse — and I have yet to touch upon his abundant injury risk. Don’t fret too much, Red Sox nation. You’ll be grinning about this one in 2017 as the Yankees dynasty completes its collapse.

Winner: Ellsbury
Preseason rank: Top-1o OF, with downside