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Saves and Steals

The Cardinals' Final Boss

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Last week's lede was “Trouble in STL!” That proved to be spot on – Trevor Rosenthal lost his job after allowing three more runs on Friday. He didn't retire anybody. He now has a 5.40 ERA for the season. Woof. St. Louis wasn't the only closer mess this week. Rays fireman Alex Colome hit the disabled list yesterday with right biceps tendonitis. The move is backdated enough that he could return next Monday.

 

Jeurys Familia is up to 26 saves on the season. He's the current league leader. A.J. Ramos holds second place with 24 saves while Kenley Jansen and Zach Britton are tied with 23 saves. Familia and Santiago Casilla led the charge in the last calendar week with three saves apiece.

 

As for base runners, Travis Janikowski blitzed his way to four swipes this week. More on him in the Steals Department. Six others stole three bases – all guys you would expect to find on a list of top runners. Jonathan Villar still leads the league with 26 swipes. Only Rajai Davis (21), Jose Altuve (20), and Starling Marte (20) have also reached the 20 steal threshold.

 

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Tier 1: Elite (5)

 

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals

 

Chapman had a solid week no thanks to Kirby Yates. He pitched four times, the last of which was a weird rain delay scenario. Chapman walked the first batter and only he faced on Monday. Three and a half hours later, the game resumed with Yates on the mound. He blew the save, allowing Chapman's walk to score in the process. Chapman's other three outings led to a win, two saves, and six strikeouts.

 

Jansen saved two while recording four strikeouts in 2.1 innings. Britton pitched three times and also saved two with four strikeouts. Neither pitcher allowed a run.

 

Kimbrel picked up a big two inning win last Thursday. He pitched again on Monday in a blowout. He allowed a run on three hits and struck out the side. Kimbrel began the season with some ugly numbers. Now he has a 2.61 ERA (2.16 FIP, 2.99 xFIP) to go with a typically big strikeout rate.

 

Tier 2: Nearly Elite (5)

 

Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs

Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

 

Osuna saved a couple games in three appearances. He did allow a solo home run on Saturday, but it didn't affect the outcome. As noted in the intro, Familia saved three games. He pitched a total of 3.1 innings and struck out two batters.

 

The good news for Rondon is that the Cubs won all three games he pitched. Still, it was an odd week. The first appearance was a normal four out save. He protected a three run lead on Monday, but it didn't count as a save because he was only called upon for the final out. There are some strange quirks for what qualifies as a save. Last night, Rondon blew the save. The Cubbies salvaged the win in extra innings.

 

Melancon and Robertson both collected two saves apiece. Melancon added a couple strikeouts in two frames while Robertson tossed three innings with three strikeouts.

 

Tier 3: Good Veterans (4)

 

A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins

Sam Dyson, Texas Rangers

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers

 

Ramos got through another week without walking anybody. His season rate of 5.23 BB/9 is still high, but I'm not concerned at this time. It's a function of his below average fastball. He added a couple saves this week. Notably, he's yet to allow a home run.

 

The poor man's Britton notched two more saves. The low strikeout rate does hurt his ceiling somewhat. He's skated around a couple base runners in three of his last four outings.

 

Allen wasn't on his best behavior. He allowed three runs in two innings, although only one was earned. He picked up a save. The other outing was in a blowout. K-Rod had the cleaner version of Allen's week with one save in two scoreless innings.

 

Tier 4: The Mid Tier (3)

 

Will Harris, Houston Astros

Fernando Rodney, San Diego Padres

Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

 

Harris allowed a run and struck out two batters while recording two saves in two opportunities. Harris has a 0.80 ERA on the season with 9.09 K/9 and 1.60 BB/9. I've had people ask me about Michael Feliz taking the job, but I see no reason for them to deviate from Harris.

 

After blowing his scoreless streak in controversial fashion last week (the run could have been ruled unearned), Rodney rebounded with a couple strong innings. He added two saves and four strikeouts to his season numbers. Rodney now has 12 strikeouts in his last 5.1 innings.

 

Rodney will almost certainly be traded this month – probably to a setup role. The guy to own for future Padres saves is Ryan Buchter. He has a 1.60 ERA with 13.10 K/9 and 4.01 BB/9. He's an extreme fly ball pitcher.

 

Casilla began the week with three saves in three days. Then, just to ensure we never get too comfortable, he allowed three runs on three hits and two walks last night. The blown save led to a Giants loss. These are the kind of games that lead to closer controversy.

 

Tier 5: Questions (5)

 

Seung Hwan Oh, St. Louis Cardinals

Steve Cishek, Seattle Mariners

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves

Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers

Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies

 

In his first half season in the majors, Oh has been every bit as good as advertised. The guy with the cool nicknames has a shiny 1.62 ERA with 11.77 K/9 and 2.08 BB/9. His 93 mph fastball has performed well above average as a pitch he can command. He also throws a devastating slider and an above average changeup.

 

The current iteration of Oh is clearly better than Rosenthal. I expect him to hold the job for the rest of the season, eventually reaching the second or third tier. For now, he's still in search of his first save. An untimely slump could push Kevin Siegrist or even Rosenthal back into the ninth inning.

 

Cishek took the loss on Thursday in a multi-inning effort. Three walks and a hit led to a walkoff wild pitch. He rebounded with two clean saves.

 

Vizcaino's week was going smoothly right up until yesterday. All told, he tallied two saves and a loss. While protecting a 2-2 tie in the ninth, Vizcaino coughed up three runs (one earned) to the “heart” of the Indians lineup.

 

Both Jeffress and Gomez closed out both of their save opportunities. Gomez also allowed a run in a non-save situation.

 

Tier 6: Roller Coasters (8)

 

Shawn Kelley, Washington Nationals

Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels

Xavier Cedeno, Tampa Bay Rays

Carlos Estevez, Colorado Rockies

Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota Twins

Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds

 

Kelley was among the many closers with a shaky week. In three innings, he was saddled with a loss and save while allowing three runs (one earned). He also recorded six strikeouts. Jonathan Papelbon is one rehab appearance away from rejoining the club, so Kelley's tenure is effectively over.

 

I was going to bump Ziegler into Tier 5 due to a slight increase in his strikeout rate from unrosterable to merely below average. Then he blew a save against the Phillies last night. Seems like bad practice to make a change now, huh. He also added a win and a save on the week.

 

Street stayed out of trouble in two appearances against the Athletics. Remember when he debuted with them back in 2005? Now he's a shadow of his former self.

 

Cedeno is assumed to be the ninth inning guy for the few days Alex Colome will miss. Danny Farquhar, Erasmo Ramirez, and Matt Andriese are all candidates for a save too. If you're desperately looking for one or two saves, try any of these guys. I doubt manager Kevin Cash will go with a traditional late innings formula.

 

It was a decisive week for Estevez in that he earned a decision in each of his three appearances. Unfortunately, the one win was more than canceled out by two losses and three runs allowed.

 

The A's bullpen is infuriating. On Thursday, Madson and Doolittle swapped roles. Doolittle promptly allowed two runs while protecting a three run lead. It's the least impressive way to earn a save. Madson was handed the save on Friday and another last night. He allowed three runs on two home runs yesterday yet still squeezed out a two inning save.

 

Cingrani remains the closer despite the return of Raisel Iglesias. I assume Iglesias will eventually work his way into some save situations even if they're only the infrequent, multi-inning variety.

 

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Injured

 

Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays (side/oblique)

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins (shoulder)

Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies (left knee strain)

Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals (right intercostal strain)

Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays (biceps tendonitis)

 

Papelbon is expected to return after one more rehab appearance. Colome may resume closing duties next Monday.

 

The Deposed

 

Ken Giles, Houston Astros

Drew Storen, Toronto Blue Jays

Jason Grilli, Toronto Blue Jays

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

J.J. Hoover, Cincinnati Reds

Andrew Miller, New York Yankees

Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers

Kevin Jepsen, Minnesota Twins

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

 

Down goes Rosenthal. This is not the first time Rosenthal's been bumped from the ninth inning. There's a chance he'll recover the role. Of course, when he's reclaimed the role in the past, he was only beating out setup quality relievers like Siegrist and Jordan Walden. Oh might be a tougher nut to crack. Buy low (i.e. claim on waivers) only if you have a bench vacancy.

 

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The Steals Department

 

With Jon Jay injured, Travis Jankowski will likely serve as the Padres leadoff man. There are flaws in Jankowski's game, namely a complete lack of power, but nobody can criticize his penchant for base stealing. Although he isn't a burner like Billy Hamilton, he has enough speed and instincts to nab over 30 bags in a full season. Since the rest of his profile fits as a utility man, get used to using him when better players are hurt.

 

If the Padres turn to the farm system for a Jay replacement, Manuel Margot is a candidate for promotion. The top prospect acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade (version 2.0), Margot is batting .295/.349/.412 at Triple-A with 22 steals and three home runs (342 plate appearances). He has excellent strike zone discipline – 6.7 percent walk rate and 9.9 percent strikeout rate. The power is expected to develop later in his career. He's still 21 years old.

 

Meanwhile, the Reds are poised to provide us with another stolen base scion. With the trade deadline approaching, a trade of Brandon Phillips or Zack Cozart could open an opportunity for Jose Peraza. Like Jankowski, the speedster looks best suited to utility work. Peraza comes with more hype though, so a brief stint as a starter makes sense if only to test his mettle. He's an aggressive, slappy hitter with no power.

 

 

Brad Johnson

You can read more from Brad Johnson on NBC Sports Edge, FanGraphs, and RotoFanatic. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.