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Saves and Steals

Fasten Your Seatbelts

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

Please fasten your seatbelts. The captain is expecting turbulence ahead. By my count, roughly 10 closers are at risk of losing their job in the next few weeks. Only 13 are truly locked into their role. Prepare for a bumpy ride.


Four closers tied with three saves apiece over the last calendar week. Namely, Cody Allen, Dellin Betances, Mark Melancon, and Jim Johnson. The full season leaderboard belongs to Greg Holland and his 19 saves. He has a cozy six save lead over second place Cody Allen (13).


A three steal game on Tuesday night put Jonathan Villar atop the weekly leaderboard. He went 4-for-4 on the week. Billy Hamilton also swiped four bags, but he was caught once. Overall, Hamilton is dominating the competition with 23 steals – a pace of roughly 70 over a full season. Second place is Dee Gordon with 14 swipes. Jarrod Dyson has 13 thefts.


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Tier 1: The Elite (5)


Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs

Dellin Betances, New York Yankees


Our five elites turned in a superb week. Only Jansen allowed a run – a solo homer while protecting a four-run lead. Kimbrel is now four innings into a perfect game. Allen and Betances both saved three games.


Tier 2: The Core Performers (8)


Greg Holland, Colorado Rockies

Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

Mark Melancon, San Francisco Giants

Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals

Addison Reed, New York Mets

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

Ken Giles, Houston Astros


Holland is making a strong case to join the elite tier. After another successful week, he's sitting on a 0.96 ERA with 12.54 K/9 and 2.89 BB/9 in 18.2 innings. Osuna and Colome also pitched well, although Colome did allow a run in a non-save situation.


Melancon was activated off the disabled list minutes after I published last Wednesday. He's since pitched three times, allowing one run on four hits. He converted saves in all three outings. His velocity appears to be down slightly, but it's always hard to tell with Melancon since he rarely uses a four-seam fastball.


Herrera struggled a tad this week. After allowing a run during a tune-up outing on Thursday, he was tagged for a two-run home run and a blown save on Friday. Herrera bounced back with a save on Sunday. I doubt he'll continue to allow this many home runs, and it's encouraging to see his strikeout rate spike in recent appearances.


On Saturday, Reed finally walked a batter. Then he walked another one. He escaped unscathed after allowing three base runners. Overall, he picked up two saves in four scoreless innings.


Robertson's only appearance was a two-inning victory. Giles pitched well on three occasions, tallying two saves and five strikeouts.


Tier 3: Stable Hands (5)


Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers

Seung Hwan Oh, St. Louis Cardinals

Matt Bush, Texas Rangers

Jim Johnson, Atlanta Braves

Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates


Knebel only pitched twice this week, and he did all the heavy lifting on his own. He walked three batters and struck out five.


Last Friday, Oh was saddled with a blown save loss after allowing a pair of runs. He responded by recording four strikeouts in 1.1 innings on Tuesday. Trevor Rosenthal is having a great season. Every run allowed by Oh, brings Rosenthal closer to saves.


Tuesday wasn't a good day for saves in Atlanta. Both teams blew it in the ninth inning. Johnson kicked off the pain in the top of the ninth, allowing a pair of runs. He may have been a little overworked – it was his sixth appearance in the last nine days.


Watson didn't have a sharp week. The Pirates called on hi in a non-save situation on Friday. He proceeded to cough up a three-run homer. He picked up perfect saves in each of the next two days. Yesterday, after Johnson gave the Pirates the lead, Watson was hit for a walk-off blown save loss. Felipe Rivero is next in line, although Watson isn't on the hot seat yet.


Tier 4: Questions (4)


Bud Norris, Los Angeles Angels

Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles

A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds


Norris pitched superbly in 2.1 innings. Brach rebounded from a cold spell with two perfect innings.


Conversely, Ramos was roasted for five runs over a couple innings. Home runs did most of the damage. Neither outing was a save situation. With Brad Ziegler struggling and Kyle Barraclough walking everybody, David Phelps is probably the best handcuff to Ramos.


The Reds are going to be frustrating all season long. Iglesias made four scoreless appearances totaling 3.1 innings of work. Guess what? Zero saves.


Tier 5: Roller Coasters (8)


Justin Wilson, Detroit Tigers

Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Brandon Maurer, San Diego Padres

Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota Twins

James Pazos, Tony Zych, Steve Cishek, Seattle Mariners

Santiago Casilla, Oakland Athletics

Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley, Washington Nationals

Fernando Rodney, Arizona Diamondbacks


Maurer gets me every year. He always makes it look like he's figured it out, then he goes and melts down. He chipped in two more bad outings this week. That makes 10 runs allowed in his last 3.2 innings. Brad Hand is easily the most talented reliever in the Padres bullpen, but he's a left-handed, multi-inning weapon. Ryan Buchter could get the next look.


Kintzler is boring, but he'll generally get the job done. He added a save and a win in three innings.


Pazos has yet to actually record a save, but he seems like the best candidate to close in the Mariners bullpen. Zych has troubling peripherals, Cishek has yet to prove he's healthy, and Edwin Diaz was just removed from the role. Ultimately, Diaz will probably reclaim this job. For now, keep an eye on Pazos. He's posted a luck neutral 2.29 ERA with 12.36 K/9 and 3.66 BB/9.


Glover nabbed a four-out save on Sunday. The Nationals are feeling around blindly for somebody to take the closer role. Anybody who converts a save will probably get the next opportunity. Now Glover need only keep runs off the board. He has a 2.77 ERA with 6.92 K/9 and 1.38 BB/9 in 13 innings. I expect more strikeouts, walks, and runs going forward.






Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels (groin)

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles (forearm strain)

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees (shoulder)

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets (blood clot)


Bedrosian will begin throwing from a mound soon. Britton has progressed to flat ground work.


The Deposed


Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies

Blake Treinen, Washington Nationals

Ryan Madson, Oakland Athletics

Joaquin Benoit, Philadelphia Phillies

Sam Dyson, Texas Rangers

Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers

Neftali Feliz, Milwaukee Brewers

Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Derek Law, San Francisco Giants


I list everybody who held the closer job for more than a spot appearance or two. Law pitched well during his 10 days as closer. He and Madson are the only two to lose their jobs through no fault of their own.




The Steals Department


The Athletics, Pirates, and Cubs have been the most preyed upon teams. Let's investigate their upcoming matchups.


Stephen Vogt is the target in Oakland, with Andrew Triggs and Casilla proving helpless at holding runners. Triggs is set to start on Sunday versus the Yankees. If you have access to Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, or Chase Headley, you may find yourself with a free steal.


Francisco Cervelli, Tyler Glasnow, and Gerrit Cole are the weak links in Pittsburgh. They're finishing up a series in Atlanta. Ender Inciarte is the only stolen base threat. Next up are the Mets. They'll see both Glasnow and Cole. Jose Reyes is the main target on New York's roster.


Despite his inability to throw to first base, Jon Lester has only allowed six steals – tied with Jake Arrieta and John Lackey for worst on the staff. Still, that's not bad. The main problem is Miguel Montero. He's caught 0 of 13 steal attempts. It's difficult to predict exactly when he'll start. Eduardo Nunez, Yasiel Puig, Manuel Margot, and Erick Aybar are the most likely to nab bases in the next week.


In a general sense, Kevin Kiermaier is showing signs of life at the plate. He has 20 steal speed with enough pop to be roto relevant.  

Brad Johnson

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