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Saves and Steals

Nightmare in St. Louis

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

Trouble in the STL! Trevor Rosenthal had a terrible week, leading to widespread speculation of a possible demotion. No such move is imminent, but the ice is starting to thin. Meanwhile, out in LAla-land, Huston Street is doing his best impression of a men's league pitcher. Seriously, take three mph off his stuff and he'd be an exact clone for a guy I faced two weeks ago.

 

Mets closer Jeurys Familia leads the league with 22 saves. A.J. Ramos has 21 while Kenley Jansen and Zach Britton have 20 apiece. Sam Dyson was the save leader over the last calendar week with a 4-for-4 performance.

 

Jonathan Villar still leads the league in stolen bases. He's up to 25 on the season. Old man Rajai Davis is in second with 21 steals. Starling Marte gets the bronze with 20 swipes. Incidentally, Davis led the league with four steals over the last week. Six others snagged three in three attempts including Michael Taylor, Odubel Herrera, and speedy prospect Jose Peraza.

 

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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 struggled over three innings. He allowed a total of three runs including two solo home runs to the Twins last Saturday. The Yankees had a three run lead so Chapman was still credited with a save. The other run was allowed in a non-save situation. Overall, he notched two saves and four strikeouts. No need to worry.

 

Speaking of not worrying, Jansen rebounded from an iffy week by pitching five times and allowing just one hit. In five innings, he notched three saves, a win, and seven strikeouts.

 

Like Chapman, Britton wasn't at his best. His first appearance was a save in which he coughed up a hit and two walks. He squeaked out of the jam without any damage. The Padres got to him last night, although it wasn't exactly his fault. An error started a three run rally. Only one of the runs was earned. The Orioles were already losing that game.

 

Sticking with the general theme, Kimbrel had one of his worst outings of the season. He took the blown save loss on Monday. The White Sox plated two runs in two-thirds of an inning. Kimbrel pitched three other times during the week, and he didn't allow a baserunner in those appearances.

 

Tier 2: Nearly Elite (6)

 

Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs

Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

 

It's been awhile since Osuna's had a save opportunity. He was touched up for a solo home run in a maintenance game versus the Orioles. The score at the time was 13-2. He pitched once more in a non-save situation, recording a total of five strikeouts in just two innings.

 

Familia had a clean week – three innings, two saves, and no runs allowed. Melancon was similarly tidy in two innings (one save).

 

Rondon blew the save last Wednesday in what eventually turned into a Nationals' extra-innings win. The Cubs can afford to drop a game now and then. Rondon recovered with a four out save on Saturday.

 

A leadoff double and sac bunt did in Robertson on Sunday. He took the loss when he failed to protect a 2-2 tie. The stat line looks bad with two hits and two walks, but the free passes were of the intentional variety. A Jose Ramirez grounder scored the walkoff run. Robertson pitched well on three other occasions (three saves) and has now worked on three straight days.

 

On Saturday, Colome had his second truly bad outing of the season. With two on, two out, and the game tied at three runs, Joe Panik mashed a three-run tater. Colome pitched fine in his only other outing. These things happen occasionally. He still has a 1.76 ERA.

 

Tier 3: Good Veterans (5)

 

A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers

Sam Dyson, Texas Rangers

 

Ramos continues to roll with two more saves and four strikeouts over three perfect innings. It's nice to see a week without any free passes.

 

What an ugly week for Cardinals relievers – especially Rosenthal. Last Wednesday, Kevin Siegrist blew a save in the eighth inning. Rosenthal came in to pitch the ninth with the Cards trailing 2-1. He allowed three hits and a walk while recording just one out. Two insurance runs scored.

 

Rosenthal "earned" the blown save and the loss on Saturday when he coughed up two more runs without retiring a batter. He also pitched the last two nights, locking down two shaky saves. For now, he remains the top dog in St. Louis. Speculators should start grabbing shares of Kevin Siegrist and Seung-hwan Oh. Siegrist is probably first in line although Oh looks like the better pitcher.

 

The week was mostly positive for Allen. He allowed one run over four appearances with a save. The run resulted in a blown save vulture win. Most Roto owners will happily take a win over a save.

 

Dyson pitched particularly well, picking up four saves in four innings. The only drawback was the single lonely strikeout. We'll overlook the lack of punch outs thanks to the otherwise productive week.

 

Tier 4: The Mid Tier (3)

 

Will Harris, Houston Astros

Fernando Rodney, San Diego Padres

Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

 

Harris was sharp. He saved the day last Wednesday then protected a 2-2 tie on Friday. The Astros have no reason to turn to anyone else for the ninth inning. He has a 0.57 ERA with 9.09 K/9 and 1.71 BB/9 over 31.2 innings.

 

It's over. Rodney allowed his first earned run last night while recording the save versus the Orioles. This was the same game Britton allowed to blow open via Ryan Flaherty error. Rodney pitched three other times, tallying eight strikeouts in 4.1 innings.

 

Casilla spent most of the week on the paternity list. He did not pitch. The Giants re-activated him on Monday.

 

Tier 5: Questions (5)

 

Steve Cishek, Seattle Mariners

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves

Shawn Kelley, Washington Nationals

Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers

Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies

 

Last Wednesday was a battle with command for Cishek. He walked three with three strikeouts in 1.1 innings. No runs scored. He followed that up with two perfect saves. He hasn't pitched since last Friday so he's due for a tune up game at the very least.

 

Vizcaino tossed 3.1 innings over four scoreless appearances. He nabbed six strikeouts and one save. Vizcaino is in the “questions” tier because he only has 10 save opportunities in 30.1 innings of work. His stuff easily belongs in Tier 3 or 4.

 

Jeffress and Gomez don't have anywhere near as much stuff as Vizcaino. Jeffress was saddled with the loss last Friday versus the Dodgers. He allowed a walkoff run. He recorded the save on Thursday night. Jeffress owners should try to handcuff Will Smith. Gomez pitched twice in non-save situations. The Phillies have turned pumpkin so Gomez's save chances may decline.

 

Kelley has been officially named the Nationals interim closer. This was widely expected by everybody, but there was concern that the club would avoid using him on consecutive days. Kelley recorded five outs last Wednesday then entered for a two out save on Thursday. Yeah, they'll use him like a normal closer.

 

Tier 6: Roller Coasters (6)

 

Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels

Carlos Estevez, Colorado Rockies

Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota Twins

Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds

 

Ziegler was fine for a second straight week. As such, I've promoted him to King of the Scrubs. He actually had a very useful week with three scoreless innings, two saves, and four strikeouts.

 

I wanted to move Street to this tier last week, but I hadn't seen enough to give up on him. After watching his blown save yesterday, I can confidently assert that the present iteration of Street is barely a major league pitcher, let alone a bonafide closer. He walked two and allowed two hits. One of those base knocks was a sharp grounder to third base that hit the bag. The other was a would-be bases-clearing double to right center (actually credited as a walk-off, two RBI single). He failed to record an out in his only appearance. The Angels don't have a second string closer of any repute. Fernando Salas may be next in line.

 

Carlos Estevez picked up two saves in three scoreless appearances. There are two concerns here. The first is simple – he pitches half his games at Coors Field. I'd be wary of Chapman in Colorado let alone a shaky control, hard thrower like Estevez. And that's the second worry, Estevez looks to be more of a thrower than a pitcher at this point.

 

Madson appears to still be the go-to closer. He tossed four innings this week including two save situations. He blew the first one but was awarded the vulture win. He converted the save last night. Doolittle is the better pitcher.

 

Kintzler saved two in three appearances. One of those saves did include a solo home run, but he had a comfortable cushion. He's a low strikeout command guy with big ground ball rates. A terrible week has pushed Fernando Abad out of the picture.

 

Ugh, Cingrani. Two innings, five baserunners, no runs, no strikeouts, and one save. Talk about a lucky week.

 

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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)

 

Perkins will miss the remainder of the season after doctors discovered a torn labrum. Not sure how they missed that previously...

 

Boxberger has begun a light throwing program. He's still weeks away. I don't anticipate Colome surrendering the job this time. McGee is working his way up to long toss. He may also fall to setup duties when he returns. Papelbon told the media he's throwing too. His injury appears to be the least serious of the trio.

 

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

 

Nothing new here. Keep an eye on Rosenthal and Street.

 

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The Steals Department

 

Let's focus on the farm this week. The Athletics recently called upon Arismendy Alcantara who they acquired in the Chris Coghlan: Round Two trade. Alcantara led all Triple-A players with 26 stolen bases. If he ever receives reliable playing time – which I doubt will happen – he'll make for an excellent speedy streaming option.

 

Keep an eye out for Manuel Margot, the top player the Padres acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade to Boston. Margot has 20 stolen bases in 27 attempts to go with superb contact skills. Scouts think he'll eventually hit for some power. I'm reminded of a better Ender Inciarte. Incidentally, Inciarte is batting well lately as the Braves second hitter. He's worth an add for steal-starved owners.

 

Switching back to major league reinforcements, many owners have forgotten about Ben Revere. The Nationals leadoff man is finally starting to run with five of his seven steals in his last six games. After a slumpy start to the season, he has multi-hit games in six of his last 10 starts. As somebody who has watched too much Ben Revere over the years, this is a familiar pattern. He's ready to go wild.

 

Brad Johnson

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