Saves and Steals

Bad News Cubs

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The playoff bound Cubs were pummeled with bad news over the last week. Not only is backup closer Pedro Strop probably out for the season, Brandon Morrow’s attempt to return utterly failed. Jesse Chavez and Steve Cishek are expected to take over with Justin Wilson filling in against tough lefty hitters. Cishek in particular has stark platoon splits which makes Chavez the better bet to nab the role outright. Strop hopes to pitch in the final two games of the regular season. However, hamstring injuries are notoriously finicky.


The Yankees activated Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday. How he’ll be used has yet to be addressed. Since the club isn’t exactly under any pressure, there’s no reason for them to avoid shoving him right back into the closer role – especially with Dellin Betances slumping. We could be looking at a highly talented committee while Chapman eases back into regular duty.


Five pitchers – Ken Giles, Will Smith, Craig Kimbrel, Sergio Romo, and Felipe Vazquez – tied for the weekly lead with three saves apiece. Edwin Diaz (56) maintains a dominating lead over Kimbrel (41) and Davis (40). They’re the only relievers to cross the 40 save threshold. It’s possible nobody else will join them.


Now, shall we go to the tiers?



Tier 1: The Elite (4)


Edwin Diaz, Seattle Mariners

Blake Treinen, Oakland Athletics

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees


Edwin Diaz’s pursuit of a couple records – total strikeouts by a closer and saves – are seemingly out of reach. There’s still an outside chance the Mariners hand him the seven save opportunities he needs to surpass Francisco Rodriguez’s 62 save 2008 campaign. They have only 11 games remaining in their schedule. Diaz currently ranks third for single-season saves with 56. He’s just one behind second place Bobby Thigpen.


As somebody pointed out to me yesterday, Treinen has a 0.85 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP over a 74.1 inning season. The symmetry won’t hold up through his final few starts. Nor does it matter. It’s just a cool little factoid about a fantastic fantasy season.


Remember when everybody was panicking about Kimbrel a few weeks ago? He appears to be back to normal. His velocity has even increased in recent outings. The rest of the Red Sox bullpen is suspect. An ill-timed blip from Kimbrel could lead to a brief postseason experience for baseball’s winningest team.


I’ve included Chapman here as the sole Yankees closer. Realistically, Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, and David Robertson all have a chance to grab a couple saves before the end of the season. The Yankees may avoid using Chapman on consecutive days.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (5)


Roberto Osuna, Houston Astros

Jose Leclerc, Texas Rangers

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates


Not the sharpest week for our “near elites.” Everybody except Leclerc had their share of hiccups. Vazquez allowed runs in four of his last six appearances. He was fortunate enough to still save three of those games. He blew a save on Tuesday. His velocity is down one mph. I’m unconcerned about Doolittle even though he took the loss last Thursday. He failed to defend a tied game. Since then, he’s cruised through a couple clean saves.


Tier 3: Core Performers (6)


Kirby Yates, San Diego Padres

Wade Davis, Colorado Rockies

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers

Will Smith, San Francisco Giants

A.J. Minter, Atlanta Braves


Home runs continue to dog Yates. He allowed another last Wednesday. They’ve been a long standing problem for the righty. I suspect the Padres will seek to push Yates back into a setup role over the offseason by signing a couple retread closer candidates like Greg Holland. As we saw with Brad Boxberger, a team can survive with a homer prone closer for a while. Eventually, they’ll prove too costly.


Arodys Vizcaino returned from the disabled list on Saturday. He’s pitched twice in the ninth inning – both times with a deficit. For now, I believe Minter remains the primary closer. Vizcaino struggled through an appearance on Monday.


Tier 4: Second Choice Closers (4)


Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

Brad Hand, Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians

Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays

Sergio Romo, Tampa Bay Rays


As a starter, Martinez occasionally showed up with bad command. That’s a more glaring issue as a reliever when you’re not given multiple innings to rediscover the strike zone. CMart’s most recent appearance included three walks, one hit, and a run. As I worried last week, there are some small sample signs that he’s not comfortable pitching multiple days in a row.


In order to maximally confuse fantasy owners, the Indians called upon Miller for a save on Tuesday. The club has already clinched the AL Central – they’re simply preparing Miller for high leverage work in the postseason. All three relievers should be owned in 10-team and deeper for formats. It’s a shame they’ll share the workload over the final week and a half.


As several readers pointed out last week, Romo recorded only one save between August 22 and September 15. He also had a 20-day span over which he appeared just once. Normality reasserted itself this week. He appeared on four straight days and locked down three saves. He also coughed up a couple solo home runs.


Tier 5: Red Flag Club (3)


Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels

Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles

Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, Philadelphia Phillies


Buttrey isn’t completely locked in as the Angels closer. Mike Scioscia never makes it easy for us. He was used in the seventh inning on Saturday. Since then, he’s picked up two saves including a five out appearance on Tuesday. Look for Blake Parker or Jim Johnson on Wednesday.


Welcome back Neris. There’s no telling who will receive the Phillies next save opportunity. Manager Gabe Kapler has too much fun mixing and matching – a strategy that has not borne fruit. Strangely, Neris received his save opportunity after coughing up three runs on the previous day. Two of those scored after he left the game. Since returning from Triple-A, he has a 2.57 ERA with 29 strikeouts, 10 hits, four walks, and four runs in 14 innings. He deserves a shot at finishing the season as a closer. We’ll see if it happens.


Tier 6: Mess Hall (8)


Yoshihisa Hirano, Arizona Diamondbacks

Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox

Trevor Hildenberger, Minnesota Twins

Jesse Chavez, Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, Chicago Cubs

Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

Adam Conley, Drew Steckenrider, Miami Marlins

Robert Gsellman, New York Mets

Wily Peralta, Kansas City Royals


Quite a few teams are limping through the remainder of the season. The Royals began limping in May. The Tigers are in a similar situation – they have no cause to improve upon their crumbling closer. Minnesota is riding a slumpy Hildenberger. Nobody is excited about Gsellman these days.


The Marlins most recent save was handed to Conley. Steckenrider is still very much in the mix. They’re both perfectly adequate middle relievers. It’s interesting to see Jones back atop the White Sox depth chart. They’ve been wandering aimlessly ever since Joakim Soria was traded.






Keynan Middleton, Los Angeles Angels (elbow – out for season)

Brandon Morrow, Chicago Cubs (bicep – out for season)

Kelvin Herrera, Washington Nationals (Lisfranc tear – out for season)

Pedro Strop, Chicago Cubs (hamstring)


Chapman and Vizcaino returned. Strop may be out for the season but could bounce back in time for the postseason. Morrow is officially done.


The Deposed


Dominic Leone, St. Louis Cardinals (injured)

Greg Holland, Washington Nationals (signed)

Cam Bedrosian, Los Angeles Angels

Alex Colome, Seattle Mariners (traded)

Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks (traded)

Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Sam Dyson, San Francisco Giants

Jeurys Familia, Oakland Athletics (traded)

Zach Britton, New York Yankees (traded)

Tyler Clippard, Toronto Blue Jays

Joakim Soria, Milwaukee Brewers (traded, injured)

Brad Brach, Atlanta Braves (traded)

Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Pirates (traded)

Kyle Barraclough, Miami Marlins (injured)

Ryan Tepera, Toronto Blue Jays

Fernando Rodney, Oakland Athletics (traded)

Corey Knebel, Milwaukee Brewers

Hector Rondon, Houston Astros

Seranthony Dominguez, Philadelphia Phillies

Bud Norris, St. Louis Cardinals

Brad Boxberger, Arizona Diamondbacks

Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels

Dellin Betances, New York Yankees


I’m leaving Neris on the list for now. One save doesn’t mean a whole lot in Philadelphia these days.




The Steals Department


Adalberto Mondesi continues to raise his profile. He was the only thief to nab four bags in the last week. Six others stole three bags. Juan Soto did it all in one game. The other five were regulars of this section – Christian Yelich, Whit Merrifield, Jackie Bradley, Trea Turner, and Jonathan Villar.


Tier 1: The World Beaters (6)


Trea Turner

Whit Merrifield

Mallex Smith

Billy Hamilton

Starling Marte

Dee Gordon


After a slow start to the season on the base paths, Merrifield has swiped 20 bags since mid-August. It’s a 60 steal pace over a full campaign. Smith has proven comparable prolific despite missing time to an illness. Gordon is on the other end of the spectrum. He has only five steals in eight attempts since the start of August.


Tier 2: Consistent Thieves (4)


Jose Ramirez

Adalberto Mondesi

Lorenzo Cain

Mookie Betts

Mike Trout


Mondesi gets a boost for his early-career Javier Baez profile. Of course, he’s an entire gear faster than Baez too, hence the 25 steals in 241 plate appearances.


Tier 3: Still Speedy (4)


Jonathan Villar

Tim Anderson

Jose Peraza

Christian Yelich


Yelich seemed like he was content to move station-to-station earlier in the season. With the Brewers season on the line, he’s snatched six based over his last 72 plate appearances. He’s doing it all these days. He’s even hit for the cycle – twice!


Tier 4: Some Flaws (6)


Javier Baez

Andrew Benintendi

Ender Inciarte

Jean Segura

Terrance Gore

Francisco Lindor


I bumped a trio of runners down because they’ve been less active lately. Benintendi is even sitting against some left-handed pitchers. Inciarte always sits against southpaws.



Tier 5: Not Slow (7)


Roman Quinn

Jose Altuve

Cesar Hernandez

Trevor Story

Ozzie Albies

Ronald Acuna

Amed Rosario


Quinn is better than “not slow.” He has 80 grade speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. Since he has a broken toe, I expect him to be circumspect about unnecessary steal attempts.


Story avoiding UCL damage to his elbow – it’s just inflamed. Curiously, it’s actually hard to see damage on an MRI when the joint is inflamed. So what we’ve actually been given is a guess based off a flawed scan. It’s possible we’ll later discover he’s out for the season. For now, they hope he’ll only miss a few days.


Honorable Mentions


Harrison Bader

Tony Kemp

Charlie Blackmon

Michael Taylor

Travis Jankowski

Elvis Andrus

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Greg Allen

Rajai Davis

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