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Clase is in Session

Emmanuel Clase

Emmanuel Clase

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It used to be common to have four-save weeks from multiple relievers. This year, we’ve only had a few instances of this happening, at least for Wednesday-to-Wednesday periods. Emmanuel Clase becomes the latest to do so, locking down four saves and a loss in five appearances. Last Wednesday, he uncharacteristically issued three free passes while allowing two runs. Since then, he’s held opponents to three hits and no walks in 3.1 innings. Clase leads the league in saves with 35. Jordan Romano and Liam Hendriks each locked down three saves. On the season, they’re tied for second place with Kenley Jansen. They’ve notched 33 saves apiece.

Closer Tiers

Tier 1: Crème de la Crème (3)

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets
Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland Guardians
Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox

Diaz had two clean appearances in non-save situations. Hendriks faced the minimum across three appearances. We already discussed Clase above.

Tier 2: The Elite (8)

Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Ryan Helsley, St. Louis Cardinals
Camilo Doval, San Francisco Giants
Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers
Felix Bautista, Baltimore Orioles
Clay Holmes, New York Yankees
Paul Sewald, Seattle Mariners

In addition to three scoreless saves, Romano also nabbed a one-out hold. As a result, he might be unavailable on Wednesday. Helsley might be showing signs of fatigue. His stuff remains as filthy as ever, but he’s allowed a 3.00 ERA (5.18 FIP) since the start of August. He allowed one run in both of his appearances this week. He still recorded two saves. Williams also landed a pair of saves despite allowing two runs (one earned) in one of his outings. Sewald also scuffled in two of three appearances. It didn’t prove costly for the Mariners. He even vultured a win on Sunday.

Pressly returned from a couple weeks off with a sore neck. He’s had quite a few “old man” injuries this season. He allowed an inconsequential solo homer in his return and struck out the side on Tuesday.

Holmes ran afoul of unearned runs in the last week. He picked up the win on Tuesday. Wandy Peralta locked down the save. It’s worth rostering Jonathan Loáisiga if he’s available and you need a couple bonus saves. Two of Holmes’ three appearances continued into a second inning. That affects both when he might come into a game and how frequently he’s available.

Tier 3: Core Performers (5)

Craig Kimbrel, Evan Phillips, Los Angeles Dodgers
Josh Hader, Nick Martinez, San Diego Padres
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies
Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves
Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals

Since implementing their new usage patterns, Kimbrel has held opponents hitless for eight straight appearances (8.1 innings). He’s a couple outs from a reliever no-no. He did issue a pair of walks in late August, so no perfecto. It’s also worth noting he hasn’t recorded a strikeout in his last four appearances, and he has only one win and one save over the hitless streak.

Hader pitched twice and recorded five strikeouts without allowing a run. He has three saves over his last five appearances. Martinez hasn’t recorded a save since the start of Hader’s five-game “hot streak.” I was never able to identify what went wrong with Hader, and it’s possible he’s already corrected the issue. If so, he’ll rise back into the top tier by the end of the season. This is a conservative placement in case it’s a false dawn.

Bard pitched a couple no-nonsense frames. Ditto Barlow. Jansen appeared thrice, sandwiching a two-homer, blown save disaster between two tidy outings.

Tier 4: Uncertainty with Upside (7)

Jorge Lopez, Minnesota Twins
David Robertson, Seranthony Domínguez, Philadelphia Phillies
José Leclerc, Jonathan Hernández, Texas Rangers
Alexis Diaz, Hunter Strickland, Cincinnati Reds
Kyle Finnegan, Washington Nationals
Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
John Schreiber, Garrett Whitlock, Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox

Lopez remains mediocre since joining the Twins – a 4.40 ERA with 6.91 K/9 and 5.65 BB/9. I was initially concerned earlier in the season about his errant command. It crisped up right around when Adley Rutschman joined the Orioles. Perhaps Lopez needs a higher-quality catcher.

Dominguez came off the injured list on Sunday. He’s since recorded two holds with Robertson saving both games. Robertson was struggling prior to Dominguez’s return. I anticipate a job-share of sorts with Dominguez coming in to handle the toughest outs.

As theorized last week, it appears Leclerc has nudged aside Hernandez for save opportunities following a disasterpiece by Hernandez in the previous week. After missing most of 2020 and all of 2021, Leclerc is showing career-best command all while throwing fewer fastballs than ever before.

Ian Gibaut recorded the Reds lone save of the week. Diaz has only three saves since the start of August. However, it does appear he’s the “closer.” This is a situation similar to the 2021 Orioles where the club isn’t sufficiently talented to produce reliable save opportunities so the pitchers basically work on a schedule. Strickland is the guy they abuse with Diaz used in a safer manner.

Finnegan had his tail whipped by the Cardinals last Wednesday. He allowed five runs on four hits and two walks. The Phillies gave him a two-run drubbing on Sunday. The stuff remains better than last season. We just need to be prepared to ingest the occasional clunker – not unlike Soto. The Tigers closer pitched well in two appearances. He has more to prove before we declare this rough patch behind him. Since a five-run outing on August 7, he has a 7.62 ERA, 9.69 K/9, and 8.31 BB/9.

Whitlock blew a save on Tuesday via solo homer. The Yankees came back and won later in the game. Schreiber picked up a couple holds in three appearances including on Tuesday. Barnes had the only save of the week. Folks, we have a full-blown committee.

Tier 5: Pray to the Baseball Gods (4)

Wil Crowe, Pittsburgh Pirates
Brandon Hughes, Rowan Wick, Chicago Cubs
Jimmy Herget, Jose Quijada, Ryan Tepera, Los Angeles Angels
Pete Fairbanks, Jason Adam, Brooks Raley, Colin Poche, Tampa Bay Rays

This is the middle-relievers-masquerading-as-closers tier. Crowe allowed three runs and took the loss on Saturday. He finished a two-inning save on Monday. Wick and Hughes swapped roles again. Wick had a blown save while Hughes landed the two most-recent saves. He’s worked two days in a row so Wick is on deck on Wednesday. The Rays are gonna Ray. Poche and Adam had blown save losses. Shawn Armstrong recorded a two-pitch save last Friday. Fairbanks needed 30 pitches for the save on Tuesday so he’ll be on the bench Wednesday.

Tier 6: Better Left to Others (3)

Dylan Floro, Miami Marlins
A.J. Puk, Oakland Athletics
Ian Kennedy, Mark Melancon, Arizona Diamondbacks

Floro’s stuff is still a half-notch below where he was last season when he was a pretty decent closer. It looks like he’ll end the season as the Marlins guy. Puk allowed up five runs last Wednesday. The Athletics aren’t too concerned about having a closer. Arizona struggled to bridge between their starters and leverage relievers last week.


Andrew Kittredge, Tampa Bay Rays (TJS – out for season)
Lucas Sims, Cincinnati Reds (bulging disc – out for season)
Tanner Rainey, Washington Nationals (UCL sprain – out for season)
David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates (back)
Tanner Houck, Boston Red Sox (back – out for season)
Zach Jackson, Oakland Athletics (shoulder)
Dany Jiménez, Oakland Athletics (shoulder)

Steals Department

The fun thing about September baseball is certain players will run with less restraint. Such was the case with last week’s Speed Spotlight Bubba Thompson. He swiped five bases in as many attempts. Six others nabbed three bags apiece – possibly a season-high. For the most part, they were the usual suspects – Randy Arozarena, Ronald Acuña, Tommy Edman, Steven Kwan, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Andrew Velazquez. That last name, Velazquez, might rate as a modest surprise as some, but that’s only because he doesn’t reach base often enough to make his impact felt. He has 17 steals in 349 plate appearances despite a ludicrously bad .196/.236/.304 triple-slash. Folks wonder why the Angels don’t win games. Jon Berti (34) retains the season lead followed by Cedric Mullins (31), Randy Arozarena (30), Jorge Mateo (30), and Edman (29).

Speed Spotlight

The probably playoff-bound Mariners are toying with a new outfield rotation. Jesse Winker just hasn’t gotten going at the plate, producing a barely acceptable .217/.341/.344 triple-slash. Per FanGraphs, he’s minus five runs in the outfield and minus 4.4 runs on the basepaths. While he’s a great rebound candidate for 2023, he might need some time and perspective to work out an adjustment.

Recently, Sam Haggerty has eaten into the playing time of Winker and currently injured outfielder Mitch Haniger. Haggerty has four straight starts. He’s not a total zero with the bat, demonstrating some moments of heroics reminiscent of another backup speedster – Tim Locastro. Haggerty has poor plate discipline and strikes out too often. He’s a menace when he does reach base. He’s a 92nd-percentile runner with home-to-first times on par with Kwan, Garrett Hampson, and Harrison Bader. Moreover, he has a proclivity for base thievery. Over a three-season career, he has 20 steals (22 attempts) in 306 plate appearances including 11 in 154 plate appearances this season. The steal-to-plate-appearance ratio somewhat overstates his aplomb – several of his swipes have been as a pinch runner. However, we’re at the point of the season when some teams might have sufficient padding in other categories to take gambles on pinch steals. He’s playing enough at the moment to merit a dice roll by less well-prepared managers too.