Here I go again sounding the trouble alarm. The way relief pitching is going this season I expect this will be a recurring segment every two weeks in SAGNOF. I’m taking a look at closers who have been struggling since the last time I wrote about closers two weeks ago. The concern level scale goes from:

  • Green: “That ain’t no problem, that ain’t no problem.” Shannon Sharpe
  • Yellow: “Oh, I’m stressed!” Jerry Seinfeld
  • Orange: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Han Solo
  • Red: “Molly. You in danger girl.” Oda Mae Brown


Trouble Alarm: (stats since last article – May 11.) 

  • Stefan Crichton, ARI (1.2 IP, 0 K, 0 SV, 4 ER allowed): What a difference twoish weeks can make. Way back then I was telling you that Crichton was the fur-sure closer in the desert — now after two losses, and two appearances not pitching in the final inning — I’m not as fur-sure. Concern Level: Orange. Crichton has struggled and Joakim Soria has started settling in. Who to watch: I just said it: Soria. After allowing four earned runs in his first three appearances back from injury, Joakim hasn’t allowed a run in his subsequent six appearances. Diamondbacks were one of the early season surprises ending April with a record over .500, but in May they have a 4-18 record, plummeting them to the second-worst record in baseball — only one win above Baltimore. There might not be many saves here, but I think Soria will be taking over this job sooner rather than later. 
  • Will Smith, ATL (4.0 IP, 6 K, 0 SV, 5 ER allowed): Four of those earned runs came in one game, so that should make it clear that his Concern Level: green. The Blue Jays were just locked-in in that game against Smith he allowed three singles and two doubles and only getting baby Vlad to ground out. He quickly bounced back in the next two days with back-to-back scoreless appearances. Who to watch: Chris Martin. Martin has looked phenomenal since his return from injury making five scoreless appearances and allowing only 1 baserunner. You’d like to see more than three strikeouts, but the ratios are so purty that you can deal.
  • Cesar Valdez, BAL (3.2 IP, 4 K, 0 SV, 6 ER allowed): Valdez surprisingly started off the season like gangbusters allowing only 2 ER in his first 13 games after Hunter Harvey, the presumptive closer, landed on the IL. However, in the last 14 days, he’s struggled, allowing runs in three of his six appearances. Concern level: Orange. Due to these struggles, the Orioles manager said that the closer gig might be a “mixed bag.” I think mixed bag was the wrong phrase choice. Mixed bag typically means a bunch of different types of results. To me, it feels like he’s saying “It’s going to be a mixed bag. Sometimes there’ll be saves, sometimes they’ll let up three ERs in 0 IP.” Who to watch: Paul Fry. Fry, after allowing an ER in his first appearance back on April 5th, didn’t allow another ER for the rest of April. In fact, if you take away his recent 0.2 IP, 3 ER blow-up from May 19th his ERA would be a sparking 1.10. If only it were that easy. One last thing before you go — Fry has been pitching most often in the 8th inning — so he’s right there already in high leverage innings. 
  • Brad Hand, WAS (6 IP, 10 K, 4 SV, 5 ER allowed): Uhhh — stretch these stats back to April 30th and the numbers don’t get any better. After starting the season with seven consecutive scoreless appearances — a spring must’ve broken loose in Hand’s mechanics because he’s allowed runs in six of his last 10 appearances. Luckily for his owners — he’s still secured 4 saves in that time frame. His xERA is over a full run higher than his actual ERA on the season and many of his Statcast numbers are below average. Concern level: yellow. If this was a two to three-game stretch with underlying numbers that still looked good my concern would be in the green — not too concerned. However, this is now a month-long period of crooked numbers in his ledger. You’re holding on to him, but you’re not as confident about it as you were in April. Who to watch: I would say Tanner Rainey, but he’s on the IL. I would say Will Harris, but he’s on the IL. So I’m telling you to look at Daniel Hudson. After a disappointing 2020 that saw his ERA explode to his career-worst 6.10, Hudson is now at a career-best 1.06. His 4-seamer is zipping along at its highest velocity allowing only a .116 average against. But that’s not even his best pitch — he’s only allowed 1 hit off his slider. If Hand keeps struggling – Hudson is right there for the picking. 


Hold Me Close:

This is where I’ll point out a few notable hold leaders from the past two weeks so those in SV+HLD leagues can make a grab for them. I’ll try to avoid the obvious names like Chad Green, Blake Treinen, and Giovanny Gallegos

  • Daniel Hudson, WAS: 7 appearances, 6 holds, 11 Ks, 0 ER
  • Zack Littell, SFG: 7 appearances, 4 holds, 6 Ks, 1 ER
  • Caleb Baragar, SFG: 7 appearances, 4 holds, 4 Ks, 1 ER: The surprise Giants have the sixth-best record in the league, unfortunately for them, the teams with the #1 and #2 record — are in their division. Littell has a strong grip on the 7th inning, while Baragar has jumped between the 6th and 8th inning probably because he’s a lefty who has held righties scoreless so far this year. 
  • Jose Cisnero, DET: 6 appearances, 4 holds, 9 Ks, 1 ER: Tigers probably won’t set up many save or hold opportunities, but Cisnero is on a nice little run after having his ERA reach 6.43 earlier in May. He’s got a 33.3% K% — although a lot of his other Statcast numbers aren’t the best. 
  • Ryan Tepera, CHC: 7 appearances, 3 holds, 10 Ks, 0 ER: He’s only allowed 1 ER in May and seems to be the guy most likely to set-up the set-up guy. 
  • Scott Barlow, KCR, 7 appearances, 3 holds, 12 Ks, 1 ER: Staumont has been a little shaky in May after a sub 1.00 ERA coming out of April. He’s allowed 6 ERs on 18 baserunners with 13 Ks in 8.1 IP. Barlow has been pretty lights out in May only allowing 2 ERs on 12 base runners with 17 Ks in 9.1 IP. 
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Big Dog
Big Dog
1 year ago

Great article! Been dying for bullpen reports in such a strange season.

1) When you say Tepera will set up the set up guy, does that mean that you believe that Chafin is the Cubs set up guy?

2) What are your thoughts on Antone in a Saves+Holds league? Great numbers but unpredictable usage.

Mike Honcho
Mike Honcho
1 year ago

What’s your take on the Zimmer in KC and C. Estevez in CO? Anything there? Cheap spec adds if room?