Hader's Fall From Grace

·8 min read

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Edwin Diaz, Liam Hendriks, and Felix Bautista tied for the weekly lead with three saves apiece. The seasonal lead still belongs to Josh Hader (29) with Taylor Rogers (28) occupying the second spot for now. Diaz (26) is riding hard to catch the struggling Hader while Emmanuel Clase (25) and Jordan Romano (25) lurk right behind them.

Closer Tiers

Tier 1: Crème de la Crème (3)

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

Diaz continued his magical season with another 3.2 near-flawless innings. The others performed impressively as well.

Tier 2: The Elite (8)

Josh Hader, San Diego Padres
Ryan Helsley, St. Louis Cardinals
Jordan Romano, Toronto Blue Jays
Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros
Camilo Doval, San Francisco Giants
Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves
Devin Williams, Taylor Rogers, Milwaukee Brewers
Clay Holmes, Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Hader's struggles followed him from Milwaukee to San Diego. He allowed another three runs in a blown save on Tuesday. The Giants managed three walks and one hit. Although he has an unsightly 12.00 ERA in 12 innings since the start of July, his stuff is still out-of-this-world devastating. If he can't arrest a slump fueled by a .481 BABIP, 3.75 HR/9, and 6.00 BB/9, then I'll have no choice but to keep moving him down. Were this 2010, we'd cry “bad luck” and leave him in the first tier. I think, in this case, we're probably looking at some form of pitch-tipping instead of a purely luck-based slump.

Helsley picked up a win and two saves in three appearances. He allowed his second home run and fourth earned run of the season on Sunday. Romano notched a win and a loss. The Manfred Man beat him on Friday. Pressly had his first appearance of the month on Tuesday, a no-nonsense save. Doval continues to fire 100-mph missiles on a regular basis. His issues with walks this season have mostly been constrained to rare bad outings.

The problem with contenders is they often have multiple good relievers. Holmes is in a mini-slump of late. He pitched the eighth on Friday with Chapman set to close. Alas, Holmes blew the save before Chapman could enter. Holmes then pitched in a blowout on Monday. Tuesday's extra-innings battle with the Mariners saw Chapman take the eighth and Holmes work the ninth. The Mariners finally scored the first and only run of the game in the 13th, well after the would-be closers had departed. This could be turning into a two-man committee.

Raisel Iglesias has consistently worked the eighth inning since joining the Braves. Jansen's managers can breathe a sigh of relief for now. Williams has only appeared in the ninth or later since Hader was shipped out of town. He took the loss on Monday via two unearned runs (including a Manfred Man). Rogers is battling knee soreness and could require a short stint on the injured list.

Tier 3: Core Performers (5)

Paul Sewald, Seattle Mariners
Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals
Felix Bautista, Baltimore Orioles
Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies

Sewald pitched four games, all in the ninth or tenth innings. Despite firing off four perfect innings, he only came away with one save and a loss. Another Manfred Man. Barlow, meanwhile, has mostly been working the eighth innings – ostensibly to face the toughest hitters. You'll want to remember these usage patterns next spring when deciding between the likes of Barlow, Bautista, and others. Jose Cuas got a save, but there's no reason to read into that. Yet. Cuas does have some interesting traits including a hefty ground ball rate with enough whiffs to maybe work as a high leverage guy.

Bautista pitched four times, allowing a solo home run as his only blemish. Soto had a regression game on Monday, allowing five earned runs on three walks and two hits. He only recorded two outs and was saddled with the loss.

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Tier 4: Uncertainty with Upside (6)

Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock, Boston Red Sox
Craig Kimbrel, Los Angeles Dodgers
David Robertson, Seranthony Domínguez, Philadelphia Phillies
Jorge Lopez, Minnesota Twins
Kyle Finnegan, Washington Nationals
Jonathan Hernández, Matt Moore, Texas Rangers

Houck didn't pitch this week and Whitlock allowed a run in both of his appearances. He worked a total of 4.2 innings in those two outings.

Kimbrel allowed another run in three innings of work. He recorded two saves. The Dodgers have a difficult decision to make in the coming weeks. Do they begin to groom Evan Phillips for closer duties in preparation for October usage or will they continue to allow Kimbrel to generate random numbers. His 2.14 FIP is excellent, but his 3.64 xFIP is much closer to his 4.15 ERA. In any event, Kimbrel has underperformed in new and mysterious ways in each of the last four seasons.

Robertson and Dominguez split duties, each earning a save and a hold in three appearances. Jhoan Duran is clearly on setup duty for Lopez. Finnegan's velocity breakout remains in full swing. His fastball averaged 97.7-mph across two appearances. He leans very heavily on the pitch.

The Rangers haven't come out and said Hernandez is the closer, but it's sure looking that way. He has their two most recent saves, one of which occurred at the end of July.

Tier 5: Better Left to Others (8)

Rowan Wick, Chicago Cubs
Tanner Scott, Anthony Bender, Miami Marlins
Wil Crowe, Pittsburgh Pirates
Zach Jackson, A.J. Puk, Dany Jiménez, Oakland Athletics
Pete Fairbanks, Jason Adam, Brooks Raley, Colin Poche, Tampa Bay Rays
Mark Melancon, Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks
Jose Quijada, Ryan Tepera, Jimmy Herget, Los Angeles Angels
Hunter Strickland, Alexis Diaz, Cincinnati Reds

It's still messy in the basement. Wick is an adequate middle reliever so in that sense, he probably won't kill you in fantasy. The same can be said of Scott who also contributes in the strikeout category at the expense of a high WHIP. Crowe is another middle relief type who is filling in for an ailing David Bednar. After that… ugh.

Jimenez is back in Oakland. However, Puk has the most recent save (on one pitch), and Jackson seems to be the preferred ninth-inning guy. This should remain fluid. Given the club's aversion to victories, there aren't many saves to be had when they're split three ways.

The Rays, at least, supply leads. The problem is that any of five pitchers – the four above and Ryan Thompson – could be standing on the bump in the final inning. Their approach is to win each inning and hope to have a large lead by the end.

Kennedy has three of the last five saves. The other two went to Melancon including Tuesday's save. Reading the tea leaves, it would seem Kennedy has a slight lead on Melancon. They've been trading off days of unavailability. Kennedy is marginally better for fantasy purposes.

The Angels don't have much incentive to bother naming a closer. They have a pile of veterans to call upon for assistance. Quijada's the most interesting and typically pitches the eighth or ninth inning. However, it was Tepera and Herget who earned the most recent saves.

Diaz is still pitching ahead of Strickland which is extremely disappointing. Strickland is a Triple-A caliber pitcher. Diaz would rank around Finnegan and Hernandez if he were the closer.


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

Steals Department

We're running out of things to discuss in saves land. One potential hero has emerged in Texas, outfielder Bubba Thompson. More on him in a moment. Thompson was one of four thieves to steal three bases in the last week. The others were Luke Williams, Nicky Lopez, and Austin Slater. Lopez is an empty average hitter who's only batting .248/.305/.294 this season. That ain't cutting it. Slater is a great part-timer, though he has spent some time on the injured list this season. Williams is a Quad-A bench bat who nabbed three in one glorious game. He's not leverageable in fantasy whereas Lopez and Slater can be used as situational streamers.

The seasonal lead still belongs to injured speedster Jon Berti (28). The improbable Jorge Mateo (26) ranks second. He's followed by Cedric Mullins (24), Ronald Acuña (24), and Tommy Edman (22). By pace, Acuna is on his way to capturing the season title – unless Berti returns to a regular role soon.

Speed Spotlight

And now, Thompson. You can think of him as similar to Esteury Ruiz – a massive risk, massive reward outfielder. Whereas Ruiz has some discernible contact ability, Thompson struggles to connect. His strikeout and swinging strike rates are eye sores, and he has very little plate discipline. Major League pitchers usually chew up this profile. What's more, though Thompson does have raw power, most of his contact is pounded into the ground. That helps his speed to play, but isn't a path to a sustained lineup role when taken with an over-30 percent strikeout rate.

He features today for one reason. Including his brief time in the Majors, Thompson has nabbed 52 bases in 394 plate appearances. He's only been caught three times. Statcast confirms his blazing speed – he's a 99th-percentile runner. The dream scenario for using Thompson is against pitch-to-contact, fly ball pitchers. Such an opponent would not only allow his power to play, it would help him reach base at a more acceptable rate. Although he's started five games in the last six days, we have to figure Thompson has a very short leash. He'll need to improve upon his .211/.211/.263 batting line ASAP.