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Emmanuel Clase reclaimed the saves lead with another three-save week. He was joined by Dylan Floro and Camilo Doval. Clase now has 39 saves on the year followed by Kenley Jansen (37), Jordan Romano (35), Josh Hader (34), and Liam Hendriks (33).
Tier 1: Crème de la Crème (3)
Clase allowed a solo home run in one of his four appearances, but he was protecting a three-run lead. Hendriks didn't appear while Diaz pitched in one non-save situation.
Tier 2: The Elite (6)
A reorganization of the tiers was necessary after the old third tier completely dissolved. Every pitcher in the second and third tiers this week would have been here last week.
If you prefer to think of Romano as a Tier 1 closer, that's probably fair. This season, he's done a much better job of avoiding home runs. This could be fluky success or perhaps his past home run rates were flukes. A third explanation is he's legitimately improved at avoiding home runs. Two concerning details are his career-worst 10.27 K/9 and 44.4 percent ground ball rate. Over a strikeout per inning is swell by any standard, but it's also not on par with his past rates – all of which have been over 12.00 K/9. I recognize those are nitpicky reasons to keep a guy out of the top tier, but I perceive more risk of meltdown with Romano than the trio above. Such perceptions don't always matter – see Hader.
Like Clase, Pressly allowed an irrelevant solo homer. He locked down a pair of saves in three appearances. Doval had some issues with walks in his two most recent appearances, but they didn't affect the outcomes.
Hader blew the save on Tuesday, his first blown save of September. The run he allowed was unearned via a passed ball. He did allow a runner to reach third base. That in itself isn't up to his former standard of excellence. Since righting the ship in late August, he has a 1.04 ERA with an unusually modest 9.35 K/9.
Tier 3: The Slightly Less Elite (4)
Helsley pitched two innings on Tuesday. Look for Gallegos to close on Wednesday. Gallegos also picked up a save last Thursday with Helsley notching a hold. I suspect the Cardinals intend to use Helsley as a multi-inning fireman in most of his postseason appearances, so they're amping him up for that role now. Seattle is experimenting in the same direction. Sewald has a hold and a win in the last week with Munoz nabbing a rare save. Bautista had a one-out save last Thursday then was dinged for four runs on Saturday. He might be fading a bit down the stretch. After all, this is his first season as a high-leverage reliever in meaningful games.
Tier 4: Upside (6)
Kenley Jansen, Atlanta Braves
David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates
Evan Phillips, Los Angeles Dodgers
Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loáisiga, Scott Effross, Lou Trivino, New York Yankees
Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Minnesota Twins
David Robertson, Seranthony Domínguez, Philadelphia Phillies
Jansen's frequent second-half meltdowns are the reason why he's here. As for Bednar, his velocity is slightly down after returning from nearly two months on the sidelines. Otherwise, he would rank in the second tier adjacent to Barlow.
The Dodgers have demoted Craig Kimbrel ahead of the postseason. He remains perplexing and enigmatic, capable of dominant and inexplicably hapless stretches. He took the loss on Tuesday via the Manfred Man and three walks. Phillips is the likeliest closer, though Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol, and Chris Martin are all in the mix. Phillips has a shiny 1.20 ERA with 10.65 K/9 and 2.25 BB/9.
The Yankees have devolved to a full committee. Over the last six days, Holmes and Loaisiga each recorded a win while Effross and Trivino notched saves. Meanwhile, Zack Britton is back, and rumors are swirling online that Aroldis Chapman might get designated for assignment prior to the postseason. This could turn out to be as unstable as the Rays bullpen, but I suspect Holmes still has priority.
The Twins aren't playing for anything so they'll probably use Duran on a carefully managed schedule. No sense risking an injury to their top reliever. In Philly, José Alvarado has the most recent save, and he's emerged as their best pitcher of the moment. He's also their only southpaw so he's unlikely to oust Robertson or Dominguez for the majority of the saves. Robertson blew a save on Sunday.
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Tier 5: Less Upside (6)
José Leclerc, Texas Rangers
Alexis Diaz, Cincinnati Reds
Kyle Finnegan, Washington Nationals
Gregory Soto, Detroit Tigers
John Schreiber, Matt Barnes, Matt Strahm, Boston Red Sox
Dylan Floro, Miami Marlins
Leclerc has been effective over 46.2 innings this season. However, his 2.89 ERA is more than a run below most ERA estimators. In short, it appears he's been lucky. Diaz appears to be a better pitcher than Leclerc (and several in the tier above), but command woes and infrequent opportunities make it hard to form a firm opinion. He's certainly the most interesting pitcher in this tier. Finnegan is next most interesting. His velocity is still inching northwards. Soto had a stable week after looking like he might lose the job. The Red Sox are losing all kinds of games with their bullpen. Schreiber and Strahm both got in on the reliever-loss action. Floro is as ho-hum as they come. He pitches to weak contact.
Tier 6: Pray to the Baseball Gods (5)
Brandon Hughes, Manuel Rodriguez, Chicago Cubs
Jimmy Herget, Jose Quijada, Ryan Tepera, Los Angeles Angels
Pete Fairbanks, Jason Adam, Brooks Raley, Colin Poche, Tampa Bay Rays
Domingo Acevedo, A.J. Puk, Oakland Athletics
Ian Kennedy, Reyes Moronta, Mark Melancon, Arizona Diamondbacks
This used to be two tiers, but there's no need to distinguish them. If you're playing with these relievers, chances are you're truly desperate for a last-minute save or three. Good luck!
The Angels called upon Herget and Tepera for one save each. The Rays had Adam blow two saves, both of which turned into wins for Javy Guerra. Calvin Faucher had their only save of the week. This was a matter of necessity, not because he's part of their high leverage package. Moronta has the most recent save for Arizona. He also recorded a loss and blown save in the 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)
Tanner Houck, Boston Red Sox (back – out for season)
Zach Jackson, Oakland Athletics (shoulder – out for season)
Dany Jiménez, Oakland Athletics (shoulder – out for season)
Garrett Whitlock, Boston Red Sox (hip – out for season)
Jorge Mateo is putting in a last-minute effort to catch Jon Berti for the stolen base title. Mateo swiped four bags in the last week. Steven Kwan, CJ Abrams, and Dylan Moore each nabbed a trio of bases – Moore only needed 13 plate appearances to do so. Berti still leads with 37 steals. Mateo is up to 34 with Cedric Mullins (32), Randy Arozarena (32), and Tommy Edman (31) rounding out the top five. They also happen to be the only ones with more than 30 steals.
We're down to eight days of baseball. Today's spotlight shines upon Guardians outfielder Will Brennan. The 24-year-old made his debut last Wednesday and has started in five games. So far, it's gone without a hitch. He's batting .300/.333/.300 in 21 plate appearances with two steals in three attempts. Brennan fits a beloved profile of the Guardians – hitters who walk roughly as often as they strike out. Between Double- and Triple-A this season, he posted a .314/.371/.479 triple slash with 14 home runs and 20 steals (23 attempts) in 590 plate appearances. He also recorded just 69 strikeouts (11.7% K%) compared with 50 walks (8.5% BB%).
Brennan's ability to put the bat on the ball, even with just modest pop, means he's a daily multi-hit threat. And as long as he's reaching base, he's shown a willingness to flash his wheels. To date, he actually hasn't had a good sprint, rating in the 42nd percentile in sprint speed per Statcast.