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Stray Saves

Enyel De Los Santos of the Guardians and Jose Quijada of the Angels earned saves in extra innings after their teams deployed their closers earlier in the game. Neither is a likely to factor into very many more save opportunities

Archie Bradley, Brad Boxberger, Genesis Cabrera, and Devin Williams each earned a save this past week with their primary closer unavailable for various reasons. Devin Williams might be usable in deeper leagues for his ratios, and all these relievers are valuable in leagues rewarding holds, but it will take an injury for any to figure into long-term closing duties.

Nick Vespi earned his first career save as a result of Baltimore’s shortened victory on Wednesday. Vespi is not going to be in line for many saves going forward, but he’s pitched to a 0.87 ERA and 0.77 WHIP in his brief (10 ⅓ innings) major league career.

Committee Updates

Tanner Houck collected three more saves this week for the Red Sox. Two of them were only one out but his latest appearance was a conventional save and he appears to be established as the top closing option in Boston. John Schreiber picked up a one-out save of his own on Tuesday with Houck unavailable. It should be noted Houck is ineligible to travel to Toronto for the Red Sox series against the Blue Jays early next week. Without him, Alex Cora is likely to turn to matchups to close out any potential wins.

Colin Poche earned the Rays’ two saves this week but was also tagged for two home runs across his three appearances. Injuries to the Rays’ bullpen have pushed some relievers into bigger roles, and Poche seems like the current top option for Kevin Cash and the Rays. Jason Adam is still an intriguing deep-league option.

Tanner Scott’s consistent usage in the ninth inning continued even after his blow-up in Philadelphia. He collected two saves and added another appearance in the ninth inning with a four-run lead to his ledger. While the walks are starting to pile up for him, he’s maintained great strikeout stuff and has pulled away from the rest of the middling Miami bullpen in taking control of the ninth-inning role.

Since removing Corey Knebel from the closer role, the Phillies have shown a fairly consistent lean towards utilizing Brad Hand in the ninth inning. He picked up two save opportunities over the weekend in Washington, converting one and blowing the other, and then pitched the ninth inning of a four-run win on Thursday in San Diego. Seranthony Dominguez did earn an extra innings save after Brad Hand’s blown save, but he has typically pitched before Hand in the short time the Phillies have been using a committee. Hand’s experience may be valued by the Phillies, but his peripherals (4.72 xFIP, 10% K-BB%, 7.8% swstr% coming into play on Thursday) are all far below what you would expect from a closer while Dominguez’s profiles much closer to what a ninth-inning pitcher looks like. Dominguez should be the priority add if still available in your league, and Brad Hand could provide a few saves in the short term. Over the course of the season, I would expect Hand to pitch himself out of any type of high leverage role, however.

Even though there ultimately wasn’t a save to be had, Ryan Helsley once again came in after Giovanny Gallegos and got the last out on Tuesday for the Cardinals. This has been a consistent theme for weeks and it might be safe to declare Gallegos out of the closer role in St. Louis.

Bullpens with Injured Closers

Kendall Graveman was expected to step into the closer role for Chicago during Liam Hendriks’ injured list stint. Instead, it was Graveman pitching the eighth before Joe Kelly received the save opportunity on Monday. He gave up a two-run home run to Cavan Biggio but escaped with the save. Graveman was tasked with going through the middle of the Blue Jays’ batting order in the eighth, which is the likely explanation for his usage. While it’s still not encouraging for those attempting to pick up saves with Graveman in the short window he has to be the closer, Graveman is still a reliever to hold on to with Hendriks out.

In the first save opportunity since Dany Jimenez was placed on the injured list, Oakland went to Zach Jackson to begin the ninth inning but turned to A.J. Puk to get the final out with Taylor Trammel (a left-handed hitter) due up. Seattle pinch hit for Trammel, and Puk would walk the pinch-hitter and Abraham Toro after that. His two wild pitches each brought home a run, enough to give Seattle a 2-1 lead and eventually a win. This usage signals Oakland is likely utilizing matchups at least in the short term. Puk has been effective and has the type of stuff to work in a closer role, but this first performance was not very promising. Zach Jackson has also been fairly effective but likely isn’t great enough to stick in a closer role. Lou Trivino has been the victim of a .500 BABIP but has shown some interesting underlying skills (31.2% strikeout rate, 2.76 SIERA) and may be a candidate to close down the road.

Struggling Closers

Camilo Doval gave up three runs over his last two appearances in Atlanta, including a walk-off loss. Doval was pitching well before then, stringing together nine consecutive scoreless appearances. Given Jake McGee blew the save the next day with Doval unavailable, it’s unlikely these poor couple of outings will lead to any type of closer change.

Ryan Pressly had been fine for most of the season despite battling a nagging knee injury. Thursday was an entirely different story, as he surrendered four runs, including a three-run home run to Aaron Hicks, to blow the save in New York. While the results had still been consistent this season, he entered Thursday with some worrying indicators. His 3.79 xERA and 3.75 xFIP were each above his ERA. His 20.5% strikeout rate was well below what he had established in Houston. Given his track record and contract, I would expect Houston to stick with Pressly through some tough stretches he experiences. It remains a possibility his recurring knee troubles have taken something off his stuff and made him less effective. If he is removed from the closer role, Rafael Montero has been the Astros’ most high-leverage reliever. Ryne Stanek has the best velocity among their high leverage arms and Hector Neris has the most closing experience. Montero would be my top option to stash right now.

The Twins’ bullpen was due for a bit of shakeup after blowing some leads as of late. On Thursday Jhoan Duran was asked to get four outs, including the first out of the ninth inning. Rocco Baldelli then went to Caleb Thielbar to try and exploit a lefty on lefty matchup to close out the game. Andres Gimenez would hit a double and apply pressure to the end of the game, but ultimately Thielbar came through for the save. Emilio Pagan was likely unavailable after working each of the previous two games, but he also allowed a combined five runs and contributed to the Twins losing late leads in each game. The Twins have gone back to Pagan after occasional struggles earlier in the season, so that is likely to be the case again. If he can’t rebound quickly Minnesota might turn into a full-blown committee, with Duran in a flexible high leverage role and the rest of the bullpen trying to piece the rest of the game together as they did on Thursday.

Craig Kimbrel continued his mercurial season last Sunday, giving up two runs and taking the loss. Despite the scoreless frame he posted Wednesday Kimbrel owns an ugly 4.50 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Looking past the poor results, Kimbrel has maintained a good strikeout rate (33.7%), and career-best ground ball rate (50%) with solid peripherals (2.74 xERA, 2.79 SIERA). If his BABIP regresses towards league average he should receive improved results going forward. If not, Daniel Hudson is the top option to overtake Kimbrel while Blake Treinen is on the injured list.

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