Ah, the world of closers. They pitch well, they pitch lousy, they get demoted, they get promoted. Sometimes they blow a save and vulture a win. Sometimes they lose their focus in a non-leverage “get work” outing. Sometimes it rains.
And sometimes a closer punches a door and breaks his hand.
Congratulations if you had Hunter Strickland in the “knucklehead injury pool.” Strickland, the Giants closer, blew a save Monday, then threw a punch at a clubhouse door afterwards. The door usually wins in these instances. Strickland is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
It didn’t take long for someone to claim the San Francisco baton. Sam Dyson recorded an easy save Tuesday against Miami — two pitches, two outs, one double-play grounder — and was subsequently given Bruce Bochy’s vote of confidence. Dyson would seem to fit the role; he has a 2.45 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, a zippy 64.8 percent ground-ball rate. After a horrendous 2017 season, he’s put his career back on track. He had 38 saves two years ago, pitching for Texas.
To be fair, Dyson’s ERA is somewhat fortunate. The league has a .224 BABIP against him, his K/BB ratio is nothing special, and his FIP checks in at 3.70. But possession of the job is a big part of the save chase, and right now, he has that in his pocket.
Left-hander Tony Watson is worth some consideration. Watson has much better stats than Dyson thus far: a 1.87 ERA, 40 strikeouts against six walks, a 0.95 WHIP. The FIP metric validates Watson’s skimpy ERA — he’s at 1.73 there. Watson’s career splits are the typical tilt of a lefty — righties do better against him — but this year, for whatever 33.2 innings mean to you, he has reverse splits (lefties are getting the better of him). You could argue Watson helps the club more by not being tied to the ninth.
Mark Melancon is the long-shot pick. He’s back on the mound after an extended absence (forearm), working 6.2 effective innings (5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K). His fastball is merely 90.7 mph these days, two clicks below his career norm. He worked the seventh inning Tuesday, retiring three of four men.
As you’d expect, Dyson has been the hottest pickup of the overnight. His ownership jumped from three percent to 20 percent in one day. Watson is owned in 26 percent of Yahoo leagues, while Melancon, for some reason, is at 46 percent.
It’s post time. Place your bets. I favor Dyson if all you care about is saves, and Watson if you’re chasing the best ratios you can get. I’ll try to stay away from Melancon and the infinite sadness.
In 15.2 innings for the Brewers, the 22-year-old rookie has a 2.30 ERA, a WHIP under 0.90, and 25 strikeouts. Eight walks are a concern, and he seems to be maximum effort on most pitches, contorting and torquing his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame. But I have a few Peralta shares anyway. I’m curious to see where this goes. Plausible upside, as always, rules our world.
He’ll pitch at home Sunday, drawing St. Louis. Don’t let the name brand fool you; the Cardinals are 22nd in runs, 19th in OPS. After that, it’s a matter of how Peralta has looked, who’s healthy in the Milwaukee rotation, and who else is pitching well.
• No one can pick up Blake Treinen in a standard fantasy league, but it’s time we gave a nod to one of the best closers in baseball. Treinen struck out three of four men at San Diego, cruising to his 16th save. He’s also picked up four wins through the opening three months, getting heavy high-leverage work for the Athletics. Treinen’s figured out how to harness his power stuff, spiking his strikeout rate to 30.7 percent and trimming his walk rate slightly.
The hint of Treinen’s breakout came last year; he was a far different pitcher after Oakland stole him from Washington. It’s a good reminder of how pitchers can reinvent themselves or find themselves, especially as relievers. With a 1.03 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 43 strikeouts, Treinen is a Top 5 fantasy reliever in 2018. His strand rate is unusually high at 82.3 percent, but he’s mostly validated by the ERA estimators. FIP suggests a 1.87 number, while SIERA checks in at 2.62.
The plate-discipline stats are where Treinen’s brilliant season gets its best face. His swinging-strike rate is a robust 17.9 percent, and he’s getting chases on a silly 42.8 percent of out-of-zone pitches. His fastball is moving, man. The Treinen heater has the seventh-highest grade among relievers.
I have a few Treinen shares, and I give him the highest fantasy-baseball compliment — I don’t feel any stress when I watch him pitch. That’s a rare thing for any closer, except the best of the best. Treinen deserves to be at the All-Star Game next month.
· Delino DeShields has finally picked up his game in June. He’s posted a .271 average and .417 OBP this month, scored 11 runs, swiped five bases on five attempts. It’s helped him mark his territory in the outfield, and it’s shown that he’s probably all the way back from his hand injury earlier in the year.
But while DeShields should hang in the lineup, his batting position is taking a tumble. He’s slotted ninth the past two games — coinciding with Elvis Andrus’s return — and it’s hard to imagine a change coming soon. The grossly-underrated Shin-Soo Choo owns the leadoff spot, slashing .278/.391/.473. Andrus has stepped into the No. 2 position.
I’ve been a DeShields sympathizer in past years, and his wheels do make him viable in mixed leagues. But keep in mind what he doesn’t do. He’s just a .250 hitter for his career — .229 this year — and he’s only hit two homers in 2018. His slugging percentage is down to .308, a personal low. Those 15 bags are lovely, but DeShields must be considered a two-category man until further notice.
• When the ERA and WHIP don’t agree on a pitcher, I tend to trust the WHIP. No worries Domingo German, we got your back.
German has been a strikeout ace in his last three turns, piling up 9, 10, and 9 whiffs. The latest outing was a seven-inning lawnmower job over Seattle (2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K). He’s sitting with a 4.77 ERA but a 1.14 WHIP over 60.1 innings — and his FIP is in the low 4s. And with 72 strikeouts against 21 walks, the K/BB ratio makes a case for him.
One of German’s lost starts was at Arlington; I can give him a pass for that. Granted, Yankee Stadium can be a pitcher’s nightmare, too, but when the strikeout stuff is this good, I’m going to be interested.
German was a hot pickup over the last day, but he’s still unclaimed in 72 percent of Yahoo leagues. He works at Tampa Bay on Sunday, good work if you can get it. He carries both RP and SP eligibility in Yahoo, always a nice selling point.