Closing Time 5/25: Ranking the Top 30 Closers Every Tuesday

Rick Graham ranks baseball's closers for the 2021 season.

Kenley Jansen has pitched very well as of late, but he is doing things much differently than in his past. Jansen’s career walk rate is 7.7%, yet this year that number sits at a severely bloated 19%, totally uncharacteristic of him. However, it has somehow paid off, as he is currently having his best season since 2017 despite the insane walk rate. Looking closer into that walk rate though, we see that three of his 15 walks came in the same game in early May, but since May 11, he has only walked one batter over his last 6.1 innings pitched. Hitters are also swinging almost 10% less against Jansen compared to his career (53.7%), and I’d imagine hitters will eventually be more aggressive against him. So why is Jansen’s WHIP still so low? He has only allowed five hits all season, so his .103 BABIP is sure to rise just as that 19% BB rate is sure to drop. I think ultimately the BABIP and walk rate even out and Jansen remains a near-elite closer for the season.

 

Notes

 

  • James Karinchak is the new closer in Cleveland, replacing Emmanuel Clase and his 0.83 ERA. Despite Clase’s sparkling ERA, it’s been quite obvious that he was playing with fire, as his command is just not what you want in a lockdown closer. Karinchak had his first bad outing of the season on Sunday and Clase was given a chance last night to potentially get his job back, but instead loaded the bases with two walks and a hit before finally shutting the door. The outing certainly didn’t help Clase’s case, but it shouldn’t have totally written off his chances of closing out games again.
  • Raisel Iglesias is uncharacteristically allowing a lot of hard contact this season, with a 45.5% hard-hit rate, which is 15 points higher than his career average, and a barrel rate (13.6%) 7.7% higher than his career average. The good news is that this is fixable and he continues to miss bats at a high rate (39.7% whiff rate), while not walking anyone (29.2% K-BB rate). I understand the frustration he is causing, but I think you need to sit tight and hold on to him or even look to buy low.

 

  • Yimi García has very similar if not worse hard-hit numbers than Iglesias, but just continues to have luck on his side. It reminds me a bit of Alex Colomé from 2019, whose Baseball Savant page was just all blue, but he finished the season as one of the more productive closers. Some pitchers just have a lucky year and it appears to be the case with Yimi so far.
  • Kendall Graveman was placed on the COVID-19 IL Sunday, but it’s unclear if he tested positive or if he was just a close contact. I’m assuming his stay will be a short one, so I’ve kept him on the list for now with the other potential committee members. I think I still like the top three in this group over the tier three options, but I’ve ranked them more conservatively in tier four considering the potential usage volatility.

 

  • Diego Castillo is still the favorite for saves in Tampa Bay, but I wonder if the addition of J.P. Feyereisen allows them the flexibility to use Castillo more like Nick Andersonwhere one day he is closing out a game and the next he is putting out a fire in the sixth. I have no idea if that would be the case, it’s more of just a hunch, but it would be very on-brand for the Ray’s to abandon Castillo as their traditional closer.
  • After both Rafael Dolis and Tyler Chatwood imploded in spectacular fashion in their save chances, it looks like we are likely back to Jordan Romano as the Blue Jays closer. Romano worked a clean ninth inning of a tie game last night, striking out the side in order. He’s always made sense as the teams closer and now it looks like he might get a chance to stick in that role moving forward.

 

  • The Reds don’t seem fully convinced Amir Garrett is over his early season struggles, while Lucas Sims continues to distance himself from the closer conversation, thus leaving Tejay Antone as the closer by default. He did pick up the team’s last save chance for a Reds team that just doesn’t see many save chances. The team’s 14 save opportunities rank third to last, 17 behind the league-leading Dodgers.
  • The Twins seemed to have settled on Hansel Robles as their closer last week, however, a couple of rocky outings this past weekend may have reopened the door for Taylor Rogers. Whoever winds up closing out games here seems destined to be cursed, as Rogers, Robles, and even Alex Colomé have pitched well outside of save chances for the most part.
Rank Pitcher Change
1Josh HaderT1-
2Aroldis Chapman-
3Liam Hendriks-
4Edwin Diaz
T2
-
5Ryan Pressly-
6Matt Barnes-
7Kenley Jansen+1
8Craig Kimbrel+1
9Mark Melancon+1
10James Karinchak+UR
11Raisel Iglesias-4
12Hector Neris-
13Will Smith+1
14Alex Reyes+1
15Ian Kennedy
T3
+1
16Richard Rodriguez+1
17Yimi Garcia+3
18Brad Hand+1
19Cesar Valdez-1
20Diego Castillo
T4
-7
21Kendall Graveman-
22Jordan Romano+UR
23Tyler Rogers-
24Tejay Antone+UR
25Josh Staumont-
26Michael Fulmer+1
27Hansel Robles+UR
28Lou Trivino-2
29Daniel Bard
T5
-
30Stefan Crichton-
Stash List

 

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Rick Graham

Rick resides in the Boston area and has experience as a player and coach at the collegiate level. He has been covering relievers for Pitcher List since 2017.

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