We need to talk about closer tandems.
They're a thing. The closer committee, as in several relievers sharing ninth-inning duties, has never really caught on, but having two pitchers share the role might be a little more manageable over the long haul.
At least two and maybe three teams are committed to a closing tandem, at least for as long as it's working. It's preferable in Fantasy to a full-blown committee, offering specific pitchers to target and more saves sources to go around. But if the tandem approach to the ninth inning becomes even more prevalent, it means you'll have to devote more of your lineup spots to relievers to keep up with the traditional closers, which would obviously hurt you in other pitching categories.
The role is changing, and we'll keep trying to make sense of it with this latest look at the 10 closer scenarios attracting the most interest.
Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves (though it's usually one and the same).
Lucas Sims handled the Reds' first save chance after returning from the IL. Meanwhile, the only other pitchers to record a save for the Reds this season, Tony Santillan and Art Warren, worked the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. It was a refreshingly conventional approach to the late innings from manager David Bell, lending credence to the idea that Sims is legitimately the guy, particularly with Santillan and Warren failing to claim the role in his absence.
Manager Don Mattingly named Anthony Bender his closer at the start of the year, but the right-hander is already responsible for a blown save and two losses. Mattingly turned to Tanner Scott for a save Saturday, reportedly because Bender was dealing with a sore hip, but then when Mattingly went back to Scott in a high-leverage situation the next day, the left-hander couldn't get it done. It all adds up to Dylan Floro, the closer at the end of last year, getting another shot when he comes back this week even though he's far from the team's most talented reliver.
Camilo Doval got his fourth save Monday and second straight for the Giants. Jake McGee has two, but both came on days when Doval was overworked and unavailable. There hasn't been a single instance of McGee entering a game after Doval already pitched, so I don't think this one is any sort of tandem. I think the job belongs to Doval.
Here's one of those tandems I was referring to. Josh Staumont, who has been regularly hitting triple digits with his fastball this year, got the Royals' first two saves this year, with presumed closer Scott Barlow setting up for him each time. But the day after that second save, it was Staumont working the eighth inning and Barlow the ninth. I think this tweet pretty much sums it up:
Just heard something along these lines on the Royals brodcast: Mike Matheny won't predetermine which inning to use Staumont or Barlow. They will decide which part of the lineup is a better matchup for each pitcher. Sounds like a full-blown committee.— Frank Stampfl (@Roto_Frank) April 21, 2022
And here's the other tandem. The Pirates actually announced before the season that David Bednar and Chris Stratton would share closing duties, but it's hard to take something like that seriously until you see it put into practice. Sure enough, in the span of eight days, we saw Bednar get a save, then Stratton, then Stratton again, then Bednar. Both pitchers worked in three of those four games, so it genuinely seems like they're trading off eighth- and ninth-inning duties.
Matt Barnes is technically responsible for the Red Sox's last save, and manager Alex Cora did recently say he hopes to get him back in the closer role. But Barnes was brought in for only the final out after Jake Diekman had walked three. He was back to working the sixth inning two days later, and his velocity still isn't close to where it was last year. For now, I'd say Diekman is in a tandem with the right-handed Hansel Robles.
Manager Rocco Baldelli appears to have settled on Emilio Pagan as his closer, giving him saves on back-to-back days last week and having him close out a four-run lead in his appearance before that. Pagan has closing experience but has been vulnerable to the long ball the past couple years. Between that and Baldelli's penchant to switch things up, you shouldn't get too attached.
With Lou Trivino sidelined by COVID for the past week, Dany Jimenez has stepped in and claimed the team lead in saves with three. He's looked pretty good doing it, striking out nine in seven scoreless innings, but he hardly has any major-league experience. Lou Trivino isn't some shutdown reliever, though, so it's possible manager Mark Kotsay sticks with Jimenez even after Trivino returns. If nothing else, there's a clear backup now.
I'm not sure there's much more to say about the Orioles' closer situation. Failed starter Jorge Lopez appears to have the job all to himself, securing his fourth save Saturday, and has looked good in the process. He's sitting 99 with his fastball and has been near perfect in his past five appearances, striking out 11. The Orioles are still the Orioles, but there's something to be said for knowing who has the job.
Manager Chris Woodward recently confirmed that he considers Joe Barlow to be his closer, though it was Matt Bush who got the team's first save on a day when Barlow happened to be unavailable. Barlow inherited the job down the stretch last year and did fine with it, but there was talk this spring of Woodward preferring a veteran in the role. Now that he's been confirmed, we'll see how many save chances the Rangers actually get.