Wait, who's closing?
Good question. And if you just got back from an extended beach stay, it's one you're asking for one-third of the league.
Ten of the 30 big-league clubs have made a change at closer in the past week. Or they're still making it.
Most were tied directly to Monday's trade deadline, when most every contender saw fit to upgrade its bullpen. But a few teams (namely the Braves and Athletics) decided they'd had enough of their current pick and needed to make a change in-house (as if there wasn't already enough going on).
The end result is your head spinning, trying to figure out who's doing what and how good he'll be at it. Here's how I rank the 10 newcomers to the closer role.
Trevor Rosenthal St. Louis RP
|The Cardinals are kind of sort of still in the playoff hunt, which isn't to say I think they'll make a serious push, but they're good enough to provide regular save opportunities for their former-turned-current closer, Trevor Rosenthal, who reclaimed the job on merit. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he picked up something in rookie Luke Weaver's delivery when the two were playing catch in early July, and since then, he has allowed one run on four hits with one walk and 19 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings, salvaging his season-long numbers with the control he had always lacked and finally getting the most out of his 100-mph heat.|
Brad Hand San Diego RP
|Of course, Rosenthal is only now putting up the kind of numbers Brad Hand has had all along. The former Marlins swingman picked up a slider upon joining the Padres last year and has emerged as one of the game's tops lefties (the next rung down from Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman) with a 1.96 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. The only reason we weren't hyping him until now is because we were sure he'd follow Brandon Maurer out the door. His supporting cast doesn't help his cause, but for those ratios, you'll take a reduced save total.|
Shane Greene Detroit RP
|Shane Greene is far from a perfect pitcher, but he's the best the Tigers have after trading Justin Wilson and, with a 2.64 ERA and 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings, good enough to keep the job, I think. Like the Cardinals, the Tigers didn't purge their roster of all useful present-day talent at the trade deadline, so they're a reasonable bet to play close to .500 ball the rest of the way. I suppose rookie Joe Jimenez, the designated closer of the future, could bump Greene if he picks up where he left off at Triple-A, but his earlier stint in the majors suggests it's not on the horizon.|
AJ Ramos N.Y. Mets RP
|Did AJ Ramos ever really stop being a closer? Well, the Mets haven't had a save chance since bringing him over from the Marlins, but if they did, it would have gone to Addison Reed ... that is, until they shipped Reed to the Red Sox on Monday. The Mets knew what they were doing. Reed is headed toward free agency. Jeurys Familia isn't ready to come back from a blood clot in his shoulder. Ramos isn't a lights-out closer, his walk rate giving him an unusually high WHIP, but he has what passes for longevity in the role and will be closing for a team that isn't quite the laughingstock its fans would have you believe it is.|
Blake Treinen Oakland RP
|Have you seen what Blake Treinen has done since coming over to the Athletics in the deal that sent a couple of other closing candidates (Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson) to the Nationals? Relying more on his sinker, the pitch that made him a bullpen force last year, he has allowed one run on four hits with 10 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. His overall numbers are still dreadful, and he barely lasted a week as Nationals closer to begin the year. Plus, it's not like the Athletics had many options after Santiago Casilla's latest meltdown. It wouldn't be a total shock to see the team that originally developed Treinen resuscitate him, though.|
Brandon Kintzler Washington RP
|True, manager Dusty Baker may have developed a level of comfort with the left-handed Sean Doolittle by now and not want to mess with a good thing. But Baker is an old-school manager more likely to value the "proven" closer, which Kintzler's 28 saves this year would make him, at least relative to Doolittle. Doolittle is the better pitcher -- shoot, Ryan Madson, who came over in the same deal as Doolittle, is a better pitcher -- but it would make sense for the Nationals, after acquiring two righties and a lefty, to preserve a righty for the ninth inning. And they already passed over Madson for the role.|
Arodys Vizcaino Atlanta RP
|Manager Brian Snitker hasn't officially anointed Arodys Vizcaino the closer, but he has pulled Jim Johnson from the role and said as recently as Sunday that he'd turn to Vizcaino the next time a save chance arose. Close enough, right? Well, it suggests to me he's open to Johnson reclaiming the role, and I still think the 34-year-old is the Braves' best reliever, his eight blown saves overshadowing his 2.84 FIP. Vizcaino's actual ERA (2.63) is better, though, and with a 99-mph fastball and 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings, he could certainly settle into the role.|
Brad Ziegler Miami RP
|Brad Ziegler has a miserable 6.30 ERA this year, but he hasn't gotten the fairest of shakes, having only recently returned from a six-week absence for a strained back. He's an atypical closing choice for sure, using a deceptive delivery to generate weak contact rather than overpowering hitters with pure stuff, but it's a role he has filled successfully in the past for both the Athletics and Diamondbacks, despite outside skepticism, so I've learned not to bet against him. I do think the job might go to Kyle Barraclough, though, once the hard-throwing righty has overcome a shoulder impingement.|
Alex Claudio Texas RP
|The Rangers still don't have a designated closer, but Alex Claudio has recorded three of their last four saves and would seem to be the favorite for the next if his last two appearances hadn't both come prior to the ninth inning. Jose Leclerc got the Rangers' most recent save on a day when Claudio was unavailable, and though Claudio hasn't done anything to fall out of favor, Leclerc's 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings make him a more logical fit. Of course, he also has 6.1 walks per nine innings while Keone Kela, a third option, has allowed a grand total of 16 baserunners with 30 strikeouts in his last 20 1/3 innings. It's a mess, in other words, but at least the choices are promising.|
Taylor Rogers Minnesota RP
|The choices couldn't be any less promising for the Twins. There's a reason a marginal talent like Brandon Kintzler became a closer in the first place, and it wasn't so Dusty Baker could perpetuate the idea later on. Taylor Rogers, with a 3.79 ERA and 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings, would seem to be first in line since he had been working the eighth inning, but he has allowed an earned run (or more) in each of his last five appearances. Matt Belisle hasn't allowed an earned run in 13 appearances, but he's a journeyman with borderline stuff and a 4.64 ERA overall. Good luck with that.|
Did I miss someone?
I don't believe any one White Sox reliever will record more than four saves the rest of the way. That's my bold prediction, so just ... don't.