Posts Tagged ‘Aroldis Chapman’

The relief pitcher game is a varied and tough world. From overpowering closers, to strategically placed match up artists, to the jacks of all trades that get the tough outs whenever they come up, there are all sorts of impacts that are requested out of the modern day bullpen.

Craig-Kimbrel

With all of those elements considered, 2014 was a year where it seemed that the redefinition of a true impact arm out of the pen took a further step in a new direction. Gone are the days when a big save total and a flashy one-inning arm alone makes for the cream of the relief crop. Now the seventh and eighth innings are arguably just as important and are also manned by some of the most dominant relievers in the game as well. In order to make an elite bullpen today, it takes at the minimum of what could be considered two closer caliber arms. The old adage of an elite reliever making it an “eight inning game” is getting earlier and earlier.

And with that, here are the best in the world at bringing a game to screeching halt today—regardless of when the cease fire may be needed.

 

1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves (#1 in 2014): He is the easy answer to a comprehensive question. No closer has been more efficiently dominant than Kimbrel has been since he debuted four years ago. In 2014 he kept to his usual ways, which included taking at least a share of the National League saves lead for the fourth straight year with 47, and posting a sub-2.00 ERA while holding batters to an average against beneath .200 (1.61 and .142, respectively) yet again.

2-year average: 1.40 ERA, 0.894 WHIP, 48 Saves, 57 Games Finished, 13.5 K’s per nine, .142 avg. against

2. Greg Holland, Royals (#5 in ’14): The final nail among KC’s deadly bullpen toolbox is Holland, who affirmed the fact that he is among the game’s most dominant mound presences a year ago. He nearly replicated his outstanding 2013 performance, finishing in the top 3 in the American League in saves and games finished, while limiting opponents to a .170 average against him.

2-year average: 1.32 ERA, 0.889 WHIP, 46 saves, 60 games finished, 13.4 K’s per nine, .170 avg. against

3. Aroldis Chapman, Reds (#2 in ’14): The game’s most overpowering presence issued over 400 pitches that were at least 100 miles per hour a year ago. He rode this regular abuse of power to a stunning 106 strikeouts in just 54 innings, a rate that would play out to 17.7 per nine innings. Over the course, he set a MLB-record for consecutive appearance with a K, at 49 and struck out 52% of his total batters faced.

2-year average: 2.29 ERA, 0.943 WHIP, 37 saves, 50 games finished, 16.7 K’s per nine, .121 avg. against

4. Wade Davis, Royals (Not Ranked): Dominance was not in short supply out of the Royals pen a year ago. Davis was the second stage of hell in the Royals pen, between Kelvin Herrera and Holland, and was arguably the toughest part of the equation. He allowed just eight earned runs over 72 innings in 2014, while striking out 109 and allowing only 64 base runners.

2-year (in relief) average: 0.98 ERA, 0.829 WHIP, 3 saves, 13 games finished, 9 K’s per nine, .151 avg. against

5. Dellin Betances, Yankees (Not Ranked): During his rookie year, he simmered behind closer David Robertson despite being the clear best arm in the Yankee pen, but now the slow burn is nearly done. Betances is still not the sole owner of the Yank’s ninth inning duties –the newly signed Andrew Miller is in the mix as well – but his 2014 effort (135 strikeouts in 90 innings, a 1.40 ERA) proved that he has the type of stuff that makes an easy translation into the role with Joe Girardi is ready.

2-year average: 1.89 ERA, 0.853 WHIP, 1 save, 6 games finished, 13.7 K’s per nine, .149 avg. against

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6. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (#6 in ’14): He got off to a slow start with the rest of the Dodgers’ pen, but he turned back into the standard shutdown machine he is beginning to regularly be in the second half. Jansen ran up 101 strikeouts against only 19 walks on the year, in route to a career-best 44 saves and solidifying himself as one of the preeminent power arms in the game.

2-year average: 2.28 ERA, 0.976 WHIP, 36 saves, 51 games finished, 13.4 K’s per nine, .224 avg. against

7. Sean Doolittle, Athletics (Not Ranked): It is tough to beat what you simply cannot reach base against, and regardless of whether he was a situational arm, setup man or closer –all roles he worked in last year— Doolittle was epically stingy. He held batters to a .169 average against him, while walking only eight batters over 62 innings and striking out 89. He followed a 30 game run without issuing a walk by seamlessly sliding into the closer role, converting 22-of-26 situations.

2-year average: 2.94 ERA, 0.851 WHIP, 12 saves, 26 games finished, 10.2 K’s per nine, .169 avg. against

8. Koji Uehara, Red Sox (#3 in ’14): He was bound to come back to Earth some after his once-in-a-lifetime 2013, but Uehara was still his usual very efficient self a year later. He used his pinpoint control and confounding change-up to convert 26 saves and keep a 10-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio (80-to-8). Uehara reaffirmed the fact that he is one of the most efficient final inning options in the game, albeit in a far more finesse way than any of his contemporaries.

2-year average: 1.75 ERA, 0.728 WHIP, 24 saves, 45 games finished, 11.7 K’s per nine, .216 avg. against

9. Mark Melancon, Pirates (Not Ranked): He was one of the NL’s best setup men before becoming one of its best closers, all in the same year. Melancon notched 14 holds before taking over for an injured Jason Grilli in the ninth, when he then ran up 33 saves as well. Armed with a hard turning slider, impressive control and an ability to take the ball as often as asked, he is one of the most versatile relievers in the game.

2-year average: 1.65 ERA, 0.915 WHIP, 24 saves, 36 games finished, 8.9 K’s per nine, .195 avg. against

10. Huston Street, Angels (Not Ranked): He put forth his usual uber-proficient effort between San Diego and Anaheim, posting a sub-2.00 ERA in over 25 innings in both leagues. His overall 1.37 ERA was a personal low and the second time in three years he posted an ERA figure sub 1.90, and he converted a career-high 41 saves overall in the process.

2-year average: 2.02 ERA, 0.983 WHIP, 37 saves, 52 games finished, 8.0 K’s per nine, .196 avg. against

 

Runners Up: Jonathan Papelbon, Jake McGee, Zack Britton, Drew Storen

 

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates

There is no job in the game with a more concise, to the point job description than being a relief pitcher: get out there and get the job done, quickly. While this happens in far more than just the ninth inning, more often than not, eventually the most prevailing non-starters will find their way to the game’s final frame to deploy their craft.

Some are built for it, some aren’t, but while the save stat can often be misleading on a pitcher’s effectiveness; it does in many cases show who has the confidence of their club to weigh the team’s day-to-day success squarely on their shoulders.

It is a new day for the race for the head of the table in the world of elite relievers, as the unapproachable greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, has finished his final game. Yet while the standard setter is gone, the cupboard is far from bare, as there are an impressive and menacing group of late game arms vying for elite status either in or around the game’s most important inning.

Because to reach the upper rungs of this group, simply means you are among the most indispensable players in the game today—here are the top guns setting the new standard today.

10. Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals: Only a few blow the eye test out of the water quicker than the new closer in St. Louis does. He had 29 holds and ran up 103 strikeouts as a rookie, before assuming the ninth inning in the postseason—and establishing a strangle hold on the role going ahead. In two career scoreless postseasons, over 20 innings he has surrendered only six hits against 33 strikeouts.

9. Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies: Steady and effective, the fiery and sometimes boastful Papelbon has the attitude that seals the deal—and is bred from his type of results. He has only finished one of his eight full seasons south of 30 saves, but is coming off a career-high seven blown save effort. But his track record indicates that’s an exception over a rule.

8. David Robertson, Yankees: It is no small task replacing the greatest closer of all-time, but Robertson has performed up to the task. As a setup man, he had a 1.91 ERA over the past three seasons and since 2010, is 325 strikeouts are nearly 30 more than any American League reliever.

Balfour_Rays

7. Grant Balfour, Rays: If he continues at the level he has been at over the past three years, the Orioles may have made the error of the offseason backing out of their pact with him. Since leaving Tampa in 2011, he has run up 64 saves and 41 holds, and has failed to convert only 5 of his last 83 save situations.

6. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers: An important part of the Dodger ship righting itself was giving Jansen the ball back to in the ninth, and he took the role in an impressive fashion. He struck out 111 in 78 innings, in route to 28 saves and a 1.88 ERA.

5. Greg Holland, Royals: The overpowering Holland made the most of his chance to anchor the superb Royals bullpen, leading all AL relievers with 103 strikeouts, amid a miniscule 1.21 ERA. He closed out 47 games, while only failing on three save attempts, settling a Royals record high in the process.

4. Joe Nathan, Tigers: He re-affirmed his slightly hidden status as one of the great closers of all-time with a vintage effort in Arlington. Two years removed from elbow surgery, he turned in 43 saves on a 1.38 ERA, including closing out a memorable All-Star Game. With his next save, he will break a tie with Rollie Fingers for tenth all-time.

3. Koji Uehara, Red Sox: A long-dominant setup man, Uehara moved to the ninth halfway through the year and began to author one of the greatest relief seasons in MLB history. After June 1, he surrendered one earned run for the remainder of the season, finishing with a 1.09 ERA and 101 strikeouts. At one point, he retired 37 straight batters—good for 12.1 perfect innings.

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks

2. Aroldis Chapman, Reds: When he is on his game, he is the most intimidating and unhittable pitcher in the game. Armed with a fastball that lives over 100 mph on most days, and a slider that appears as if it is going to run straight through the batter, before dying at the last second, batters have survived to a .154 average against him to start his career. Over the last two years, he has struck out 50 more batters than innings pitched.

1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves: He has been the game’s premier closer since day one of assuming the role. Over his three year career, he has led the NL in saves each season, and done so in an undeniably dominant fashion. For his career, he has averaged 15.1 strikeouts per nine innings (381 K’s in 227 innings) and has converted 139 out of 154 career chances. He’s a two pitch pitcher that can choose which one he wants to win with on any given day. And at only age 25, he’s set a curve that should be his for a long while.

Just A Bit Outside: Sergio Romo, Glen Perkins, Jim Johnson

Thanks for following this year’s ‘Top 10, Today’ countdown. Head over to I-70 Baseball to recap the rundown over the next few days, via a slideshow format and recap. For in the moment analysis, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Boston Red Sox

The first 162 (and even 163) have come and gone, the playoffs have had their day and the Red Sox have the year’s title in hand (and beard). Now is the part of the year where time both looks forward, with free agency, but backwards as well, as it is time to honor the very best of the best from the year that was.

For the third year here in the CHEAP SEATS, the wrap on the baseball books for the year will be done via my vote for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance Awards, which serves as the collective vote for the network of independent sites which chronicle the game throughout the year. Each is named after a past performer that has embodied the best of what he does, and the CSP submissions will start, at the end, by rewarding the best relief pitchers in each league.

2013 American League Goose Gossage Reliever of the Year—KOJI UEHARA, Boston Red Sox

For many, the spotlight was shined on Koji Uehara only this October, when he took the act his act to the highest stage in the postseason. But for anybody that’s followed the Red Sox across the course of the season, this was probably when Uehara was at his most mortal throughout the year, mostly because he actually gave up hits by then.

In a season that saw him be a jack of all trades in the Red Sox pen, starting has a bridge reliever in the seventh inning, to not only being passed over for the closer role three, but four times. Yet eventually, John Farrell realized there was no other place for the type of dominance his veteran righty was displaying to be place. Armed with only two pitches, a splitter, which he occasionally offset with a fastball that realistically sat in the high 80’s, but looked like it was topping 100 when following said splitter, he mowed through the Majors this season. Batters managed only a .130 average against him this season, has he surrendered only 33 hits across 74.1 innings.

A further look inside of that stinginess makes an even greater point: Uehara was the toughest reliever to reach base against in baseball history this season. Let that sink in for a second, and now let’s continue. In between those scattered hits, he struck out 101 batters, while walking only nine, which equates to an insane 0.57 WHIP, the lowest such number in baseball history. He fell behind in the count only 11 times the entire season, threw a de facto Perfect Game (plus some) by retiring 34 consecutive batters from August 21 to September 17th. He also authored 29 consecutive scoreless innings, ran up 21 saves and 13 holds along the way. In a game that his obsessed with power stamps being put on the end of games, Uehara redefined how dominance can be finessed as well, and with more effectiveness than ever seen before.

The Rest:

2. Greg Holland—Royals: 47 saves/3 BSV, .170 average against, 103 strikeouts, 1.21 ERA, 0.87 WHIP

3.  Joe Nathan—Rangers: 43 Saves/3 BSV, .162 average against, 73 strikeouts, 1.39 ERA, 0.90 WHIP

4. Mariano Rivera—Yankees: 44 saves/7 BSV, .236 average against, 54 strikeouts, 2.11 ERA, 1.05 WHIP

5. Grant Balfour—Athletics: 38 saves/3 BSV, .206 average against, 72 strikeouts, 2.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP

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2013 National League Goose Gossage Reliever of the Year—CRAIG KIMBREL, Atlanta Braves

It is nearly to the point where this award could be named after Kimbrel, which is insane considering he’s only 25 years old. But in a game that routinely has many open ended, debatable questions, there is one that is not open for discussion: Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in the game. Open and shut case, much like the games he has an impact on.

No player has started his career on a door-slamming warpath such as Kimbrel is on; three years into his career, three times leading the NL in saves. He set a new career high with 50 in 2013, and has closed out 139 already in his career. For the second consecutive year, he allowed less than 10 earned runs and finished with a sub-1.25 ERA on a .166 average against. In the course of closing out 60 games for the second time, and showing a brilliant amount of control for the power approach he takes. While running batters off with his mixture of triple digit fastballs and virtually unhittable slider, he walked only 20 batters and surrendered 39 hits.

It could be argued that despite his eye-popping numbers that 2013 was his “worst” year statistically (which is relative to only the standard he’s set for himself). However, there was has been no season where he meant more to the Braves than this one. After injuries ravished the Atlanta pitching staff, his presence kept the boat steady for the club, by being the rock at the end of the game. He stopped any bleeding that might have reached them, and continued to be a human eight inning game creator. There aren’t many certainties in this game, but more often than not (precisely 139 times out of 154), games that meet Kimbrel meet their end soon after.

The Rest:

2. Kenley Jansen—Dodgers: 28 saves/4 BSV, 16 holds, .177 average against, 111 strikeouts, 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP

3. Aroldis Chapman—Reds: 38 saves/5 BSV, .164 average against, 112 strikeouts, 2.54 ERA, 1.04 WHIP

4. Steve Cishek—Marlins: 34 saves/2 BSV, .211 average against, 74 strikeouts, 2.33 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

5. Sergio Romo—Giants: 38 saves/5 BSV, .226 Average against, 58 strikeouts, 2.54 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

This is just the beginning of the awards run in at CSP. Here is the slate of my upcoming 2013 accolaides, as I wrap the year that was, before looking ahead at what’s to come this winter:

Thursday: NL/AL Willie Mays Rookie of the Year

Saturday: NL/AL Connie Mack Manager of the Year

Friday: AL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year Award

Monday: NL Walter Johnson Pitcher of the Year Award

Tuesday: AL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player Award

Wednesday: NL Stan Musial Most Valuable Player Award

I didn’t get as much time to dedicate to this Baseball Bloggers Alliance award ballot as others, but luckily it wasn’t a year full of choices as tough as the other categories have been. So, without the same ado as the others have been, here is my humble submission for the best curtain closers of the year.

 

2012 NL Goose Gossage Award—Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

Kimbrel put a stamp on what’s clear if you’ve been watching baseball over the last two years: he’s the best in the business at turning out the lights at the end of the night. He tied for the lead in saves this season with 42, but did it in a somehow understated, yet dominant fashion. In 62 innings, only seven runs squeezed their way out against him, and he struck out a ridiculous 116 batters against only 14 walks. That plays out in the form of 16.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a miniscule 0.65 WHIP. Pure dominance, that somehow went unnoticed…until every game versus the Braves turned into an eight inning affair somehow.

Runners up: Aroldis Chapman—Reds, Joel Hanahran—Pirates

 

2012 AL Goose Gossage Award—Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays

It wasn’t supposed to be Rodney’s job, but Kyle Farnsworth not being ready to pitch out of Spring Training became a blessing in disguise in Tampa. Rodney became the most surprising impact arm of the season, totaling 48 saves on the year, and failing to convert on only two chances. His total was good for second best in baseball, and he did so with amazing efficiency; his 0.60 ERA on the year was tops among all relievers.

Runners up: Jim Johnson—Orioles, Joe Nathan—Rangers

 

For more on the MLB Award season, including the final MVP announcements tomorrow, follow me on Twitter @CheapSeatFan