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The Closer Chronicle: Week 22

And the baseball gods strike again. Cy Young contender Matt Harvey suffered a torn UCL that will sideline the Mets phenom for the rest of 2013, and quite possibly for 2014. On Wednesday, Harvey tweeted that he expects to be back for Opening Day ’14, indicating Tommy John surgery won’t be necessary. Then again, he could just be tweeting like we all do – with reckless abandon. MLB stars: Just like us.

As always, I rank and tier all 30 closers below.

Tier 1

Craig Kimbrel, ATL
2013: 3 W, 42 SV, 3 BS, 80 K, 0.99 ERA, 0.88 WHIP

Aroldis Chapman, CIN
2013: 3 W, 33 SV, 5 BS, 90 K, 2.87 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

Kenley Jansen, LAD
2013: 4 W, 22 SV, 3 BS, 95 K, 1.92 ERA, 0.81 WHIP

↑Greg Holland, KC
2013: 2 W, 35 SV, 2 BS, 81 K, 1.41 ERA, 0.90 WHIP

Joe Nathan, TEX
2013: 4 W, 38 SV, 2 BS, 57 K, 1.54 ERA, 0.93 WHIP

Many fantasy pundits were high on Greg Holland entering 2013, but I don’t think any one of them dreamed of a season this spectacular. Holland battled early-season ineffectiveness and a hard-throwing Kelvin Herrera to keep the ninth inning job in Kansas City, and he’s essentially become the Aroldis Chapman of the American League with a 41.3 percent strikeout rate – which is a pinch better than Chapman’s 41.1 percent mark in the National League. Holland’s walk rate has dipped from 11.8 percent in 2012 to 6.6 percent in 2013, making him all-around elite for the first time. Kudos if you jumped on the bandwagon. One more for you: Holland’s 17 percent swinging strike rate is the best in baseball. Kenley Jansen and Chapman are almost interchangeable at this point, but the Cincinnati closer has been doing it longer, so he gets the nod. Let’s make sure Jansen can perform in September first. Joe Nathan is on the verge of his fourth 40+ save season. He’s up to 336 career saves (11th most all-time) in his 13th year.

Tier 2

Koji Uehara, BOS
2013: 3 W, 14 SV, 3 BS, 80 K, 1.22 ERA, 0.64 WHIP

Edward Mujica, STL
2013: 2 W, 35 SV, 2 BS, 43 K, 1.73 ERA, 0.78 WHIP

Mariano Rivera, NYY
2013: 4 W, 38 SV, 5 BS, 44 K, 2.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

Glen Perkins, MIN
2013: 2 W, 30 SV, 3 BS, 61 K, 2.31 ERA, 0.97 WHIP

Grant Balfour, OAK
2013: 0 W, 33 SV, 1 BS, 59 K, 1.76 ERA, 1.06 WHIP

Despite recording just 14 saves, Koji Uehara has been a blessing for the injury-ridden Red Sox. First it was Joel Hanrahan. Then it was Andrew Bailey. And then it was Andrew Bailey again. Uehara stepped in and took the job without missing a beat, leading the Boston bullpen in nearly every stat imaginable. The 38-year old hasn’t allowed a run since the final day of June. Edward Mujica felt discomfort in his back and shoulder that kept him out of action late last week, but he’s picked up two saves since and appears fine going forward. The St. Louis closer has been a control freak – which is a very good thing – with three walks in 57 1/3 innings. Mariano Rivera, at age 42, needs seven more saves to reach 45 for the fourth time in his career. It would be Mo’s most saves since 2004, when he racked up 53. Glen Perkins continues his breakout year in obscurity (also known as Minnesota), but he hasn’t recorded a save in over a week. His skill set is still better than Grant Balfour, who hasn’t allowed a base runner in six out of 10 as the Athletics make another late season push to catch the Rangers in the AL West.

Tier 3

Sergio Romo, SF
2013: 4 W, 32 SV, 4 BS, 51 K, 2.61 ERA, 0.97 WHIP

↑Joaquin Benoit, DET
2013: 3 W, 17 SV, 0 BS, 59 K, 1.54 ERA, 1.03 WHIP

Addison Reed, CHW
2013: 5 W, 36 SV, 5 BS, 63 K, 3.27 ERA, 1.01 WHIP

↑Jim Henderson, MIL
2013: 3 W, 22 SV, 3 BS, 57 K, 1.82 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

Steve Cishek, MIA
2013: 3 W, 28 SV, 2 BS, 55 K, 2.65 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

Sergio Romo has put together a stellar August (0.96 ERA) after a forgetful July (5.63 ERA), but he’s slipping in the strikeout department with five punch outs in his last 9 1/3 innings. The Giants closer has failed to strike out multiple batters in 12 straight appearances. Joaquin Benoit is as steady as they come, as he’s the only closer on this list without a blown save to his name. The Tigers closer is now a perfect 17-for-17 in save chances with a very solid 13.3 percent swinging strike rate. While his strikeouts are down in August (seven Ks in 9 2/3 innings), opposing batters are hitting just .171 against the right-hander this month. Addison Reed got blown up on Monday – giving up two solo shots against the Astros – but it’s nothing to get worked up about. Despite playing on a crummy White Sox team, Reed has managed to record 36 saves. And he’s still striking out a batter per inning (63 Ks in 63 1/3 innings). Jim Henderson gets the nod over Steve Cishek, thanks to a far superior 28.4 percent strikeout rate (compared to 23.4 percent for Cishek). Since reclaiming Milwaukee’s closing duties on July 24, Henderson has converted 12 straight saves with 17 strikeouts in 12 innings. In fact, Henderson hasn’t been asked to pitch in a non-save situation since Francisco Rodriguez was traded to Baltimore.

Tier 4

Fernando Rodney, TB
2013: 5 W, 31 SV, 8 BS, 72 K, 3.72 ERA, 1.42 WHIP

↓Jim Johnson, BAL
2013: 3 W, 40 SV, 9 BS, 43 K, 3.51 ERA, 1.35 WHIP

Casey Janssen, TOR
2013: 4 W, 24 SV, 2 BS, 38 K, 2.93 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Rafael Soriano, WAS
2013: 2 W, 35 SV, 6 BS, 43 K, 3.65 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

Jonathan Papelbon, PHI
2013: 4 W, 22 SV, 6 BS, 47 K, 2.49 ERA, 1.03 WHIP

Fernando Rodney is more or less the default ace in Tier 4, although he’s now one blown save away from tying Jim Johnson for the most in baseball after the Rays defense didn’t do him any favors on Tuesday. His 1.42 WHIP can be a killer, but he’s still one of the few guys ranked this low you can trust for consistent save opportunities. Johnson, meanwhile, was back on the mound for the Orioles on Friday after a string of three straight bad ones. He now leads the AL with 40 saves and Tommy Hunter is back to doing what he does best – setting up Johnson. Casey Janssen is oh-so-boring but he gets the job done. The Blue Jays closer has two saves in the past week, but he’s not a significant source of strikeouts (38 Ks in 43 innings). You could do worse. Here I go again lumping Rafael Soriano and Jonathan Papelbon into the same sentence. The pair of closers from a pair of disappointing NL East teams have combined for 12 blown saves after blowing eight (four each) in 2012. Papelbon has been the more reliable one since the start of July (3.15 ERA for Papelbon; 5.64 ERA for Soriano), but Washington is on a hot streak and Soriano’s big lead in saves gives him the slight edge.

Tier 5

↑Rex Brothers, COL
2013: 2 W, 14 SV, 1 BS, 62 K, 1.43 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

Chris Perez, CLE
2013: 5 W, 21 SV, 4 BS, 41 K, 3.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

Huston Street, SD
2013: 1 W, 25 SV, 1 BS, 33 K, 2.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP

Danny Farquhar, SEA
2013: 0 W, 9 SV, 3 BS, 68 K, 4.67 ERA, 1.20 WHIP

Kevin Gregg, CHC
2013: 2 W, 27 SV, 5 BS, 44 K, 3.12 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

↓Mark Melancon, PIT
2013: 2 W, 9 SV, 2 BS, 57 K, 0.91 ERA, 0.83 WHIP

Rex Brothers is back to closing after Rafael Betancourt suffered a torn UCL, which could end the 38-year old’s career. Brothers was fantastic in Betancourt’s absence the first go-around, so I’m confident he’ll be great again. The new Rockies closer has converted three saves since Friday, striking out six in three innings. Chris Perez has struggled all August (5.73 ERA), so the Indians better hope he finds his groove in September. Opposing batters are hitting .261 against Perez this month. It’s almost September and Huston Street still has a 100 percent strand rate (75.9 percent career). He’s the only qualified pitcher in baseball with a perfect strand rate – the next closest is Kimbrel at 96.2 percent. Danny Farquhar took the loss on Tuesday courtesy of a balk, breaking a string of five outings in which he faced the minimum (nine Ks in five innings). Kevin Gregg hasn’t pitched well in over a month, yet he’s the only reliever closing out games for the Cubs. I’m not sure why the team hasn’t given Pedro Strop or Blake Parker a shot. The organization has nothing to gain by using Gregg and goggles exclusively in the ninth. The latest news on Jason Grilli is positive, meaning Mark Melancon is headed back to a setup role for the playoff hopeful Pirates. It was a good run for Melancon, who went 7-for-8 in Grilli’s absence. Any setback and Melancon shoots up to Tier 3.

Tier 6

Ernesto Frieri, LAA
2013: 2 W, 27 SV, 4 BS, 79 K, 4.17 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

↓Brad Ziegler, ARI
2013: 7 W, 7 SV, 2 BS, 35 K, 2.52 ERA, 1.25 WHIP

LaTroy Hawkins, NYM
2013: 3 W, 5 SV, 3 BS, 42 K, 3.65 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Chia-Jen Lo, HOU
2013: 0 W, 2 SV, 2 BS, 7 K, 2.61 ERA, 1.55 WHIP

Ernesto Frieri and Dane de la Rosa will likely both get save chances in the final month, but if Frieri can take command of the job between now and October, he has the greatest upside of any closer ranked this low. Frieri pitched the eighth inning on Tuesday while de la Rosa pitched the ninth, but that was probably a matchup’s thing. Brad Ziegler is finally starting to show his warts, giving up four runs on nine hits while walking six and striking out three in his last 3 2/3 innings of work. He hasn’t recorded a save since the first week of August. J.J. Putz is on the DL, so the Diamondbacks have no choice but to stick with Ziegler. LaTroy Hawkins imploded to the tune of five runs on four hits against the Tigers his last time out, but he was pitching fine before his misstep against Detroit. Chia-Jen Lo picked up his second save on Saturday and followed it up with a blown save on Sunday. The Houston “closer” has seven strikeouts and eight walks in 10 1/3 innings. You do the math. That’s not good.

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