Searching For Saves: Identifying The Relievers to Own In Chicago & St. Louis

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

For those who missed our most recent update on Rotoprofessor’s own Reliever Reliability Quotient (RRQ), make sure to check out our introduction by clicking here.  The stat is used as a way to determine a reliever’s potential to thrive as a closer (keeping in mind that a pitcher with a low RRQ can get the job done, or one with a higher mark still has the potential to struggle).  It’s all about identifying potential, and as a reference here’s a reminder of our grading system:

Skill Level
30-49Above Average
10-29Solid (though worth monitoring)
0-9Questionable makeup
<0High Risk For Struggles

The numbers below are based on stats through Monday and again uses 20.0 IP as a minimum to be included (there were 219 pitchers who qualified).  So let’s take a look at two situations and try to determine who could emerge in the second half:


Chicago White Sox

RRQ Score
RRQ Ranking
Anthony Swarzak47.8316
Dan Jennings(9.57)130
Tyler Clippard(27.34)175

As you can see from the scores, it would actually be surprising if the White Sox went anywhere but Swarzak for closing duties.  While Clippard is going to get some speculation, let’s not forget that he’s been bad in New York and was technically removed from a seventh inning role. 

Clippard is a veteran and the White Sox are rebuilding, but he’s simply not very good as he’s struggled with his control (4.71 BB/9) and given up a lot of home runs (1.73 HR/9).  Considering his career 28.4% groundball rate (31.5% in ’17) the latter will likely continue to plague him.

As for Swarzak, he’s pitched like one of the elite relievers this season and is a 31-year old veteran himself.  He’s not a tremendous groundball pitcher (43.4%), but he’s shown a big jump in SwStr% this season (15.0%) to go along with popups (18.6%) and control (2.27 BB/9).  With his fastball velocity climbing (94.97 mph, up from 94.09 in ’17) he’s more than doubled his Whiff% on the pitch (6.81% to 13.98% in ’17) and that’s the difference.

He should be the only name to consider grabbing off the waiver wire at this point.


St. Louis Cardinals

Trevor Rosenthal36.9631
Brett Cecil23.1351
Matt Bowman22.0852
Seung Hwan Oh(39.84)195

It’s clear that Seung Hwan Oh should be out, and the Cardinals are currently looking at the alternatives to fill the role.  Brett Cecil did earn a save earlier this week, but we have to keep in mind that Trevor Rosenthal had worked three straight days and was unavailable.  That’s not to take anything away from Cecil, who actually has shown all of the skills we look for from a potential closer:

  • Groundball Rate – 47.6%
  • Popup Rate – 13.50%
  • SwStr% – 13.40%

He’s also had a reverse split, with lefties slashing .303/.378/.531 against him.  That should work in his favor and he is a potential fit for the role.

Rosenthal does carry some risk, especially considering a 27.6% line drive rate (though a reliever can overcome elevated marks there considering the short stints).  Of course he’s also a proven closer who brings big strikeout stuff (15.9% SwStr%), and that’s going to be the key for his success.  He has his control somewhat back in order (3.96 BB/9, which is skewed by a bad June of 6.35), which only helps his cause.

Bowman, who could be an option, is more of an atypical closer depending more on groundballs (56.0%) and control (2.25 BB/9) to do the job.  That’s not to say that he couldn’t succeed, but it’s more likely the team goes with one of the other options.

Rosenthal has been dubbed the closer, so he is the obvious must add.  If you want to be proactive, and considering the state of the bullpen it makes sense, stash Cecil now so you’re ready if/when Rosenthal slips.  It is hard to imagine Oh returning to the role, so while he isn’t a must drop if you need the roster spot you would be justified in moving on.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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  1. Bennie's Express says:

    Hey Prof,

    As far as the whole Stl situation, I unfortunately own Oh. This isn’t breaking news but he has been BAD and as much as I would love to thin he will regain the role I don’t see it happening. Would you consider dropping him for someone like Treinen, Barraclough or Phelps?? Those are the only possible closer candidates I can think of that are available. I was willing to drop Oh last night for Swarzak but I didn’t win the claim, so do you think either of those 3 would be someone to you would drop Oh for?

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Only Treinen at this point, and unfortunately that’s a stretch too

      • Bennies Express says:

        So if it was you, would u drop Oh and grab Treinen or would you stay put? Only reason I am leaning a bit towards doing the swap is bc Oh doesn’t offer any real potential for anything, he has been pretty bad and has a VERY slim chance of retaking the closers role. What do you think?

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