- With MLB eyeing a return to play in 2020, who could lead the league in saves?
- Aroldis Chapman and Roberto Osuna are co-favorites at +650
- We examine whether a favorite or the field, will take the crown
As the days tick by, there continues to be hope that there will be some form of a baseball season.
With that in mind, the season could be volatile. Season length and start dates are moving targets. And with the potential for fewer games, having an elite closer to lock up saves will be important.
2020 MLB Saves Leader Odds
|Aroldis Chapman (NYY)||37||+650|
|Roberto Osuna (HOU)||38||+650|
|Kenley Jansen (LAD)||33||+750|
|Alex Colome (CHW)||30||+1000|
|Brad Hand (CLE)||34||+1000|
|Josh Hader (MIL)||37||+1000|
|Kirby Yates (SD)||41||+1000|
|Liam Hendriks (OAK)||25||+1000|
|Taylor Rogers (MIN)||30||+1000|
|Craig Kimbrel (CHC)||13||+1200|
|Edwin Diaz (NYM)||26||+1200|
|Raisel Iglesias (CIN)||34||+1200|
|Archie Bradley (ARZ)||18||+1600|
|Ken Giles (TOR)||23||+1600|
|Hector Neris (PHI)||28||+1700|
|Sean Doolittle (WAS)||29||+1700|
|Brandon Workman (BOS)||16||+2000|
|Hansel Robles (LAA)||23||+2000|
|Giovanny Gallegos (STL)||1||+2400|
|Ian Kennedy (KC)||30||+2400|
|Joe Jimenez (DET)||9||+2400|
|Nick Anderson (TB)||1||+2400|
|Jose Leclerc (TEX)||14||+2700|
|Keone Kela (PIT)||1||+3000|
|Mark Melancon (ATL)||12||+3000|
|Brandon Kintzler (MIA)||1||+3600|
|Tony Watson (SFG)||0||+3600|
Odds as of Apr 28th.
It’s interesting when you compare these odds to the 2020 World Series odds, because it quite clearly favors the heavyweights.
The Yankees, Dodgers and Astros all have elite closers and are favored to win it all.
Meanwhile, Kirby Yates led the league in saves in 2019 and the Padres didn’t make the playoffs. In fact, the last team to win the World Series and trot out the league leader in saves?
The 2010 San Francisco Giants and Brian Wilson.
How Do Big-Name Closers Start, Finish season?
As Jeff Passan recently wrote, the most ideal start date for MLB is early July. Possibly July 4th.
That would mean four months of baseball, resulting in an 80-100 game schedule. So strong starts and solid finishes are important for closers and their save opportunities.
Chapman, Osuna and Jansen Three-Year Averages
|Player||April Saves||April ERA||Sept Saves||Sept ERA|
|Aroldis Chapman (NYY)||5.1||1.76||2.6||2.77|
|Roberto Osuna (HOU)||5.6||2.85||7.0||2.06|
|Kenley Jansen (LAD)||6.6||3.51||5.6||2.63|
For Chapman, his last three seasons have seen declines in both early and late performances. Yes, there is an argument of preservation in September, but he has just one save each of the last two years and a 6.23 ERA in 2018.
ERA leaders since 2008, minimum 500 innings
1. Craig Kimbrel, 2.08
2. Aroldis Chapman, 2.23
3. Kenley Jansen, 2.35
4. Clayton Kershaw, 2.44
5. DARREN O'DAY! 2.55
— Lucas Apostoleris (@DBITLefty) April 24, 2020
Osuna’s trajectory has gone the other way, as he’s started and finished better every year since 2017.
Despite the questions surrounding what we’ll see out of Houston in 2020, we lean towards Osuna when it comes to the favorites.
Rogers, Anderson Provide Saves, Intriguing Value
When looking at last year, there are two names that stick out: Taylor Rogers and Nick Anderson.
For Rogers, his average leverage index, which measures the pressure of a situation, was second-highest among relievers. His 2.134 aLI fell shy of Kirby Yates’ 2.357.
Rogers was ninth in baseball with 39 high leverage appearances and blew the second-fewest saves (six) among the top ten in that category.
Taylor Rogers might go down as one of the best #MNTwins RPs of all time. Here is where Rogers ranks among all Twins relievers through their first four seasons:
– 4th in IP (254.1)
– 3rd in WAR (6.4)
– 3rd in ERA (3.04)
– 2nd in ERA+ (144)
– 2nd in K% (26.8%)
— Matthew Taylor (@MatthewTaylorMN) April 21, 2020
The Twins have the fourth-best World Series odds right now, so Vegas likes their chances to win a lot of games.
For Anderson, his value comes from how the Rays used him last year.
With Emilio Pagan gone, Anderson is in line for save opportunities. He was electric last year with a 41.7% strikeout rate and a 19.5% swinging strike rate. That’s Josh Hader/Kirby Yates company.
Nick Anderson since joining the #Rays:
91 batters faced
1 unintentional walk#unhittable
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 9, 2019
His leverage numbers also rose from 1.19 in Miami to 1.81 with the Rays. So the trust is there.
But Pagan only came away with 20 saves on a 96-win team last year. That’s back-to-back years without a 30-save closer in Tampa, so there’s risk there.
Don’t Discount Yates as Saves Leader
We didn’t need to spend time on Kirby Yates because he’s flat out dominant. If the Padres can catch fire in a short season, we love his odds to repeat as saves leader.
And while Roberto Osuna stands out among the big names, Taylor Rogers is one to keep in mind. He’s getting plenty of respect with the same odds as Yates and is a fine investment if you’re hesitant to run with Nick Anderson.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.