Yankees’ Chapman, Astros’ Osuna Favored in Odds to Lead MLB in Saves

Aroldis Chapman
Aroldis Chapman has never been the league leader in saves. Does that change in a shortened 2020 season? Photo by Keith Allison (flickr).
  • 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

Player 2019 Saves  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.

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.

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.

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.

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