RELIEVERS: Holds leaders

This week, the column looks at the fifteen relievers with at least ten holds through May 23. All fifteen are pitching pretty well:

12 Holds            IP   ERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 xERA   G/F   BPV pBPV
================   ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ======= === ====
Diekman (TEX) (L)  16.3 2.20 0.92 12.7  5.8  1.1 2.51  43/38  190  104
Herrera (KC)       23.0 0.78 0.87 10.6 13.5  0.0 2.55  41/34  188  107

Jake Diekman (LHP, TEX) has been even better in Texas than he was in Philadelphia with a BPV hovering near 200. Shawn Tolleson (RHP, TEX) was pulled from the closer role and replaced by Sam Dyson (RHP, TEX). Dyson is discussed below. Diekman is the perfect blend of left-hander, elite skill-set, winning team. His presence on this holds list is not a surprise and he adds positive value in ERA/WHIP to teams in place of an underwhelming starter with a supported mid-2s ERA and low WHIP. Watch for walks—if that ticks upward, everything else changes.

The Royals have had an elite bullpen for a few years now. Kelvin Herrera (RHP, KC) has been a key cog every step of the way and is as important as anyone to the Royals' chances in 2016. Herrera has been lights out with a 10+ Dom, 13+ Cmd ratio and no homers allowed. It is unrealistic to expect the 0.78 actual ERA. But it is not a stretch to expect Herrera to continue to set up and post strong numbers all season.

It is very hard to argue that this group is not elite. In fact, as a group, the next group is as elite as current closers:

11 Holds            IP   ERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 xERA   G/F   BPV pBPV
================   ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ======= === ====
Betances (NYY)     20.3 2.21 0.93 17.7  8.0  1.3 1.63  41/41  278  157
W.Harris (HOU)     19.7 0.46 0.66  9.2 10.0  0.0 2.17  73/22  191  115
Neris (PHI)        26.0 1.38 0.73 11.4  4.7  1.0 2.69  39/44  157   75
J.Peralta (SEA)    19.0 4.26 1.21 11.4  4.0  2.4 3.55  24/51  130   99
N.Jones (CHW)      18.0 2.00 0.67  9.0  4.5  0.5 3.05  40/36  126  124
Z.Duke (CHW) (L)   16.7 3.78 1.32  8.1  2.5  0.5 3.51  55/26   91   98

There is only one National League reliever on this list: Phillies reliever Hector Neris (RHP, PHI). Neris has been documented here and elsewhere many times over. He has 26 innings so far, too—a total that is on pace for just a shade under 100 for the season. Neris hasn't blinked, but he also hasn't taken the closer role from Jeanmar Gomez (RHP, PHI). There is regression coming—for Gomez and Neris both. Neris will provide plenty of value in the interim in ERA/WHIP.

Dellin Betances (RHP, NYY) is not a surprise on this list. His 278 BPV to date is absurd and his xERA of 1.63 is lower than his actual ERA of 2.21 in set-up for the Yankees. Betances won't close--Aroldis Chapman (LHP, NYY) does that. But Betances adds value in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, with a 17.7 Dom that adds plenty of value over many starters.

The largest command ratio belongs to Astro Will Harris (RHP, HOU). Harris is outpitching both closer Luke Gregerson (RHP, HOU) and Ken Giles (RHP, HOU). There has not been any reason to move him to close games with the success he is having in close games before the ninth. The 73% groundball rate is particularly strong. He, too, adds lots of value for owners and has closer upside, potentially.

The White Sox have two relievers on the list: Nate Jones (RHP, CHW) and Zach Duke (LHP, CHW). Jones was elite, hurt and has returned elite. Duke is a vagabond who throws left-handed. The duo shares set-up for the White Sox, but Jones is the skill set to own.

Joel Peralta (RHP, SEA) had a lousy 2015 and he has a 4.26 actual ERA to-date for Seattle. It comes from the 2.4 HR/9, despite the otherwise great strikeouts and walks numbers. The flyball rate (51%) should remain a problem for Peralta, even pitching in Seattle.

And the next group is strong as well, but with some interesting quirks:

10 Holds            IP   ERA WHIP  Dom  Cmd HR/9 xERA   G/F   BPV pBPV
================   ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ======= === ====
J.Wilson (DET) (L) 18.0 4.50 1.28 12.0  6.0  0.5 2.40  52/20  192   98
D.Hernandez (PHI)  21.3 2.53 1.08 13.1  4.4  0.8 2.72  38/40  172  118
Phelps (MIA)       26.0 1.38 0.92 10.7  3.4  0.0 2.99  42/40  129   74
Dyson (TEX)        21.0 2.14 1.10  6.4  2.5  0.4 2.87  70/14   94  112
Uehara (BOS)       17.0 3.71 1.00  9.5  3.0  0.5 3.82  25/55   89  144
Maurer (SD)        23.0 4.30 1.35 11.3  2.2  1.6 3.99  35/49   80   66
T.Watson (PIT) (L) 20.7 2.18 0.97  7.4  1.9  1.3 3.92  49/38   54  106

Sam Dyson (RHP, TEX) has taken over as Rangers closer. The 70% groundball rate boosts the otherwise weaker 6.4 Dom and the results have been an ERA in the 2s. Dyson has benefited from Tolleson's failure and could run with the closer role. This, of course, will end his holds, but it points to the right-hand side replacement (likely Tolleson) to gather holds along with Diekman.

David Phelps (RHP, MIA) has been better than A.J. Ramos (RHP, MIA) for the Marlins and could close if asked. Phelps has 26 innings and is on pace for nearly 100 at a xERA of 2.99--very strong.

Three of these relievers—Koji Uehara (RHP, BOS), Brandon Maurer (RHP, SD) and Tony Watson (LHP, PIT) are just one injury away from the closer role in Boston, San Diego and Pittsburgh respectively. But all three have a high 3s xERA and could struggle. Watson in particular is down from past seasons with a lousy 1.9 Cmd ratio and 1.3 HR/9.

The best arm on this ten-holds list is lefty Justin Wilson (LHP, DET) with his disappointing 4.50 actual ERA to date. That actual ERA is what holds Wilson back from claiming the Tigers' closer role already. The 192 BPV and 2.40 xERA point towards the potential to vulture saves, but Wilson has a split worth noting.

Next week, this column looks at relievers who had the best April + May.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.