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Save Fallers: 2018 MLB Season Recap

The 2018 season has now come and gone (so sad!), so it is now time to dive into trends and projections for next season! A tough statistic to find trends on is saves, as a lot of success for closers comes from success from teams. There are also a lot of bullpens by committee these days, further stifling the value of closers.

That being said, only four of the pitchers that ranked in the top-10 in saves in 2017 followed up in 2018. One of those pitchers had a huge jump in saves, but Wade Davis, Craig Kimbrel, and Kenley Jansen were all relatively in similar positions for saves in each of the last two seasons. Most of the players that fell off of that list will be considered in this article.

Here is the list of the top save fallers from 2018.

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SV Fallers of 2018

Greg Holland (RP, STL/WSH): SV Increase 2018(3)-2017(41) = -38

Relief pitcher Greg Holland was the top reliever in baseball while with the Royals, saving 93 games in 2013 and 2014 and maintaining a 1.32 ERA. Injury and inconsistency had Holland on the Rockies in 2017, where he saved 41 games and posted a decent 3.61 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. A part of a messy free agent market last winter, Holland ended up with the Cardinals, where it was expected that he would get a chance to close.

Holland took a while to get going for the Birds and, when he did, he was atrocious, posting a 7.92 ERA and walking 22 batters in 25 innings. He did not save a game for St. Louis, as Bud Norris and Jordan Hicks were the top options to end games, and he was shipped off to Washington by the end of the season. Holland did save three games in the Nation's capital, but his 38-save drop off was a massive loss for fantasy owners.

Holland finished the year strong (0.84 ERA in 21 1/3 innings with the Nats) and could be a closer option for needy teams. If Holland lands in the right situation, like he hoped he had in St. Louis to start the 2018 season, he could be a top-10 RP once again. Teams like the Diamondbacks or Angels will likely be interested in the 32-year-old.

Alex Colome (RP, SEA): SV Increase 2018(12)-2017(47) = -35

In 2017, Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Alex Colome was the closer for the Rays and led baseball with 47 saves. He had a worse season than 2016 in most statistical categories (mainly his ERA going from 1.91 to 3.24 and his strikeouts going from 11.3 to 7.8 per nine), but his saves were up from 37 to 47 year over year. The only reason that any fantasy owners would have been down on Colome to start the season was that he only had two years of closer's experience.

Then 2018 happened: he started the season with 11 saves in Tampa Bay and then was part of a trade with Denard Span to the Mariners. Colome was good for the Mariners, going 5-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, but he lost the closer's role once he moved to the Pacific Northwest. He did end up saving one game with the M's, to finish with 12 saves for the season, but that is nowhere near what was expected of him.

Colome will be a non-factor for fantasy owners in the future, as Edwin Diaz is the closer for the Mariners. Any value would come from if he is traded.

Brandon Kintzler (RP, CHC/WSH): SV Increase 2018(2)-2017(29) = -27

A middle reliever for the majority of his career, reliever Brandon Kintzler got an opportunity for saves with the Twins in 2016 and 2017. After saving 17 games for the Twins in 2016, he saved another 28 in 2017 before being traded to the Nationals (where he saved one game). Coming into 2018, there was a small chance that he would be in line for saves, but there was some hope for fantasy owners considering Sean Doolittle's injury history.

Unfortunately, Kintzler did not get many opportunities, converting two saves during the 2018 season. He pitched to a 3.59 ERA in 42 2/3 innings with the Nats before being traded to the Cubs to close out the season. Kintzler was not a shot in the arm for the Cubbies, as he had a 7.00 ERA in 18 innings and will likely not pitch high-leverage innings going forward.

Kintzler will be a non-factor for fantasy owners in the future, as Wade Davis is the closer for the Cubs and Kintzler was just re-signed by Chicago. Any value would come from if he is traded.

Corey Knebel (RP, MIL): SV Increase 2018(16)-2017(39) = -23

Milwaukee Brewers reliever Corey Knebel was a big part of the success for the 2017 Brewers, as he pitched in a league-high 76 games and had a 1.78 ERA. He also had 39 saves, struck out 126 batters in 76 innings, and allowed just 48 hits. There were some inquiries on if he was a big-time closer, as he had a 4.03 ERA and two career saves coming into 2017, but the Brewers had spent big and Knebel looked like a potential top-five RP.

There was a top-five RP in Milwaukee in 2018, but it was not Knebel, who had a 3.58 ERA in 55 1/3 innings. He did save 16 games, though, and saw his walk rate go from 4.7 per nine to 3.6 per nine, seeing his WHIP go from 1.16 to 1.08. As with a lot of bullpen situations, there was just another guy that was able to put up better numbers, particularly a lefty that whiffed 143 batters in 81 1/3 innings.

Knebel will likely be a non-factor for fantasy owners in the future, as Josh Hader is the top reliever for the Brewers and Jeremy Jeffress also had 15 saves last season. Hader could be used as more of a fireman, so there is some chance that Knebel does get 20-25 saves, but that limits his value. The most value would come from if he is traded.

Fernando Rodney (RP, MIN/OAK): SV Increase 2018(25)-2017(39) = -14

Relief pitcher Fernando Rodney is the very definition of well-traveled and has saved at least 30 games for four different teams. In 2017, his port of choice was Arizona and he saved 39 games with a 4.23 ERA. This came after he saved 25 games with the Padres and Marlins in 2016 and his 0.31 ERA in the first half of 2016 coupled with his 39 saves in 2017 made fantasy owners consider him for 2018 with the Twins.

When he came to the Twins, he saved 25 games and pitched to a 3.09 ERA while punching out 10.3 batters per nine. These were solid tallies, but the Twins fell out of contention and Rodney was traded to the Athletics. With Oakland, Rodney was moved into a setup role and was without a save for the remainder of the season, pitching to a 3.92 ERA with the Athletics in 20 2/3 innings.

Rodney will be a non-factor for fantasy owners in the future, as Blake Treinen is the closer for the Athletics and Rodney just re-signed with Oakland. Any value would come from if he is traded.

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