Top Ten in Holds for 2014
If a starting pitcher can pitch well enough to maintain a lead, the middle relievers will be given the responsibility of keeping the lead. The hold is a deceptive statistic. It can be obtained any time after the starting pitcher has exited the game as long as they exited with the lead. While the hold is not dependent on the final result of the game as long as they had a successful appearance; a good closer will keep their setup relievers out of the closer role. A good offense and the chance to win will all be important for the predicted top ten in holds to succeed.
1. Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals (38)
With the strong, young starting rotation on the Washington Nationals, expect this consistently effective reliever to be among the top middle relievers in holds. Since joining the Nationals, Tyler Clippard has been one of the most consistent and reliable relief pitchers in the game. Last season, the Nationals offense was hurt by injuries but Clippard was among the leaders in holds. He has had some success as a closer in 2012 but Rafael Soriano is an effective closer and will be setup for success in the National League East by Tyler Clippard.
2. Joel Peralta, Tampa Bay Rays (35)
This veteran in the Tampa Bay Rays has been the most relied on reliever in this American League East team. He showed up in 80 games in 2013 but also put up a great ERA and the Rays continue to be a strong contender in the American League East. Over three seasons with the Rays, Peralta has nearly 100 holds. Along with Jake McGee, they are two of the more dependable late-inning relievers that are expected to tally up the holds.
3. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates (34)
After struggling during his years with the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates, Mark Melancon found a home with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Wild Card-winning Pirates got a career-best year from Melancon and got 26 holds out of him. Not many players improve upon a season like his but with the confidence and strength of the Pittsburgh Pirates; expect Melancon to have another great year as the setup man for closer Jason Grilli.
4. Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays (32)
The flame-throwing lefty in the Rays bullpen has been a reliable presence that manager Joe Maddon could turn to and count on to get the job done. In his two full seasons as the primary lefty, he’s gotten at least 20 holds. If you can pitch with your left, you’ll find a job. Jake McGee certainly has done that and will continue to be an effective force in the Tampa Bay bullpen.
5. Brian Wilson, Los Angeles Dodgers (29)
“The Beard” is starting his first full season in Dodger Blue and he has accepted the eighth inning role. With Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke anchoring the rotation and Kenley Jansen shutting the door, Brian Wilson should see numerous opportunities to assist in a win. The offense is still strong for the Dodgers and Brian Wilson still has closer stuff. The Dodgers are expected to contend for the West and Wilson should help get them there.
6. Junichi Tazawa, Boston Red Sox (28)
In a full season with the Red Sox, Tazawa showed he has the talent to hold a big spot in the major league bullpen. Bridging to fellow countryman Koji Uehara, Tazawa will continue getting better as he gets more major league experience. Tazawa has electric stuff, a potent offense and one of the best rotations in the game. He will get opportunities and as he gets better with time, he will get more holds and continue to get them in dominant fashion. Look for him to be a regular great in the holds category.
7. Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics (26)
The master of the inherited runner situation is bound to be a great candidate for holds. He may not put up outstanding numbers but a lefty that can strand inherited runners is a valuable arm to have in the bullpen. If Doolittle can maintain his consistent ability of bailing out a starting pitcher in hot water, expect him to get numerous holds in some high leverage situations.
8. Luis Avilan, Atlanta Braves (26)
The Atlanta Braves are always known for their excellent pitching staff. This year is no different. There are some more injuries than could have been expected but Luis Avilan has proven to be a dependable member of the bullpen bridge to Craig Kimbrel. Being a left-handed pitcher, he’ll likely be expected to get the likes of Ryan Howard and Bryce Harper out on more than one occasion. If he is called on for one lefty or one inning, Avilan will get the job done and pass the game on successfully.
9. Shawn Kelley, New York Yankees (25)
The question the baseball world constantly asks is “Who will replace Mariano Rivera?” The truth is no one can but David Robertson will do his best to fill the gap of one of the greats. The real question is “Who will replace David Robertson?” Enter Shawn Kelley, a pitcher of similar approach as David Robertson. He uses a low 90s fastball and a strikeout slider to put away opposing batters. He will be put into a situation of higher intensity than he’s used to, but with the added offense and veteran rotation, Kelley will see multiple opportunities to be the bridge.
10. Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants (22)
The offense is still unproven as dependable and the rotation has to prove that last year was a blip on the radar. The addition of Tim Hudson will fortify the rotation and add a veteran leader on the staff. Santiago Casilla is an improving reliever that handles the late-inning duties along with veteran Javier Lopez. Sergio Romo has been solid since receiving the closer’s role in the 2012 postseason. Casilla will continue bridging winning opportunities to Romo and his sweeping slider.