With a 15.4 percent swinging strike rate, 32.6 percent strikeout rate, 5.3 percent walk rate and 24.1 percent soft contact rate, Trevor May has been doing just about everything you would want to see from a closer. Yet Paul Molitor has been faithfully sticking with Trevor Hildenberger as his closer in recent weeks, even with the latter Trevor posting a 5.74 ERA since the Twins traded Fernando Rodney to the Athletics.
Molitor departed from his norm on Sunday, opting to use May to get the final four outs in the Twins’ 5-1 win over the Athletics. In allowing no more than a walk, May notched his first career save on his 29th birthday. Molitor has been loathe to use Hildenberger on consecutive days, particularly since rosters expanded, and he not only pitched in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat, but threw 23 pitches while taking the loss.
It’s probably reading too much into one game to assume that Hildenberger is out as the Twins’ closer or to even assume that Molitor has moved on to a committee system. May, still in his first months back from his recovery from Tommy John surgery, has only pitched on back-to-back days just once. Even if Hildenberger is losing his grip on the closer’s role, May is not likely to help fantasy owners make a significant final-week push in the saves category.
Though he has been a closer for nearly two months, Mychal Givens is widely available, and he is someone waiver wire visitors should consider for saves. He is unowned in more than 80 percent of the leagues on CBS and ESPN and nearly two-thirds of Fantrax leagues. Givens recorded his ninth save on Sunday with a perfect ninth inning against the Yankees. For the fourth time in his last five appearances, he did not induce a single swinging strike, but for nearly six weeks, he has been coaxing a lot of harmless flyball contact. Since Aug. 14, batters have launched 18 flyballs against Givens, but only three were categorized as hard contact and only three were pulled. That has helped him to allow just three runs over 15.2 innings.
Granted, playing the Red Sox and Astros may not provide for many save chances for the Orioles, but whatever opportunities do arise will surely fall to Givens. Despite playing for a team that has won eight games over the last 30 days, Givens ranks ninth in Roto value among closers over that period (per ESPN’s Player Rater).
Givens could be an alternative for Cody Allen’s owners to consider, too, as the Indians’ righty won’t likely be a reliable source of saves. After having not pitched in eight days, he was once again absent from the late innings on Sunday night, when the Indians were knotted in a 3-3 tie with the Red Sox. Brad Hand and Andrew Miller also did not appear, and it was Adam Cimber who pitched a scoreless ninth inning. Allen, however, is slated to return to pitch in Monday night’s opener against the White Sox. He has spent his time away from game action managing his workload and reinforcing some mechanical changes that he implemented earlier this month.
However, it’s not clear how Terry Francona will use Allen over the season’s final week. One has to figure that Francona will continue to employ a closer committee, so none of the Indians’ relievers are strong bets to help with saves this week.
After allowing the Blue Jays to walk off on back-to-back home runs on Thursday, Sergio Romo bounced back by converting a save opportunity on Sunday. He preserved a 5-2 win in the series finale in Toronto, though he had to work around a pair of singles to close out the game. Romo apparently has not lost the trust of Kevin Cash, but his fantasy owners should weigh their alternatives before using him this week. The Rays’ closer has allowed seven hits, including four home runs, over his last four innings. Going back to Aug. 25, Romo has allowed 20 batted balls, and only three of them have been grounders.
Remember when Wade Davis made some “easy fixes” after a difficult early August stretch? They seemed to have worked out. Since then, Davis has allowed one run over 16 innings with 21 strikeouts and two walks. Opponents have limped away with a .113/.145/.189 slash line.
Quick hits: Anthony Swarzak tallied his first save since July 29 on Sunday, getting the final five outs of the Mets’ 8-6 win over the Nationals. The Mets have gotten saves from four different relievers since Sept. 9…One day after clinching the NL East, neither A.J. Minter nor Arodys Vizcaino were called on for a save opportunity against the Phillies. Shane Carle pitched the ninth inning and loaded the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch with a 2-1 lead. He managed to get Wilson Ramos to ground out to escape the jam and record his first career save…In just his second appearance this season, Julio Urias pitched two scoreless innings in relief against the Padres. He struck out the side in his first inning and finished with four strikeouts.
Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.