A Closer Look at Closers

Closer Watch 2.0 is Now Live

Reds supercloser Aroldis Chapman excels at putting up green dots

No matter whether you're a fantasy player or just a hardcore baseball fan, relief pitching is probably one of your biggest frustrations. Relievers are notoriously flaky, and their grip on the job is usually a weak one: some teams will replace their setup men and closers not just once, but many times per season. Meanwhile, fans and fantasy players lose hair over each blown save or meltdown, and hope that some new pitcher in the minor leagues will be their team's late-inning salvation... someday.

Here at Scouting Book, we've always tracked closer situations with a special eye to those up-and-coming prospects who could augment MLB bullpens. Week after week, our MLB Closer Watch feature has always been one of our most popular offerings.

Today, we're taking the whole business of closer watchery to a new level by flexing some of that prospecting muscle.

Announcing Closer Watch 2.0

As with our classic version, our all-new and greatly-expanded Closer Watch shows every MLB team's current closing and setup pitchers, along with other near-term possibilities already on the roster.

But now we're also showing some of the best up-and-coming options from every minor league system, no matter whether those pitchers are currently working in AAA, AA, or even A-level baseball.

Even better, Closer Watch now shows more than just names: you can see at a glance how well each of those pitchers has been performing over the last month or so, both on their own and compared to every other pitcher in the game, thanks to a combination of recent performance data and a handy little graph we've invented that shows the quality of their last ten outings.

Best of all, all of this data is updated many times per day, so you'll know who's next in line, as well as next to next to next to next-in-line. Most of all, you'll know why.

We hope that even with all this new detail, the new Closer Watch is still easy and intuitable enough that it doesn't require much explanation. So if you'd like to jump right in and get addicted right away, you can stop reading this posting and jump right in. Go ahead. We won't be offended.

    Scouting Book's MLB Closer Watch 2.0 >

Those of you who enjoy the details of sausage-making, of course, may wish to read further.

How it Works

As always, the relievers we choose to show for each system are hand-ranked: these are the pitchers we suggest you pay attention to if you want to know who is likely to pick up saves for each ballclub in the future. We make these decisions by watching information very much like the Closer Watch graph, only for ten times as many pitchers and with a lot more mind-numbing detail. As situations evolve, we update the pitchers being monitored.

If a team has a named, official closer, he will always be first on our list. Likewise, any secure eighth-inning specialist of the type who might occasionally pick up save himself will come second. That part's easy.

After that, pitchers on the MLB club will be sorted by who's best-positioned to take over as short or long term closer in case of possible injury, trade or collapse of the pitchers above him. These are not necessarily the seventh-inning men, and left-handers are usually discounted somewhat, unless they have a history closing, or their ballclub has expressed a fearlessness in using them against all batters.

We also tend to ignore organizational pronouncements from clubs with a history of announcing one thing, only to act in a completely different way*. In cases like this, we'll tell you how we believe things will be in reality, no matter what the club's party line might be. (You're welcome.)

Once you're looking past the first few options, of course, things get a lot murkier. No team has a closer depth chart that goes ten levels down, after all. So deeper down, we show the best talent available for additional bullpen support in the near future, no matter which level they're playing at today. (Relief pitchers can advance very quickly, so one should never assume an AAA pitcher is closer to the MLB ballclub than a hotter arm in high-A.)

Pitchers who also happen to be tracked in our Top Prospects database are indicated by a star icon. Click to jump to their profile pages.

We also score the performance of each reliever over his ten most recent games, from a score of one (poor outing, likely a blown save or hold or a game in which the pitcher caused more runs than outs) to four (a very good relief outing, usually but not necessarily including a save or hold).

Because of this, you can tell at a glance how each pitcher and bullpen has been performing lately, which is what matters most in the relief business. PC users may hover over each small column of lights to see which performance each bar column represents. iPad and phone users will need to click to see details.

Similarly, individual WHIP and strikeout-per-nine stats are based on recent performance, not season-long data, which isn't of much use in the prediction business. We choose to show WHIP and K/9, in particular, because we have found that good numbers in those two areas are the best indicators of future closing jobs, and of future closing success.

Next to each pitcher's name, you may find a number of indicators: the aforementioned star for tracked prospects; lefthandedness when appropriate; the last level at which he pitched (if it's not MLB); a warning that the pitcher may be tired from recent use or overuse; and finally, an indication that the pitcher is on the DL.

This data is updated very frequently, though not in real-time: players removed from the DL today will probably still be marked as disabled, for example, until the day's games have been completed.

Clicking on any team's summary will reveal a details page that shows all recent pitching results for all pitchers in his organization, with game lines for each. (Squinty-eyed phone users may wish to rotate their screens to see the nice wide stats tables.)

We'll be tweaking and polishing this new expanded Closer Watch in the weeks to come, so please forgive any rough edges you may encounter in the mean time.

If you have feedback, advice or criticism, let us know on Twitter (you do follow @scoutingbook, don't you?) or e-mail us (try feedback at our domain name.)

Whether you're a hardcore fan or a fantasy junkie looking for a new edge on the game, we hope that our newer, deeper, shinier Closer Watch makes a fun and useful addition to your daily web check-ins.

Scouting Book's MLB Closer Watch >

* We're looking at you, Cincinnati and Detroit.

Follow @scoutingbook by KDaddy on 30 Apr 2013 13:30:00 PDT  by KDaddy on 4/30/2013

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