Warning: Long (but juicy!) Bullpen Report ahead.
• If you are trying to read the tea leaves and decipher who will get the next chance in the Athletics bullpen, the situation is now clear. … as mud. Yesterday night saw Sean Doolittle pitch the eighth and open the ninth inning (which was slated to have lefty-lefty-lefty due up). The Mariners pinch hit with one out, which resulted in Bob Melvin countering and playing handedness, bringing in righty Luke Gregerson, who looked good (ignore the two hits, both were good pieces of hitting on pitches either at the bottom or out of the zone) in wrapping up the save.
Today everything was reversed. Gregerson locked down the eighth inning; setting down three righties (Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino, Willie Bloomquist) in order. Sean Doolittle was called on in the ninth inning with two lefties due up (Brad Miller and Robinson Cano) and, outside of a Cano single, polished off the 3-0 victory.
Given usage the last two nights, this has all the makings (at least temporarily) of a true committee. Doolittle versus lefties, Gregerson versus righties. It’s somewhat interesting Melvin chooses to think of it this way — Doolittle has actually historically been tougher on righties (.250 wOBA against versus .266 wOBA against lefties). Either way, if you own both guys, you will need to lock up two RP slots if you want to try and peg the ninth inning. Perhaps you can “gamble” based on opposing team handedness — with the Angels big boppers being righty-heavy, I might lean Gregerson next series — but it’s certainly no sure thing. Further complicating matters is that Jim Johnson looked good Friday night (striking out 4 of the 6 batters he faced). The Athletics would prefer to have their $10 million man manning the back end of the bullpen, so just try and ride the Doolittle/Gregerson express while you can (and scoop up Johnson if he’s been dropped for some reason).
• We’ve got dueling blown saves in Cleveland! First Matt Lindstrom “melted down” with a one-run lead in the top of the inning. Imagine me doing air quotes around “melted down” because a Jose Abreu error to open the inning really opened the floodgates (neither run was technically earned). That said, Lindstrom did himself no favors, allowing a couple hits and actually wild-pitching in the go-ahead run. John Axford then turned around and coughed the lead right back, eventually allowing a two-run tater of the walk-off flavor to Alexei Ramirez.
Lindstrom hasn’t been terrible as the White Sox closer (he’s been bitten a bit by BABIP and bad LOB% luck) but he’s certainly not missing any bats. Only two whiffs in 25 batters faced. Yuck. History tells us that’s unlikely to change, either. Luckily for Chicago fans, the White Sox have two natural options with nice strikeout potential behind him should Robin Ventura let go of his Proven Closer(TM!) binky. While Nate Jones remains on the disabled list, Daniel Webb has continued his impressive pitching beyond spring training. I’m officially grabbing Webb where I can and hoping Ventura comes to his senses and moves to the big righty with the mid-upper 90’s fastball and 13.2% career SwStr%. Jones isn’t a terrible add if you have the DL-slot room, but he’s still not throwing.
Axford was a trendy pre-season pick to lose his job (to Cody Allen) early, although the mustache seems to have avoided the first week closer drama. That said, he’s up to 6 walks in 26 batters faced after today’s meltdown. Walks have always been his Achilles’ heel; he has the stuff to be elite, he just doesn’t know where half of his pitches are going. He was four-for-four in save opportunities coming into this game, so the ugly outing won’t cost him his job, but we’ll move him to yellow temporarily because I don’t like the way those peripherals are trending.
• Will Smith notched the SV today, coming in to retire the last batter when Kyle Lohse couldn’t quite finish off a complete game. If I said “Smith is killer on lefties, guess who he faced?” you’d probably answer “Pedro Alvarez.” And you’d be right. And he (Pedro) also didn’t stand a chance against the lefty killing Smith, who is apparently is trying to reproduce his ridiculous 50% K% versus lefties from last season. Unfortunately for save mongers, “The Fresh Prince” profiles more as a LOOGY than a closer, so I wouldn’t be investing too highly in him leapfrogging both Francisco Rodriguez and Jim Henderson anytime soon. Although he does make an appearance on the closer grid thanks to Brandon Kintzler hitting the DL.
• We’ll touch on this briefly since it happened after publish last night. Jose Valverde melted down in a big way, going single-walk before giving up an absolute bomb to 78-year-old Raul Ibanez to turn a 6-3 lead into a 6-6 game. This wasn’t a case of good hitting, the pitch Ibanez roped was a meatball I’d like to think even I (now six years removed from my last competitive non-slow-pitch-with-Coors-Light game) could have taken to the track. What is there to say? That’s Papa Grande. If his splitter isn’t working and he can’t spot the fastball, he’s going to get crushed. You knew this when you added him. You’ll get some saves and you’ll get some ERA/WHIP killing nights. Like drunken romps at Foxwoods Casino, play at your own risk.
• Jon Heyman reports Joel Hanrahan will throw for a multitude of teams (Mets, Yankees, Royals, Athletics, Red Sox and Dodgers (among others, apparently)) Thursday in Tampa. It’s tough to know how much of Hanrahan’s massive regression the last two seasons was due to potential elbow injury, so watch for word about his velocity. If he’s heaving it up there in the low-mid 90’s, he could be a nice get for a team struggling in the late innings (I’m assuming he picks up another 1-2 mph or so as he works back). Some interesting landing spots would be the Mets and Cubs, who could use new ninth inning men. However, I wouldn’t be rushing to the wire to grab him if he signs with most anyone else — he’d almost certainly function exclusively as a setup man in the immediate future.
• Quick notes: Koji Uehara threw on the side today. John Farrell sounded upbeat, but he sounded the same way before Clay Buchholz disappeared for months last season, so I’d steer clear of Boston’s closer in weekly leagues if I had options. As Alan touched on last night, Jose Veras has been removed from the ninth inning. I got to see a little of Hector Rondon the last few nights and really like his arsenal (9/3 K/BB in 27 batters faced). If Pedro Strop is gone and you want to burn a spot, you could definitely do worse.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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