• Ernesto Frieri may be pushing himself out of the ninth inning in Los Angeles. A homer, then single, walk, and a double and the Angels’ closer bought himself another blown save (in a game the team would eventually lose 5-4 on another walkoff homer). Frieri actually continues to own a decent 3.30 xFIP but an ugly 8.80 FIP. So it comes down to homers (xFIP assumes league average HR/FB, FIP does not). The righty has given up a longball to 5 of the 42 batters he’s faced this year. That’s an unsexy 38.5% HR/FB%. Wow.Whether or not you believe that homer rate will normalize, Mike Scioscia has shown historically to have little patience for continued struggles in the late innings. Don’t be surprised to see Frieri get a “breather.” Remember, he’s had a couple before. Joe Smith would be next in line for saves and serves as a nice speculative add tonight. Michael Kohn throws a bit harder, so he would be a dark horse as well, but I’m not a huge fan of his walk rate.
• It appeared Josh Fields was gaining some traction in the ninth inning for the ‘Stros. That momentum came to an abrupt halt this afternoon as the righty served up a three-run shot to Kyle Seager, who used the swing to end Seattle’s eight-game losing streak. Fields has upped an already above-average whiff rate so far in 2014, pushing his K% from 25% to 31%. Interesting, he isn’t a complete burner, owning a 93.7 mph fastball and a single-digit SwStr%. A poor walk rate and lack of ability to induce groundballs has kept his xFIP at a decent, but unspectacular 3.60. Today’s outing may have hurt his odds of getting the next save chance.
It’s tough to find a standout arm in Houston’s pen. Tiny sample sizes, but Chad Qualls and Josh Zeid have both been better pitchers so far in 2014, but neither have tremendous stuff that scream upside. Matt Albers fits a similar mold. Anthony Bass has garnered a couple ninth inning opportunities but has only struck out 3 of the 43 batters he’s faced (that’s epically bad for those keeping score at home). Jesse Crain will be an interesting option, but still isn’t throwing, so his return isn’t imminent. Gun to my head, I’d expect Albers or Qualls to get the next save chance in this pen, but with such a low-upside committee, I’m not that invested.
• Pedro Strop had an afternoon to forget in Chicago. On in a 5-2 game, Strop walked a pair and had his defense betray him (E-6 — thanks, Starlin). A weakly hit single scored a pair and the righty was pulled (after whiffing Paul Goldschmidt) so James Russell could face a lefty. Of course, in Cubbie fashion, that didn’t end well. Russell allowed both of Strop’s inherited runners to score as well as one of his own. Strop hasn’t been bad in aggregate this season, but like Fields in Houston, this outing may leave a sour taste. I still really like Hector Rondon as a sleeper in this bullpen. Justin Grimm also has the stuff to be a late-inning guy, but his six walks in only 11 innings implies his command still needs a bit of polish.
• Matt Lindstrom keeps making life interesting (in a negative way) for the other Chicago team. The righty closer allowed the tying runs to reach base in Detroit, before inducing a lineout to right from Alex Avila. Lindstrom continues to maintain an absurd 3/4 K/BB in 10 innings and he’s the owner of a 5.23 xFIP. How is that sustainable? If you own Robin Ventura’s “proven closer(TM),” you should probably be trying to find a naive owner who says “oh, three saves!” when looking at his line. It’s tough to imagine him holding the job for a prolonged period of time.
• Kyle Farnsworth got his second save opportunity tonight, and it wasn’t nearly as clean as his first one was. Like Lindstrom, he was tasked with holding a two-run lead but allowed two base runners to reach. Only Matt Carpenter getting gunned down at home on a Daniel Descalso double save him from the dreaded BS. pr0FF3ss0r_F4rnsw0rth’s velocity was down a touch in this one, although he ramped it up a bit as the inning went along. In his defense, it was a cold night in New York, but he didn’t completely squash concerns about his postgame grimaces from the other night.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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