• It looks like it is over (again) for Carlos Marmol. For the second year in a row, he’s lost the ninth inning job in the Windy City after opening the season as closer, although it only took six games in 2013. Since 2010, Marmol has only trailed Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman in K% among big league relievers — certainly not bad company. Unfortunately, the fact that I do a better job hitting a target while playing darts after, let’s say, a few beers, is extraordinarily problematic for him. On the short season, Marmol’s K%-BB% is zero. Yup, he’s walking exactly as many batters as he’s whiffing, and you don’t need advanced metrics to tell you that’s bad.
Marmol’s loss is Kyuji Fujikawa‘s gain. He will take over as closer, even after he himself had a shaky outing on Saturday (of course, preceding Marmol’s epic (non-Kate) Upton-Upton meltdown). Fujikawa boasts a low 90’s fastball and has put up a ridiculous 1.36 ERA, 36.7 K%, and 6.6 BB% over the last six seasons in the NPB. While he’s unlikely to even sniff those numbers here in the States, it’s hard to envision him being less successful than the recent incarnation of Marmol. He’s probably gone in almost all but the shallowest leagues, but it couldn’t hurt to double-check the wire and make sure that’s the case. While the Cubs won’t be among the league leaders in wins this year, Fujikawa could return decent value somewhere after RP10 if all breaks right for him.
• John Axford is at again! While he didn’t implode in the ninth this time, he did take the loss after serving up a two-run shot to Eric Hinske in the top of the 11th. The longball was already the fourth he has given up in only 2.2 innings on the young season. Axford was one of the trendier picks going beyond RP20 in drafts, in part thanks to an xFIP (3.29) that was much lower than his ERA (4.67) last year. Unfortunately, that was predicated on him cutting his 19.2 HR/FB%, something that he hasn’t been able to do so far. He still has a K% over 25%, his SwStr% (17%) has been fantastic in limited time this year, and he hasn’t been putting people on (yet) via the walk. Because of this, I’m not convinced he’s chopped liver, but Ron Roenicke is the only one who has say in the matter. Jim Henderson and his mid-90’s heat need to be owned across the board.
• Steve Cishek ruined what would have been a win for Jose Fernandez in his major league debut in Queens. After hitting Ruben Tejada (career 81 wRC+) he gave up a single to the lefty Kirk Nieuwenhuis before Marlon Byrd was able to drive both of them in, turning a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 loss. The outing brought Cishek’s ERA to a disgusting 15.43 on the young season, although 4 of the 7 batters who have put the ball in play against him have reached; a ratio bound to come down. Of course, five of the guys Cishek has pitched to this season have been lefties, and four of them have reached via hit or walk, so his .317/.236 LHH/RHH wOBA split could be playing a factor. He has no real competition in Miami, but it’ll be interesting to see whether opposing managers continue to try and exploit this by throwing even the left-handed batboy out at him. If I owned him, I’d be floating test balloons all over my league to see if I could sell him with a “closer” label.
• For the second day in a row, Greg Holland struggled trying to lock down a save situation against the Phillies. This time, he wasn’t allowed to finish the job (one way or the other) and Kelvin Herrera was brought in for the final out — not before he allowed an inherited runner to score and threw a wild pitch, of course. Holland was a sleeper darling this spring but his velocity has been down a tick so far in 2013. He probably still has a bit more leash left, but Herrera had a 3.10 xFIP last season and owns a well-controlled 98 mph fastball. He sits ready and able to take over the ninth inning if needed.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]