Tyler Clippard appears to be back on the wagon. After a couple bumps in the road the last few weeks, he has now turned in four consecutive saves since his last “BS” in Houston on August 6th. Tonight’s outing was a bit shakier than you’d like, as Clippard walked a pair to let Ruben Tejada come to the plate as the go-ahead run with two down in the ninth, but a harmless fly ball to left gave the Nationals another victory. There has been a lot of discussion as to whether Drew Storen could come back in and snatch the ninth inning job back for himself, but the Nationals have to be somewhat concerned with a fastball velocity that still isn’t quite to where it has been in the past. Interestingly, even with the one-plus mile per hour drop, Storen’s SwStr% is up to 11.5% (career average: 9.3%) — unfortunately (for him) his 15.9% BB% is driving a 5.21 xFIP. Storen needs to throw more strikes before he’s a legitimate option to finish games again, so Clippard’s owners should be a bit more relaxed than they might have been a couple weeks ago.
Greg Holland wrapped up save number five tonight, finishing off the Chicago White Sox at home. Holland — a draft sleeper darling of the fantasy world this spring — got off to a rocky start in 2012 (11.37 ERA in April), although a lot of that was bad batted ball luck (0.591 BABIP). However, he has been quietly solid since, putting up xFIPs of 3.35 and below in every month except May (4.06), a month in which he had a 22.2% BB%. The walks continue to be a bit of an Achilles’ heel, although they’ve come down recently (month-by-month BB%: 11.1, 22.2, 13.1, 9.3, 6.5). As far as redraft leagues, Holland should be good to go for the rest of 2012, but keeper owners might have interesting decisions to make come next spring — Joakim Soria should be fully healthy but Holland’s 2012 is currently better than Soria’s 2011. Soria has the big contract (and it’s tough to trade a guy coming off Tommy John) and probably gets first crack but Holland may very well be the closer-of-the-future in Kansas City.
Waiting until after press time last night, Jason Motte blew his first save in nearly two months. Not that any of his owners needed the reassurance, but… “don’t worry, nothing to see here.” In fact, Motte has actually lowered his xFIP every single year since 2009 (4.21, 3.52, 3.39, 3.12) which correlates nicely with a ramp up in velocity (95.8, 95.8, 96.0, 96.7 mph) at an age (30) when pitchers are generally losing it. While he wasn’t a top-tier guy coming into the season, he has slowly climbed up the rankings and should easily be a top-10 closer for the remainder of the year and a nice keeper candidate (well — nicer than most of the other guys in a generally volatile pitching role) going forward.
Charlie Furbush and his 2.61 xFIP (33.1% K%) were activated from the disabled list earlier today. While Furbush was once a candidate to get some save looks in the Seattle bullpen, Tom Wilhelmsen has done his best job to prevent that from happening again this season. That said, while Furbush does suffer from some platoon splits (career 0.281 wOBA versus lefties while 0.343 versus right-handers), he should remain a solid source of ERA and WHIP as well as holds for leagues that have that as a counting stat. Those guys and other deep leaguers might want to take a peek at the wire to see if he was dumped while battling triceps tightness.
For those of you who play daily fantasy games like FanGraphs: The Game, or just like to stream players, here is a matchup you may be able to exploit.
A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Matt Thornton (CHW) @ KC
He might not be the closer, but Thornton might have the best ratios of anyone in the White Sox pen (3.29 xFIP, 3.5 K/BB). With Jake Peavy toeing the slab tomorrow and the Royals having lefties Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer spread through the lineup, expect Chicago’s top southpaw to rack up a couple punchouts.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]