• The dreaded “closer in a non-save situation” apparently bit Aroldis Chapman today. Chapman warmed in the top of the ninth with the Reds up by two, but Jay Bruce and Bryan Pena singles stretched the lead to a four-run cushion. Rather than sit Chapman down,
Dusty Baker Bryan Price brought him in, thinking “what’s the worst that could happen?” Well, four walks later (28 pitches, 12 strikes) and Chapman was yanked without recording an out. His consecutive games without a strikeout streak has now reached two. J.J. Hoover was tasked with putting out the fire, but only threw gasoline on it, eventually giving up a two-out, walkoff home run to Drew Stubbs (taking the “L” in the process).
Chapman had previously struggled with command (ex: 20% BB% in 2011) but had shaved the walk rate significantly in the years since then. That’s what made this outing so unexpected. Coming into the game, the Cuban lefty had allowed 14 walks in 142 batters faced — today, he was a perfect four-for-four. Chapman’s velocity was still in the triple-digits, so his sudden control issues weren’t an obvious injury. Interestingly, he had three location clusters this afternoon; over the plate, high, and low and inside/outside to righties/lefties. Having pitches cluster that tail away from the arm side (top to bottom) like that may imply a mechanics issue, although his release point was consistent enough. It bears watching, especially since Chapman has been dealing with a hamstring injury on and off lately, but I would need to see a few more bad outings before I start worrying too much.
• We had the always fun dueling blown saves in Washington today. First, Rafael Soriano had another poor showing, giving up three runs on a pair of hits and a walk before Mark Melancon picked up a “BS” of his own, allowing an earned run on an Asdrubal Cabrera single.
Melancon hasn’t been quite as good as he was in 2013, but his peripherals are still there. Don’t panic. Soriano’s recent performance has been more concerning, although Matt Williams gave him the vote of confidence saying “he’s been our closer all year and I don’t see that changing right now.” The Nats’ closer’s xFIP is now up to 4.05 and it’s north of 5.00 since the all-star break. His velocity isn’t down significantly, but the strikeout numbers have dropped rapidly as the summer months have dragged on. As I mentioned last week, he’s one of the top “sell high” closers, especially if you can find an owner desperate to try and climb in that roto category. It’s not inconceivable that Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen get a ninth-inning look if Soriano doesn’t right the ship soon.
• Trevor Rosenthal got yanked from a save opportunity after walking three of the four batters he faced (something, something, hard throwing closers in the NL Central and throwing strikes, something). Mike Matheny had seen enough and called on Seth Maness, who immediately allowed a pair of the inherited runners to score before settling down and holding down a one-run game. The young righty’s xFIP remains a decent (if unspectacular 3.51) and, until recently, he’d been pitching as well as he had all season (1.99 ERA in July). That said, these occasional hiccups aren’t helping a team fighting for a playoff spot. While Matheny reiterated after the game that Rosenthal was his guy, you should heed Alan’s advice and roster Pat Neshek in most spots (still available in 77% of Yahoo! leagues as of this posting).
• Quick hits: Jim Johnson made his Tigers debut today. It did not go well. Jake Petricka rolled up save number nine on the season. He looks like the lead dog in Chicago… for now. Joaquin Benoit was unavailable due to shoulder soreness, but the team thinks it is minor and he’ll be ready to go Tuesday. Hector Rondon tossed a 1-2-3 inning for his 17th save of the season. He’s been a bit bumpy in spots, but is in the running for “waiver wire reliever out of nowhere of the year.”
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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