– Uh oh. The C-word. No, not that C-word. Committee. That is what Bruce Bochy implied is his new closing situation in San Francisco after Thursday’s game. The Giants skipper apparently considered using his “closer” (Santiago Casilla) in the eighth inning, but thought the matchups favored deposed closer Sergio Romo more. Casilla hasn’t racked up the “BS”s since taking over the job, although he has allowed 5 runs over his last 11 appearances. While his ERA is up since the break, his xFIP remains nearly identical. My guess is he continues to lead this committee attack. Romo has similar defense independent predictors; his K% has climbed since it bottomed out in May/June, but his BB% remains the highest it has been in four years (of course, it’s still only 6%). Somewhat concerningly, his GB% and FB% have reversed this year — Romo has gone from being a wormburner to someone who will likely see a high HR/9 just due to the sheer number of fly balls he allows. Jeremy Affeldt could also see some save opportunities against lefty-heavy teams, although he’s actually been relatively platoon-independent this year. I’d roster Casilla, Romo, Affeldt in that order if I needed saves.
– There has been some chatter in the comments section of the last couple Bullpen Reports about Koji Uehara, who has looked extraordinarily mortal recently. Is something wrong? Well, his velocity is down a touch this season (compared to 2013), although it’s been fairly stable month-to-month. It’s worth noting that Uehara has seen many more batters swing at pitches in the center and upper half of the zone in 2014 compared to 2013. This is leading to a dramatic increase in SLG/P over the heart of the zone this season (compare to last season).
So what does this mean? His SwStr% is actually up a bit, so combined with his velocity, there doesn’t appear to be a huge dropoff in raw stuff. Where the problem seems to lie is either in pitch sequencing (or even tipping) or command. Uehara is leaving pitches up in the zone at a more predictable rate, allowing hitters to time either the fastball or change and make solid contact. Is this good news? Well, it’s always bad news if you are a 39-year-old closer and you can point a finger at an injury (or just a general fall off due to age). We don’t see that. We do see possible mechanical adjustments that need to be made or fatigue that is manifesting itself as worsened command. Don’t expect Uehara to pitch as bad as he has over the last two weeks, but it might be foolish to expect him to be fresh like he was in April. With the Red Sox completely out of the race, it wouldn’t be unfathomable to see them sit Uehara (especially if they plan to re-sign him) so make sure you handcuff with Edward Mujica if you are relying on him for a playoff push in head-to-head leagues.
– Tony Sipp got the save for Houston after Chad Qualls was used the last couple days (a blown save yesterday). Some thought Qualls might get dealt to Detroit after the Tigers claimed him a few days ago, but the deadline for a deal to be consummated has passed and Houston has pulled back the righty. While he’s slumped a bit lately, Qualls’ peripherals are still solid and it probably wouldn’t hurt Houston to keep him in the closer role. One, they can inflate his value in case they match up with a trade partner this offseason and, two, having him close prevents some of the arbitration-eligible pitchers from putting any “SV”s on their resumes. Houston is not a sexy fantasy hotbed, but Qualls should have a few more saves in him in 2014.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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