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Bullpen Report: August 29, 2013

Grant Balfour had a pretty big hiccup in Detroit today, blowing a three-run, ninth inning lead. The cherry on the not-so-cool sundae was a grooved offspeed pitch which Torii Hunter deposited into the left-field bullpen for a walkoff three-run shot. The outing is not something A’s fans have seen a lot from their closer this year; his ERA ballooned from 1.76 to 2.44. While he hasn’t been low-2.00’s ERA good this year, his 2.82 SIERA is the second-lowest of his career (behind 2008). The 35-year-old has turned back the clock a bit, seeing an uptick in fastball velocity and SwStr%, which means a jump in K%. Like last year, he seems to be getting stronger as the year wears along, so ride him through the last few weeks of the season.

• If I were to tell you some team in the majors would get tired of their closer’s walk issues, would temporarily reliever him of his duties, would seemingly reinstate him, all the while randomly mixing in his temporary replacement — frustrating his fantasy owners — would it surprise anyone that team would be Mike Scioscia’s Angels? Two days after he worked the eighth to Dane de la Rosa‘s ninth, Ernesto Frieri saw roles flipped once again, with de la Rosa racking up the hold and Frieri closing out a 2-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays. There’s not a whole lot to be said about this pen; Frieri has looked good in August, only walking one batter (albeit in nine innings), posting a 2.04 xFIP. He’s always going to get the whiffs, it’s just his control that can keep him in the doghouse. He’s still the guy to own going forwards (although no harm in holding de la Rosa if you have the space and could use a scab save or two). However, his owners need to always remember Scioscia is probably baseball’s least loyal manager when it comes to his ninth inning steeds.

• I have noticed a few comments (likely from astute Brewers fans) regarding the emergence of one Brandon Kintzler. The Milwaukee righty has really emerged as a shutdown relief option this year, posting a 2.76 xFIP while nearly doubling his career innings total. Unlike a few other guys in the Brew Crew pen, Kintzler isn’t a whiff artist, only sitting at a 22% K% for his career, albeit with an above-average 10.4% SwStr%. His 92 mph fastball isn’t terribly exciting, but where he really earns his pay is the walks department — in particular — how stingy he is with them (6.4% career BB%).

A groundball artist (60+%), he’s actually been pretty close to a one-pitch pitcher, throwing a FB/SI more than three-quarters of the time. The frequency to which he throws that pitch is likely why his changeup has developed into a nice out pitch, even though he only tosses it 10% of the time (3.38 wCH/100). He has jumped a ton in gmLI over the last few weeks as well, implying Ron Roenicke is starting to put faith in the 29-year-old. He’s still behind Jim Henderson and likely proven closer (TM!) John Axford, but he’s worth grabbing in holds leagues if someone hasn’t scooped him up already. The more trust he gets, the more holds opps he should see.

• Quick hits: Greg Holland racked up save number 36 this afternoon. If you haven’t noticed, he’s been elite since May. Speaking of elite, Kelvin Herrera has snuck under-the-radar as one of baseball’s better setup men since his recall after the all-star break (now a sub-2.00 xFIP). Craig Kimbrel notched another save. Yawn.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Brad Ziegler Heath Bell Eury de la Rosa J.J. Putz
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden Scott Downs
Baltimore Jim Johnson Tommy Hunter Francisco Rodriguez
Boston Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Craig Breslow Andrew Bailey
CHI (NL) Kevin Gregg Blake Parker Pedro Strop
CHI (AL) Addison Reed Nate Jones Matt Lindstrom
Cincy Aroldis Chapman J.J. Hoover Jonathan Broxton Sean Marshall
Cleveland Chris Perez Joe Smith Cody Allen Vinnie Pestano
Colorado Rex Brothers Matt Belisle Wilton Lopez Rafael Betancourt
Detroit Joaquin Benoit Jose Veras Drew Smyly
Houston Chia-Jen Lo Josh Fields Josh Zeid Jose Cisnero
KC Greg Holland Aaron Crow Kelvin Herrera
LAA Ernesto Frieri Dane de la Rosa Kevin Jepsen Robert Coello
LAD Kenley Jansen Paco Rodriguez Brian Wilson
Miami Steve Cishek Mike Dunn Chad Qualls
Milwaukee Jim Henderson John Axford Brandon Kintzler
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) LaTroy Hawkins David Aardsma Scott Rice Bobby Parnell
NY (AL) Mariano Rivera David Robertson Shawn Kelley
Oakland Grant Balfour Ryan Cook Sean Doolittle
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Justin De Fratus Jake Diekman Mike Adams
Pittsburgh Mark Melancon Justin Wilson Tony Watson Jason Grilli
St. Louis Edward Mujica Trevor Rosenthal Randy Choate Jason Motte
SD Huston Street Luke Gregerson Dale Thayer
SF Sergio Romo Jeremy Affeldt Santiago Casilla
Seattle Danny Farquhar Yoervis Medina Oliver Perez Tom Wilhelmsen
TB Fernando Rodney Joel Peralta Jake McGee Jesse Crain
Texas Joe Nathan Tanner Scheppers Jason Frasor
Toronto Casey Janssen Sergio Santos Brett Cecil Steve Delabar
Wash. Rafael Soriano Tyler Clippard Drew Storen

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]