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Bullpen Report: August 5, 2012

Today’s Bullpen Report focuses on two guys who fantasy owners have been riding in 2012, but whose peripherals suggest that some of their acts may be smoke and mirrors.

Ryan Cook gave up a solo shot in the ninth inning of a 1-0 game on Saturday to ruin what had been a superb game for Jordan Norberto and the rest of the Athletics bullpen. The blown save was Cook’s fourth in his last six outings — a stretch which has seen him put up a 9.00 ERA and give up three dingers in six innings. The recent rough stretch has brought his ERA up more than a run to 2.47. The not-so-great news for Cook owners is that there is still plenty of room for regression in those numbers. Cook’s 12.2% BB is ranked 20th worst out of 153 qualified relievers. Guys like Ernesto Frieri and Greg Holland appear lower than him on the leaderboard, but they make up for it with higher K/9’s (14.6 and 12.3 compared to Cook’s 9.1). The above translates to a 4.32 xFIP for Cook which should be more predictive going forward than his perviously sparkling ERA. Even more bad news for Cook fantasy owners: Bob Melvin failed to give Cook the all-important vote of confidence earlier today, merely saying that he was unavailable after pitching three consecutive games and that “we’ll [A’s] continue to monitor that [closing situation].” I implored people to sell Cook high as recently as a month ago and hopefully readers were able to interpret the peripheral tea leaves and extract some value for him. Cook owners who wish to attempt to ride out the storm would be well advised to snag either Grant Balfour (owner of a similarly mediocre 4.23 xFIP) or lefty Sean Doolittle (2.80 xFIP) in the event Melvin makes a ninth inning change.

• Another guy whose success has seemed to be built like a house of cards is Alfredo Aceves — who blew a save and took the loss Saturday night. Ironically, “Aces” initially got tagged with the “BS” after allowing coming in with the bases loaded and no one out in the eighth inning and allowing one (and only) run to score — a situation with a 2.39 run expectancy. After the Red Sox pulled back out to a two-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, however, he gave up four runs in the ninth (including a three-run jack to Joe Mauer) sending the Red Sox to their third straight loss. Aceves was actually an interesting case early in the season — he had put up poor peripherals in prior years (high xFIP, low K/BB) but was throwing harder (fastball velocity up nearly two miles per hour to 94.5) and getting more swings and misses which led to some optimism he could make the transition to above-average closer to a playoff contender. However, he has been trending downward in recent months — his month-to-month K% is 21.6, 26.7, 22.2, 13.0, 14.3 and his xFIP is up to ~6.10 in July/August after being in the low-mid 3.00’s during the previous couple months. Aceves’ nine meltdowns are in the top (or more aptly bottom) thirty of all relievers and his -0.48 WPA is second worst on the Red Sox (behind Mark Melancon) and the third worst of any current closer (ahead Carlos Marmol and the Brewers closer of the day). Compounding Aceves’ job security issues is the news that Andrew Bailey is progressing well in his rehab (fastball up into the low 90’s) and might rejoin the team in a couple weeks. Owners who rely on Aceves’ saves should peek at the wire to see if Bailey is hanging around and scoop him up if they have the room.

Frank Francisco wrapped up his first save since coming off the disabled list on Saturday, cleaning up former interim closer Bobby Parnell‘s mess. So much for being eased back into the ninth inning. Parnell’s 3.13 xFIP is superior to Francisco’s 3.84 mark, but his recent struggles (BABIP-fueled or not) have done nothing to help his cause for remaining New York’s closer going forward. Parnell remains a solid option in leagues that still count holds and he should provide owners with solid rates and strikeouts but his days of racking up saves at Citi Field are probably over (at least for the immediate future). In addition, given Francisco’s injury list, it might be prudent to hold onto him in deep leagues as a speculative play, but he’s probably droppable in shallow or standard leagues.

Chris Perez struggled on Sunday, giving up five runs on three hits and two walks to blow a two-run lead against the Tigers in the ninth inning. While there were some trade rumors swirling about Perez’s potential availability last month, the non-waiver deadline came and went with him remaining in the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World.” Today’s outing pushed Perez’s xFIP to a still-solid 3.24. It’s also tough to hold the two walks against a guy with a 5.0% 2012 BB% (although that is half his 10.2% career rate so it remains to be seen if he can maintain it for the remainder of the year) so owners should just chalk this one up to a bad day.

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: David Phelps (NYY) @ DET

Riding the “Phelps” mojo, the Yankee reliever has the fifth-best xFIP (1.67) over the last 30 days, only trailing guys with names like Chapman and Kimbrel. Phelps got a breather in Sunday’s win so expect him to be ready to go in an Ivan Nova start tomorrow.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second Off 25-Man
Arizona J.J. Putz David Hernandez Takashi Saito
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Eric O’Flaherty Jonny Venters
Baltimore Jim Johnson Pedro Strop Darren O’Day
Boston Alfredo Aceves Andrew Miller Mark Melancon Andrew Bailey
Chicago (NL) Carlos Marmol James Russell Shawn Camp
Chicago (AL) Addison Reed Brett Myers Matt Thornton
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jonathan Broxton Sean Marshall
Cleveland Chris Perez Vinnie Pestano Tony Sipp
Colorado Rafael Betancourt Matt Belisle Rex Brothers
Detroit Jose Valverde Joaquin Benoit Octavio Dotel
Houston Wilton Lopez Francisco Cordero Wesley Wright
KC Greg Holland Kelvin Herrera Aaron Crow
LAA Ernesto Frieri Kevin Jepsen LaTroy Hawkins Jordan Walden
LAD Kenley Jansen Brandon League Javy Guerra
Miami Steve Cishek Heath Bell Mike Dunn
Milwaukee John Axford Francisco Rodriguez Kameron Loe
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Alex Burnett Matt Capps
NY (NL) Frank Francisco Bobby Parnell Jon Rauch
NY (AL) Rafael Soriano David Robertson Boone Logan
Oakland Ryan Cook Sean Doolittle Grant Balfour
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Josh Lindblom
Pittsburgh Joel Hanrahan Jason Grilli Jared Hughes
St. Louis Jason Motte Mitchell Boggs Edward Mujica
SD Huston Street Luke Gregerson Dale Thayer
SF Santiago Casilla Sergio Romo Javier Lopez
Seattle Tom Wilhelmsen Shawn Kelley Stephen Pryor
Tampa Bay Fernando Rodney Kyle Farnsworth Jake McGee
Texas Joe Nathan Mike Adams Alexei Ogando
Toronto Casey Janssen Brandon Lyon Darren Oliver
Wash. Tyler Clippard Drew Storen Sean Burnett

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