• Since we last left you, Heath Bell racked up back-to-back saves versus the floundering (see, it would be funny if this was a Marlins pun) Philadelphia Phillies. Saturday’s involved a little bit of drama (giving up a one-out double to Carlos Ruiz) but Sunday’s was of the one-two-three variety. Bell has quietly gotten his season back on track since a series of meltdowns early in the season, putting up a 2.71 FIP with 22 strikeouts to only seven walks since May 9th. While Bell has shaken off some early season rust, fill-in candidates Steve Cishek and Edward Mujica have suffered through rough Junes, putting up 5.62 and 4.92 xFIPs respectively. Both relievers have had a K/BB quite close to one recently, but for difference reasons; Cishek is walking way too many batters (7.2 BB/9 in June) and Mujica isn’t striking anyone out (2.5 K/9 over the same time frame). Both pitchers should rebound to less mediocre levels, but anyone still holding either of those guys from Bell’s dark days of April should have cut bait a long time ago.
• Speaking of saves on back-to-back days, Carlos Marmol pulled the same trick, locking down the feeble Astros for his seventh and eighth saves of 2012. Since Marmol returned from the disabled list during the last series in May, he’s done the usual Carlos Marmol thing, striking out well over a batter an inning (16 in 11.2 June innings), but walking way too many (nine walks over the same 11.2 innings). While some readers might not see an improved pitcher in those numbers, they are still light years better than what he put up in April (7.0 K/9, 0.67 K/BB) or May (17.4 BB/9, 0.78 K/BB). Marmol will probably never replicate 2010 (2.83 xFIP), but going forward, he should be much closer to his near-4.00 xFIP from the last few years as opposed to the 7.50+ xFIP he put up earlier this season. Just be prepared for the usual roller-coaster ride.
• Santiago Casilla blew another save this afternoon (second in his last three outings), but lucked into a win when Jay Bruce played a two-out fly to right like someone snagged out of a beer league softball game. On most teams, you wouldn’t bat an eyelash at a hiccup from the guy closing games with a 3.46 xFIP — however, a few things to note if you are a Casilla owner. One, Casilla’s June (5.1 BB/9, 4.57 xFIP) was significantly worse than his April (3.1 BB/9, 3.44 xFIP) and May (1.9 BB/9, 3.23 xFIP) thanks to a very elevated walk rate. Two, his fastball velocity has ticked down two-three mph since the start of the season. Three, Sergio Romo has been lights out in May and June, putting up a 1.54 xFIP behind a 13.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 over the two month span. With Casilla not entrenched as “the guy” like an established closer (who hits a bump in the road now and again) might be, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Romo start to get a couple ninth inning appearances should Casilla struggle in a couple more situations. Keep an eye on it.
• Glen Perkins was ugly in a non-save situation today, giving up four hits and three runs in a game where he originally arrived with a five run lead. Of course, while it might look bad in the box score, hits are going to bunch themselves together from time-to-time and his June rates (10.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 3.05 xFIP) still tell the story of a solid relief pitcher. That said, Jared Burton whiffed a couple in a scoreless eighth inning (scattering a hit and a walk in there) and has had an almost equally good June (8.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.55 xFIP). In the “what have you done for me lately?” world of major league bullpens, Burton has elbowed his way into the conversation in the ninth inning. While most signs still point to Perkins being the long-term guy in Minnesota, both relievers will likely continue to see save chances while Matt Capps is tending to his sore shoulder.
• Earlier this weekend, Terry Collins came out and stated that Frank Francisco would get his job back as closer upon his return from an strained oblique. Of course, he has to start throwing for that to happen. Bobby Parnell (interim closer extraordinaire) has thrown three innings since Francisco went down; nine up, nine down — of course, he’s only struck out one batter, so that’s eight balls in play he’s gotten away with, but who’s counting? While Collins says Francisco is the guy, it would become very interesting if Parnell were to keep pitching to his full-time bullpen peripherals (3.12 since start of 2010) and become an anchor in a messy Met bullpen. Since owners of both players probably aren’t dropping their guy right now, there’s plenty of time to watch this situation develop.
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: Charlie Furbush (SEA) vs. BAL
What better way to start July than with one of June’s best relief pitchers? Over the last 30 days, Furbush has thrown 17 consecutive scoreless innings while striking out 25. Think he was lucky? His 1.24 SIERA disagrees. With Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen both being used the last couple days, expect Furbush to get in on what should be another low-scoring, close game at Safeco.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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