Bullpen Report: July 20, 2014

• Does anyone really know what is going on in Joe Maddon’s head? Just as we were debating moving the Tampa Bay bullpen situation yellow (in Jake McGee‘s favor), the Rays’ skipper used elite relievers Brad Boxberger and McGee prior to the ninth inning in Sunday’s tilt with the Twins. Who got the ninth? Old friend Grant Balfour. Don’t run to the wire just yet; Balfour retired the first hitter before issuing a pair of walks with a two-run lead. Maddon had seen enough and yanked the righty for former Triple-A closer Kirby Yates who induced a ground out and a pop out for his first career major league save. Worth noting: Joel Peralta missed Saturday and Sunday’s games with an illness.

There’s little reason to toss around reliever statistics, since we have covered this bullpen pretty in depth over the last few weeks (the most recent iteration being last Sunday). I have to assume McGee gets the next save opportunity — I don’t actually think today’s events changed a lot. If anything, it A.) shows that the team desperately wants to get Balfour right (the latest notion is that he has been tipping his pitches) and B.) likely pushed Balfour back out of the ninth inning for another couple weeks.

• Like the Rays, the White Sox bullpen has been a bit of a fantasy quagmire. Before Sunday’s game, manager Robin Ventura said that Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka were the favorites for ninth inning chances (at least right now). The White Sox didn’t win today (Daniel Webb had a bad day), so we didn’t get to see who Ventura was going to run out there. Petricka has the better stats but the less sexy peripherals. His fastball is hard (94 mph) but doesn’t generate a lot of swings and misses, leading to a subpar K% (16% career). In addition to the lack of whiffs, he also has posted a 12% BB% over the last couple years — not something you look for in a shutdown reliever. He does push a 62% GB% which helps mitigate some of the damage the poor K/BB percentages cause.

Zach Putnam‘s ERA isn’t quite as shiny as Petricka’s, but everything under the hood looks better. Better K%, better BB%, better ERA predictors. The 27-year-old also wrapped up Chicago’s last two saves, so he looks like the de facto guy now, although a couple hiccups (unlucky or not) could change that in a hurry. Of note, Matt Lindstrom is making decent progress from his ankle injury, and could be ready sometime next month. While I am certainly no fan of Lindstrom’s peripherals, this bullpen is so messy that Ventura may run right back to his “proven closer(TM)” so it might be worth stashing him if you think you may be looking for scab saves in September.

• The Padres trade of Huston Street to the Angels was a pretty cut-and-dry affair but it’s worth touching on. Street immediately becomes the new closer in Los Angeles, bumping Joe Smith back to a relief role. Smith did nothing wrong, but Street has less severe platoon splits (not that Smith’s are terrible), a longer closing track record, and a sexy 2.45 SIERA thanks to a bounceback in his strikeout numbers this season. Heading south, Joaquin Benoit takes over as the closer in San Diego. Unfortunately, he probably was already gone in a lot of deeper leagues thanks to A.) trade speculation, B.) Street’s injury history, and C.) Benoit’s solid peripherals. Owners may not want to rely on the big righty to remain San Diego’s closer for the rest of the year, however, as trade rumors are also swirling around him (George Clooney is excited that a possible trade is “up in the air”). It’s probably worth stashing Dale Thayer in deeper leagues.

• Quick hits: Zach Britton bounced back from a blown save yesterday to record a one-out save (thanks, Darren O’Day!) today. It’s going to take more than one outing to undo the good he’s done so far in 2014. Aaron Loup also recorded a one-out save after Casey Janssen scuffled a bit in a non-save situation. It was Janssen’s first outing after missing a few games with an illness, so he’ll get a pass for this one.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Addison Reed Brad Ziegler Oliver Perez
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden Shae Simmons
Baltimore Zach Britton Tommy Hunter Darren O’Day
Boston Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Andrew Miller
CHI (NL) Hector Rondon Neil Ramirez Pedro Strop
CHI (AL) Zach Putnam Jacob Petricka Javy Guerra Matt Lindstrom
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jonathan Broxton Sam LeCure Sean Marshall
Cleveland Cody Allen Bryan Shaw John Axford
Colorado LaTroy Hawkins Adam Ottavino Rex Brothers
Detroit Joe Nathan Joba Chamberlain Al Alburquerque Joel Hanrahan
Houston Chad Qualls Tony Sipp Josh Fields
KC Greg Holland Wade Davis Jason Frasor
LAA Huston Street Joe Smith Jason Grilli
LAD Kenley Jansen Chris Perez Brian Wilson
Miami Steve Cishek A.J. Ramos Mike Dunn
Milwaukee Francisco Rodriguez Will Smith Brandon Kintzler Jim Henderson
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) Jenrry Mejia Jeurys Familia Vic Black Bobby Parnell
NY (AL) David Robertson Dellin Betances Adam Warren
Oakland Sean Doolittle Luke Gregerson Dan Otero
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Ken Giles Jake Diekman Mike Adams
Pittsburgh Mark Melancon Tony Watson Ernesto Frieri
St. Louis Trevor Rosenthal Pat Neshek Jason Motte
SD Joaquin Benoit Dale Thayer Kevin Quackenbush
SF Santiago Casilla Jeremy Affeldt Sergio Romo
Seattle Fernando Rodney Danny Farquhar Dominic Leone
TB Jake McGee Grant Balfour Joel Peralta
Texas Joakim Soria Neftali Feliz Neal Cotts
Toronto Casey Janssen Aaron Loup Brett Cecil
Wash. Rafael Soriano Tyler Clippard Drew Storen

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




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There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.


24 Responses to “Bullpen Report: July 20, 2014”

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  1. Dalman says:

    Other than that several years ago Feliz was a well known flame throwing reliever for the Rangers, what other evidence do we have that Feliz would close if soria is traded, especially if somehow cotts isn’t traded. Cotts has pitched in a set up role much of the season, Feliz is pitching in middle relief, cotts has the far higher strike out rate. Of course chances are that cotts will also be traded in which case it probably is sink or swim for feliz, but I still think until that happens that cotts belongs ahead of Feliz.

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  2. Lo Pan says:

    More saves the rest of the way, Giles or Boxberger?

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  3. atoms says:

    Why is Addison Reed in yellow?

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  4. Bryan Shaw says:

    Trevor Rosenthal took his fifth loss today, his elevated walk rate has been a big problem in most games, how much longer before Pat Neshek and Jason Motte become options?

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    • Roby says:

      Rosenthal has plenty of leash. This was his third day of relief pitching and still got thrown out there. That shows the manager has more confidence at you than less than 100% over everyone else in the bullpen. The game was a tie at the moment which is interesting too.

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  5. Shouldn’t the Cubs’ bullpen be red since Rondón can’t seem to stop giving up runs, and Ramirez is playing better and will probably get the next opportunity?

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    • Emcee Peepants says:

      I agree that the Cubs’ situation is tenuous at best, but look at these numbers and tell me which one you’d want closing:

      A: 2.85 FIP, 3.20 xFIP, 99.2% LOB, .228 BABIP, 29.3 GB%
      B: 2.38 FIP, 3.00 xFIP, 66.5% LOB, .358 BABIP, 50.0 GB%

      Personally, I would go with B, which is Rondon, since it seems A (Ramirez) is relying on luck to keep that LOB so high and BABIP so low, especially with such flyball tendencies. Their K-BB% are not that far off either at 17.6 for Rondon and 23.6 for Ramirez. Ramirez is probably the closer of the future, but I doubt we’ll see him in that role unless the wheels really come off for Rondon.

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  6. JTnC says:

    The term “sexy” is used twice in this piece and there is also a George Clooney mention. Is this some “Hottest Bullpen Report of 2014?” I think I now know what the red means. I also think I’m taking this too far.

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  7. Stormin' Norman says:

    Quick question: What about Bryan Morris with all the Cishek talks? His peripherals aren’t great, but he’s a super groundballer with a 2.06 ERA (I know, but we’re talking about managers here), and he’s been pitching before Cishek in most, if not all, save opps. He’s got the 8th inning, it seems.

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  8. Cuck City says:

    why does aaron loup have the last 2 saves for Toronto?

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  9. Flokie says:

    I think Maddon is putting McGee in for the tougher part of the lineup based on whether it would be in the 8th or the 9th. Take yesturday for example: Plouffe, Morales, Colabello, Willingham is who he faced in the 8th. Then, it was E. Escobar, Fuld, Dozier and I’m missing a few other for the ninth. The surprising thing is why he didn’t use Boxberger in the ninth if he’s holding McGee for best part of order. I don’t know, but McGee seems to be a fine closer. Not sure why they are desperate to get Balfour “right” to get back into that role.

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    • Dalman says:

      Maybe Balfour is being used in high leverage situations to try to showcase him for trade. If so, maybe he gets traded, or more likely, once August arrives, shifts to a role more commensurate with his current performance level.

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    • Lobo says:

      If you assume that Maddon is truly running a committee with no intent of ending it by designating a closer, then his moves make sense. I think you’ve got McGee’s role correct. Need to use your bullpen for one inning with a lead? Use McGee. For two innings with a lead? Use McGee and Boxberger, and use McGee in the inning with the tougher lineup. For three innings and a lead, with Peralta out, you use McGee, Boxberger, and Balfour. To justify Boxberger coming in early, you could argue that 7th inning with a man on base is higher leverage than starting the 9th inning with the bases empty, especially if you think Balfour might walk a batter.

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  10. Flokie says:

    I’m also thinking it’s just a matter of time before Nathan loses closer role. At this point, I consider a trade to be inevitable for a closer. That situation should be in “red” in my most humble opinion. Can you really see them NOT getting a closer being that they are a likely playoff team and Nathan has been scored upon in 10 of his last 20 appearances?

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  11. Chuck says:

    So is Smith droppable for Putnam?

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    • Mike Wimmer says:

      Yes, Smith isnt probably going to get a consistent chance at saves unless Street gets hurt. Even then, they may go to Grilli, who knows. Putnam seems first in line right now, even if the situation is murky.

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  12. danwatson19 says:

    Really nitpicking here, but Carlos Carrasco should probably be moved into the third slot for Cleveland. Axford has been unreliable and used in less and less highbleverage situations, Carlos has been a revelation in the pen, and has been used in clutch situations lately.

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  13. geo says:

    We know exacty what is going on in Joe Maddon’s head: He said he was going with closer-by-committee. He meant it. It’s as simple as that.

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    • Dalman says:

      Yes, a closer by committee, but that doesn’t mean that every single reliever in the bullpen has to be part of the committee. The reason why they are doing this closer by committee thing in the first place is that Balfour pitched so bad that he forced Maddon’s hand to take him out of the job. Eight walks in seven appearances spanning 4 2/3 innings in July just isn’t getting it done in late innings of close games, not given all the other good choices available to Maddon.

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