• Andrew Bailey‘s shoulder put a quick end to any of the recent speculation that he may have been a candidate to move back to the ninth inning in the next few weeks. Bailey suffered labrum and shoulder capsule damage (supposedly acutely during his last outing) and will undergo surgery this Wednesday. Shoulder surgery is a big deal, and Bailey will be sidelined for the remainder of 2013 and at least the early part of 2014. He’s likely to be non-tendered by the Red Sox this offseason and outside of extraordinarily deep dynasty leagues, has virtually no fantasy value.
The news means Koji Uehara‘s reign as closer should continue. I was the highest on Uehara in our mid-season relief pitcher rankings based on the notion that his peripherals are just so good that it would be impossible for manager John Farrell to make a switch. Now, Uehara locks down a spot as a top-10 closer, and the only reason he’s not top 6 or so is potential workload concerns.
With Bailey, Andrew Miller, and Joel Hanrahan out of the season, the Sox are likely to make a move for a reliever before the deadline. While they haven’t been directly linked to any of the big names, there are rumblings that they’ve at least scouted Milwaukee closer Francisco Rodriguez. This type of news is “exhibit A” as to why fantasy owners in saves-only leagues need to be peddling K-Rod and Kevin Gregg hard. If either get traded to a team like the Red Sox with an established closer, their saves are likely to go “buh-bye.”
• Brad Ziegler notched save number four earlier today. There was more good news for his owners, as Kirk Gibson seemed to imply that Ziegler was the “closer” for the time being, although he hedged quite a bit in saying “but it could change.”
There are two big issues Ziegler needs to overcome to be a viable, long-term option at closer for the Diamondbacks. One, he’s not a strikeout pitcher (13.7% 2013 K%, 15.9% career), making him susceptible to ball-in-play luck. Second, and probably more importantly, his low arm slot has historically led to awful platoon splits (4.94/2.90 career LHB/RHB against xFIP). He has fared better against lefties this year (3.52/3.23), but very few submariners (either righties or lefties) have been able to succeed against opposing handedness for prolonged periods of time. Ride Ziegler if you desperately need saves, but once managers start loading up on the lefties, I expect his success rate to tail off quickly.
Got a couple questions as to why I had David Hernandez ranked highest on the aforementioned all-star break closer list. First, none of the Arizona relief pitchers were ranked terribly high, highlighting that it’s kind of like throwing darts blindfolded right now. Hernandez’s main issues this year are an elevated HR/FB% (likely to regress) and a low (lower than his career average at least) strikeout rate. It’s tough to figure out exactly why Hernando’s strikeout rate is down so much (24%); his SwStr% is down a tick but still way above league average and his fastball velocity is right where it has been the last couple years. I still like him as a second-half bounceback candidate (assuming the K% starts to match the SwStr% going forward), and, if the Diamondbacks don’t swing a deal for a reliever, someone who might get a crack at the ninth inning as we head into the dog days of summer.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]