• For those clinging to hope that John Axford will get the ninth inning role back for the Brew Crew this year… well… let’s say today didn’t go so hot for you. Coming in with a one-run lead in the eighth inning (Ron Roenicke would have gone to Jim Henderson in the ninth), Axford coughed up three hits and two runs, taking the “BS” and “L” as lovely parting gifts. Axford has curbed the walks recently (that’s good!) but has seen his already-below-career-average whiff rate continue to tumble (that’s bad!). His fastball velocity, while up a tick from his early season woes, remains down about one mph, although his SwStr% is right in line with his career norms. At this point, however, it’s fruitless to dissect his peripherals. Even though Axford had a great stretch until yesterday (0.32 ERA over 32 games), he still struggled gaining his manager’s confidence, and another outing like today may have “The Ax Man” right back in the doghouse.
• It feels like Kevin Gregg is putting the tying run on third base every outing these days. Today it wasn’t 100% his fault (thank his catcher’s throwing prowess) but once again, Gregg found himself needing to wiggle loose in a one-run game. While Gregg remains a prime target to be moved, the fact that he has a 5.63 ERA, a 10/12 K/BB, and a 25%+ LD% over his last 15 outings may get him yoinked from the role regardless. Of course, like they did with Carlos Marmol, the Cubs will keep running him out there to try and build trade value (thanks to the mystical save!). However, it’s tough to see Gregg being long for the job even if he’s not moved this week. Pedro Strop is a bit ahead of Blake Parker in the battle for number two in the Cubbies pen at the moment, but this is one relief corps is one that I’m generally staying away from unless I absolutely have to have the saves.
• Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez has a ridiculous 0.10 xFIP over the last month. After getting his feet wet as a 21-year-old last summer, Rodriguez has improved significantly during his second go-around in the big leagues, seeing his K% skyrocket and his BB% plunge. While he’s faced mostly lefties (and dominated them to the tune of a .161 wOBA against), he has also proved to be surprisingly solid against right-handers as well (.207 wOBA against). His GB% is 50% and climbing and his leverage index has increased since the beginning of the season, with six of his top seven games by inLI being in June or July. It remains to be seen whether he can be a true platoon-independent setup man, but he’s certainly improved his stock this year. He should be snatched in dynasty leagues and his appeal in redraft leagues counting holds only goes up the more high leverage situations he sees, as well.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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