• Ugly, ugly, ugly in Milwaukee. The combination of Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford gave up six runs between the eighth and ninth innings today (four hits, two walks, two wild pitches) to help Milwaukee blow a 5-2 lead against the Nationals. With K-Rod starting the eighth inning, signs pointed to Axford getting back into the saves mix after throwing five consecutive scoreless outings (5/2 K/BB over 5.1 innings) and he was called upon to attempt to bail out the visibly wild Rodriguez before allowing two of his inherited runners to score in addition to the three he let cross the plate in the ninth. Axford’s 3.14 xFIP paints the picture of a guy unlucky enough to have an unfathomably high 20.0 HR/FB%; although Brewers fans probably take little solace in those results. That said, his FIP (which doesn’t normalize the home run rate, so he’s penalized for all seven dingers he’s given up this season) is still 4.14, a full run lower than his 5.11 ERA. In fact, even with today’s outing, Axford still owns the lowest xFIP on the Brew Crew. Even with that knowledge, Ron Roenicke was pushing a committee as recently as a few days ago, so given today’s events, Kameron Loe (3.60 xFIP, 3.10 over the last thirty days) might be in the running to pitch the ninth while Axford and Rodriguez lick their wounds.
• Tom Wilhelmsen got the save this afternoon, although after giving up a hit, a walk, and an earned run, you won’t find anyone who thinks it was the sexiest. Aside from the “S” in the boxscore, the better news for Wilhelmsen owners might be the trade rumors leaking out of Seattle that Brandon League is close to being dealt. League had been pitching better as of late (before today) with a sub-3 FIP since June 1st. His three earned run outing Sunday (retiring only a single batter) probably dinged his value a bit; but either way, Wilhelmsen is now promoted to green territory. As for League, he remains highly unlikely to be dealt to a team that would immediately install him as closer, so he’s probably droppable in all but the deepest of leagues.
• Joel Hanrahan was unavailable yesterday, so Jason Grilli got the save opportunity for the surging Buccos. There have been some Hanrahan trade rumblings, but nothing substantiated and him and his 28.1% K% rate are in no danger of being removed from the closer role, even if his xFIP is now up to 4.00 (up from 2.64 and 2.98 the last two years). Grilli (38.5% K%, 2.70 xFIP) still makes for a great option in leagues that reward holds or for an owner looking to improve his peripherals. In the event something every happened to Hanrahan, Grilli would also immediately become one of the most well-peripheraled (I know, not a thing) 2012 closers in the major leagues.
A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Aroldis Chapman (CIN) vs. SD
Okay, now this one definitely feels like cheating, but the Reds have been absolutely gangbusters lately having won 10 in a row and 17 of their last 19. During this stretch, Chapman has been stupidly good — and while Edinson Volquez has pitched well lately for the Friars, it’s probably only good enough to keep the Padres in the game to the point where they get to watch Chapman’s 100 mph fastballs blow by in the ninth.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]