• Joe Nathan is on quite a tear at the moment after pitching a perfect ninth picking up two Ks along the way tonight for his 30th save of the year, sharing the league lead with the one and only Jim Johnson. Nathan lowered his ERA to 1.40 and hasn’t given up a run in his last eleven appearances, striking out 14 batters in those 11.1 innings. Nathan’s strikeouts have dipped a little this year (9.53 K/9) compared to last (10.91) K/9 but since posting a particularly low rate in April (7.30 K/9), he’s upped it in each subsequent month. Nathan might not finish 2013 with an ERA starting with a one, but he’s still a top option for saves both in real life and our fantasies.
• As Colin mentioned yesterday, Vinnie Pestano has been struggling and he’s now been replaced by Joe Smith as the eighth inning guy in Cleveland. Chris Perez is healthy and back in the ninth for Cleveland, but if something were to happen to him (again) Joe Smith should receive the save opportunity while Pestano sorts out his problems.
• With what I’m assuming were a few scouts in attendance, Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 19th save of the season tonight, albeit by giving up two runs along the way. Even after today’s outing, Papelbon’s ERA still stands at 2.27 and although his strikeout rate has gone down (7.57 K/9 in 2013; 11.83 in 2012) and his peripheral numbers aren’t as impressive (3.43/3.96 FIP/xFIP) Papelbon is still one of the “surest things” among relievers. If/when the Phillies throw in the towel on 2013, his name will be mentioned in trade rumors. However, Ken Rosenthal insists the Phillies won’t trade players that will be part of their future but assuming he comes to his senses on the value of closers on losing teams, Papelbon’s name should be popular over the next few weeks.
• Grant Balfour‘s perfect save season continued as he’s now 23/23 on save opportunities. Balfour won’t be going to Citi Field for the Mid-Summer classic yet but if teammate Bartolo Colon (who won his 12th game tonight) doesn’t make it to Queens, Balfour could make it as a replacement. He’s probably not deserving on the Sabermetric friendly All-Star team but 23/23 with a 1.77 ERA is still pretty darn good and he deserves some recognition.
• Assuming Fernando Rodney shoots exactly one arrow in the air after each save, he has now shot 20 arrows this year after shutting the door on the Twins this evening. He only faced two batters but with 20 saves, a 11.81 K/9 and a decreasing albeit poor walk rate (5.79 BB/9) Joel Peralta owners expecting to see the ninth inning can stop those expectations. Rodney isn’t necessarily top tier but he’s certainly cemented again in the ninth inning and should remain a solid option for fantasy teams for the remainder of the year.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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