• Jose Valverde is still the Tigers closer. According to his manager, Jim Leyland “we’re going to use Jose Valverde until we decide Jose Valverde can’t do it or we have someone else better, just like everyone else does.” That may not sound like the strongest praise for Papa Grande, but the closer he shall remain. While Valverde throws a fastball and a splitter, performance wise, Jose Valverde is essentially a one-pitch pitcher nowadays. In 2013, his fastball has been worth 1.5 runs above average, per 100 pitches while his splitter has been worth -9.67 runs above average, per 100 pitches. Considering Valverde’s getting strikeouts at a below average rate overall and isn’t fooling anyone with his splitter, I don’t expect any better results out of Valverde this season, in fact I might expect worse. Joaquin Benoit (2.60 FIP) has been great this season but the Tigers don’t seem to want him closing and if a move is made to replace Valverde, I still feel it might come outside of the organization. Nevertheless, Valverde will receive the next opportunities, and needless to say, this situation could be very fluid soon.
As I click publish on this post, Valverde entered the game with a four run lead, walked the leadoff batter, got a fortuitous double play and then issued a HBP.
• This isn’t related to anything that occurred in the games today but Jonah Keri’s piece on closers is a worthy read.
• A few weeks ago the Marlins were supposed to be in a closer-by-committee but if that’s the case, why does Steve Cishek still get all of the opportunities? Now, “all of the opportunities” on the Marlins isn’t the same as any other team but Cishek recorded his eighth save of the season tonight against the Cardinals, and I expect him to continue to see any and all chances in the near future.
• Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli both closed the door for the 24th time this season. Although they both have the same job,Grilli and Johnson do it in vastly different ways. Grilli has a middling ground ball to fly ball ratio of 0.60 with a tremendous strikeout percentage of 43.5% while Johnson has a mediocre 18.9% K% but a top notch 1.96 ground ball to fly ball ratio. Now, the fact that I’m talking about the two of them doesn’t make them equals as Jason Grilli is much better both in real life and fantasy, but both guys currently lead the league in saves and should continue to rack up their totals as the year goes on.
• Darren Oliver returned from the DL this week but I’m going to keep Brett Cecil on the closer grid. If something were to happen to Janssen, there is certainly a chance that Oliver could receive an assignment in the ninth against a tough lefty or two, but Brett Cecil has turned himself into quite the reliever. Cecil now supports a 1.59 ERA and 1.95 FIP in 34 innings pitched with a 10.32 K/9 and a 2.38 BB/9. We mostly know Cecil as a mediocre-to-bad starting pitcher but like many pitchers, he’s taken the full-time relief role like a fish in water. Cecil’s strikeouts aren’t flukey either as his SwStr% of 11.9% portends continued success there and with that, one has to consider him a potential relief ace, able to help your team’s ratios, strikeout totals and pick up a few holds along the way.
• Saves haven’t come too often for Kevin Gregg but he’s done a nice job converting the chances he’s seen and that continued tonight picking up save number eight. I’m not sure what water Gregg is drinking (he should give some to Starlin Castro) but he’s posting the highest K/9 of his career (10.45) and his best FIP at 2.39. With that said, it’s tough to think Gregg’s career year is going to come in 2013 at a soon to be age of 35. With no other (viable) options in Chicago, I like Gregg’s chances to hold onto the job but I don’t expect him to continue to look pretty all year while doing it. His .245 BABIP is likely to regress, nobody maintains a 91.4% Left On Base Percentage all season and a 8.8% SwStr% doesn’t suggest that his strikeouts are sustainable. If your a Gregg owner with some saves to trade away, Gregg’s the name I would shop around.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]