• Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth inning last night for his 14th save of the year and currently has a 1.63 ERA with the peripherals to back it up. Nathan is showing the elite strikeout ability he had in his prime on the Twins, striking out 31.7% of the batters he has faced this year. However, what is really outstanding about Nathan this year is his walk rate which is currently a career low and league leading 0.65 BB/9. If you add it all up Nathan is pitching to a 2.13 xFIP on one of the better teams in the league — a great recipe for success and many saves. Nathan didn’t have the best year in 2011 after recovering from Tommy John surgery and many people suspected that Neftali Feliz or Mike Adams would take over the closing gig in Texas in 2012, but Nathan has had a fantastic season thus far and should be regarded as one of the top closers in the game again.
• Tigers reliever Phil Coke received the save opportunity tonight with a three run lead against the Cardinals and converted it for his first save of the year. Jose Valverde was apparently warming up in the bullpen to come in for the save chance but injured his right hand and was shut down, unable able to enter the game. It is not yet known if the injury is serious or not, but for those in need of saves be sure to pickup Joaquin Benoit who pitched a perfect eighth inning striking out a batter en route to his 17th hold of the year. Even if Valverde doesn’t miss any time, Benoit is a reliever worth owning with 44 strikeouts in 31.2 innings pitched, a 2.78 xFIP and the most holds in the league.
• Aroldis Chapman blew his third save of the year tonight against the Indians off of a walk-off home run by Asdrubal Cabrera in the 10th inning. After pitching like a machine for the first two months of the year Chapman is showing his human side this month giving up six runs in nine appearances in June. Meanwhile, Sean Marshall pitched two innings tonight and has now pitched 5.1 consecutive scoreless innings and has only given up one run in his last 16 appearances. It’s worth noting that even after tonight’s mishap Chapman still has a minuscule 1.88 xFIP and a league leading 15.47 K/9, so he’s not really in any danger of losing the closing gig due to performance. However, if the Reds and Dusty Baker decide to move Chapman into the rotation, Sean Marshall is fully capable of closing as he has a fantastic 2.06 xFIP and a terrific GB% of 64.3%.
• Fernando Rodney notched his 20th save of the year tonight, closing out the game against the Nationals. I’m not sure how the Rays have done it (it can’t be as easy as just shifting him on the rubber, can it?) but they have managed to take Fernando Rodney and make him one of the most valuable relievers in the game. Before the season Rodney had a career 4.29 ERA and a 1.69 SO/BB ratio and this season his ERA stands at 1.10 while he’s striking out over six batters for every walk he issues. Maybe more relievers should wear their hat crooked, or just get traded to the Rays.
• It’s hard to talk about Carlos Marmol with even an ounce of confidence but saves are saves and he recorded his fourth save of the year and his second consecutive save tonight against the White Sox. The Cubs don’t have many better alternatives and it’s in their best interest to get everything they can out of Marmol so look for him to get the call for any save opportunities for now.
For those of you who play daily fantasy games like FanGraphs: The Game, or just like to stream players, here is a matchup you may be able to exploit.
A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Tyler Clippard (WAS) vs TB
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer is making his major league debut tomorrow and gets the joy of facing Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals figure to have a lead and Strasburg hasn’t shown an ability to finish games so look for a fully rested and effective Tyler Clippard to get a chance to finish the game tomorrow night.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]