• Mike Scioscia must not listen to the Backstreet Boys. Today’s reliever tasked with protecting a one-run, ninth inning lead? Well, it wasn’t Ernesto Frieri or Joe Smith. Righty Kevin Jepsen trotted out of the bullpen instead. Of course, Shin-Soo Choo immediately crushed a no out delivery to center field, giving him the unfortunate BS in the box score. Scioscia’s faith in Frieri has clearly waned recently, but typical standby Smith had pitched each of the last two days, rendering him potentially unusable. Jepsen actually decreased his xFIP to a solidly respectable 3.28 after tonight’s outing. His K% is actually the highest it’s been during his career. Part of it may be due to the addition of a changeup in Jepsen’s arsenal, which has helped nearly double his fastball SwStr% from his career mark. Regression is to be expected, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old Jepsen may be able to keep pitching at a elevated level. Unfortunately for him, he blew his chance to get in his manager’s good graces, so he’s unlikely to see the next save opportunity. Smith Time?
• Zach Britton had his first major meltdown of 2014 on Friday, allowing a walk and three hits in a crushing loss to the Yankees, which was punctuated by Carlos Beltran‘s three-run walk off home run. The Baltimore closer’s ERA shot up to 1.64 with the outing. While that mark is over a run below his xFIP, a 2.93 mark is not shabby. While Britton has pitched well enough to earn the notion than this performance can probably be written off as a minor hiccup, his low punchout rate and mediocre K%-BB% (11.7%) still don’t inspire great confidence. His value is almost fully tied up in his 77% GB%; keeping the ball on the ground is the easiest way to keep it in the yard. However, be forewarned: only Brad Ziegler and Jonny Venters have been relievers capable of putting up GB% greater than 70% over the last 7 years, and neither had the rates Britton has. I’m expecting regression — even if Britton doesn’t turn back into his pre-2014 self, he just can’t keep up these wormburning rates all season.
• Quick hits: Mark Melancon struck out the side in his first save appearance as Pittsburgh’s new closer. Make sure he’s owned in all leagues, obviously. Just remember that the team has said they want Grilli back in the role. Cody Allen took the loss in a non-save situation today. Before you panic about some recent hiccups, June has actually been his best month of 2014 (1.76 xFIP, 12/1 K/BB). One step forward, one step back for Joe Nathan who had looked better recently. He wasn’t quite bombed tonight so I doubt he lost the gig, but he did toss 32 pitches so almost certainly will have Sunday off. Glen Perkins got a dirty save (allowing an earned run) but, hey, what do fantasy owners care? He’s pitched three days in a row so he’ll likely join Joe Nathan in the “relaxing in the bullpen” crowd.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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