• When the Yankees took the field in the top of the ninth inning up six runs, I don’t think Rafael Soriano was expecting to be finishing the game tonight, but finished he did. After Cory Wade gave up four runs, Soriano came on to get the final out, recording his 16th save of the season. Soriano has done a great job closing for the Yankees this year but his ERA (1.63) is lower than you would expect (3.84 xFIP) because he has been very fortunate with fly balls leaving the park. Soriano has yet to give up a home run in 2012, a trend which certainly won’t continue in Yankee Stadium for a pitcher who isn’t particularly great at killing worms (38.1% GB%). Still, Girardi has confidence in Soriano who maintains a firm grasp on the job and should hold onto it even if and when regression hits him. David Robertson has pitched well in his first four games back from the DL, giving up one run in 3.2 innings pitched while striking out six batters and although he may be the better pitcher, Soriano is the one who will continue to get saves for the rest of the year.
• After blowing three saves in his last six outings, Aroldis Chapman looked right on track tonight, striking out three batters while walking one in the ninth inning for his ninth save of the season. Chapman’s peripherals remain jaw dropping with a 15.85 K/9 and a 1.88 xFIP and while baseball fans may drool at the thought of Chapman’s skills in the starting rotation, it looks like he will remain closing games for Cincinnati. Sean Marshall owners speculating on a closing controversy stemming from a few bad outings by Chapman can stop speculating as he’s not likely to gain the job. However, for ratios and strikeouts, you will struggle to find a better reliever than Marshall this year– Marshall has a 2.14 xFIP and a strikeout rate over 11 (11.17 K/9), numbers that may pale in comparison to his teammate Chapman but still rank in the upper echelon of the league.
• Addison Reed gave up two runs in the ninth inning against the Twins tonight but was still able to hold on for his 10th save of the year. Reed has been a little disappointing since taking over closing duties in Chicago with a pedestrian 4.09 xFIP but he still has a 10.00 K/9, and his competition (Matt Thornton and Hector Santiago) isn’t exactly breathing down his neck, so Reed’s grasp on the job remains fairly firm.
• Jose Valverde has declared himself OK after his wrist sprain and entered tonight’s game in the bottom of the eighth inning down two runs pitching a perfect inning against the Rangers. While Valverde looks to be healed, it will be interesting to see if Jim Leyland goes to Valverde in another low leverage situation before putting him back in for the ninth inning. For now, I would be sure to hold onto Joaquin Benoit until Valverde is converting saves consistently again.
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: Jason Grilli (PIT) vs. PHI
The Pirates have their ace on the hill tomorrow in Jason McDonald and while the Phillies may be starting the 34 year old journeyman Raul Valdes, a pitching machine would fair pretty well against the Pirates lineup which is a long way to say that this game should be another close matchup with Jason Grilli getting a chance to pitch tomorrow night. Grilli has been sensational this year with a 2.69 xFIP and a fantastic 14.13 K/9 that is supported by his top notch SwStr% (15.2%) which ranks sixth in the majors among all qualified relievers.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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