• He’s mortal! Aroldis Chapman finally gave up a run tonight, and it only took him until the Reds’ 56th game to do so. The run came after consecutive doubles in the 10th inning of a tie game, but one run was enough for the Pirates who held on for the victory. Obviously, I think we all expect mass drops in many leagues tonight which should send Chapman’s ownership value plummeting. OK, maybe not. However, one thing for Chapman owners to keep in mind — he is on pace for 87 innings, which is well above league-average for a reliever generally appearing in single-inning, high-leverage situations. It wouldn’t be out of the question for the Reds to dial back his workload a bit, especially since they’ve historically treated him pretty softly when it comes to pitching multiple days in a row.
• The only reason Chapman actually appeared today was because Joel Hanrahan couldn’t pin down a one-run save the inning before. However, thanks to the aforementioned Pirate heroics, Hanrahan picked up the always-fun “BS, W” in the box score, making fantasy owners everywhere feel somewhat less terrible about the outing. The Hammer has gobs of job security, but is walking batters at twice the rate he did during his breakout 2011 (5.3 BB/9 in 2012 vs. 2.1 last year) and his 4.10 xFIP outpaces his 2.85 ERA because his BABIP is low (.191) and his strand rate is high (93.5%). His fastball velocity is down a tick to 96.0 mph (from 97.1 last year) but his SwStr% is up to 12.3% which helped boost his K/9 to 11.6. There is no immediate concern here, but owners should be prepared for that ERA/WHIP combination to come up a bit as his luck stats normalize if he doesn’t cut down on the free bases.
• Fun fact; in 129 plate appearances this season, Norichika Aoki had one home run, and said home run was of the inside-the-park variety. That was before today. Today, he hit two against the Cubbies, including a walk-off shot off Casey Coleman in the bottom of the 10th in Milwaukee. Probably more interesting for those reading this column was Dale Sveum’s perplexing (perplexing really is the best word choice here) usage of his bullpen arms prior to Aoki’s heroics. Shawn Camp, supposedly a member of Chicago’s two-headed saves committee was used in the seventh down by a run. His left-handed partner in crime James Russell threw four pitches in the top of the eighth after the Cubs took a 3-2 lead, but was yanked after giving up a hit to — you guessed it — Aoki (only a paltry single, though). Manny Corpas, recently called up from AAA after missing all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery, allowed Aoki to score, tagging himself with the eighth inning blown save. Corpas pitched a scoreless ninth to push the game to extras, where Coleman (the other Cub who has been rumored to be in the mix for saves, but has yet to see high-leverage situations since Carlos Marmol‘s demotion) made his way onto SportsCenter reels for all the wrong reasons.
Given the usage pattern today, it seems clear that Sveum was gunning for either a Coleman or Corpas ninth inning after burning through Camp and Russell in the seventh and eighth. Corpas has always done a satisfactory job throwing strikes (career 2.5 BB/9) which helps offset the fact that he has never really been a big strikeout guy (6.5 K/9). While he may be an interesting arm given his career 3.81 xFIP, potential saves vultures should note that his velocity was down 2 mph from his career average yesterday, a sign that there is still plenty of work ahead if he wants his stuff to return to pre-surgery Corpas. Given bullpen usage over the last few weeks, Russell still seems like the guy to own here, but fantasy owners of any of these relievers probably feel like Sveum is just pulling names out of a hat right now.
• Frank Francisco finished the job R.A. Dickey started today, although he did give up a longball to Ryan Zimmerman to spoil what could have been yet another Mets shutout. Francisco has been perceived as a shaky closer in 2012 in large part to his 5.40 ERA, however, his underlying numbers look good (10.4 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 3.71 xFIP) and before today he had racked up eight consecutive scoreless outings. With his ERA and guys like Bobby Parnell and Tim Byrdak behind him, he’s probably not in green light territory, but he’s safer at the back end of New York’s bullpen than the general fantasy consensus believes.
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: Andrew Miller (BOS) vs. WAS
With the suddenly-resurgent Clay Buchholz spinning a complete-game shutout against the Orioles tonight, the Sox bullpen is well rested for a weekend tilt with the Nationals. Working as a left-handed setup man, Andrew Miller suddenly looks like the pitcher the Tigers thought they were getting when they drafted him in the first round and the Marlins thought they were getting when they moved Miguel Cabrera to Motown. With a two-plus mile per hour boost on his fastball thanks to working out of the ‘pen, Miller just might be a cheap option for a couple punchouts.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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