A fairly quiet day in the world of bullpens, so this rapidly turned into the “Rays Closer Report.” Make of it what you will.
• So, yeah. Grant Balfour doesn’t think the baseball gods are smiling upon him. Tampa Bay’s closer had a horrendous ninth inning today, allowing five runs after being tasked with keeping a scoreless game, well, scoreless. His BB% now sits at a beyond ugly 18.5%. That figure might be even a little palatable if he was racking up strikeouts at a Marmol-esque clip, but he only has one more K than BB on the season. His fastball velocity is down 2 mph and he is only inducing swinging strikes at two-thirds the rate he did last year. His SIERA has jumped from 3.06 last year to 5.14 this year and is still climbing.
So what to do? As regular readers of the Bullpen Report probably know, the team has a few solid options behind the “break in case of emergency” glass. Jake McGee might be the best pitcher in the Rays relief corps. His 1.38 inLI over the past month shows that Joe Maddon has faith bringing him in in late games, too. Unfortunately, he has a couple strikes working against him. He’s a lefty, and historically, managers don’t love lefty closers (platoon issues). He’s also working through arbitration years and there’s an idea that saves (as meaningless as they may be) drive up costs.
Righty Joel Peralta is the yin to McGee’s yang at the backend of this pen. With a 30-day 1.25 inLI, he’s also shown to have the trust of the Rays skipper and his 3.11 SIERA (while not elite) is plenty solid enough to be an above-average reliever, even at 38. With plenty of previous high-leverage experience and a guaranteed contract, he seems like the most logical option in Tampa if they were to make a ninth inning change.
Lastly, Juan Oviedo (also known as “The closer formerly known as Leo Nunez”) brings the most experience to the fold. Unfortunately for him, he also brings the worst peripherals. He owns a career 4.26 xFIP and has only had one season where that mark was below 4.16 (2010 with Miami). His velocity is 3 miles per hour off of what it was the last time he pitched in the big leagues (2011) and his swinging strike rate is also down. He has the “proven closer” (TM!) tag, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rays (a sabermetrically-inclined organization) kept him in a setup role even if the event of a Balfour move.
• Quick hits: Tommy Hunter was activated from the DL today but didn’t see any action thanks to the O’s getting behind after an awful start by Ubaldo Jimenez. Has his work cut out for him if he’s going to unseat Zach Britton in Baltimore. Cody Allen got another chance in the ninth and did not disappoint. While he’s not quite “green light, let’s roll” he’s clearly the guy to own in Cleveland right now. Bryan Shaw owners can cut bait in shallower leagues if they haven’t already. Elite bullpen arms Greg Holland and Aroldis Chapman both notched easy saves this afternoon. Chapman, in particular, continues to be exceedingly impressive, as he now owns a 24/3 K/BB in 13 innings. Wow.
• Grid changes: Rays go yellow (should feel like orange). Tigers go red, at least until Joe Nathan puts together a couple decent outings. Tommy Hunter is back and John Axford makes a reappearance. Mike Adams hits the DL.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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