• The Cubs bullpen situation is an absolute mess. Yesterday, Shawn Camp and James Russell (the two guys Dale Sveum publicly anointed as closers in the wake of Carlos Marmol‘s demotion) pitched in the seventh and eighth innings, leaving the door open for what (at the time) appeared to be a Casey Coleman save opportunity (Coleman never got the opportunity, and took the loss in extras). Tonight, Russell straddled the seventh and eighth innings (giving up a run) while Camp got his crack at the ninth. In typical Cubs bullpen fashion, he immediately gave up a screaming single (off the left field wall, no less) to Josh Willingham and a Justin Morneau triple to blow the save before inducing a few weakly hit balls in wriggling out of the jam and getting the game to extras.
At this column’s press time, that’s where the game was. Sveum left him in to pitch the tenth, and he gave up a walk and a couple singles to take the loss.
A week or so ago, I covered the peripherals of these guys in a couple reports, and highlighted why I felt Camp was the superior option. I still feel that way seeing as said peripherals haven’t changed drastically, but it’s clear that (if he wasn’t a week ago) Sveum is now operating in full-blown committee mode — it certainly feels like he’ll be throwing darts to see whether Russell, Camp, Coleman, or Manuel Corpas gets the next save opportunity. And don’t sleep on Marmol. Another few games of this and the door for him suddenly swings wide open again, even if his walk rate has still been an issue since his move to low-leverage innings.
• Davey Johnson has confirmed that Tyler Clippard will be his closer, at least until Drew Storen returns. Clippard’s 2.55 ERA is a tad on the low side thanks to a 0.230 BABIP along with the fact that he hasn’t given up a home run this year (3.74 xFIP), but he certainly has the strikeouts (28.7 K%) of an elite bullpen arm. His walk rate is up a tick this year (10.9%), which, while in line with his career average, is 3% higher than his 2011 numbers. Cutting out a couple walks per nine would only help solidify his role for the short-term. If he isn’t already, he should be owned in all leagues, and he could make for interesting times if he keeps pitching well until Storen returns.
• Kyle Farnsworth and David Robertson have been cleared to begin their rehab assignments. Both guys put up great peripherals in 2011, but injuries in 2012 have cost them their respective closing gigs, with the (re)emergence of Fernando Rodney and the steady presence of Rafael Soriano pushing them back to setup roles when they make it back to the majors. Both players have the potential to vulture a few wins and put up sub-3.00 ERAs so they should still be rosterable in roto leagues as a boost in standard ERA, WHIP and strikeout categories. I’d guess both are gone in leagues that count holds, but if they aren’t, you should probably pick them up before someone else does.
• Jason Grilli and Tim Collins both pitched scoreless innings tonight, each striking out a batter. Both pitchers have been fantastic setup men for their respective teams, with the former-top-prospect Grilli sporting a 2.61 xFIP and an out-of-this-world 40% K% and the diminutive Collins almost a perfect match at an xFIP of 2.26 and a 37.2% K%. Collins has always had good velocity, but it’s still up a mile per hour this year (now 93.5 mph). Grilli’s velocity, on the other hand, is up almost 3 mph since he broke into the league as a starter in 2004. While both guys are blocked from racking up saves (and Joel Hanrahan pitched a clean ninth tonight), both are excellent targets in leagues that reward holds or if an owner is looking for some extra strikeouts and some subsequent help in ERA and WHIP. And in keeper or dynasty leagues where Greg Holland has gotten a lot of pub as the Royals closer-in-waiting, Collins might be a sneaky underdog that could make things interesting if Jonathan Broxton is traded and/or Joakim Soria struggles in his return from Tommy John.
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: Cory Wade (NYY) vs. NYM
Cory Wade has had a couple hiccups the last couple weeks causing some Yankee fans to feel queasy about his usage as a late-inning setup man. However, given that he has the lowest walk rate on the team (1.4 BB/9), he’s still holding strong, with his ERA (2.84) right in line with his FIP and xFIP (2.95, 2.81). Saturday’s Dillon Gee/Phil Hughes matchup promises to lead to more than a few bullpen innings, so Wade might be a nice gamble.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]