Bullpen Report: May 12, 2013

Jose Valverde picked an unfortunate time to allow his first base hit of 2013 as he took his first blown save of the season against the Indians. Even after today, his ERA sits at a respectable 1.50, but his strikeout and walk numbers appear to be no different than last year. In 2012 his SwStr% absolutely fell off a cliff and it’s even lower this year. His splitter, once his out pitch and an offering he used more than half of time, is now only accounting for 12% of his deliveries. If his fastball velocity doesn’t improve from his 92.6 mph figure, it will represent the fifth straight year in decline. If it sounds like I am down on Valverde, I am, but the good news for his fantasy owners is that Papa Grande has job security, at least until he has a few more days like today. Sell the “closer” tag if you can, but otherwise know that the saves you get might be coming at the expense of your other ratios. I find it highly unlikely he survives the season as closer.

• While we talking about 2012 pariahs blowing saves, Heath Bell joined the club as well, giving up a couple runs to the Phillies while spoiling Brandon McCarthy‘s eight scoreless innings. Today’s implosion aside, Bell has actually been fairly solid this season, posting a 2.43 xFIP thanks to a gaudy 20/3 K/BB ratio through 71 batters faced. David Hernandez still has some kinks to work through, so while he should be owned in all leagues, Bell should have a little bit of leash going forward.

Jason Grilli and Mariano Rivera kept right on truckin’ each picking up their fifteenth saves of the season. Both were great bargain picks during the spring and have come out of the gates swinging. While Grilli sports the better peripherals (1.98 xFIP compared to Rivera’s 3.60 mark) both have tremendous job security. I’d sell high if I could convince a panicked Craig Kimbrel owner that the end of the world is nigh, but otherwise, I’d hold, hold, hold.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Heath Bell David Hernandez Matt Reynolds J.J. Putz
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Eric O’Flaherty Jordan Walden
Baltimore Jim Johnson Darren O’Day Pedro Strop
Boston Junichi Tazawa Koji Uehara Andrew Miller Andrew Bailey
CHI (NL) Kevin Gregg Carlos Marmol James Russell Kyuji Fujikawa
CHI (AL) Addison Reed Jesse Crain Matt Thornton
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jonathan Broxton J.J. Hoover
Cleveland Chris Perez Joe Smith Bryan Shaw Vinnie Pestano
Colorado Rafael Betancourt Wilton Lopez Matt Belisle
Detroit Jose Valverde Joaquin Benoit Al Alburquerque
Houston Jose Veras Wesley Wright Hector Ambriz
KC Greg Holland Kelvin Herrera Tim Collins
LAA Ernesto Frieri Scott Downs Jerome Williams Ryan Madson
LAD Brandon League Kenley Jansen Ronald Belisario
Miami Steve Cishek A.J. Ramos Chad Qualls
Milwaukee Jim Henderson John Axford Michael Gonzalez
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) Bobby Parnell Brandon Lyon LaTroy Hawkins Frank Francisco
NY (AL) Mariano Rivera David Robertson Joba Chamberlain
Oakland Grant Balfour Ryan Cook Sean Doolittle
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Mike Adams Antonio Bastardo
Pittsburgh Jason Grilli Mark Melancon Tony Watson
St. Louis Edward Mujica Trevor Rosenthal Fernando Salas Jason Motte
SD Huston Street Luke Gregerson Dale Thayer
SF Sergio Romo Santiago Casilla Jeremy Affeldt
Seattle Tom Wilhelmsen Carter Capps Charlie Furbush
TB Fernando Rodney Joel Peralta Jake McGee
Texas Joe Nathan Jason Frasor Tanner Scheppers
Toronto Casey Janssen Steve Delabar Darren Oliver Sergio Santos
Wash. Rafael Soriano Drew Storen Tyler Clippard

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]

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There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

26 Responses to “Bullpen Report: May 12, 2013”

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  1. Duncan says:

    What’s your take on the closer situation with the Angels? I have Madson along with two others on the DL. I can’t cut the other two but I am wondering whether to drop Madson or possibly try to trade him for something since his status seems to be up in the air.

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    • Frieri is plenty safe for now and Madson will need to be gradually eased into high-leverage situations but I’d own Madson as a speculative play given Frieri’s BB%.

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      • Duncan says:

        Do you think it’d be worth a speculative add of Joe Smith right now in a 12 team mixed? Perez had some shoulder stiffness today.

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      • Al says:


        I wouldn’t. For one, Perez has said he’ll be available today, and the doubleheader will hopefully provide us with at least one opportunity to see if that’s the case. Second, Pestano being on the DL complicates things a bit. If faced with the extended absence of both Perez and Pestano, I’m not so sure Smith would be the automatic choice for the 9th. For what it’s worth, Shaw and Allen both fit the typical closer profile better than Smith.

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      • Al says:

        I take it back about Shaw, actually. Allen’s the one with the K rate and fastball speed of a typical closer.

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      • I’m not too concerned with Perez’s shoulder stiffness.

        If you are in a deep league, there’s no harm in taking a flier on Smith (or even Pestano as a temp DL stash), but I wouldn’t burn the roster spot in anything shallower than a 14-teamerish.

        Perez is a nice trade chip for CLE, too (which makes his setup men more valuable than average), but if the Indians keep streaking, the odds of him moving go down.

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    • Chas says:

      Would it be Joe Smith not Pestano?

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  2. Julinho says:

    Hi Colin,

    I am currently have Frieri and Valverde on my spots for RP in my league. Also, I have Tazawa in the bench and Madson on DL (will be activated today). What would you recommend me to do looking ahead? Frieri has been quite good so far but Madson’s hierarchy could outweigh at the end. Valverde’s been extremely unreliable since last year not to mention that Tazawa is a short term solution as long as Bailey is healthy. On the other hand, Hernandez and Fujikawa are already available on waivers. I do have two spots for DL (Beachy – Cuddyer) who IMO will be top tier all the way through. Cheers. Nobody will trade with me in my league as I am at the top right now.

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    • The conventional wisdom is always keep guys who are closers in their current roles if possible. If guys like Hernandez and Fuji are currently on waivers in your league, you should have no problem moving with the flow as the season progresses (i.e., if Tazawa gets bumped by Bailey, you can just speculate on Hernando, etc.)

      If Bailey throws a couple bullpen sessions without incident, you could get ahead of the curve and pick up another setup man, but I wouldn’t get too cute yet.

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  3. J W says:

    Rivera has a grand total of one year (at least of what’s tracked on Fangraphs) where his ERA was not lower than his xFIP. For his career it’s like .80 lower. I know this is Fangraphs, but I think at this point in his career it’s safe to say that his ability to (significantly) outperform his peripherals is a repeatable skill :P

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    • kdm628496 says:

      1.98 is still lower than 2.80

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      • J W says:

        Sure, but between the very few innings pitched so far (they are relievers, after all), and the fact that he’s put up similar ERAs with roughly the same xFIP, I am just not sure the difference is significant from a fantasy perspective.

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  4. jon says:

    Hey Colin, I’ve only got room to carry 1 extra RP right now in addition to my Chapman and Mujica. Do I go with Tazawa, Bailey or Hernandez? My gut says to go with the guy who’s got the gig (Tazawa), but the other two are available in my shallow 10-teamer. I’m worried Tazawa is gonna cede the job right back to Bailey, but Bailey could easily go down again.

    Who would you hold on to?

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    • STEALTH says:

      I’m not Colin, but my advice would be to snatch up Bailey ASAP. The Red Sox expect to have Bailey back within the week. You say, “My gut says to go with the guy who’s got the gig (Tazawa)” and that’s a great model with which to save-chase. However, when a closer is coming back and you know they will be placed in the closer role upon returning, I would consider that guy (Bailey, in this case) as ‘the guy who’s got the gig.’

      Bailey absolutely is injury prone, but I feel strongly that over the next two months, Bailey will notch the most saves out of that trio. I’d just ride his saves until the next injury.

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      • “I’d just ride his saves until the next injury.”

        This line is a nice nugget for shallower leagues! Guys will always be on the wire. Don’t get too caught up in speculating, since there are tons of solid-ratio MR on the wire at all times.

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    • I go with either Tazawa or Bailey depending on how forward looking you are.

      If it’s a shallow 10-teamer, I wouldn’t fret too much as there are bound to be 5-10 more waiver wire closers that rack up saves for at least a few weeks each as the summer progresses.

      The shallower the league, the more flippant I am about adding/dropping RP.

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  5. Don't Jump Kendrys says:

    Not sure why my earlier post didn’t stay up, but I am interested to know where Rex Brothers stands in the Rox bullpen. Most pundits have him slated as the closer in waiting, but he doesn’t appear on the above ‘grid.’ Thanks for some feedback on this.

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    • We’ll take a closer look at this. Rex has frequently been tabbed as “closer in waiting” but has had some minor issues in some high-leverage situations due to command issues.

      FWIW, while he has a sub-1.00 ERA, his peripherals are mostly in line with career average so no light has ticked on this year, yet. But there are slim pickings in that Rox pen.

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      • Al says:

        While sample size is small, Brothers’ BB rate is down a couple of ticks and his popup rate is up so something good might be going on here. His BABIP and HR rate are unsustainable so some of this year’s improvement is a mirage but perhaps not all.

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  6. Atreyu Jones says:

    Does anyone have thoughts on the Twins situation? Is Perkins ready to go? Is he someone who is likely to be injured again? Is Burton definitely the heir to the closer throne?

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  7. JoeC says:

    Woe to those who roster Heath Bell. Woe, I say!

    Nothing good will come of it.

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  8. arrjcee says:

    I’m in a deep 16-team mixed league. My current relievers are Mujica, League, and Putz. Obviously I’m in some trouble with the latter two in that group. All relevant RPs in the Arizona, Boston, Chicago, LAD, and Milwaukee bullpens are owned.

    Who do you think are decent speculative adds outside of those situations? I’ve been in particular thinking about Luke Gregerson, Joel Peralta, and maybe Rex Brothers or someone from the COL bullpen. Street, Rodney, and Betancourt (who has good traditional #s, but awful peripherals) do not seem to be inspiring much confidence this year. Would you drop JJ Putz for any of those guys, or someone else?

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  9. Fedee_ says:

    So can anyone tell me why Valverde shook off every splitter during his last blown save and threw about 30 straight fastballs?

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