• So Heath Bell implosion in Miami. Yes, yes, shocking development. Bell came in with a stat-padding, three-run lead and promptly sandwiched a groundout between three ringing line-drive hits before manager Ozzie Guillen mercifully yanked him. Steve Cishek trotted in and induced a flyout, then whiffed the en fuego Melky Cabrera with a runner on 2nd to nail down the 7-6 win. Bell’s 2012 woes are well documented. His actual pitch profile is not terribly unlike 2010 — his fastball is down a tick velocity-wise, but not dramatically so, and the overall movement on his main two pitches (fastball and curveball) is surprisingly close to his 2011 numbers. However, his command has been awful. His current walk rate is over double his career average, and when he isn’t missing the strike zone, he’s busy grooving get-me-over fastballs after falling behind in the count — a habit he fell victim to this evening. The bad xFIP (now 5.95) and awful strikeout rates aren’t getting any better. You probably will still hear a steady drone of “Bell has the contract, they aren’t paying him not to close,” but Cishek still needs to be owned in all leagues.
• Fernando Rodney continues to astound. After a 1-2-3 inning in Boston tonight, he lowered his already sparkling xFIP to 2.48. It’s absolutely amazing that he has only allowed 1.19 BB/9 given his career rate of 4.69 and a downright hideous 7.88 in 2011. His SwStr% has bounced all the way to 14.0% and while his his 0.357 xBABIP is concerning (thanks to a fair number of line drives), his 7.33 K/BB should help cushion some of the impending batted ball regression. At this point, it’s going to be next to impossible for Kyle Farnsworth to reclaim the job when (if?) healthy, and those hanging onto him in shallow leagues might want to think about cutting bait if they could use the bench/DL slot for someone more useful.
• Tyler Clippard pitched a 1-2-3 inning to lock down his second consecutive save. There was talk about Davey Johnson and the Nationals being resistant to removing Clippard from his role as dominant setup arm, but with Sean Burnett pitching the eighth, it suddenly appears “The Lunge” is leading the current committee bandwagon. Clippard’s ability has never really been in question; he hasn’t posted an xFIP below 3.65 or a K/9 below 10.6 in each of the last three seasons. Now with opportunity on his side, he is rapidly becoming the most valuable arm in the Nationals pen, and with Drew Storen now shooting for an All-Star break return instead of the previously-hoped-for June, Clippard’s potential upside ticks even higher.
• Juan Cruz, Jason Grilli, and Joel Hanrahan each tossed a shutout inning in the Pirates’ 1-0 win versus the Cubbies. The back end of the Bucs’ bullpen has been surprisingly stout, and while Hanrahan has a stranglehold on the closer job, either Cruz (4.03 xFIP) or Grilli (1.81 xFIP) should perform adequately in the event something were to happen to him. Cruz converted a couple of save opportunities when Hanrahan nursed a hamstring injury earlier in the season, but the former top prospect Grilli’s peripherals have been far superior, and he might be a better bet to close if the full-time job opened up. Both players are great options in leagues that reward holds, and NL-only and deep mixed league save vultures might want to snag one if they have a open spot on their staff.
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: Tim Collins @ BAL
The diminutive Collins’ 13.29 K/9 and 2.21 xFIP are some of the best peripherals you’ll find in any major league bullpen. With the rejuvenated Felipe Paulino on the bump tomorrow, the odds of Kansas City keeping it close into the late innings seem favorable, in which case Collins (who hasn’t seen action since Monday) might be a good bet for a couple punchados.
Our Bullpen Report team will also be keeping this closer grid up to date for you. The coloring is supposed to be our general opinion about the volatility of the bullpen — a red light bullpen is an unsteady bullpen. Happy hunting for saves!