Here are a few bullpen notes between the last Bullpen Report and Sunday’s games…
• The Cubs removed Rafael Dolis from the closer role after an ugly ninth inning, tie-game appearance versus the Pirates where he forced in the game-winning run with a hit by pitch. Dolis has been walking the tightrope all season, balancing with a mediocre 3.9 K/9 and a dumbfounding 0.73 K/BB (driving a 5.14 xFIP), and that was before he came on in mop up duty today and faced two batters — walking both. James Russell (5.23 xFIP, 1.50 K/BB) and Shawn Camp (3.70 xFIP, 2.75 K/BB) will share closing duties for now. Camp is right-handed and the superior pitcher, so he should be considered the lead dog in the race for saves, but both might get opportunities, at least until someone takes the job and runs with it (or someone drags Carlos Marmol from a 2010 time machine).
• Joining Dolis on the ninth-inning sidelines will be Seattle’s Brandon League who has been stripped of the closing gig after giving up three runs in the top of the 9th during a 6-4 loss late Friday night. Eric Wedge announced Saturday that he would “pull back” League and use other pitchers to finish games. League’s BB/9 (5.31) is well up on last year’s 1.47 and his fastball velocity has been down a tick from 2011, although he had similar numbers last spring before his velocity ramped up as the Seattle weather got less tepid. It’s an interesting move as League is likely a prime summer trade candidate and removing him from the closer role to eke out an extra win or two might simultaneously suppress his market value. Either way, League is out and Wedge’s “we’ll match up with what we think works” intimates committee. Tom Wilhelmsen seems like the favorite for saves given his current setup role and strong peripherals (11.10 K/9, 3.33 BB/9, 3.19 xFIP) and should be picked up everywhere. Former Tiger Charlie Furbush (10.13 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, 3.08 xFIP) may also be an option, but has a pretty serious platoon split (0.302 wOBA vs. LHH, 0.372 vs. RHH) so it’s tough to see him being used outside of lefty-heavy matchups.
• Word trickled out that Sergio Santos is still not long-tossing, which is really the first in a series of successive steps he’ll have to complete before returning to the big league roster. With his return now looking more like late June (or after), Casey Janssen‘s mixed league value should hold for the foreseeable future.
• Tyler Clippard has gotten the last two save opportunities for the Nationals and converted which seems to have put him at the top of Davey Johnson’s “can you replace Drew Storen?” list. It appears the Nationals have let him out of the “setup role” box and he has rewarded them so far.
Back to Sunday’s games…
• How many blown saves did Matt Capps have when he woke up this morning? Zero! I know, it feels like it should be higher, especially given all the columns that hailed Glen Perkins as a must-own handcuff during draft season, but Capps and his walk-stingy ways (0.50 BB/9) have held the line so far. Well, Capps now has a “BS” in the box score after failing to finish off a 3-2 game in Detroit. At least getting beat by Miguel Cabrera is something which other pitchers can surely commiserate with him about. Perkins still has the better peripherals of the two, and his future ascension to closer might be helped by the fact that Capps will be a useful trade chip come July, but for the time being the pecking order in Minnesota will likely remain as is.
• The Angels closing situation continues to be clear as mud. Scott Downs locked down Friday’s game, but Ernesto Frieri got the call on Saturday. Especially interesting about Saturday night’s game was that Downs was used in the eighth and Frieri was allowed to face three lefties (out of four batters) in the ninth, implying that maybe Mike Scioscia isn’t basing decisions purely on handedness. But just when you thought Frieri was going snatch the job and run, the Angels flipped roles again Sunday and used Frieri in the eighth before turning to Scott Downs to finish off the Mariners. Both Downs and Frieri are pitching well (3.34 and 2.53 xFIPs, respectively) and since the two have combined to only allow 3 ER (all Frieri) in 38.2 IP this season, they both are locked into some sort of weird back-of-the-bullpen tango. Making matters worse for fantasy owners searching for a clear-cut finisher, the Angels are in the midst of their best stretch of the season, so it’s unlikely Mike Scioscia has any impetus for disrupting the status quo.
• Alfredo Aceves served up a two-run homer to Tampa Bay’s Sean Rodriguez in the top of the 9th to ruin what would have been a comeback victory for Boston. He has pitched well since his early season meltdowns (2.64 xFIP in May) and has a pretty strong hold on the job for the time being. Fernando Rodney rebounded from a blown save Saturday to finish the aforementioned Sox-Rays game with a 1-2-3 inning. He’s fine. J.J Putz looked sharp in finishing off the Brewers in a one-run game. Owners in deep leagues should hold David Hernandez, but Putz still has a long leash. Dusty Baker went back to Aroldis Chapman again, interestingly for 1.2 IP, to finish off the Rockies (and extend his season-opening scoreless innings streak to 26). He’s the top dog in Cincy right now, but the Reds have already made it clear they’ll take it easy with him so Sean Marshall and Jose Arredondo are probably two of the best bets for vulture saves in bullpens with a clear-cut closer.
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. TB
Many in baseball circles seem to have given up on the former first-rounder, but Miller is quietly reinventing himself as a quality setup man in the back of Boston’s bullpen. With him not seeing action Sunday, and Felix Doubront (averaging only 5.55 IP/start) on the bump for the Red Sox Monday, you might want to run Miller out there and hope his 11.17 K/9 and tidy 2.15 xFIP can keep on keepin’ on.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]