We’ve hit September. Where has the year gone?
• Joaquin Benoit is hoping the rest of September doesn’t go like today went. The Detroit closer gave up three free passes and a killer home run in losing a 0-0 tie against the Indians at Comerica. This was surprisingly out-of-character for Benoit; the right-hander had only given up two earned runs since July. Of course, that was before Mike Aviles cracked a grand slam. The good news? Benoit holds a 2.74 SIERA and the seeming support of manager Jim Leyland. On a team that had so much closer “instability” earlier in the year, Benoit has really stabilized the back of the pen. Until he gives up a few more homers to big-calved shortstops, I’m not concerned.
• Think Benoit had a bad day? What about half the Yankees bullpen? After spinning six scoreless innings, Andy Pettitte allowed a pair of singles to open the seventh. That is when the wheels came off — and when the dust settled, the triumvirate of Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan, and Joba Chamberlain had allowed a 3-0 lead to become a 7-3 deficit.
Kelly’s poor pitching may have been the most surprising; the right-hander has emerged as a solid reliever in his first year in pinstripes, posting a 0.8 WAR (third among Yankee relievers) and 2.70 SIERA. If you are in a league deep enough where he’s an own, I wouldn’t panic, non-elite guys have bad days. One of Boone Logan’s redeeming qualities is getting lefties out; he didn’t do that today (Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis reached). He actually hasn’t had quite the platoon splits this year his career marks would indicate, but he’s still a mostly-lefty guy. Not a lot of fantasy value in that, unless you are really stretching for WHIP/K help in an absurdly deep league. Remember the “Joba rules?” Erk. His 4.10 SIERA isn’t terrible, but is merely serviceable. It speaks volumes that, even in relief, he owns a sub-10% SwStr% (contributing to his 19% K%) even paired with a mid-90’s fastball. At 28, he still could end up in a high leverage bullpen situation someday (see guys like, Wilhelmsen, Tom or Henderson, Jim), but there are better options for your fantasy team in the here and now. Such as…
• I pimped Kevin Gausman in this space a couple nights ago and he’s scored me some big points in the leagues where I scooped him up to provide some rates in a “SP” slot. Since then, he’s tossed three innings with five punchouts while getting a scab win after the aforementioned Yankee bullpen meltdown. Gausman has the ability to post a 10+ K/9 out of the pen; he touched 98 and sat at 96 mph in today’s outing, while getting six swings-and-misses on 36 pitches (17% SwStr%, albeit in an absurdly small sample size!). Go pick him up if he’s available and you could use some help in holds/ERA/WHIP/strikeouts. Rotate him in and out when your starters aren’t pitching.
• Quick hits: Sean Marshall has been cleared for a bullpen session. If you’re in a super-deep league, you might snag him for holds help down the stretch, but he’s probably going to only give you a couple weeks of regular season games in a best-case scenario. Plus, shoulder injuries suck. David Hernandez is back up from AAA. He posted a 12/5 K/BB ratio (0.93 ERA) over 9+ innings in the minors. Given Arizona’s bullpen, he could work his way into at least a setup role quickly. If he’s been dropped in NL-only or dynasty -type leagues, I’d roll the dice. Tom Wilhelmsen will be back as rosters expand. Won’t be closing, though. The Red Sox designated Daniel Bard for assignment. What an Ankielsian fall. Even with his amazingly awful 2013 minor league numbers (27 walks and 11 wild pitches in 15.1 innings), I’d guess someone (the Rays?) will take a stab, but he’s a long, long way from being fantasy relevant. Sad.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]