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Bullpen Report: September 15, 2012

• Two nights after Grant Balfour was passed over for a save situation, he was right back at it in locking down a one run game versus the also-contending Baltimore Orioles. Balfour’s season-long 4.01 xFIP isn’t fantastic, but a lot of damage was done in June/July. Since August 1st, he has a 2.63 xFIP with a K% (33.3%) which puts him within sniffing distance of baseball’s elite relievers. His fastball velocity has been climbing all season and he’s currently throwing the hardest he has since the 2008/2009 seasons. Barring multiple meltdowns, Oakland will ride him to find their playoff fate so make sure he’s active as you try to tick off the last few saves in your roto leagues.

Ernesto Frieri notched save number 19, shutting down the Royals and helping Los Angeles keep pace with the aforementioned Athletics. Frieri’s 1.99 ERA certainly has the glitz and glamour but his 12.0% BB% is somewhat suboptimal for late-inning bullpen arms (well, those not named Carlos Marmol, I suppose). His xFIP is a somewhat more regressed 3.11 and it’s been trending (slightly) in the wrong direction — he’s posted a 3.26 figure since the beginning of July. The good news for his fantasy owners (and the Angels) is — like Balfour — his velocity has seen a steady increase all season. With Scott Downs now out of the ninth inning picture, Frieri is (probably belatedly) given the green light — and will probably be a top candidate for waiver wire pickup of the year when fantasy postseason awards ballots are cast.

• In the non-closing realm of bullpens, there are a few guys worth streaming for holds and/or K/ERA/WHIP improvements who are peaking at the right time. Other than Tom Layne (who Alan covered a couple nights ago), Antonio Bastardo, Jake McGee, and Jose Veras have all put up sub-1.50 xFIPs over the last 30 days. And, better yet, all pitchers have done so with gaudy K/9 numbers (18.9, 14.7. and 16.1, respectively) — although, honestly, it’s really hard to put up xFIPs that low without gaudy strikeout rates. With all three of their teams at least within striking distance of a wild card spot, expect them to get used a bit more heavily than normal going forward which may give you a couple bonus holds (or whiffs) while you chase your fantasy crown. Remember, fill up all those innings allotments!

A Pitcher for Tomorrow Today: Jake McGee (TB) @ NYY

I might as well put my money where my mouth is. I covered McGee and his 30-day 0.36 xFIP above and with the Devil (good job, Tampa, I’m already nostalgic) Rays fighting for their playoff lives in the Bronx, odds are better than not he’ll be summoned from beyond the left field wall.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second Off 25-Man
Arizona J.J. Putz David Hernandez Takashi Saito
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Eric O’Flaherty Jonny Venters
Baltimore Jim Johnson Pedro Strop Darren O’Day
Boston Andrew Bailey Vicente Padilla Junichi Tazawa
Chicago (NL) Carlos Marmol James Russell Shawn Camp
Chicago (AL) Addison Reed Brett Myers Matt Thornton
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jonathan Broxton Sean Marshall
Cleveland Chris Perez Vinnie Pestano Tony Sipp
Colorado Rafael Betancourt Matt Belisle Rex Brothers
Detroit Jose Valverde Joaquin Benoit Octavio Dotel
Houston Wilton Lopez Wesley Wright Fernando Rodriguez
KC Greg Holland Kelvin Herrera Aaron Crow
LAA Ernesto Frieri Scott Downs Jordan Walden
LAD Brandon League Ronald Belisario Jamey Wright Kenley Jansen
Miami Steve Cishek Heath Bell Mike Dunn
Milwaukee John Axford Kameron Loe Francisco Rodriguez
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Alex Burnett Matt Capps
NY (NL) Frank Francisco Bobby Parnell Jon Rauch
NY (AL) Rafael Soriano David Robertson Boone Logan
Oakland Grant Balfour Ryan Cook Sean Doolittle
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Josh Lindblom
Pittsburgh Joel Hanrahan Jason Grilli Chris Resop
St. Louis Jason Motte Mitchell Boggs Edward Mujica
SD Luke Gregerson Dale Thayer Brad Brach Huston Street
SF Sergio Romo Javier Lopez Santiago Casilla
Seattle Tom Wilhelmsen Stephen Pryor Charlie Furbush
Tampa Bay Fernando Rodney Joel Peralta Kyle Farnsworth
Texas Joe Nathan Mike Adams Alexei Ogando
Toronto Casey Janssen Brandon Lyon Darren Oliver
Wash. Tyler Clippard Drew Storen Sean Burnett

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