• Earlier this weekend, Mike Scioscia announced that he was going back to a closer-by-committee after Ernesto Frieri‘s recent rough stretch. Of course, he turned around and rewarded Frieri by — giving him the next save opportunity. Frieri pitched a scoreless ninth on Saturday to preserve a 2-0 lead and emphasize that he’s still probably the favorite even in a committee situation. On Sunday, when faced with a three-run lead, the Angels split up the ninth between Garrett Richards, Scott Downs, and Frieri (nullifying the potential save for anyone). Frieri should be considered at the head of the bullpen, with Downs potentially an option in lefty-heavy innings. Of the other righties, Jordan Walden actually has the best xFIP over the last month (1.93) but doesn’t seem high on the ladder. Other more likely options like Richards (5.03 30-day xFIP), Kevin Jepsen (4.76) and LaTroy Hawkins (4.18) don’t seem like great bets for success. Desperate save chasers can add Downs to squads and hope for a few lefty-righty-lefty ninths, but it seems like a lot of effort with little reward to try and guess which righty might moonlight as the closer one night over the next week and a half.
• Grant Balfour racked up save number 20 against the Yankees earlier today. His season-average 4.06 xFIP isn’t great, and outside of a solid August (2.35) he hasn’t had an xFIP below 4.00 all year. That said, his fastball velocity continues an impressive climb (up nearly five miles per hour since April) and he is locked and loaded as Oakland’s closer going forward. Given Billy Beane’s history, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Oakland move on to a younger, cheaper closer in the offseason, so Balfour’s keeper value remains rather low, but those in redraft leagues should ride the Aussie for the rest of 2012.
• After struggling on Friday night (5 ER in 0.1 innings), Andrew Bailey bounced back with save number six on Sunday as the Red Sox tried to play spoiler to the pythagorean-defying Baltimore Orioles. He didn’t make it easy, though, loading the bases before whiffing Ryan Flaherty to end it. Bailey’s fastball velocity is right where it should be and his 21.1% K% is only slightly below his career average of 25.2% but his 4.62 xFIP, 7.1% SwStr% (career 11.1%), and 23%/28%/50% LD/GB/FB rates are somewhat concerning. That aside, missing half the season with injury and the general ineptitude of the Red Sox has probably suppressed his keeper value to the point that he’s a good snag if you can hold him — as long as he’s healthy, he’ll be the unquestioned closer for a team that should be at least back to mid-pack in American League next season.
• News trickled out this weekend that the out-of-contention Mets are considering shutting down Frank Francisco due to nagging elbow soreness that has been bothering him for at least a week now. Francisco’s xFIP (now 4.10) has never been anything better than passable all season, so the Mets won’t lose anything major over the last 10 days of the season. Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell will probably be the favorites for save chances should they arise, but are only serious options for owners dying to pick up one more save to jump up in the roto standings. The hard-throwing Parnell (and his 3.31 xFIP) is the only guy on this squad I’d even consider as a keeper for next year, but given the Mets’ seemingly tepid attitude to installing him as the closer on a permanent basis, I wouldn’t let him eat away a roster spot if owners thought they had a better use for it.
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: Aaron Loup (TOR) @ BAL x 2
Here’s a cheap name for you. Loup has put up a rather impressive 3.06 xFIP in 26.1 innings this season for Toronto’s big club, thanks in large part to a downright minuscule 1.9% BB%. With the Jays and O’s double-dipping on Monday, expect the lefty-killing southpaw to get at least an inning combined between both games of the twinbill.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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