• Well, it looks like Tyler Clippard‘s run as Nationals closer has hit the skids just before the end of the regular season. Yesterday, it was Drew Storen who was called upon in the ninth. Of course, Storen blew the save by serving up a couple hits and a sacrifice fly, but the key fact was that Clippard was deliberately used in his old eighth inning role. I covered Storen’s positive trends last week (velocity up to pre-injury levels, great K/BB ratio) so I won’t rehash here. Clippard has struggled significantly over the last month or so and while his 4.13 xFIP isn’t terrible, it isn’t elite either. Given Washington’s hesitance to move him from setup into the ninth inning earlier this season, it seems more than plausible that the new pecking order has Storen locked into the closer role, especially with the team about to embark on their first playoff run in D.C.
• Jim Johnson‘s amazing season continues as he locked down save numbers forty-nine and fifty (50!) for the seemingly postseason-bound Orioles this weekend. Of course, they were playing the plummeting Red Sox, so him seeing work in this series seemed like merely a matter of “will Boston keep the score close enough to garner a save situation for JJ?” but fantasy owners don’t care how the SV appears in the box score. With his save tally and 2.57 ERA, it wouldn’t be shocking for Johnson to get a few low-level Cy Young votes, but owners should remember that he owns below-average stuff and is the owner of a K% rate that his dropped year-over-year for the last three years in the bigs. He makes up with it with a 5.3% BB% (relatively sustainable since his career average is 7%) but here an example of a guy who will finish top-5 in MLB closers fantasy-wise that I’d probably stick outside by top-10 were I drafting for 2013 tomorrow.
• Confusing times in Los Angeles. In Dodger-town, Kenley Jansen has been back for over a week now and has been pretty damn good (6.2 inning, no earned runs, 7/2 K/BB after a one-inning hold today), yet Don Mattingly continues to turn to Brandon League to wrap up games. It’s frustrating for owners who snagged Jansen from disgruntled owners who plopped him on the wire in early September after his heart problems — only to see him continually work the seventh and eighth innings. At this point in the season, there’s not a whole lot you can squeeze out of either closer, but the one potential silver lining in Jansen not getting a save in September (or even a chance — so far), is that it might help keep down his value in next year’s drafts. With elite stuff and sterling peripherals, Jansen has a chance to join Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman (if he’s not moved into the rotation) as the top of the leaderboards.
• Meanwhile, in Anaheim — Ernesto Frieri has pretty much said “committee, what committee?” by notching save after save this week. It’s becoming apparent that the comments Mike Scioscia made late last week were meant to serve as a fire-starter under his fireballer more than anything. You don’t need me to tell you to keep running him out there until the final bell tolls on the regular (and the fantasy) season.
• Speaking of Chapman, he wrapped up his second save since his short time off earlier this month. His fastball sat at 97.1 while topping out at 99.4 miles per hour. While still not quite where he was during his peak in July and August, he’s definitely up over his last couple outings which caused him to be shut down. Keep running him out there with confidence — owners in keeper leagues are praying that Dusty Baker doesn’t ride him too hard in the playoffs.
A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Jake McGee (TB) @ BAL
McGee has put up great September numbers (1.25 xFIP, 18 K/BB) and with the Rays trailing the Orioles in the wild card standings, expect them to pull out all the stops to either wrap up a W or keep the game close in the late innings.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]