(Pretty) good day for closers today, so the news is pretty light. Also good since I’m flying cross-country.
• I say pretty good, because Mariano Rivera blew his seventh save of the season, allowing a solo shot to Will Middlebrooks in the top of the ninth. OK, caveats. Mo was asked to pitch two innings with a decimated Yankee bullpen and the Bronx Bombers on the verge of a four-game sweep at home. The home run was an opposite field flare that only the short porch at Yankee Stadium loves. Rivera looked sharp, whiffing three in his two innings. Oh, and fantasy owners lost a save but gained a win when Ichiro Suzuki raced home following Brandon Workman‘s wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth.
Rivera’s seven blown saves are now the most of his career. At 43 he’s lost a step, but there remains a bit of overreaction about how far down the slope he’s slipped. His 3.06 xFIP would be his second best mark since 2009 if the season were to end today. Not counting last year’s abbreviated stint, his swinging strike rate is the highest it’s been since George W. Bush was in office. While his velocity is down a hair (well, up on 2012, but down from the years before that), the horizontal movement on his cutter (2.3 inches) is still sitting right on top of his career Pitch F/X average. He probably won’t pitch tomorrow (and maybe even Tuesday) after a 35-pitch performance tonight, but I have no qualms about leaving him glued to my starting lineup during his last few weeks as a big leaguer. (Also, stream
David Robertson Shawn Kelley if he’s available).
• B.J. Rosenberg has supplanted Jonathan Papelbon! Well, not quite — although Phillie fans may take that trade if it meant Papelbon’s contract got to disappear. After Philadelphia’s full-time closer got the day off after pitching Friday and Saturday, the soon-to-be-28-year-old notched the first save of his career with a scoreless inning against the Braves. Rosenberg has above-average fastball fastball, but an unappetizing career 4.41 xFIP, thanks in large part to a 12.3% BB%. The fly-ball righty (only a 37% GB%) isn’t someone I’m concerning myself with in keeper/dynasty leagues, but may see another save opportunity down the line if Papelbon tosses a few games in a row. Or is hungover. Or something.
• Jared Burton spoiled a scoreless outing from Andrew Albers, coughing up a pair of runs against the Jays in the eighth inning. Burton’s 2013 has been a bit of a disappointment as he (and his typically minuscule walk rate) was one of my favorite setup men coming into the season. Good news? His BB% is only about 1% (6.5% to 7.4%) and his SwStr% and K% are roughly where they should be. Unfortunately, he’s not getting quite the BABIP luck he did last year (.282 versus .220) which explains why his ERA isn’t 2.18 anymore. He needs a few more punchouts or a few less walks to get his SIERA closer to 3.00 than 3.50, but he remains pretty valuable in holds leagues thanks to the fact he is the de facto eighth inning guy — even on a team going nowhere.
• Quick hits: Frank Francisco is finally back. Apparently he is pitching with a tear in his right flexor-pronator. Ouch. Don’t roster the free-agent-to-be. LaTroy Hawkins is the guy to own in the Mets bullpen. The Red Sox are converting Allen Webster into a reliever (and called him up Sunday). At least for now. Like Kevin Gausman (who I’ve pimped in this space multiple times over the last two weeks), Webster has interesting whiff appeal since his fastball should flirt with triple digits in relief, but he’ll probably be used in lower leverage situations so temper expectations.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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