Emerging Holds Market

The non-waiver trade deadline is now more than a month past, and when bullpens are subject to a shakeup due to new personnel or new opportunities, there’s always that scramble to salvage the save and holds scraps. With few exceptions, an ironclad master plan for who picks up the holds seems rare and the back end of the bullpen frequently goes through a series of trial-and-errors until roles start to coalesce. With holds in mind, it looks like a couple of those roles have emerged.

In San Diego, it was expected that Joaquin Benoit would close and close he has. I think most observers expected Dale Thayer to pick up the lions share of holds and by and large, he has been the 8th inning guy over the past month or so. But of course holds don’t just happen in the 8th inning, and if you look over the last month, Nick Vincent has been used in high leverage situations pretty regularly, picking up seven holds along the way (to Thayer’s three).

Beyond just the holds, Vincent has been pretty filthy since spending about a month on the disabled list after having some shoulder discomfort. Since returning, Vincent has a tidy Dean Wormer-like zero-point-zero ERA over 21 games and 19.2 innings pitched, giving up 11 hits (9 singles) and striking out 21, holding opponents to a .167/.203/.197 slash line. Vincent doesn’t have blazing speed, in fact he doesn’t throw hard at all, averaging less than 90 miles per hour on his fastball. He survives on a four seam, two seam, and about 50% sliders to get batters out — but he’s had success with this repertoire in the past, and given his current role, you could expect a goodly number of holds through the month of September.

A player who does have blazing speed is Roman Mendez, 24, who was recalled in early July by the Texas Rangers, adding to the pile of 60-plus players they’ve had to trot out there in 2014. Mendez routinely sits above 95 mph and since his recall he’s had a 1.80 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Oddly, his strikeout rate hasn’t reflected his minor league successes in missing bats and he’s demonstrated some control issues. But since the beginning of August, he’s registered five holds and appeared in the 7th or 8th innings seven of his 12 appearances. Given the Rangers position in the standings and their interest in having a long look at potential contributors in 2015, it stands to reason Mendez will have plenty of opportunity through September.

Journeyman Scott Atchison has apparently secured a firm role as the 7th inning guy after vacillating between mop up and set up guy. Since the first of July Atchison has eight holds, a 2.17 ERA, giving up 24 hits over 29 innings pitched. During that span, he’s held opponents to a .233/.288/.350 line and even managed to pick up three wins along the way. Atchison isn’t flashy by any stretch of the imagination, with low strikeout rates and a fairly predictable fourseam/cutter repertoire making up almost 85% of pitches thrown. But he’s been used in high leverage situations routinely over the past month, and should provide opportunity for holds going forward.

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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Is Jumbo Diaz is the 8th-inning guy with Broxton traded?