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Bullpen Report: July 20, 2018

The long-anticipated trade of Brad Hand finally went down on Thursday. The Padres dealt him and Adam Cimber to the Indians for Francisco Mejia, effectively remaking both teams’ bullpens.

The Indians find themselves in a similar spot to where they were two years ago, when they acquired Andrew Miller at the trade deadline. With Hand, they now have an elite lefty reliever who has performed better than Cody Allen, who has been the incumbent closer in both situations. Terry Francona is expected to stick with Allen as his primary closer, just as he did upon the team’s acquisition of Miller.
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Which of the Top Non-Closing Relievers Will Have Value?

With Thursday morning’s trade of Brad Hand and Adam Cimber to the Indians for Francisco Mejia, we have our first big reliever deal of the second half. While we now have to wait and see how Terry Francona balances his usage of Hand, Cody Allen and, eventually, Andrew Miller, we have had months to consider how Andy Green might deal with save situations once the Padres dealt their closer away.
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Two Good Starts, Two Bad Starts: Luke Weaver and Chase Anderson

After trending the wrong way for more than a month, Luke Weaver pulls into the All-Star break with two of his strongest outings of the year. Just when it seemed safe to start Chase Anderson again, he finished his first half with a sputter.
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Bullpen Report: July 16, 2018

The final day of games before this year’s All-Star break was a busy one for bullpens…and for fantasy owners looking to make a surge in the saves category in the second half.

St. Louis was one site where there was intrigue, as brand-new interim manager Mike Shildt had a save situation to handle in his very first game as the Cardinals’ skipper. It seemed he would have had Bud Norris at his disposal, as his appearance in the final inning of the Cardinals’ 8-2 loss to the Reds on Saturday was his first in a week. That’s why it was especially curious that Shildt went with Jordan Hicks for the save on Sunday. For his part, Hicks continued his recent struggles, allowing a run on two hits, but it was enough for a 6-4 Cardinals win and the rookie’s second save of the season. It was Hicks’ fourth straight appearance in which he had allowed at least one run.
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Bullpen Report: July 13, 2018

Over the last 30 days, one of the top two relievers in Roto value (per ESPN’s Player Rater) is not even a regular closer. Tying Felipe Vazquez for top honors is Lou Trivino. Incredibly, he ranks one spot ahead of Blake Treinen — the pitcher he normally sets up for.

Trivino built on his strong string of performances on Thursday, filling in for Treinen (who threw a combined 37 pitches on Monday and Tuesday) in a save situation against the Astros. The rookie responded with a 1-2-3 inning, preserving the Athletics’ 6-4 win for his fourth save of the season and his third in the last 16 days.
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Can We Count on Strikeouts From Mike Foltynewicz?

Coming up through the Astros’ minor league system, hard-throwing Mike Foltynewicz was pretty good at getting the swings-and-misses that fantasy owners crave. Yet in his first season with the Astros and his subsequent three seasons with the Braves, Foltynewicz failed to stand out as a swing-and-miss pitcher or as a source of strikeouts.

Through his first 18 starts of 2018, Foltynewicz has fared a little better at getting whiffs and a lot better at getting strikeouts. His swinging strike rate of 10.6 percent is a career high but only 0.6 percentage points better than his previous best in 2016. His strikeout rate of 28.9 percent is more than one-third greater than his 2016 high-water mark of 21.1 percent, and it is the 11th-highest rate among qualified starters this season.
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Bullpen Report: July 11, 2018

This escalated pretty quickly.

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Two Good Starts, Two Bad Starts: Sal Romano and J.A. Happ

I started the Two Good Starts, Two Bad Starts column a few weeks back when I realized that I often begin to change my perception of a pitcher after a pair of consecutive starts that defy my expectations. It’s rarely a good idea to change your decision rule about starting or sitting a pitcher on the basis of two starts, but at least you can be more open to the possibility that the pitcher in question maybe isn’t as good or as bad as you thought.

In last week’s column, I raised the possibility that Wei-Yin Chen might be viable at some point in some deeper mixed leagues by drawing attention to a couple of good starts that were backed up by a rising whiff rate and increased fastball velocity. In his subsequent outing against the Nationals, his velocity remained higher than it had been, but he got just three swings-and-misses on his way to a seven-run shellacking over 4.1 innings. I’m still intrigued by Chen’s resurgence in velocity, but I’m glad I haven’t dedicated a roster spot to him yet.
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Bullpen Report: July 9, 2018

Sean Doolittle was named to his first National League All-Star team on Sunday (he was also an American League All-Star with Oakland in 2014), and he’s clearly been worthy of the distinction in both the real and fantasy worlds. He has compiled a 1.45 ERA, 0.54 WHIP, 22 saves and 49 strikeouts to date and ranks as the top reliever in terms of Roto value in the NL (per ESPN’s Player Rater).

Not all of the news for Doolittle was positive on Sunday. Earlier in the day, reports surfaced of Doolittle having a strained toe. By multiple accounts, the injury is minor, and he may even have been able to pitch in the series finale against the Marlins. It was a moot point, as the Marlins won in a 10-2 laugher.
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Bullpen Report: July 6, 2018

The last two weeks of June did not go smoothly for Brad Hand, but the Padres’ closer got his July off to a good start. Making his first appearance in five days, Hand preserved a 6-3 lead against the Diamondbacks for his 24th save of the season. After giving up a soft ground ball single to Daniel Descalso to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, Hand struck out the next three Diamondbacks in succession.

Over his final six appearances in June, Hand had no problem missing bats, posting a 17.9 percent swinging strike rate, but when he did allow contact, it tended to be airborne (36.8 percent ground ball rate) and not gentle (10.5 percent soft contact rate). That contributed to him allowing at least one run in four of those appearances for a total of seven runs over five innings. It’s a little too soon to determine if Hand is past his difficulties, but Thursday’s outing was a step in the right direction.
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