Bullpen Report: August 10, 2014

• Dayton Moore should send Dave Dombrowski a thank you card. That, and maybe a copy of “Building Bullpens for Dummies.” A weekend of blown saves and poor relief performance for Detroit have thrown their bullpen into turmoil and let the Royals scratch back to even in the race for the AL Central. Brad Ausmus befuddingly (not quite sure if that’s in Webster’s) took out a dealing Max Scherzer to let Joe Nathan close out Saturday’s game. Of course, in 2014 Nathan fashion a save was blown. Joakim Soria actually put out quite an inferno (pushing the game to extra innings) but suffered an oblique injury which sent him to the disabled list. On Sunday, with Nathan supposedly unavailable, Joba Chamberlain took his turn being the guy who threw gasoline onto a bonfire, blowing another save. This time, it pushed a potential Tigers win into a 19-inning affair which Toronto ended by scratching a run across against elite relief pitcher Rick Porcello (just kidding).

Nathan has pushed his strikeout rate up since the all-star break (28% after versus 23% before) but has suddenly lost the ability to command the strike zone (18% BB% versus 9% BB%). For all the “bad luck” he had with his SIERA-ERA splits early on, his ugly outings recently have been — well — ugly. Unfortunately, Joakim Soria, who had struggled a bit since his move to Detroit but still owns a 2.24 SIERA, is now sidelined for at least two weeks and probably more with an injury that proves tricky for pitchers to recover quickly from. Joba Chamberlain has also regressed somewhat lately, his strikeout and walk rates both went the wrong direction each month from April to July (correspondingly his xFIP climbed by nearly a run each month as well). And it’s not these guys who have been the problem — the Tigers’ pen has the 3rd highest ERA in baseball, behind the juggernauts known as the Rockies and Astros. While grabbing Soria may have been a key speculative play yesterday, his injury and Brad Ausmus’ endorsement of Nathan put Nathan squarely back in the closer role. Chamberlain remains the immediate handcuff but red flags are there, too. Unfortunately, it looks like the Tigers would have been better off paying for an Andrew Miller at the deadline — now we’ll have to see if they can make a waiver move to give them another arm in the late innings. Word did break late tonight that the team has summoned perennial Triple-A closer Kevin Whelan who has pitched quite well for Toledo this year. He’s 30 and has had control problems in the past, but hey, if you are in a 16+ team league and want to really, really roll the dice on all the dominos falling, go for it.

• Mets closer Jenrry Mejia has been pitching through a calf injury and now apparently has a hernia. The proper treatment for the righty appears to be surgery, although he’d like to continue pitching through the ailment. It’s not unheard of for a pitcher to continue to play with this injury — A.J. Burnett is doing just that. However, given Mejia’s durability issues in the past and the fact that the Mets are going nowhere fast, it seems conceivable (dare I say likely?) that the closer gets shut down in the next month or so. Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s been pitching poorly lately, blowing another save this afternoon against the Phillies. Grab Jeurys Familia (20% K%, 3.80 xFIP) if you need the saves, although don’t expect a 1.86 ERA going forward.

• Quick hits: Hector Rondon had a rough game Friday (taking the loss) but he bounced back Sunday, tossing a scoreless inning in a non-save situation (tie game in extras). He continues to be somewhat BABIPed (even though his LD% is north of 20%) so I would not hesitate to keep using him unless Chicago pulls the plug. Neil Ramirez is back, so scoop him up if you want to handcuff. Joe Smith gave up Yoenis Cespedes’ first home run in a Red Sox uniform, ending his scoreless inning streak at 23 2/3 innings. This isn’t going to stop me from using him in holds leagues. Zach Britton gave up a three-run shot trying to keep a today’s game versus the Cardinals close. He was getting a little lucky based on his peripherals in the first half, however he’s increased his whiff rate in the second half, which has helped offset (and then some) some of the inevitable GB% regression. Keep riding him.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Addison Reed Brad Ziegler Oliver Perez
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden David Carpenter Shae Simmons
Baltimore Zach Britton Tommy Hunter Andrew Miller
Boston Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Edward Mujica
CHI (NL) Hector Rondon Neil Ramirez Kyuji Fujikawa
CHI (AL) Jacob Petricka Zach Putnam Ronald Belisario Matt Lindstom
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jonathan Broxton Sam LeCure Sean Marshall
Cleveland Cody Allen Bryan Shaw John Axford
Colorado LaTroy Hawkins Adam Ottavino Rex Brothers
Detroit Joe Nathan Joba Chamberlain Al Alburquerque Joakim Soria
Houston Chad Qualls Tony Sipp Josh Fields
KC Greg Holland Wade Davis Jason Frasor
LAA Huston Street Joe Smith Jason Grilli
LAD Kenley Jansen Brian Wilson Brandon League
Miami Steve Cishek Bryan Morris A.J. Ramos
Milwaukee Francisco Rodriguez Will Smith Brandon Kintzler Jim Henderson
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) Jenrry Mejia Jeurys Familia Vic Black Bobby Parnell
NY (AL) David Robertson Dellin Betances Adam Warren
Oakland Sean Doolittle Luke Gregerson Dan Otero
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Ken Giles Jake Diekman Mike Adams
Pittsburgh Mark Melancon Tony Watson Ernesto Frieri
St. Louis Trevor Rosenthal Pat Neshek Kevin Siegrist Jason Motte
SD Joaquin Benoit Kevin Quackenbush Dale Thayer
SF Santiago Casilla Jeremy Affeldt Sergio Romo
Seattle Fernando Rodney Danny Farquhar Dominic Leone
TB Jake McGee Brad Boxberger Grant Balfour
Texas Neftali Feliz Neal Cotts Shawn Tolleson
Toronto Casey Janssen Aaron Loup Brett Cecil
Wash. Rafael Soriano Drew Storen Tyler Clippard

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]

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There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

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Mike Wimmer
Mike Wimmer

Worth nothing as well that according to MLB.com, Ventura said this weekend that Petricka will keep the closer job even with Putnam coming back. Sounds like if he can string a few more clean outing together he could take a stronger hold on the job before Lindstrom comes back.

Also, Frieri was DFA’d a few days ago, Jared Hughes is probably behind Melancon and Watson now in the Pirate bullpen.


Hmm but Lindstrom is coming back tomorrow, so does “proven closer” beat out Petricka?

Mike Wimmer
Mike Wimmer

I think Patricka keeps the job even with Lindstrom returning. If he has one or two bad outings over the next few days then all bets are off.