• Grant Balfour had a pretty big hiccup in Detroit today, blowing a three-run, ninth inning lead. The cherry on the not-so-cool sundae was a grooved offspeed pitch which Torii Hunter deposited into the left-field bullpen for a walkoff three-run shot. The outing is not something A’s fans have seen a lot from their closer this year; his ERA ballooned from 1.76 to 2.44. While he hasn’t been low-2.00’s ERA good this year, his 2.82 SIERA is the second-lowest of his career (behind 2008). The 35-year-old has turned back the clock a bit, seeing an uptick in fastball velocity and SwStr%, which means a jump in K%. Like last year, he seems to be getting stronger as the year wears along, so ride him through the last few weeks of the season.
• If I were to tell you some team in the majors would get tired of their closer’s walk issues, would temporarily reliever him of his duties, would seemingly reinstate him, all the while randomly mixing in his temporary replacement — frustrating his fantasy owners — would it surprise anyone that team would be Mike Scioscia’s Angels? Two days after he worked the eighth to Dane de la Rosa‘s ninth, Ernesto Frieri saw roles flipped once again, with de la Rosa racking up the hold and Frieri closing out a 2-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays. There’s not a whole lot to be said about this pen; Frieri has looked good in August, only walking one batter (albeit in nine innings), posting a 2.04 xFIP. He’s always going to get the whiffs, it’s just his control that can keep him in the doghouse. He’s still the guy to own going forwards (although no harm in holding de la Rosa if you have the space and could use a scab save or two). However, his owners need to always remember Scioscia is probably baseball’s least loyal manager when it comes to his ninth inning steeds.
• I have noticed a few comments (likely from astute Brewers fans) regarding the emergence of one Brandon Kintzler. The Milwaukee righty has really emerged as a shutdown relief option this year, posting a 2.76 xFIP while nearly doubling his career innings total. Unlike a few other guys in the Brew Crew pen, Kintzler isn’t a whiff artist, only sitting at a 22% K% for his career, albeit with an above-average 10.4% SwStr%. His 92 mph fastball isn’t terribly exciting, but where he really earns his pay is the walks department — in particular — how stingy he is with them (6.4% career BB%).
A groundball artist (60+%), he’s actually been pretty close to a one-pitch pitcher, throwing a FB/SI more than three-quarters of the time. The frequency to which he throws that pitch is likely why his changeup has developed into a nice out pitch, even though he only tosses it 10% of the time (3.38 wCH/100). He has jumped a ton in gmLI over the last few weeks as well, implying Ron Roenicke is starting to put faith in the 29-year-old. He’s still behind Jim Henderson and likely proven closer (TM!) John Axford, but he’s worth grabbing in holds leagues if someone hasn’t scooped him up already. The more trust he gets, the more holds opps he should see.
• Quick hits: Greg Holland racked up save number 36 this afternoon. If you haven’t noticed, he’s been elite since May. Speaking of elite, Kelvin Herrera has snuck under-the-radar as one of baseball’s better setup men since his recall after the all-star break (now a sub-2.00 xFIP). Craig Kimbrel notched another save. Yawn.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]