Bullpen Report: July 13, 2014

Jake McGee returned from spending a few days with his new daughter and was immediately greeted with a save opportunity. He did his job, nailing down a 3-0 victory, whiffing two in a perfect ninth inning. The lefty now has six saves over the last month, the rest of the bullpen has four combined. It’s pretty clear he heads up this committee, although Joe Maddon has not quite gone the distance in committing to the southpaw.

There has been some chatter in the comments lately about Brad Boxberger. We’ve touched on him a few times previously, and rest assured, his addition to the grid is not some sort of forgetful omission. Unfortunately, we only have three spots on the grid. McGee is clearly 1A in this bullpen now. As bad as Grant Balfour has been, it seems obvious the Rays still view him as someone they want to get going in high-leverage situations as evidenced by the fact that his 30-day inLI (how “important” the situation is when he enters the game) is slightly below McGee’s (and second on the team). It is only recently (the last couple weeks) that Boxberger has begun to see high-leverage work himself and he now is pushing Joel Peralta for late-inning chances. If we’re ranking on who I’d want based on raw ability, rates, and track record, I’d want McGee, Boxberger, Peralta, Balfour. But by usage, it’s pretty hard to argue against McGee, Balfour, Peralta/Boxberger right now (the latter two being essentially interchangable). Scoop up the former Padre right-hander if you need the rates and have room, but this bullpen looks like McGee’s right now and there are other sharks in the water. There are better speculative plays if you are just in it for the saves.

Aroldis Chapman struck out the side for save number 21 today, extending his new major league record for most consecutive relief appearances with a strikeout (OK, it’s a slightly convoluted record, but Twitter loved it). To put in perspective how ridiculous his fastball has been, he has averaged 100.1 mph on the heater this year. That is about two-and-a-half miles per hour more than the next highest reliever (Carter Capps). The jury is still out as to whether velocity has a definitive correlation to major arm injuries like Tommy John surgery, but Chapman owners are obviously enjoying the wave.

Cody Allen tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning against the White Sox to pick up his 12th save of the year. Over the last 30 days, Allen has been the man when it comes to getting save opportunities so there is officially little question as to whether or not the closer gig is his. I suppose he is somewhat more at risk of getting Pipp’ed if an injury were to occur (thanks to a shorter track record) but his 33% K% shows that he’s one of the success stories in “buy skills, wait for opportunity” when it comes to drafting late inning setup men.

• Interesting non-closers who have put up great rates over the last month? Zach Duke has a 1.62 xFIP thanks to a 34% K% and a 5% BB%. It’s kind of amazing, the journeyman starter’s velocity is the same as it has always been. His SwStr% was always a touch better than his strikeout rate told us, but even that is only up a little this year. I don’t see the harm in buying to try and help out some rates (especially if he is SP-eligible) but it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep up this elite level all season. Phil Coke has also pitched well since the middle of last month (his 0.97 SIERA is the third-best in all of baseball over that timeframe) showing that, if used appropriately (i.e., sparingly against righties), he can be a shut-down reliever.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Addison Reed Brad Ziegler Oliver Perez
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden Shae Simmons
Baltimore Zach Britton Tommy Hunter Darren O’Day
Boston Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Andrew Miller
CHI (NL) Hector Rondon Neil Ramirez Pedro Strop
CHI (AL) Zach Putnam Jacob Petricka Javy Guerra Matt Lindstrom
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 Joel Hanrahan
Houston Chad Qualls Tony Sipp Josh Fields
KC Greg Holland Wade Davis Aaron Crow
LAA Joe Smith Jason Grilli Kevin Jepsen
LAD Kenley Jansen Chris Perez Brian Wilson
Miami Steve Cishek A.J. Ramos Mike Dunn
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 Jason Motte
SD Huston Street Joaquin Benoit Alex Torres
SF Santiago Casilla Jeremy Affeldt Sergio Romo
Seattle Fernando Rodney Danny Farquhar Dominic Leone
TB Jake McGee Grant Balfour Joel Peralta
Texas Joakim Soria Jason Frasor Neftali Feliz
Toronto Casey Janssen Sergio Santos Aaron Loup Brett Cecil
Wash. Rafael Soriano Tyler Clippard Drew Storen

[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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Thanks Colin for addressing the Tampa Bay bullpen and the emerging success of Brad Boxberger. The one thing I’d add for consideration is this: Tampa may be using Balfour and Peralta in high-leverage situations to lay the groundwork for trading one or both, and of that is the case, their use looking backwards won’t reflect their use going forward. Again, thanks for the good overview.


Joe Smith going green any time soon?