Bullpen Report: July 15th, 2012

Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs had a ninth inning to forget in the Bronx this afternoon. After not being used since before the all-star break, the Angels brought Frieri in in a 10-5 game, mostly to give him some late inning work. Soon, Twitter exploded with jokes about “closers who can’t pitch in save situations” as Frieri gave up a single and a pair of walks before getting yanked mid-at bat after throwing a fastball about three feet off the plate to Raul Ibanez. The other half of the Angels closing duo (Downs) came in and fared slightly better, (actually) recording a couple outs, but he also walked a couple and gave up an infield hit off his own glove before Mike Scioscia had enough and called on Kevin Jepsen to induce an Alex Rodriguez pop up to (mercifully) end the ninth. It has been mentioned in this space before, but the one flaw in Frieri’s game this season has been the walks (13.6% BB% coming into today’s game) which explains most of the differential between his ERA (1.42) and his xFIP (3.20). Downs’ problem has generally been a lack of stuff; which was also on display today (failing to put away Curtis Granderson on a handful of fouled-off breaking balls before missing low and away to walk in a run), but his biggest issue (and most uncharacteristic) were his walks this weekend in Yankee Stadium (four walks in the last 1.1 innings after only allowing six in his first 30). Both pitchers are outperforming their peripherals but are probably in no immediate danger of losing their late inning jobs given their performance in the first half. That said, the Angels do have some interesting candidates in LaTroy Hawkins (3.81 xFIP), Jordan Walden (3.91 xFIP, now on the DL) and Jepsen (4.44 xFIP) behind them if their free pass binges persist.

The Blue Jays announced that Sergio Santos has been shut down for 2012 and will undergo labrum surgery with the hope of being ready for next year. Santos teased owners with his “Throwing! LOL, J/K!” setbacks over the last few months and Toronto has apparently decided that he needs to go under the knife to solve his shoulder woes. Labrum surgery is no silver bullet when it comes to fixing shoulders and is far less routine than Tommy John surgery, so while the Blue Jays front office is putting on their best face in saying “we hope he’ll be ready by spring training,” that’s far from a sure thing. Suddenly, Casey Janssen (who, ironically, underwent his own labrum surgery in 2008) is not only a valuable fantasy commodity for the remainder of 2012 but could evolve into an interesting keeper candidate for 2013. NOTE: Darren Oliver finished off the game this afternoon after Janssen was deemed essentially unavailable after working the previous two nights (including a multi-inning outing). He still has a stranglehold on this job.

• Round and round the wheel on the Marlins bullpen goes, where it stops, nobody (expect Ozzie Guillen) knows. Steve Cishek wrapped up the save on Saturday, confirming Guillen’s comments that Miami was going to a committee bullpen. Cishek has a solid-enough 2.08 ERA, but thanks to deflated BABIP (0.274) and HR/FB% (9.4%) his xFIP is a bit higher at 3.81. Cishek has outperformed his xFIP all three years in the bigs, however, so keeping the HR/FB% down might be a more sustainable skill for him than other pitchers (especially since he’s in the carnivorous cavernous Marlins Park). Cishek’s biggest problem is his platoon splits; he’s been death to righties (0.244 wOBA) but has been far worse against lefties (0.354 wOBA). Assuming Guillen rides the hot hand, it’ll be interesting if Cishek runs into some left-handed pinch hitters his next time out — it seems like something easily exploitable (which also might be countered by a lefty partner like Randy Choate). Meanwhile, dark horse closer candidate Juan Oviedo (the reliever formerly known as Leo Nunez), who has been listed in the closer grid as “injured” even though he was on the most fake of all rehab assignments, is now actually hurt, having left his last minor league appearance with elbow troubles. No additional word as to the severity but he now seems unlikely to be in the mix anytime soon.

Bobby Parnell brought Mets fans back to August 2011 with a blown save against the Braves on Saturday. In Parnell’s defense, he was brought in with two runners on in the eighth and gave up three singles, at least two of which were of the slap/seeing eye variety, before escaping the inning with the Mets down a run (Craig Kimbrel then did what Craig Kimbrel does: save games). Parnell has all the tools to be a solid closer (high K%, low BB%, 3.10 xFIP) but he is going to need (unfair or not) to be practically flawless if he wants to keep the job when Frank Francisco (eventually) makes his way back from oblique injury. Regardless, he’s still a solid own in all leagues for the immediate future.

Santiago Casilla‘s troubles persisted through the all-star break; after being tasked with a 2-run lead on Saturday, he gave up a hit and a walk which eventually led to two runs after Chris Snyder scored after the always popular “swinging strikeout turned wild pitch turned throwing error by the catcher.” That misstep meant four blown saves in his previous six appearances and led to rampant speculation about his job security. Casilla’s xFIP has been relatively stable all season (3.35) but his ERA has been all over the place (month-by-month: 1.04, 1.26, 7.71, 5.40). Two culprits there, one is luck-based (his BABIP in April/May was 0.209, it’s been near 0.400 since then) and one is skill-based — a bump in BB% (up near 11% in June/July after being under 7% in April/May). He did get back on the horse on Sunday, retiring the last two batters for the save versus Houston (Javier Lopez started the inning, retiring the left-handed Brian Bogusevic). However, Sergio Romo continues to be one of the better setup men in baseball (2.65 xFIP), so Casilla will need a few more clean outings to get back into green-light territory.

A Pitcher for Tomorrow: Luke Gregerson (SD) vs. HOU

Gregerson has quietly been a key cog in San Diego’s bullpen recently (2.26 xFIP over the last 30 days). With Houston traveling to Petco, you can pretty much bank on a low-scoring, tight game. Sounds like a primo matchup for San Diego’s top setup man.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second Off 25-Man
Arizona J.J. Putz David Hernandez Bryan Shaw
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Eric O’Flaherty Jonny Venters
Baltimore Jim Johnson Pedro Strop Darren O’Day
Boston Alfredo Aceves Andrew Miller Mark Melancon Andrew Bailey
Chicago (NL) Carlos Marmol James Russell Shawn Camp
Chicago (AL) Addison Reed Matt Thornton Hector Santiago
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Sean Marshall Jose Arredondo
Cleveland Chris Perez Vinnie Pestano Tony Sipp
Colorado Rafael Betancourt Matt Belisle Rex Brothers
Detroit Jose Valverde Joaquin Benoit Octavio Dotel
Houston Brett Myers Brandon Lyon Wilton Lopez
KC Jonathan Broxton Greg Holland Aaron Crow
LAA Ernesto Frieri Scott Downs Jordan Walden
LAD Kenley Jansen Josh Lindblom Shawn Tolleson
Miami Heath Bell Steve Cishek Edward Mujica Juan Oviedo
Milwaukee John Axford Francisco Rodriguez Jose Veras
Minnesota Matt Capps Glen Perkins Jared Burton
NY (NL) Bobby Parnell Jon Rauch Ramon Ramirez Frank Francisco
NY (AL) Rafael Soriano David Robertson Boone Logan
Oakland Ryan Cook Grant Balfour Jerry Blevins
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Jake Diekman
Pittsburgh Joel Hanrahan Jason Grilli Juan Cruz
St. Louis Jason Motte Mitchell Boggs Eduardo Sanchez
SD Huston Street Luke Gregerson Dale Thayer
SF Santiago Casilla Sergio Romo Javier Lopez
Seattle Tom Wilhelmsen Brandon League Charlie Furbush
Tampa Bay Fernando Rodney Kyle Farnsworth Jake McGee
Texas Joe Nathan Mike Adams Robbie Ross
Toronto Casey Janssen Francisco Cordero Darren Oliver
Wash. Tyler Clippard Sean Burnett Henry Rodriguez Drew Storen

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

The Woodstock of Baseball, the 2nd Annual Sabermetrics, Scouting and the Science of Baseball Seminar will be held on the campus of Boston University on August 4th and 5th. This seminar  is bringing together speakers who are experts on scouting, player development, advanced statistics, sports medicine, science, psychology and sports writing, all to benefit The Jimmy Fund. Speaking at the seminar are Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, Bench Coach Tim Bogar, Dir of Professional Scouting Jared Porter, Dir of Baseball Information Systems Tom Tippett, ex-GM Mike Port, Dan Brooks of Brooks Baseball, Mitchel Lichtman, Kevin Goldstein, Steve Goldman, Michael Silverman, Jon Rish, Andy Andres and many more. This is a great opportunity to interact with some of the best minds in baseball and to increase your knowledge of the game we all love. There will also be a live demonstration of the Trackman Ball Tracking System. Come see why there will be representatives of four other MLB teams in the audience. Tickets are only $125 for adults and $65 for students. Because all of the speakers are donating their time and covering their own expenses, 100% of the proceeds go to The Jimmy Fund. For more information, please visit http://saberseminar.com

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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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So you think Broxton is going to be traded? If so where?