Bullpen Report: July 21, 2013

Andrew Bailey‘s shoulder put a quick end to any of the recent speculation that he may have been a candidate to move back to the ninth inning in the next few weeks. Bailey suffered labrum and shoulder capsule damage (supposedly acutely during his last outing) and will undergo surgery this Wednesday. Shoulder surgery is a big deal, and Bailey will be sidelined for the remainder of 2013 and at least the early part of 2014. He’s likely to be non-tendered by the Red Sox this offseason and outside of extraordinarily deep dynasty leagues, has virtually no fantasy value.

The news means Koji Uehara‘s reign as closer should continue. I was the highest on Uehara in our mid-season relief pitcher rankings based on the notion that his peripherals are just so good that it would be impossible for manager John Farrell to make a switch. Now, Uehara locks down a spot as a top-10 closer, and the only reason he’s not top 6 or so is potential workload concerns.

With Bailey, Andrew Miller, and Joel Hanrahan out of the season, the Sox are likely to make a move for a reliever before the deadline. While they haven’t been directly linked to any of the big names, there are rumblings that they’ve at least scouted Milwaukee closer Francisco Rodriguez. This type of news is “exhibit A” as to why fantasy owners in saves-only leagues need to be peddling K-Rod and Kevin Gregg hard. If either get traded to a team like the Red Sox with an established closer, their saves are likely to go “buh-bye.”

Brad Ziegler notched save number four earlier today. There was more good news for his owners, as Kirk Gibson seemed to imply that Ziegler was the “closer” for the time being, although he hedged quite a bit in saying “but it could change.”

There are two big issues Ziegler needs to overcome to be a viable, long-term option at closer for the Diamondbacks. One, he’s not a strikeout pitcher (13.7% 2013 K%, 15.9% career), making him susceptible to ball-in-play luck. Second, and probably more importantly, his low arm slot has historically led to awful platoon splits (4.94/2.90 career LHB/RHB against xFIP). He has fared better against lefties this year (3.52/3.23), but very few submariners (either righties or lefties) have been able to succeed against opposing handedness for prolonged periods of time. Ride Ziegler if you desperately need saves, but once managers start loading up on the lefties, I expect his success rate to tail off quickly.

Got a couple questions as to why I had David Hernandez ranked highest on the aforementioned all-star break closer list. First, none of the Arizona relief pitchers were ranked terribly high, highlighting that it’s kind of like throwing darts blindfolded right now. Hernandez’s main issues this year are an elevated HR/FB% (likely to regress) and a low (lower than his career average at least) strikeout rate. It’s tough to figure out exactly why Hernando’s strikeout rate is down so much (24%); his SwStr% is down a tick but still way above league average and his fastball velocity is right where it has been the last couple years. I still like him as a second-half bounceback candidate (assuming the K% starts to match the SwStr% going forward), and, if the Diamondbacks don’t swing a deal for a reliever, someone who might get a crack at the ninth inning as we head into the dog days of summer.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Brad Ziegler J.J. Putz David Hernandez
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden Luis Avilan
Baltimore Jim Johnson Tommy Hunter Darren O’Day
Boston Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Craig Breslow Andrew Bailey
CHI (NL) Kevin Gregg Pedro Strop Blake Parker
CHI (AL) Addison Reed Nate Jones Matt Lindstrom Jesse Crain
Cincy Aroldis Chapman J.J. Hoover Sam LeCure Sean Marshall
Cleveland Chris Perez Joe Smith Vinnie Pestano
Colorado Rex Brothers Matt Belisle Mitchell Boggs Rafael Betancourt
Detroit Joaquin Benoit Drew Smyly Al Alburquerque
Houston Jose Veras Wesley Wright Jose Cisnero
KC Greg Holland Aaron Crow Tim Collins Kelvin Herrera
LAA Ernesto Frieri Scott Downs Robert Coello Ryan Madson
LAD Kenley Jansen Ronald Belisario Brandon League
Miami Steve Cishek Mike Dunn Chad Qualls
Milwaukee Francisco Rodriguez Jim Henderson John Axford
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) Bobby Parnell LaTroy Hawkins David Aardsma Frank Francisco
NY (AL) Mariano Rivera David Robertson Joba Chamberlain
Oakland Grant Balfour Ryan Cook Sean Doolittle
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Justin De Fratus Mike Adams
Pittsburgh Jason Grilli Mark Melancon Tony Watson
St. Louis Edward Mujica Trevor Rosenthal Fernando Salas Jason Motte
SD Huston Street Luke Gregerson Dale Thayer
SF Sergio Romo Jeremy Affeldt Santiago Casilla
Seattle Tom Wilhelmsen Oliver Perez Yoervis Medina Carter Capps
TB Fernando Rodney Joel Peralta Jake McGee
Texas Joe Nathan Tanner Scheppers Jason Frasor
Toronto Casey Janssen Steve Delabar Brett Cecil Sergio Santos
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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u sure k-rod wouldn’t close over uehara?