Bullpen Report: July 8, 2012

• Just as Heath Bell looked like he was climbing back into fantasy owners’ good graces, he crumbled faster than the Mrs. Fields cookie I’m gnawing on while sitting on the floor writing this at BWI (surprisingly busy for a Sunday night). While he’s been frustrating for fantasy owners this year, his recent uptick in velocity hasn’t reversed over the past week and his June peripherals (6.0 K/BB, 2.54 xFIP) still were the best of his 2012 season (and it wasn’t even really close). As has been said in numerous Bullpen Reports, he will have a long leash at the back end of the Miami bullpen thanks to his contract, so expect to see him still patrolling the ninth if the immediate aftermath of the all-star break. An interesting wild card that might stir up some trouble for Bell if he continues to regress back to early season form — Juan Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) is eligible to return from his suspension on July 23rd and manager Ozzie Guillen did not rule out the former closer (career 2.6 K/BB, 4.25 xFIP) seeing a few save chances once he returns. I wouldn’t rush to grab Oviedo in shallow leagues given his history of mediocrity outside of 2010, but Bell owners in deeper or NL-only ones might think about handcuffing him during the fantasy lull over the next few days just to cover all their bases (something the Cardinals did against Bell today — hey-o!).

• Yesterday, Scott Downs wrapped up a 3-0 game by pitching a perfect ninth. Given the distribution of saves opportunities, it’s clear that Ernesto Frieri is still the 1A guy in Los Angeles; however, owners should understand that Downs is still getting mixed in 20-25% of the time. Given the fact that both pitchers (Frieri: 3.03 xFIP, Downs: 3.13 xFIP) have gotten the job done since Jordan Walden was demoted two weeks into the season, there doesn’t appear to be any inertia to force Mike Scioscia (who has done a good job using the two pitchers appropriately in various ninth-inning matchups) to blindly toss every ninth inning to either of the pitchers. Walden’s 3.90 xFIP isn’t terrible (certainly not as bad as his ERA implies) but he seems pretty droppable in even deeper mixed leagues — the odds of Frieri and Downs simultaneously pitching bad enough to both get leapfrogged at the same time seems highly unlikely.

Aroldis Chapman got back-to-back saves Saturday and Sunday — facing six hitters and whiffing five of them. Chapman had a small speedbump over the last month or so, putting up a 9.82 ERA over the last two-thirds of June (12/3 K/BB) after his impressive start to the season but it’s clear he’s back to being the top dog in Cincy. Chapman’s 16.25 K/9 and 1.64 xFIP are keeping him neck-and-neck with Craig Kimbrel in the battle for “best reliever in baseball.”

• Closer fill-ins Bobby Parnell (3.10 xFIP) and Casey Janssen (2.91 xFIP) both racked up saves over the weekend, continuing their stellar run of substitution. However, there was some good news for the guys they replaced — Frank Francisco is scheduled to begin his rehab assignment Wednesday and Sergio Santos will attempt to throw off a mound this week. Francisco has gotten the all-important vote of confidence from Terry Collins and should regain the closer role sometime next weekend or early the week thereafter once he’s ready for big league games. Santos, on the other hand, has been besieged by setbacks during his rehab so the fact that he’s merely scheduled to throw off a mound likely isn’t fooling his owners into fist-pumping from behind their office computers yet. Even if Santos has finally turned the corner, Janssen’s performance since taking over the role (1.21 ERA, 21/4 K/BB) has been strong enough that there’s a very real chance he holds the closer role after Santos returns. I’m holding Janssen and owners short-selling him for fifty cents on the dollar thinking his closing days are numbered might be in for a rude surprise.

Matt Thornton finished off the Blue Jays Saturday, rewarding owners holding him with a rare save. However, it didn’t signify a changing of the guard on the South Side, as Addison Reed was merely unavailable after pitching three consecutive nights. While Reed’s hold on the job isn’t rock-solid, he’ll be back to taking the ball in the ninth when Chicago returns to play later in the week.

For those of you who play daily fantasy games like FanGraphs: The Game, or just like to stream players, here is a matchup you may be able to exploit.

A Pitcher for Tomorrow:  Random Batting Practice Pitcher

Lots of taters to be mashed tomorrow. Pitchers not recommended.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second Injured
Arizona J.J. Putz David Hernandez Bryan Shaw
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jonny Venters Eric O’Flaherty
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 Matt Reynolds
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 Glen Perkins Jared Burton Alex Burnett Matt Capps
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 Dale Thayer Luke Gregerson
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 Jason Frasor Darren Oliver Sergio Santos
Wash. Tyler Clippard Sean Burnett Henry Rodriguez 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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Mark W
Mark W

Has anyone on fangraphs posited an even remotely credible theory for why Bell has been so bad this year? It can’t really be velocity, as that isn’t significantly different from what it was in 2010 or ’11. This is bizarre.

Steve Balboni
Steve Balboni

Anne Elk has a theory that I believe is a remotely credible theory, and I asked her about it earlier:

SB: Now, Miss Elk – Anne – you have a new theory about Heath Bell.
Elk: Could I just say, Steve, for one moment that I have a new theory about Heath Bell?
SB: Er… exactly. What is it?
Elk: Where?
SB: No, no, no. What is your theory?
Elk: Oh, what is my theory?
SB: Yes.
Elk: Oh what is my theory, that it is. Yes, well you may well ask, what is my theory.
SB: (slightly impatient) I am asking.
Elk: And well you may. Yes my word you may well ask what it is, this theory of mine. Well, this theory that I have–that is to say, which is mine– …is mine.
SB: (more impatient) I know it’s yours. What is it?
Elk: Where? Oh, what is my theory?
SB: Yes!
Elk: Oh, my theory that I have follows the lines I am about to relate. (Coughs) Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem.
SB: Oh God.
Elk: Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem. [Impatient noises from SB] The Theory, by A. Elk. That’s A for Anne, it’s not by a elk.
SB: Right….
Elk: This theory which belongs to me is as follows. Ahem. Ahem. This is how it goes. Ahem. The next thing that I am about to say is my theory. Ahem. Ready?
(SB moans)
Elk: The Theory by A. Elk brackets Miss brackets. My theory is along the following lines.
SB: Oh God.
Elk: Heath Bell Is Fat, Old, Ineffective, and Done. That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too.
SB: That’s it, is it?
Elk: Right, Steve.
SB: Well, Anne, this theory of yours seems to have hit the nail on the head.
Elk: And it’s mine.
SB: (ironical) Thank you for coming along to the studio.
Elk: My pleasure, Steve.

Please note that Heath Bell is a wonderful person, and all insults are in good fun.