NEWS and NOTES for the week of 8/31/2020

  • The Padres acquired Trevor Rosenthal from the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Edward Olivares. They also activated lefty Drew Pomeranz from the IL. How does this shake out for thee Friars?
  • In Detroit, it appears that Joe Jimenez is out, but who is in? Buck Farmer? Gregory Soto? We will take a look.
  • In St. Louis, Andrew Miller hit the IL with shoulder fatigue.
  • Keone Kela is once again on the shelf in Pittsburgh with forearm tightness.
  • What is going on with Edwin Diaz in New York?
  • In the soap opera that is the Tampa Bay bullpen, Diego Castillo looked fine this week, and reinforcements are coming with Chaz Roe and Nick Anderson set to come off the IL in the coming days.
  • The Kimbrel/Jeffress/Wick situation continues in Chicago.
  • Several weeks ago we told you to keep an eye on Jordan Romano in Toronto. Now he is on the IL.
  • For those of you who like to humiliate yourself, San Francisco seems to be a full-blown committee with Tony Watson, Tyler Rogers and Jarlin Garcia.
  • Has Daniel Bard risen from the dead to become the closer in Colorado?
  • Aroldis Chapman gave up a walk-off home run Friday night and has yet to earn a save; the Yankees haven’t won a game in more than a week.
  • We were following the potential return of David Robertson to Philadelphia and their shambled bullpen, but he had a setback last week

 

As a reminder, here is our rubric to grade the closers if you need to refresh your memory:

  • Mastery: the best. Nothing else to be learned here.  Move forward with confidence.
  • Distinguished: just a notch below mastery, excellent work, but still some room for improvement.
  • Proficient: is average.  Think of this as a solid “C” on your term paper.
  • Marginal: poorly constructed, issues with organization, and unclear what is happening.
  • Unacceptable: failure due to lack of planning or execution.
  • Mastery

 

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers

Hader remains the best in the business. Hader has seven saves and 13 strikeouts in nine innings. He is elite, and he is continuing to use his slider more.  Rumor has it that Milwaukee is listening to trade offers for him, but they would need to be blown away to move him.

Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics

Hendriks looks fine right now with a 12.7 K/9 rate. Hendriks has a firm grip on the job with ten saves, a 1.10 ERA and a .67 WHIP. He’s completely locked in for a terrific Oakland team. Deploy him daily/weekly, whatever. He’s elite.

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Jansen has nine saves and a 1.32 ERA with a 12.5 K/9 rate. Deploy him with confidence. He looks terrific right now; I was wrong (so far) about his demise:

jansen

Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox: moving up

Colome has been terrific for the Sox and no one is looking over his shoulder with Aaron Bummer still injured.

 

Distinguished

Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks

Bradley is in a holding pattern with no saves this past week but is clearly entrenched as the closer for the Dbacks.

Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians

Hand is locked in with ten saves and has quieted the critics. Use him in every league. Hand is throwing his four-seamer slightly more, and the slider less (54-47%), while adding in his sinker (from 3% to almost 9%) a little more. The results have been solid.

chart (49)

Proficient

Emilio Pagan, Drew Pomeranz, Trevor Rosenthal, San Diego Padres

What a mess. Yates goes down with the elbow injury last week. Pomeranz takes over and the Padres don’t miss a beat. Then Pomeranz goes to the IL last week with a shoulder strain. Pagan had some opportunities for a streaking Padres team. We told you to add Pagan. Pomeranz was activated from the IL last night, but the big news was the acquisition of Trevor Rosenthal from the Kansas City Royals. Expect Rosenthal to be the closer with Kirby Yates out for the year even though Pomeranz was very good when he had the chances. This move should bump Pagan and Pomeranz back an inning and solidify the Padres bullpen.

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros: moving up this week

While the team waits on Roberto Osuna’s possible rehab, Pressly continues to do the job, earning his sixth save this week, getting the save in both ends of yesterday’s doubleheader. He’s quietly settling in and his ERA is down to 4.22. I think he’s going to continue to get better results.

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees: moving down

Britton was terrific before hitting the IL with a strained hamstring. A day later, Aroldis Chapman was back for the Yankees. In Game One of a doubleheader on Friday night, Chapman gave up a walk and a home run to lose the game. It seems reasonable to believe that Chapman is still shaking off the rust from his Covid battle, and will regain mastery status as he gets his legs under him. It’s also important to remember that the Yankees hadn’t won a game in more than a week, limiting his chances to get work. Chapman did get a win last night for the Yankees, halting their skid.

Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers: holding on

Montero earned a save this week and continues to hold the top spot in Texas. The role is still his, but could he be moved at the trade deadline? The Ranges are 12-19 and said to be listening on their players. Remember Jonathan Hernandez? Stash him if you can. If Montero gets traded, the job should be his.

Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals

Daniel Hudson has six saves this season in eight tries, though he didn’t have any over the last week. Sean Doolittle was activated Wednesday off the IL but he hasn’t pitched in a game yet. Hudson is the guy for now but keep an eye on Doolittle just in case Hudson implodes.Which is possible. In his two blown saves on the year, Hudson has given up seven earned runs. When he blows a save, he really blows it.

Brandon Workman/Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

I truly feel for Phillies fans. This bullpen has been a disaster all season, contributing to their mediocre 14-14 record this far. Workman did get two saves this week despite looking shaky. If we look to the usage, we see that Hector Neris and Tommy Hunter continue to work the eighth in tandem. Looks like manager Joe Girardi is going with Workman now. Workman did pitch a clean inning last night to get his seventh save. If you are contending for a championship, I would look elsewhere as this situation may induce your gag reflex from day-to-day.

Mark Melancon/Will Smith, Atlanta Braves

Melancon has five saves and two wins in Atlanta. The rumors of his demise may have been exaggerated. Melancon gave up a walkoff home run on Friday night to Scott Kingery. Lefty Will Smith is rounding into shape and could become a threat here. Keep an eye out here. Shane Greene also lurks in the background.

Taylor Rogers/Sergio Romo/Trevor May, Minnesota Twins: a conundrum

Rogers got a save Monday night but he has had zero opportunities since then due to cancellations. This is still an iffy one; we should know more after watching some games this weekend. Sergio Romo was lit up like a pinball machine on Wednesday. Some disarray here, but look for Rogers to get opportunities to keep the ninth…for now. Manager Rocco Baldelli is not afraid to play hot hands. Stay tuned.

Committee, but leaning Diego Castillo, Tampa Bay Rays

This bullpen has been decimated by injuries but looks to get back a key piece soon in Nick Anderson. The Rays are gonna Ray; they are 22-11 and never make excuses, and just keep winning. Don’t look now but Diego Castillo has two wins and two saves and a filthy slider. In the chart below, you will see (albeit in a small sample size) that he’s using the slider almost 70% of the time:

chart (47)

The slider generates lots of swings and misses as well as soft contact for him.  But who knows what happens when Tampa is back at full-strength in their bullpen? Who knows?

Committee, but leaning Daniel Bard,  Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have run across hard times: 2-12 in the last two weeks. However it looks like Daniel Bard may have supplanted Jairo Diaz, who has been hit hard recently. Bard is an amazing story, out of baseball before mounting a comeback. Check out his pitch mix below:

bard

Bard has always thrown with great velocity, and his four-seamer still hits 97 on the radar gun, but Bard has also relied more on his slider this year, throwing it almost as often as the fastball. The pitch that is pure filth is the sinker, thrown at 97 MPH and inducing tons of popups and weak contact. Bard is a great story with good production too, earning three saves for a struggling Rockies team.

Committee, Kansas City Royals

Rosenthal has been terrific: seven saves, 13.9 K/9.  Then he got traded to the Padres yesterday afternoon. Who will close in KC? Good question. Odds are it will not be Ian Kennedy and his 9.00 ERA. Could Greg Holland be the pick? Jesse Hahn got the save Saturday afternoon, but I think that was an emergency go-to in light of the trade. They could take a look at Josh Staumont, who has 27 strikeouts in 13 innings and a sparkling .66 ERA. Scott Barlow has also been good for the Royals. One to watch this week.

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds: the enigma

Iglesias hurts to own; the stuff is amazing but he has four saves with a bloated 5.59 ERA. Based on his usage, it looks like he continues to be in the chair, but that seat is hot. Saving him is that Cincinnati has not had good results from anyone not named Lucas Sims. Iglesias should get far better results than he does. See below:

iglesias

Craig Kimbrel/Jeremy Jeffress/Rowan Wick, Chicago Cubs 

Gosh this is  crazy situation. In the first game of a doubleheader in Cincinnati yesterday, manager David Ross used Jeremy Jeffress to close the Reds out in the seventh, earning his fourth save. In the nightcap, the Craig Kimbrel reclamation project added another chapter. Kimbrel walked three and gave up two runs on only one hit. A wild pitch ended the game; it was his third of the inning. The Cubs are 19-14 and in the thick of the playoff race. Ross cannot continue to rebuild Kimbrel while contending. Jeffress has done the job before and could hold it down; perhaps the Cubs make a move before tomorrow’s trade deadline?

 

Andrew Miller/Giovanny Gallegos St. Louis Cardinals

Miller hit the IL this week. Gallegos has great stuff and it looks like the Cardinals will continue to play matchups, but that can go out the window now with Miller out. I would go Gallegos. Look at this K rate on his slider:

chart (48)

I like it.

Taylor Williams, Seattle Mariners

Williams has been solid but got drilled Thursday night, taking a blown save and a loss. He’s probably ok, for now, but could be in trouble if he doesn’t right the ship on his next outing.

Brandon Kintzler, Miami Marlins

The veteran has six saves with a 2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He’s holding steady for a surprising Miami Marlins squad. They don’t really have anyone else. The 5.2 K/9 rate could spell trouble down the road.

Unacceptable

Committee, Detroit Tigers: moving down

Jimenez has been terrible. Manager Ron Gardenhire aimed to use Buck Farmer in the ole earlier this week, and Farmer did not take advantage of his opportunity, getting blown up on Wednesday. Committee here, with Farmer, Gregory Soto and maybe Jose Cisnero getting chances. Avoid unless you want indigestion. Soto did pick up the save last night. If you must have one, Soto is the one I would try.

Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox have not anointed a new closer to replace Brandon Workman, but we would bet on Matt Barnes. Barnes is being sought after in trades, but no contending team would use him as a closer, merely a setup role. Barnes did get his third save last night.

Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels

Buttrey has been good in the role, but the Angels are awful and have begun moving parts via trade. He has given up runs in his last three outings. Mixed bag this week: earned a loss, then earned a save Friday night despite giving up a run. The 3.4 K/9 rate is not good, so Buttrey may actually hurt you more than he helps.

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets: trending up? 

I want to love Diaz, don’t you? Friday night he struck out the side to earn his second save, and first since week one. The ERA is down to 2.25, but walks continue to lead to a higher WHIP than you would like in a closer: 1.42. A 21.0 K/9 rate? That’s insane. Results should improve; I said last week buy low, and I still would.

Cole Sulser, Baltimore Orioles

Sulser had a brutal week: three walks in an appearance last weekend, and a two out walkoff homer last night against Toronto. The grip has loosened. However manager Brandon Hyde continues to use Sulser exclusively in the ninth. The Orioles are better than expected, so he will get opportunities; the question is, do you want them? I am not so sure. Sulser has been featuring an improved change-up about 26% of the time, up from 9% last year. The four-seamer is his main pitch and he also throws a slider to right-handed hitters.  See below:

chart (50)

Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Kela is back on the IL after one outing. Good grief. The Pirates are 7-19. Who closes? Do you care? If you do, bet on Richard Rodriguez, who earned his second save despite giving up a run Friday night. He then gave up a walkoff home run to Eric Sogard and the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night.

Committee, San Francisco Giants

Someone buy Gabe Kapler some Tums. Trevor Gott now has a 12.46 ERA, and that is not a typo. Jarlin Garcia has been decent. Tony Watson has no saves but has been the best out of the bullpen. Tyler Rogers earned a save last night. Just avoid this. Do it.

Anthony Bass (for now), Toronto Blue Jays

So it seemed the job belonged to Romano, and then he left Friday night with a finger injury. He was replaced by Anthony Bass. He hit the 10 day IL with numbness in his right middle finger. Romano had earned a save earlier in the week. Romano has 20 strikeouts in 14 innings and was looking to lock down the role. Bass probably seizes the role back…for now. Ken Giles is scheduled to face live hitters on Tuesday, and the hope is that he can ramp up quickly and reclaim his old job.