“On Bzdek” Bullpen Briefing: Week 18
After things have settled down a little bit from last Monday’s trade deadline, we can take a look at some of the resulting changes, or lack there of. We’ll start with Minnesota and Washington, who swapped relievers last week, and follow with Detroit who traded their closer on the eve of the last Bullpen Briefing. Next, we’ll check in on the committees in the AL West, then come back East to see how the Braves’ new closer is doing as well as the multitude of New York Yankee relievers. As always, we’ll finish with the three stars of the week.
The Twinkies have recorded only one save since trading former closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington last Monday. That save came yesterday afternoon when Matt Belisle pitched a scoreless frame against the Rangers, striking out one batter to hold a 6-5 lead. Lefty Taylor Rogers pitched a scoreless 8th to record his 25th hold, and rookie Trevor Hildenberger pitched a scoreless 6th and 7th to record his first hold of the season.
It makes sense that Belisle would be given first crack at closer. He’s 37 years old and a free agent this off-season, while Rogers and Hildenberger are both 26 years old (oddly enough born just two days apart on December 17th and 15th, in 1990), and have several arbitration years left.
In 42.1 innings on the season, Rogers owns a 3.83 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, to go along with 36 strikeouts. Hildenberger, in 18.1 innings, sports a 2.79 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP with 20 strikeouts. Rogers has been the more useful fantasy asset with his league-leading 25 holds, but Hildenberger should see increased value the rest of the way as he will see more hold opportunities with Kintzler gone and everyone moving up a slot in the hierarchy. Hildenberger is also able to pitch more than one inning which is always a plus as multi-inning, multi-strikeout appearances give your team a slight boost over a typical 1 inning outcome.
Belisle is the add for saves, and Hildenberger for holds. Rogers will continue recording holds but he’s likely scooped up in your holds leagues already.
The Nats won’t commit to naming a closer but it appears Sean Doolittle has taken the reigns. He’s got three saves in the last week and five since being traded to D.C. Other additions Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler have been used in set-up roles, with Matt Albers taking a hit in fantasy value as he becomes the 4th option out of the pen. The Nationals brought in much needed help to bolster the bullpen for a playoff run. Hopefully the new additions can add some stability to a bullpen that had a different closer seemingly every week.
Shane Greene recorded three straight holds for the Tigers this week on August 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. After throwing three straight, Bruce Rodon got the save on August 4th. The pecking order seems clear in Detroit; Greene is the closer and Rodon the setup man.
The Tigers also called up their top relief pitcher prospect, Joe Jimenez, this week. Many consider the 22 year old Jimenez the Tigers’ closer of the future, but relief pitcher prospects are a new thing and one that I am very skeptical of. Typically pitching prospects start out as starting pitchers, and the ones that fail as MLB starters try their luck in the pen, many of which have great success. The fact that a pitcher is a relief prospect tells me he probably failed as a starter already in the minors, thus the premature move to the pen. From a high level, the overall talent level must be a notch lower.
Jiminez has had two appearances since his most recent call up, going 0.2 innings in each, allowing 1 earned run and 4 earned runs, respectively. Jiminez also had a cup of coffee with the Tigers in April where he did not fare much better. However, Jiminez did strikeout 36 batters in 25.0 innings at AAA Toledo this season, with a 1.44 ERA, so you get an idea what the excitement is about.
For now, I’m holding off on all relief pitching prospects (that includes the White Sox’ Zach Burdi, and his 51 strikeouts in 33.1 innings at AAA this season), until one of them gives me reason to think otherwise.
No clear closer has emerged in Texas. Alex Claudio got the Rangers’ lone save last week, but he’s also come into a game in the 7th inning and another in the 8th inning earlier in the week. This leads me to believe the Rangers are using the lefty in a more situational role. Jose Leclerc pitched the 9th inning last Wednesday with a 4-run lead, and Keone Kela remains an effective late inning option. All three are viable save candidates. My money is still on Kela for the long term, but the Rangers seem content mixing and matching for now.
In Oakland, it appears Blake Treinen is the head of the team’s closer committee. Treinen recorded a save yesterday, his second since arriving in Oakland. He did pitch the 7th inning on Friday night, allowing 3 inherited runs plus one of his own, so it’s not safe to dub him the teams’ closer just yet. Santiago Casilla has rebounded a bit with five straight appearances without allowing an earned run or an inherited runner to score. Ryan Dull has also been effective. He’s yet to allow an earned run in 7 appearances since returning from the disabled list, though three of those appearances lasted only one out. There are not many trustworthy pitchers in Oakland that I would recommend. I like Dull the best despite his struggles earlier this year, however the Athletics may opt to use him in a middle relief role even if he out-performs Treinen and Casilla.
Arodys Vizcaino recorded all three saves for the Braves this week. It’s safe to assume he’s the team’s new closer, with Jose Ramirez sliding into a setup role alongside former closer Jim Johnson.
New York Yankees
I saved the best for last. The Yankee bullpen has been lights out, as Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances returned to their old selves recently. In the last two weeks, Chapman recorded 8 strikeouts in 6.2 innings, with a WHIP of 0.45 while allowing no runs. Betances threw 7.2 innings with 12 strikeouts, an ERA of 1.17 and a WHIP of 1.04. The Yankees’ recent additions to the bullpen added a lot of depth, which should prevent Chapman and Betances from being overworked, and therefore more effective the rest of the way. The additions, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson, are settling into their new team nicely. Since joining the Yankees, Kahnle has pitched 8.1 innings, striking out 12 while allowing two runs. Robertson has done similarly well, posting 12 strikeouts and allowing 2 runs in 9.0 innings. Chad Greene is also a key middle relief arm for the Yankees. He’s pitched 8.2 innings in the last two weeks, striking out 16 batters and posting an ERA and WHIP of 2.08 and 0.81, respectively. Greene is starting pitcher eligible in many leagues and is often used in multiple inning situations, making him a great supplement to a fantasy baseball staff if you are thin on starting pitchers.
The Yankees have made the bullpen their biggest strength, and skipper Joe Girardi intends to use them accordingly. Expect a lot of quick hooks for Yankee starters the rest of the way.
Three Stars of the Week
Zach Britton, Bal – In 3.0 innings Britton struck out three while recording two saves and one win. He did not allow a baserunner.
Anthony Swarzack, Mil – Since arriving in Milwaukee early last week, Swarzack pitched 3.1 innings – recording 6 strikeouts, 3 holds, and 1 save. He allowed two hits, no walks, and no runs.
Edwin Diaz, Sea – In 4.0 innings, Diaz recorded 4 saves and 6 strikeouts. He walked one batter, and did not allow a hit or a run over that stretch.
That wraps up this weeks’ Bullpen Briefing. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week with another edition.