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“On Bzdek” Bullpen Briefing: Week 4

Already week 4, how time flies. We’ve seen turnover in bullpens around the league so far, with Philadelphia and Texas both the main culprits. Neither was a huge surprise – everyone knew Jeanmar Gomez’s reign as closer would not last long. Many also predicted Sam Dyson to lose his job, but perhaps it happened sooner than expected. With that in mind, for this week’s Bullpen Briefing I will dive into the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen because current closer Neftali Feliz will likely not be the closer the rest of the season, either due to performance or trade. So, in order to stay two steps ahead, let’s examine what would happen in Milwaukee should Feliz no longer be the team’s closer. We’ll start with a breakdown of Feliz himself, and then get into the other options in Milwaukee’s pen. At the end, I’ll touch on some various bullpen news from around the entire league.

Neftali Feliz, current closer
Netfali Feliz is the current closer for the Milwaukee brewers. Through Wednesday, Feliz owns a 5.19 ERA. On the surface this is awful, but it mostly stems from giving up 4 earned runs in his lone blown save of the season. Other than that, Feliz has been solid, collecting 5 saves and 10 strike outs in 8.2 innings. His WHIP sits at a lovely 0.92. The only blemish on Feliz thus far, aside from the ERA, is the 2 home runs he’s allowed. Home runs were a bit of an issue for Feliz last year too; he allowed 10 in 53.2 innings while pitching about half his innings in pitcher friendly PNC Park. Home runs are a closer’s worst enemy, so if the homer struggles persist, Feliz’s job may be in trouble. If Feliz can keep the homers in check, there’s a very good chance he gets traded at the deadline. The Brewers’ 12-11 start is good, but it’s riding on the back of Eric Thames historic start and a 24th ranked starting pitching. While I hope the Thames (nicknamed “God” in Korea) continues his dominance, he won’t be able to carry the sub-par starting pitching all year. I expect the Brewers to be in sell-mode by the deadline, and as we’ve seen the last couple seasons, relief pitching is a valuable commodity. The Brewers shipped off then-closer Jeremy Jeffress to Texas last year at the deadline. Texas may come calling again for a reunion with Feliz, or any of the other teams vying for a playoff spot and looking to strengthen their late inning pitching may come knocking. It helps that Feliz signed just a 1 year deal for $5.4 million, so no one will balk at the years or price. In lieu of a trade, there are two possible successors for the Brewers closer role: Corey Knebel and Jacob Barnes. There is also Carlos Torres, who should see increased holds chances.

 Corey Knebel
Corey Knebel is off to a great start in the set-up man role. In 10.1 innings, he holds a 1.74 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and accumulated 5 holds and 15 strike outs. The strike out ability is there,
further evidenced by his 10.47 K/9 in 2016. The big issue with Knebel is walks. He’s allowed 6 bases on balls in 2017, good for a BB/9 of 5.23. This is up slightly from the 4.41 BB/9 in 2016. That’s not great and probably a driving factor in Knebel’s 4.47 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 2016. Knebel has given up no home runs in 2017.  But he gave up 3 homers in 32.1 innings in 2016, slightly better than league average. To boot, Knebel’s fly ball percentage sits at 23.8% in 2017, down significantly from 36.7% in 2016. If Knebel can continue to suppress the fly balls, and therefore home runs, the high strike out rate will mitigate the high walk rate. If not, he’s like to regress closer to last year’s stats going forward.

Jacob Barnes
Corey Knebel is off to a great start, but Jacob Barnes is off to an even better one. In 12.1 innings, he holds a 0.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 14 Ks, 4 holds and a lone save. At age 27, he is two years older than Knebel, but he has less MLB experience. 2016 was his first taste of MLB action and Barnes did well posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, striking out 26 in 26.2 innings. Not bad for a rookie, and clearly he has only gotten better in 2017. The main differences between Barnes and Knebel, and the reason I like Barnes more, is Barnes’ walk and home run rates are better. In his 39-inning career Barnes has walked 11 batters, good for a 2.09 BB/9, and allowed 1 home run for a 0.23 HR/9.

Carlos Torres
Carlos Torres is a veteran reliever coming off a career best season in 2016 where he posted a 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP while recording 20 holds and 2 saves. Of those 20 holds, 13 came after the trade deadline. He was clearly the beneficiary of the Jeffress trade last year, and I think he will see a similar benefit this season. Torres’ K/9 currently sits at just 5.19 in 14 innings this year. However, in 2016 Torres K/9 was 8.53 over 82 innings pitched. While K-rate is not elite, it should increase for the rest of 2017. The walks and homers are also up this season, and the WHIP isn’t pretty right now at 1.51. Despite these apparent flaws, Torres has managed a 3.86 ERA. I wouldn’t rush out to grab him right now.  He simply hasn’t been good enough to own in any league, but he’s worth keeping in mind if you hear rumblings of a Feliz trade. Torres won’t blow you away, but he should be good enough to collect enough holds to make him valuable.

Milwaukee Summary 

To sum up: Feliz is pitching better than his 5.19 ERA, but if he can’t keep the home runs allowed low, he might be on the hot seat. If he can subdue the homers, he might pitch himself out of Milwaukee anyway as they are likely to move him at the deadline. In either instance, Jacob Barnes is in line to take over the closing role, with Corey Knebel remaining the go-to set-up man. Carlos Torres is worth consideration too in deeper holds leagues. He benefited from the Brewers’ being sellers at the deadline in 2016, recording 16 holds after Jeffress was traded. He should see a similar second half this year if Feliz gets traded.

Now on to some odds and ends from the last week:

Colorado Rockies – Mike Dunn hit the DL this week. He’s been a key arm for the Rockies bullpen this year. That leaves Jake McGee as the best lefty in the pen, which hurts the overall versatility of the Rockies’ bullpen. McGee, as well as righty Carlos Estevez, should see increased holds opportunities. I would probably lean toward Estevez getting slightly more based on seeing a few later inning looks as it is.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Fernando Rodney gave up 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning on Wednesday night. This was just his first blown save of the season but he’s had a couple of other blow-ups that result in an ERA of 11.00. Archie Bradley has been the best Dbacks reliever to date, but it seems like the team wants to keep him stretched out and potentially move him back into the rotation. That sounds nice, but too often a starter excels in the bullpen and winds up finding a home for himself there. If this happens, the Dbacks may still look elsewhere for saves and keep Bradley in a multi-inning set-up role, which is a trend we are seeing across baseball. J.J. Hoover, Jorge De La Rosa, and Andrew Chafin are all pitching well and deserve consideration.  Hoover’s 12 Ks in 9 innings make him the leader of the pack following Rodney.

Washington Nationals – Koda Glover hit the DL after recording two saves last week, making Shawn Kelley the team’s current closer. There is not much to like behind Kelley right now. Treinen’s struggles have continued since losing the closer role. Matt Albers is pitching the best through 6 innings of work this year and has yet to allow a run. He typically doesn’t get many high leverage situations, but he’s worth a shot at this point for the Nationals.

Los Angeles Angels – With Cam Bedrosian on the DL, it looks like Bud Norris is the unofficial interim closer as he’s gotten 4 saves in the last 6 games. Blake Parker also continues to rack up the strikeouts. In the last week he tallied 7 Ks in 4 innings, while also recording 1 hold. On the season he has 17 Ks in 10.1 innings.

Toronto Blue Jays – Jays closer Roberto Osuna blew his second straight save on Thursday and has allowed runs in his last three appearances. He should have a long leash, but if he doesn’t perform as expected, veteran reliever Jason Grilli could get the first crack at closing. Grilli was the team’s choice when Osuna started the year on the DL. Other options include Joe Biagini and Joe Smith. Both guys are pitching well this year with sub-2.00 ERAs and sub-0.90 WHIPs.

Seung Hwan Oh, STL – Oh was in hot water last week, but he recorded three saves in his last three innings of work through Wednesday while striking out 5 and allowing no runs. He seems to have righted the ship and Trevor Rosenthal has allowed one run in two innings since last week, so Oh’s job is safe for the time being.

Mychal Givens, BAL – The right-hander with a funky arm slot recorded three holds this week as he benefits from Zach Britton’s DL stint. Britton is set to begin a rehab assignment today. so the hold opportunities may not last much longer. Still, it’s worth noting he moved up a slot should any other O’s relievers go down during the year.

 

 

That wrap’s up this weeks’s Bullpen Briefing. Thanks for reading and see you next week.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 23rd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #84 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guests this week are Andy Macuga and Ron Shandler. Andy is the head football and baseball coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in southern California. Ron is a FSTA Hall of Famer and a fantasy baseball pioneer.

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea Lamont, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 30th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #85 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, a 5 year veteran in MLFB leagues, and a really handsome guy. His articles publish every Sunday. He helps “Pick Your Spots” for the coming week.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I've been playing fantasy baseball for 14 years. I am also an auditor and CPA, where I analyze information on a daily basis. Combined, my passion for fantasy baseball and analytical background create a unique perspective for analyzing and writing about fantasy baseball.

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