Another week in the books, this one on the more quiet side, although we did see one closer – Bud Norris, officially lose the role. We’ll dig into the role vacated by Norris first. Then, sticking in the NL West, we’ll get an update on the Texas Rangers’ situation. Heading back east, we’ll get updates from the Chicago and NY teams from the American League. Finally, as always, we’ll wrap up with the three stars of the week.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
In the last week, Cam Bedrosian, Yusmero Petit, and Kenyan Middleton have all recorded saves for the Angels. Bedrosian with two compared to Petit’s and Middleton’s one. Going back two weeks, all three have recorded 10 strikeouts in 6.2, 7.0, and 6.1 innings, respectively. All three have been on top of their game lately, which makes the decision to name a closer more difficult, however I think Bedrosian eventually takes the nod.
Bedrosian was the favorite to close back in April, and if Bud Norris didn’t carry the closer torch so well during Bedrosian’s two DL stint’s, he likely would have regained the job more quickly upon his return. Bedrosian got the first save opportunity after Norris lost the job, which he converted last Thursday. After pitching 2/3 games, Petit got the save Friday, then back to Bedrosian Saturday, and then Middleton for the save on Sunday. All in all, it seems that when Bedrosian is available and rested he is the first option.
Also worth consideration is Petit’s usage, which is often for more than one inning. It’s quite valuable to have a multi-inning reliever who’s been pitching as well as Petit this season (2.39 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.84 K/9). I’m sure Angels’ manager Mike Sciocia would prefer to keep Petit available for multiple middle innings than to pin him down to just the 9th.
The biggest factor keeping Middleton out of consideration is his inexperience. He is a rookie with just 38.1 MLB innings under his belt, all in 2017. It’s a lot to ask of a rookie to take on closing duties so quickly, and there is no need to rush him into that situation with the other options the Angels have available.
Overall, Bedrosian is the pickup for saves here, with Middleton and Petit excellent options in holds leagues.
I’ve been picking Keone Kela for the closer role in Texas for the last month. He hit the 10-day disabled list this past week, so that puts an end to that for now (though I still like him for saves when he returns).
As a team, the Rangers have recorded zero saves in the last week and one in the last two weeks, which was by Alex Claudio. Claudio remains a viable option for saves, but his left-handedness and usage in 7th and 8th innings still makes me think he’s not going to be THE guy in Texas long term However, with Kela out, he’s the best option.
Jose Leclerc was another closer candidate and remains a good option despite giving up 3 earned runs and the lead in the 8th inning Friday night against the Astros. Claudio was in line to pitch the 9th for the save, but ended up coming into the 8th and pitched the 4 outs to finish the game. Leclerc has been great besides that blip, but remains behind Claudio in the hierarchy.
And don’t look now but Matt Bush is pitching well again. He lost the closer role on June 30th, and since July 1 has allowed just one earned run over 14.2 innings, striking out 19 in the process. Granted, most of these were lower leverage situations, so I don’t think he’s earned a shot at closing again just yet. Plus, after Bush’s horrid June there is no need to fix what isn’t broken here.
Chicago White Sox
Since joining the White Sox, Tyler Clippard has allowed two earned runs in 10.0 innings, striking out 12 and recording two saves. The change of scenery seems to have done him well, and he appears first in line for saves at the moment. Ride the wave while you can because it’s only a matter of time with Clippard. In those 10 innings, he has given up 5 walks and 8 hits, good for a 1.30 WHIP. I’d be cutting bait if any other closer options become available.
Update: Clippard was traded last night to the Houton Astros, ending his short stint as White Sox closer. Juan Minaya is the leading candidate for saves. He’s one of two White Sox relievers to record a hold in the last month, the other being Aaron Bummer. Minaya has 12 Ks in his last 11.0 innings, to go along with a 3.27 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He also allowed 3 home runs though.
Aaron Bummer, who also recorded a hold, has also allowed 3 home runs in the last month. He’s got a 4.15 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 8.2 innings the last month, to go along with 7 Ks.
The third candidate is Gregory Infante. Infante has 11 Ks in hiss last 9.1 innings and has not allowed a home run over that time. His 3.86 ERA looks respectable, however his 1.71 WHIP over the past month is cause for concern.
There is not a lot to choose from here, with the White Sox shipping off Robertson, Kahnle, Swarzak, and now Clippard. I won’t be investing any of the three relievers mentioned above, but if I had to pick one guy for saves it would be Minaya.
New York Yankees
There is no question that Aroldis Chapman is the closer in the Bronx, but he had another bout of wildness on Friday. With the Yankees leading 5-3, Chapman started off the 9th inning with 6 straight balls, and walked the first two batters with just 9 pitches. After walking the bases loaded with no outs, he induced a fly-out to deep left field. Luckily for Chapman and the Yankees, Red Sox Eduardo Nunez was thrown out at third base attempting to tag up. Chapman got the next batter to fly out to deep center field to end the game.
Chapman’s control issues this year, coupled with batters making contact 10% more than last year (75.7% vs 65.4%) are the cause for his 3.06 ERA. While that isn’t terrible, it’s a far cry from the elite 1.55 and 1.63 ERA’s posted by Chapman in 2016 and 2015, respectively. He’s not going to lose the closer job anytime soon, but bears monitoring as the Yankees have multiple arms that could closer behind him. Update: Chapman’s struggles continued Sunday night. He allowed a solo home run in the 9th inning to rookie Rafael Devers which tied the game. However that was his only hit of the inning and he recorded 2 strikeouts and a ground out. Chapman stayed in the game for the 10th inning. After striking out Mitch Moreland, things got a little wild. Chapman hit Jackie Bradley Junior with a pitch, then walked Eduardo Nunez before he was removed in favor of Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle allowed a walk and the go-ahead single before getting the final two outs of the inning. Champan owners and Yankee fans must be getting a bit concerned here.
Three Stars of the Week
Kenley Jansen, LAD – In 4.0 innings, Jansen struck out 7, recorded 3 saves, and did not allow a run. He allowed just two hits and zero walks.
George Kontos, Pit – Kontos pitched three innings and recorded three holds. He struck out two and did not allow a base-runner.
Sean Doolittle, Was – Doolittle hurled 4.0 innings, netting three saves and three strikeouts. He didn’t allow a run and allowed only two hits. There is no question he is the Nationals’ closer at this point.
That wraps up this week’s Bullpen Briefing. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week with another edition.