For a quick recap of closers potentially on the move with the trade deadline looming, here’s the Bottom of the Ninth post from two weeks ago.
Houston Astros: In an even earlier post, I covered the Astros closing situation. For a not-so-quick recap, Brett Myers is due $10 million in 2013 if he closes 45 games and doesn’t end the year on the DL. Even if he isn’t moved to another team and placed in middle or long relief, he won’t end the season closing games for the Astros. Wilton Lopez was activated from the DL at the start of the All-Star break, and his stellar 58.2% GB and 6.50 K/BB rates make for a solid option to handle the 9th. Brandon Lyon has been the setup man during Wilton’s DL stint, and his 9.45 K/9 is by far a career best; his previous high was 7.63, in 2003. It remains to be seen how their usage shakes out in the coming weeks, but I’d put my money on Lopez taking over for Myers. He’s four years younger than Lyon, under team control through 2015, has demonstrated his control/groundball combo for three seasons, and was occupying the 8th before his elbow injury. In support of Lyon is 78 career saves, including 20 in 2010 with the Astros.
Chicago White Sox: I’m still a strong believer in Addison Reed. His ERA/WHIP is a tolerable, if pedestrian, 4.06/1.23, but thankfully his peripheral stats show he has room for improvement. His season walk rate of 3.48 per 9, while not terrible, is much higher than a first pitch strike% of 65.7% and zone% of 56.0% would suggest. I expect his K/BB rate to be closer to 5 than its current 2.75 mark moving forward, with an ERA around 3.00 and a WHIP in the 1.10 range.
Atlanta Braves: I’ve given a couple of mentions to Aroldis Chapman in past posts, and I think it’s time I acknowledge his opposite-handed brother from another mother, Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel has struck out 45.9% of batters faced this season, second only to Chapman’s 47.0%. Kimbrel’s 8.2% walk rate is a near match for Chapman’s 8.0%, and Kimbrel owns the edge in FIP (0.97 to 1.51) and xFIP (1.29 to 1.63) thanks to his 57.1% groundball rate. If you own him, you drafted him in the 5th or 6th round, and you’ve actually received fair value for that pick – ESPN’s player rater has him in front of Cole Hamels and Stephen Strasburg in 5×5 formats. Our own player rater has him ahead of the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Felix Hernandez.
San Francisco Giants: Pitching in AT&T Park gave him an assist in overcoming mediocre control to post sub-2 ERA seasons in 2010 and 2011, but there are worrying signs in Santiago Casilla‘s profile. His swinging strike rate is 7.9%, the lowest mark of his career, and nearly 3 points lower than his career average of 10.7%. His current 8.53 K/9 will likely fall a bit unless he begins to miss bats again, and recent issues with blisters on his pitching hand may negatively affect his command. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he’s had an ERA near 8 for the past month. He’ll need to struggle for a while longer to lose the job, due to Sergio Romo‘s insane 66.3% slider usage and his subsequent inability to take the mound on a regular basis. Jeremy Affeldt is most likely to inherit the closing role if Casilla collapses, thanks to a non-existent platoon split (career 4.06 FIP v L, 4.08 FIP v R), strong groundball tendencies (57.0%), and a decent K rate (7.55 per 9). Also worth watching is Tim Lincecum‘s start to the second half; if he continues to struggle coming out of the All-Star break, he’ll likely find himself in the bullpen. Surprisingly, Lincecum’s carrying the highest swinging strike rate of his career at 12.0%, and moving to the bullpen would allow him to dial up his slider more frequently and add a couple MPH to his fastball. I wouldn’t call it likely that it happens, but he’s got the stuff to let it fly and dominate for an inning at a time.
Frank Francisco is scheduled to return from the DL shortly. His 4.97 ERA is ugly, but his 3.72 FIP is less so. He’ll come back to the 9th after Bobby Parnell admirably filled in for him. Parnell has traded a tick off his fastball for better control, halving his walk rate from last season. A 4.25 K/BB and 55.2% GB rate makes for a solid reliever; I’d grab him if he’s somehow available in holds leagues … Sean Doolittle has been nearly as ridiculous as Chapman and Kimbrel. He’s got a 24:3 K:BB rate in 14.2 IP, to go along with a 2.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. His BABIP is .378 and he struck out over 50% of minor league batters faced, so his ratios may even improve some. With Brian Fuentes DFA’d and Grant Balfour also being shopped by the A’s, Doolittle may find himself manning the 7th or 8th inning in Oakland. Small sample size alert, but he’s got a 17:1 K:BB against 37 right-handed batters, so it doesn’t appear as though he’ll end up a LOOGY. If you need ratio help, grab him … David Hernandez has a 15.92 K/9 and a 0.92 WHIP over the last month, he needs to be owned in all holds leagues. He’s the obvious closer in Arizona if J.J. Putz is moved, which may happen if the D’backs falls out of contention in the coming weeks.