Seattle Mariners: After surrendering 6 ER and 13 baserunners in 4 appearances, Brandon League is out as the closer in Seattle. His 13/12 K/BB is not going to cut it, and his 7.6% swinging strike rate and career-worst 45.8% zone percentage don’t offer much hope moving forward. However, his trade value is close to zero for the Mariners if he isn’t closing, so he should find himself pitching in the 9th as soon as he strings together a few good innings. As it is, Tom Wilhelmsen (10.66 K/9, 3.26 FIP) is in the pole position having previously been the setup guy, with lefty Charlie Furbush (5.00 K/BB, 3.08 FIP) potentially getting a whack based on matchups.
Chicago Cubs: After a disgusting display of 11 strikeouts and 17 walks in 25.1 innings, Rafael Dolis was sent down to the minor leagues to make room for Carlos Marmol‘s return from the DL. James Russell, the only lefty in the Cubs bullpen, picked up a 2-out save on Tuesday and pitched the top of the 9th in a tie game Wednesday. Shawn Camp entered the game in the 8th and pitched into the 9th Tuesday before giving way to Russell. Casey Coleman pitched the 9th on Monday in a non-save situation with a 4-run lead and was said by manager Dale Sveum to have been the guy had a save situation arisen that day, but hasn’t been used since. Confused yet? Russell has severe platoon splits (8.14 K/BB and 3.96 FIP vs LHH, 1.64 K/BB and 5.37 FIP vs RHH) and as mentioned earlier, is the only left-hander in the bullpen. Camp is the best pitcher of the group, and sports an uninspiring career 6.25 K/9 and 4.11 FIP. Much like the Mariners and League, Marmol has close to zero value for the Cubs pitching in the 6th inning. Russell and Camp will likely split saves based on matchups until Marmol gets his shizz together.
Washington Nationals: Tyler Clippard has picked up the team’s last three save opportunities and hasn’t appeared in a non-save situation since – a span of 4 games. For a guy who pitches nearly every other game (78 and 72 appearances the last two seasons), it’s another sign that he’s the one to own in the Nats bullpen. With Drew Storen hoping for a return at the All-Star break, Clippard and his 11.22 K/9 should be owned until Storen comes back and reclaims the job.
San Diego Padres: After converting 5 consecutive save chances and not allowing a run in his first 10 outings, Dale Thayer has been hammered in his last 2 appearances, allowing 7 baserunners and 7 earned runs in 1.2 innings. He’s only walked 2 batters in 37.2 career MLB innings, but even though he’s upped the usage of his slider (30.9%, up from 8% and 19% in previous seasons), he still doesn’t make enough guys miss (9.3% swinging strike rate) to be reliable. On top of that, he’s had trouble versus same-handed batters: Thayer has allowed 18 ER in 22.1 IP and owns a 5.02 FIP versus RHH, striking out only 12.8% of righties faced. Strangely enough, he’s compiled a 2.14 FIP and K’d 22.1% of opposite-handed batters. Fortunately for Dale, Andrew Cashner hasn’t been doing so hot himself, coughing up 7 baserunners and 5 runs in his last 3.2 innings. Cashner throws ridiculously hard, with an average fastball velocity of 98.8 MPH, but has control problems – a career BB/9 of 4.99, and a 5.79 mark this season. Huston Street may begin a rehab assignment in Lake Elsinore on Friday, and until he returns, Thayer is the guy to own. If you’re desperate for saves.
Arizona Diamondbacks: I covered J.J. Putz last week, and since then, he’s struck out 3 and allowed 1 baserunner in two save opportunities. Despite Putz not pitching since Sunday, David Hernandez, not Putz, got the save on Wednesday. As of now (late Wednesday/early Thursday), there’s no word as to why Putz went unused. Putting on my speculation cap, Hernandez came in for Ian Kennedy with 2 outs and a 3-run lead in the 8th; Kirk Gibson may have simply decided to give Putz the night off. We’ll figure out what happened by morning and hash it out in the comments.
Miami Marlins: I wouldn’t drop Steve Cishek just yet, even though Heath Bell has recorded 3 saves in as many days, posting 6 K to only 1 BB in 3 appearances. If Bell continues to miss bats he’ll be safe, but he’s the owner of a 5.3% swinging strike rate for the season, and until this recent stretch, had walked more batters than he’d struck out.
Los Angeles Angels: The Sciosciapath continues to live up to his nickname. He alternated Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs on Saturday and Sunday, with Frieri getting the save on Saturday and the hold on Sunday, Downs getting the hold on Saturday and the save on Sunday. On Tuesday, Downs pitched the 8th with a 3-run lead against the Yankees, and Frieri pitched the 9th with a 4-run lead. Wednesday, Downs pitched the 8th with the Angels down by a run, Frieri got the night off. If we can glean a pattern from the last two days, it seems as though Frieri is unofficially the closer. Don’t drop Downs until Frieri closes two opportunities in a row, though.
Fernando Rodney blew his first save of the season on Saturday, and responded Sunday with a clean save and a punchout. He has the highest first strike % of his career, so the improved BB/9 (1.44 in 2012, 4.69 career) doesn’t strike me as a fluke. I don’t think Kyle Farnsworth has a chance at getting his job back when he returns from injury… Matt Capps joined Rodney in blowing his first save over the weekend, but unlike Rodney, Capps isn’t as secure in his position. He has produced a 4.74 K/9, and once he gets traded or has a couple bad outings, Glen Perkins (11.57 K/9, 3.12 FIP) will take over the 9th for the Twins… if you are lagging in Ks, pick up Jason Grilli and plug him in as needed. He’s got an insane 17.2% swinging strike rate and has whiffed 35 batters in 20 innings.