It’s the last post before the all-star break and nothing seems more fitting than a Neal Diamond reference.  If you don’t like or appreciate Neal, then we have problems and I challenge you to a duel or whatever the young kids are doing now a days to show dominance.  (Because I know it’s not anything like what transpired in West Side Story.)  Moving on swiftly to the pressing closer news as I get lost in my ole timey spirit…  So the Cardinals have moved away from the Oh and more to the Rosenthal.  Trevor Rosenthal has sorta looked like he did three years ago, which seems like forever ago but really isn’t.  The bad thing is that he and the rest of the save chasers that are in the Cardinals bullpen are pitching blah-squared.  The best pitcher over the last 20 games is Matt Bowman… again.  I said that same statement about a month into the season when Oh originally looked about as shaky as an 11-year-old with his first attempt at using a blow torch.  Over the past 30 games the saves have gone Oh for 3, Rosenthal 1, Bowman 1 and Tyler Lyons with 1 (was a multiple innings save).  Over the past 30 games for a usual dominant bullpen fixture, in terms of fantasy, to post 5 saves (I am not counting Lyons effort) is more condemning than the way they are pitching.  If you are a Seung-Hwan Oh owner, you kinda have to hold the ship until it becomes more of an official thing.  If Rosey is on your wire (55% owned in ESPN leagues) then nab him up.  If you want to roster a RP with appeal, then Bowman is your guy (1.8% owned).  As I can see it, Oh is still the guy but with some daylight for others.  Just be leery that the past 30 days of track record for savedom have not been all that rosey for the Cards.  Don’t frown, we got more goodies and sunshine after the bump.  Cheers!

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Just when the ship couldn’t sink any lower, the Giants lost their closer for the second time this year.  When it happens once, sure… twice?  I have my doubts. Mark Melancon hit the DL with more arm ailments and received a PRP injection in his arm.  No, a PRP injection isn’t something that you search for on your go-to-p0rn site of choice.  It is never a good thing, especially for a scuffling team like the Giants.  They have already had attempts at the closer with Derek law, Hunter Strickland/ and now re-tread candidate Sam Dyson is thrown into the fray.  I mean, I am no Nostradamus here, but it doesn’t look good.  It’s almost like that 2:00 AM special when you stare across the bar and try to decide if it’s better then going home alone and revisiting that PRP search on that website of choice.  We saw earlier this year that Dyson is not to be trusted, granted that saves are saves are saves, but at what cost?  An inflated ERA and 1-2 save chances a week… maybe.  Hunter Strickland got the first save, but only because Dyson was plucked from the bullpen in 4-of-the-last-5. For a team that struggles to score runs, can’t keep the ball in the yard from a starting pitcher standpoint, and a bullpen with tons of failed attempts at a closer, the benefit just isn’t there.  So if you must, the order as of right now is: Dyson, Strickland, then Kontos.  But for a team with only 16 saves to show on the season, the chase is more exciting than the ownership.  Enough about the city of Rice-A-Roni, and onto the week in Holds and such!

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In a full-on Willy Loman-type starring role, Andrew Miller now takes over the most responsible role in the Tribe’s bullpen.  I beg to differ that he is taking over the most important role, and can argue that he has seen more high-leverage situations and save situations than his sort of disposed closer, Cody Allen…  The only thing leading him to not be the most important factor in that pen was the stat of the save.  Listen, Tito beats to the sound of his own drum and Arnold, nor Willis are going to tell him how to handle his bullpen.  It is a luxury to have two top-10 overall relievers at his disposal and to use them how he sees fit.  Miller, is by definition, the closer to save his arm for the future.  But what we don’t realize is that if a save happens sooner than the 9th inning, Miller is going to be called on just like his original role.  Confused?  Yeah, it is kinda like saying: “Go look for the save in the corner of a circular room.” For ownership, this changes zero.  Miller is and was owned as he should be in every league imaginable.  Cody Allen is also owned and shouldn’t be dropped as he becomes the closer cuff in waiting, and is far superior to any RP on the waiver wire.  So hold on tight!  A month from now, when Miller has 5 saves and Allen has 3, not much stat wise will be lost, but by the end of the year when Allen has 32 and Miller 12, that is when we can look back on this and laugh and say “I shaved my eyebrows for this?”  Stay tuned kids, more closer and bullpen-y type goodness are on the way…

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At some point, the bullpen levee is going to break for the Nationals.  Never in my fantasy existence have I seen such blahness, injury, and utter roster futility like I have seen with the first place Nats. I don’t know if they are lucky or good…  they have had six guys garner saves this year.  Already had three closers changes by injury or attrition, and are still collectively better than the sum of their parts.   They have the second worst bullpen ERA sitting in the low 5’s, allow the second highest BAA at .273, and have the worst OPS against.  Oh, and just for giggles, they have 11 blown saves.  So how are they doing it you may ask?  I haven’t the foggiest idea. But in a weird case of scenarios, the Twins are equally as bad in almost all the same categories.  Re-inventing the winning relief ways, I guess. What I do know is Enny Romero over the past 15 games has been the bull’s balls, or lack there of if you are into those kind of delicacies. After the rise and fall of Koda, the fluctuation of weight by Albers and the over-hyped value of Kelley being the wily veteran, Romero has stood out.  His K-rate is pushing 11 on the season and it’s even better over the past 15 games as it pushes 14.  This is the bullpen post, so relievers are what make my pants miraculously disappear and I love me the hold stat.  Enny Romero looks like the match-up proof guy that even Dusty can rely on until the relief relievers are acquired via trade.  So if you wanna capitalize on a winning team, which is a positive in hold searching, and need to zero in on a guy to maybe get a ton of high leverage situations, please go take a gander at Enny Romero.  So while you go search the waiver wire to see if he is available, stay here as we get some intimate details about late inning goodies…

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The worst news in terms of closers, especially in a situation like Philadelphia, is the word: committee.  I mean, it is kind of like getting free tickets to see the Village People, hell yes they are the Village People.  But do you wanna be known for knowing more than two of their songs?  Nope, not me.  So look at this way, Pat Neshek got the save the other day after Gomez and Mortecia Neris had their turns at the gig.  Now this isn’t a Pat on the back (pun intended for Neshek), because it is still a full blooded committee for a team that ranks in the bottom six in all of MLB in saves, save opportunities, and relief appearances with them having the lead.  Add all that up and it goes back to what I was spitting a few months ago, are saves really worth the rigmarole of dumpster diving for futility?  The problem with that whole “rostering multiple guys for a chance at a save” is all well and good if you are able to roster both or even three guys… and that is the dumbest thing I have ever typed out.  Who in here has a Philly reliever let alone three?  Show of hands?  Yeah, you shouldn’t.  So Neshek is worth a grab while they showcase him for trade value, and Neris is a hold because who knows when a last place team tries to keep it real? Let’s hop on the good foot and see what’s going down with the late-gamers…

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The season to date leader in holds heads to the DL and one of the better bullpens in baseball is in a tailspin… not so fast!  The Rockies have reliable arms that can cement games just as well as Adam Ottavino has done for the year.  With the likes of wily veterans in Mike Dunn, Chris Rusin, and even a little smattering of Jake McGee, the sedimentary bunch is going to attempt to hold down the fort. The comforting thing is that the Rockies lead MLB in holds as a pen, least amount of blown saves and have the most games pitching with a lead with 99 total.  The scary thing with the shoulder injury is that Ottavino is a stash, or a dash, and replace with new military holds parts made from recycled relievers.  Wait a week, see if the 10-day DL stint is a pain in the tuther end, and I can see if you need the space in Holds leagues, the move make sense.  I would most likely grab Dunn, Rusin, and McGee in that order, as the setup game in front of the Dutch Master is going to be pieced together differently than what we saw so far.  No need to panic though, there are tons of saves in the 6-8 innings to go around.  Speaking of which, let’s see what is going down in the neighborhood of hold-dom…

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What I particularly like about relievers is versatility.  The situation in San Diego is the one in particular I want to discuss.  We were all lured into the Carter Capps preseason love, and I was on the wagon driving the horses as well, but his injury and the results that we expected aren’t coming as fast as we hoped.  He isn’t bowling over anyone in the minors, sporting a 6-plus ERA, and the obnoxious K-rate hasn’t materialized.  Now onto the major league roster which isn’t lighting any fires.  They are second from the bottom in bullpen ERA, have only 12 holds on the year, and now their closer has hit the skids.  He being Brandon Maurer.  Enter who I think should, could be the next man up while we wait (forever) for Capps.  Brad Hand offers that former starter turned good.  I may just call him the Vigilante of holds and possibly saves very soon.  He has the K-rate, the BAA and the moxy to do the job… it is just a matter of if SD is ready to pull the trigger on something because Maurer looks cooked.  Regardless of his situation moving forward or your league perimeters, Hand is worthy for a spot because of speculation and the K’s that he will produce.  This is the bullpen report for this week, so let’s see what’s happening in the setup game and the hold chase…

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The biggest question I get regarding the Hold stat is: “How long should I hold onto a stud holds reliever if he isn’t getting the precious stat?”  Well, the stat is fluctuation between the sublime and the superfluous.  It is usually as explainable as binary calculus.  Take, for example, the story of the San Francisco Giants bullpen.  They have all the right pieces there to be a successful bullpen.  A stud closer and an excellent mix of RH and LH set-up men.  Now look closer at the stats.  Hunter Strickland is by all intents and purposes the 8th inning guy.  He has 12 appearances, 11 of which have come in the 8th inning or later in ball games.  He checks every other box for stats, low ERA, K/9 right about where you want it, but the inevitable stat faux pas is he has zero holds.  On a team that only has 9 holds collectively, what is going wrong?  He isn’t doing anything wrong, he isn’t vexed by a succubus or anything bad.  hell I bet he helps old ladies cross the street and then steals their groceries.   The simple answer is that the hold stat is an ever flowing team driven ideal.  Doesn’t mean I hate it, one bit.  i love the secondary save.  It just comes out of the blue sometimes and people who sometime deserve to be the beneficiary aren’t that’s all.  Hunter will finish the year with his share, but right now in holds leagues he is almost unownable.  So look elsewhere for good match-ups, good form in pitching, and the ever important stat with relievers is when did they pitch last.  That is the best determinant in acquiring a waiver wire darling.  If he pitched yesterday, odds are he won’t today.  Be smart as picking reliever for holds is a dumb game, don’t over-think it.  Here are some other deets, in the game of set-up…

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When struggles happen, the fantasy geeks come out of the wood work with words like “decreased velocity”, “contact rate” and “swing strike percentage”.  Now I am no geek, but Roberto Osuna is failing the eye test for me.  Control is all over the place and he has zero confidence in his pitches.  Yes, if you look at all his secondary pitching attributes, they are all down or up for the worse.  First, his velocity is down almost two MPH from last year.  Granted, he did miss some time this spring though, so there is a reason to have a letter from his mom to explain that.  His z-contact rate (pitches in the strike zone) is off the charts bonkers.  It currently sits at 91%.  If he had pitched more than five innings to date and qualified, he would have the highest such contact rate in baseball among relievers.  That is not a good trait to have as a closer, let alone a mammal.  Finally, his swing strike percentage has bottomed out at a cool 10%, which would put him outside the top-100 relievers.  And surrounded by names like Tommy Hunter and Michael Ynoa, all staples to a flourishing fantasy team.  So what do we do?  You cuff him.  Jason Grilli is the best name there and Ryan Tepera just got the save in extra innings the other day.  All we can hope for from Bobby Osuna is that with some more innings and builds back up to the 9-plus K/9 reliever we drafted as our 1A closer.  It isn’t time to panic, but do yourself a favor and cover your bases.  Here’s what else is going down in the end game… Cheers!

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Even being 1/10th of the way through the season, it is never too early to see some trends forming.  The trends I am learning you about are the bullpen usage rates.  Not every team follows an A to B to C type formulas, and it would be nice, but usage rates in certain situations, even 15 games into the season, peak their heads out for fantasy usefulness.  The ancillary stats that no one really notices, and that I use all year, are runners inherited and appearances with the lead.  All key factors for what a reliever is and what they are at sustaining.  The inherited runners stat is a ruiner, not only for themselves but for the pitchers they are replacing.  Basically a sad trombone in the case of reliever sad trombones.  The appearances with the lead factor is what we all eat our Holds and gravy with.  It basically says that they are pitching with a lead, granted, holds are scored the same as a save.  So all that less than four runs runner on deck shenanigans that people made up for it to qualify.  So welcome to the first Holds/bullpens post of the year as we embark on a road far less traveled then it should.  Holds matter, regardless of color.

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