Last week’s big news was Jason Grilli was out as Pittsburgh’s closer. This week’s news in Jason Grilli is out of Pittsburgh. In a head scratching swap, the Pirates sent Grilli to the Angles for their problem child Ernesto Frieri. Things don’t change for Mark Melancon, he will still be the closer in Pittsburgh. Frieri on the other hand, who had a chance to close for the Angels (and blew it several dozen times) will now be lucky if he is allowed to be a setup man. Last year Frieri had a HR/9 of 1.44, and that was with a favorable home park and division. This year his HR/9 is 2.32, that’s 8 long balls in 31 innings…not good. He goes from pitching on the road in Seattle & Oakland to pitching in Cincinnati, St. Louis and Chicago. Maybe Pittsburgh thinks they can fix him and maybe the change of scenery will do him good. I’m skeptical on both fronts and Pittsburgh should be as well. Look for Tony Watson to take over as the primary setup man for Melancon giving Pittsburgh a formidable 1-2 punch in the late innings.
Over in the Angels bullpen, Mike Scioscia lost another one of his favorite toys. First they took Raul Ibanez away from him, forcing him to give regular playing time to C.J. Cron (I’m sure he went home and kicked his dog over that one). Now they’ve taken away his Frieri, but I’m sure Scioscia will be damned if he’s going to give the 9th inning to Joe Smith. The pitcher with the ho-hum name has done a pretty good job this year when called upon. In fact, Smith has been very consistent for 3 1/2 years now, but for some reason Scioscia has a problem with him. With Jason Grilli on board, look for the former Pirates closer to take over in the 9th inning for the Angels. He’s a step up from Frieri and considering his home ERA was a full point higher in Pittsburgh, the change of scenery might actually help Grilli. If you’re an owner of Joe Smith I would hold him for a week if you can, just to make sure this shakes out as planned. Odds are though, Smith’s fantasy value is cooked baring an injury (or Scioscia termination).
White Sox Closer Ronald Belisario was pulled Friday night after allowing a solo home run and two singles. Jake Petricka was eventually called upon to close out the game and picked up the save. Afterwards, Robin Ventura stated that the club with go with a committee and use matchups to determine who is closing each night. Daniel Webb might have gotten the job if not for the 26 walks in 35 innings. Jake Petricka has done slightly better with 22 walks in 43 innings, but he’ll still have to audition. Zach Putnam was the first man called upon Saturday to receive a save opportunity, but 3 hits and 1 earned run didn’t help his chances. So who will be the next closer in Chicago? My money says Putnam, but Belisario got the closer job over Webb last time around so who knows. If you’re in a league where potential closers are rostered by aggressive owners, throw a dart at Putnam. Everyone else, just sit back, enjoy the show and see how things play out.
This week, Rangers GM Jon Daniels (no relation to Jack) stated that RP Neftali Feliz was an option for promotion should a need in the bullpen arise. Given the Rangers struggles, injuries and place in the standings, this has led some to speculate that Joakim Soria could be traded, but I don’t see that happening. Soria has a 7 million dollar option for next year; compared to the price of relief pitchers on the open market, it’s a relatively affordable contract. Also, while Feliz has been successful so far in AAA, I don’t see Texas throwing the added pressure on him (and his arm) so soon. The Rangers could trade Soria, but it would really make no sense unless an offer came along that they could not refuse. If you’re a Soria owner, I would relax as I don’t see him going anywhere this season. As for Feliz, I expect the Rangers to ease him back into things, eventually setting the table for Soria in the 8th by the end of the season.
A few other notes and fun facts that can be covered by bullets:
- The Tigers said they were working on Joe Nathan, but he’s not fixed yet. He gave up a run on Wednesday and again on Saturday, but still managed to get the save in both. I guess the fact he didn’t blow the save and only gave up one run in each is an improvement.
- Over the past 30 days, which closer has a Zero ERA, 0.14 WHIP and 22 K’s over 14 innings? Sean Doolittle, that’s who. Oh, and he’s available in 23% of Yahoo leagues (And if it’s your league he’s available in, football season starts soon).
- For the month of June, which relief pitcher has a Zero ERA, 0.35 WHIP and 14 K’s over 11 innings? Antonio Bastardo…..The writing is on the wall Mr. Papelbon
- Dellin Betances leads all relief pitchers in strikeouts (74).
- While nobody was looking Trevor Rosenthal returned to form with a 0.75 ERA for the month of June. He still walked 9 batters in 12 innings, but at least he’s not letting those walks cross home plate.
- Sergio Romo had an ERA of 1.74 for the month of April, 4.63 in May and 8.59 in June. Many warned before the season he would regress, but nobody expected a total collapse. Might be time to invest in Santiago Casillo (or maybe Jean Machi).
- Hector Rondon recovered from Monday’s disaster to record a clean save on Thursday. I would still keep Neil Ramirez on speed dial.
- The top 5 players for holds are Will Smith (21), Tony Watson (20), Brad Ziegler (19), J.P. Howell (18) and Tyler Clippard (18). With the exception of Clippard, who saw those other guys coming?
- Luke Gregerson leads the league in blown saves with 6.
Below are my current closer rankings and the (alleged) player next in line for save opportunities. Some teams have one clear-cut choice and the next in line guy is the current setup man, but for teams with several options I’ve listed the alternate player who may play a role in the save game.
Job security (1 = All Clear, 2 = solid ground, 3 = shaky ground, 4 = rocky ground, 5 = Avalanche…RUN
|Closer||Security||Team||Current Setup Man||Next in Line|
|1||Craig Kimbrel||1||Braves||Jordan Walden|
|2||Greg Holland||1||Royals||Wade Davis|
|3||Aroldis Chapman||1||Reds||Jonathan Broxton|
|4||Koji Uehara||1||RedSox||Andrew Miller|
|5||Kenley Jansen||1||Dodgers||Brian Wilson|
|6||Francisco Rodriguez||1||Brewers||Will Smith|
|7||Huston Street||1||Padres||Joaquin Benoit|
|8||Glen Perkins||1||Twins||Casey Fien|
|9||David Robertson||1||Yankees||Adam Warren||Dellin Betances|
|10||Trevor Rosenthal||1||Cardinals||Pat Neshek|
|11||Rafael Soriano||1||Nationals||Tyler Clippard||Drew Storen|
|12||Casey Janssen||1||Blue Jays||Aaron Loop|
|13||Joakim Soria||1||Rangers||Neal Cotts||Jason Frasor|
|14||Sean Doolittle||1||Athletics||Luke Gregerson|
|15||Steve Cishek||1||Marlins||Mike Dunn||A.J. Ramos|
|16||Jonathan Papelbon||1||Phillies||Jake Diekman||Antonio Bastardo|
|17||Mark Melancon||2.5||Pirates||Tony Watson|
|18||Zach Britton||2.5||Orioles||Darren O’Day|
|19||Joe Nathan||2||Tigers||Joba Chamberlain||Al Alburquerque|
|20||Fernando Rodney||2||Mariners||Danny Farquhar|
|21||Sergio Romo||2||Giants||Jean Machi||Santiago Casilla|
|22||Addison Reed||2||Diamondbacks||Brad Ziegler|
|23||Hector Rondon||2.5||Cubs||Pedro Strop||Neil Ramirez|
|24||LaTroy Hawkins||2.5||Rockies||Rex Brothers||Adam Ottavino|
|25||Chad Qualls||3||Astros||Tony Sipp||Jose Veres|
|26||Cody Allen||4||Indians||Bryan Shaw||John Axford?|
|27||Jason Grilli||5||Angels||Joe Smith|
|28||Jenrry Mejia||4||Mets||Jeurys Familia||Vic Black|
|29||Grant Balfour||4||Rays||Joel Peralta||Jake McGee|
|30||TBD – Zach Putnam?||5||White Sox||TBD||TBD|
If the next in line box is empty, the setup man and next in line guy are one and the same.