There are only four days left in the regular season and the only playoff spot yet to be decided is the AL Wild Card so this will be the last of the Bullpen Reports for the season. We will continue to have coverage specific to bullpens throughout the offseason and we thank you again for checking in here on the regular for your bullpen and closer carousel coverage!
• There was no save situation in Minnesota last night but the Twins went with Tyler Duffey ->Trevor May -> Zack Littell to secure the win and their AL Central title. Taylor Rogers has a hold on the 9th inning with Sergio Romo as a helpful addition in the pen but behind them, Tyler Duffey has really become quite a force with an impressive 2.22./2.90/2.95/2.76 ERA/FIP/xFIP/SIERA pitching line this year. Duffey has been out of the rotation for a couple of years but he’s really starting to flourish in the bullpen this season with a career high velocity of 94 mph an a fairly insane 28.3% K-BB% and a 15.1% SwStr%. David Laurila spoke with Duffey about how he crafted his curveball earlier this week and it’s worth your time. Duffey’s curve has become a huge weapon as he’s ditched his other offerings and while Tyler Duffey Relief Ace sounds like a weird statement it’s been true this year and the Twins should enter the post season and 2020 with a far more impressive pen than they had on Opening Day.
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A belated bullpen report, with notes from Saturday and a few quick hits from the early games today.
• It’s been a rough return for Craig Kimbrel who gave up a homer in his return from the IL on Thursday and then blew the save last night to the Cardinals after allowing home runs to Yadier Molina and Paul Dejong. Kimbrel was on the IL with right elbow inflammation and although his velocity in his most recent outings has been on par with this season (~96 mph) it’s still a tick lower than his previous years. Kimbrel should be able to succeed with that velo but while we gave a pass of sorts earlier on since he didn’t have a full spring training, it’s more likely that Kimbrel will have to adjust with a slight loss rather than expect a return. Joe Maddon said he is worried about Kimbrel’s confidence but when asked if he would turn to Kimbrel again Maddon said “I want to continue to do so.” The Cubs season is on the brink with little time left but it seems as though Kimbrel will continue to be their main option as save opportunities arise in the final games.
• After a string of scoreless appearances, Kenley Jansen struggled again last night allowing three baserunners and two runs for his 8th blown save this season. Jansen’s seasonal line (3.81/3.57/3.71/3.19 ERA/FIP/xFIP/SIERA) isn’t particularly bad but it’s far from the relief ace we have grown accustomed too and since July 16th, Jansen has a 5.23 ERA and 3.78 SIERA. Jansen’s job is secure but I’d be more concerned about his status next year. Jansen has a recent history of early season struggles and velocity concerns, and while he has mostly put those in the rear view mirror, if he continues this trend with slightly diminished stuff next year, he may not make it to May as a closer.
• James Karinchak, the newly called up reliever on the Indians with the fabulous strikeout rates made his seasonal debut last night against the Twins in a low leverage situation down in the 9th and he didn’t disappoint getting four outs with three via strikeout. In 27.1 IP across AA and AAA this year, Karinchak struck out an incredible 64 batters, and yes, you are reading that correctly. While I don’t expect Karinchak to post a K% near 60% in the majors, he will undoubtedly pile on the strikeouts and could find himself in high leverage work in Cleveland. Brad Hand has a long leash but he has had a few warts this season and while Tyler Clippard and Nick Goody have been pretty solid, they don’t have the ceiling as someone with Karinchak’s arsenal. If Karinchak is throwing multi-inning mini-Hader outings in the 7th and 8th innings in close games, I wouldn’t be shocked.
• Elsewhere in the Twins and Indians double header, Taylor Rogers was called on for a five-out save and struck out four batters en route to his 26th save. Rogers started out the season as a low key relief ace and he has since forced himself as a main part of the discussion. Although he’s a lefty, Rogers has become a shutdown reliever who can go multi-innings if need be and now sits at a 2.64 SIERA and 28.6% K-BB% which ranks 10th and 11th among qualified relievers in the MLB this year. Rogers should enter next season as the Twins closer and a top 10 option off the board. In the second game of the double header, there was no save situation but top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol pitched two perfect frames with three strikeouts and received the first win of his career. Graterol has filthy stuff and could be a compelling end of season relief option for strikeouts before likely seeing more of the rotation next season.
• Brad Hand wasn’t available to pitch last night with an arm injury that demanded a MRI which thankfully came back clean but it might be several days until Hand is back in his familiar role in the 9th. A save situation arrived for the Indians last night though and they went with a three-headed committee with Nick Wittgren, Oliver Perez, and Adam Cimber each recording an out in the 9th. Although Hand hasn’t been too dominant of late and is dealing with an injury, he’s still their closer. In his place while he gets back should be a committee of the aforementioned along with Tyler Clippard and Nick Goody who pitched in the 7th and 8th innings respectively last night.
• With Emilio Pagan pitching in back to back games, the Rays went with Oliver Drake for the 9th inning last night, who secured his second save of the season. Nick Anderson pitched in the 8th inning in a tie game and remains the obvious second in line, and received the win last night for the Rays. After his scoreless inning last night, Anderson has now thrown 14 innings for the Rays with a 27 strikeouts against…zero walks. On the year, Anderson has a somewhat inflated ERA of 3.12 but an incredible 2.27 SIERA and 34.3% K-BB%. After a season of committees the order of operations in Tampa is pretty secure with Anderson –> Pagan with Colin Poche, and Oliver Drake behind them along with Diego Castillo when he’s not being used as the opener.
• Edwin Diaz avoided the IL and after a few games of rest he returned to the mount last night against the Cubs. This was a low leverage situation with the Mets behind but Diaz struck out the side and should be back in the committee in Queens. We still have Lugo atop the committee but if Diaz keeps up performances like last night he could gain his old job back.
• Speaking of the Cubs, Craig Kimbrel closed out the 9th for his 12th save, pitching around a hit and a walk in scoreless inning. Overall, Kimbrel continues to be disappointing with a 4.00 SIERA and declining K%. His velo is still an impressive 96.3 mph but it’s also a tick below last year and while he still generates whiffs at a great rate with a 15.5% SwStr% his K% this year is a career low. In spite of his average-ness this year he’s the best option on the Cubs and should be a consistent source of saves, even if his name is more valuable than his expected performance.
• While the Indians have been playing very well, Brad Hand has not as he struggled again last night getting his 5th blown save and 4th loss allowing two earned to the Mets. Over his last 16.2 innings pitched, Hand has allowed 15 runs for a 8.10 ERA. The 4.83/4.35/3.61 FIP/xFIP/SIERA tell a bit of a better story than the inflated ERA but Hand is still struggling nonetheless. With that said, Terry Francona said that “we can’t run from Brad. To get where we want to go, we gotta get him hot.” So, Brad Hand’s job is still safe in spite of his struggles, and with the Indians still fighting for the division he should continue to get opportunities. If Hand has another blow up or two in his next appearances we will sound the alarm, but for now we will leave him as yellow on the grid.
• Sean Doolittle’s workload was a talking point over the last couple of weeks and after another clunker in the 9th where he allowed four runs in a blown save, Doolittle was now place on the IL with knee tendinitis. Whether Doolittle is suffering a real injury or just getting some necessary rest, it should benefit Doolittle and the Nationals to give him some time to recover as he hasn’t been himself of late. With Doolitle now on the shelf look for a committee in Washingon. At the top I would expect Dan Hudson to get the first opportunity with Hunter Strickland and none other than Fernando Rodney also in the mix.
• In the same game where Doolittle’s struggles continue, Josh Hader also blew a save for the Brewers in what was truly a wild game, ending after 14 innings and a Brewers win. But in the 9th Hader allowed two walks and two hits and an earned run in his 6th blown save. In classic Hader fashion he also struck out three and although he has been a tad shaky, Matt Albers, Drew Pomeranz, and Freddy Peralta aren’t the stiffest competition either. In July spanning 16.1 innings pitched, Hader has a 6.19 ERA and 6.78 FIP but also a 3.58 xFIP and 2.61 SIERA. Hader’s extreme strikeout rate and fly ball rate have broken advanced pitching metrics. It’s unlikely that Hader continues to give up homers at the rate he is at but he will always be an extreme fly ball guy who likely carries an ERA higher than the estimators.
• All good things must come to an end, and Seth Lugo is now just a regular, solid but not necessarily spectacular reliever after allowing five earned runs entering in the 7th inning. After the blow up Lugo still supports a 2.99 SIERA and a still excellent 25.9% K-BB%, but entering in the 7th means Lugo wasn’t going to get 9 outs for the save which would leave Edwin Diaz or Justin Wilson for the 9th. One bad outing after an amazing run doesn’t take Lugo out of the running for saves but it’s clear he won’t be saved for save situations only, meaning Edwin Diaz and/or Justin Wilson could see opportunities depending on the match ups. I’m going to make this a three-headed committee, stay tuned on who the Mets turn to next.
• On the flip side of this game, Mark Melancon was called on in the 9th for the Braves after they secured the lead against the Mets but after allowing two earned runs and four hits, Jerry Blevins recorded the final out for his 1st save of the year. The Braves have had bullpen issues all year and after “addressing” it with deadline additions in Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and Chris Martin the bullpen situation remains a mess as all three have struggled mightily in their new uniforms. Shane Green has allowed 7 earned in 4.1 innings for the Braves but after throwing a scoreless inning last night, it’s possible he gets the next chance. Mark Melancon was given the job after Greene and Martin struggled and he’s had issues as well but might be more the victim of bad luck with a .526 BABIP and 7/1 K/BB. Meanwhile ex-closer Luke Jackson continues to put up zeroes since the deadline and could re-enter the mix as well. We have a full on committee here in Atlanta and whoever gets the hot hand should get a majority of the remaining save opportunities