The Yankees have seemingly endured a season’s worth of hardships in less than a week, but through their first four games, they didn’t have to worry about Aroldis Chapman. He tossed scoreless innings in each of his first two appearances, but in Tuesday night’s game against the Tigers, Chapman was at the center of the drama.
Not able to muster much offense against Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Stumpf and Joe Jimenez, the Yankees found themselves knotted with the Tigers at 1-1 heading into the top of the ninth. Chapman entered the game and started off well enough, striking out John Hicks on three pitches. The tide turned quickly, though, as he walked Niko Goodrum and then allowed a first-pitch RBI double to Dustin Peterson. Chapman would give up two more singles in the inning, including a Jordy Mercer hit that brought in Peterson.
It seems like we were on Chapman Velocity Watch for much of last season, and his average fastball velocity has been a little lower yet so far this year. After averaging 95.2 mph in his first outing, Chapman has been just above 97 mph in each of his last two appearances. That, along with Tuesday night’s loss, is not quite enough for me to give Chapman the “not very stable” coding in the closer grid. Of the four batted balls allowed by Chapman in this game, three were ground balls, and only Peterson’s line drive had an xBA above .240 (per Baseball Savant). And for those thinking, “but he allowed four batted balls!”, Chapman has still maintained a 16.7 percent SwStr%.
The Tigers did prevail in this game, as Shane Greene pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth, notching his third save. Greene’s velocity is also down, as he is averaging 92.7 mph on his sinker, as compared to 95.2 mph last March and April. Unlike Chapman, he’s not getting swings-and-misses; he has just three of them in 39 pitches. Greene has been able to avoid hard contact so far, but owners should tread carefully with him.
With Corey Knebel out for the year and Jeremy Jeffress (shoulder) still working his way back from the IL, it’s been all Josh Hader in the closer’s role for the Brewers. Hader worked around a leadoff walk to Jose Iglesias to toss an otherwise perfect frame against the Reds, nailing down his fourth save. However, Jeffress may be close to returning, so Hader’s role could change in the not-too-distant future.
In the meantime, Junior Guerra has been filling the long relief role that Hader frequently performed last season. He threw 2.1 innings against the Reds, with the only run against him coming on an Eugenio Suarez solo shot. Guerra was exceptionally good at freezing batters during his brief bullpen stint last September, and on Tuesday night, six of his 28 pitches were called strikes.
The Mariners got a key reliever back from the IL on Tuesday when they activated Anthony Swarzak (shoulder). Just a few hours later, he was getting the final two outs with a 2-1 lead against the Angels, collecting his first save of 2019. There has been no word of the Mariners handing the closer’s role to Swarzak on a full-time basis, but at a minimum, he would appear to be a key member of the closer committee. The team could get another late-inning reliever back soon, as Greg Johns of MLB.com reports that Shawn Armstrong may return in just over week from now.
Miguel Castro became the fourth Orioles reliever to earn a save in as many games, but presumed closer Mychal Givens has yet to get one. While it may look like Givens is out of the closer picture, it’s premature to reach that conclusion. Givens threw 49 pitches on Sunday, so we should not have expected to see him pitch on Monday or Tuesday. When he pitched the eighth inning with a two-run lead on Saturday, Givens was brought in to face the middle of the Yankees’ lineup. A day later, he was given the opportunity to get a two-inning save, but after running into trouble, he had to cede the final out to Paul Fry. The game log may suggest otherwise, but we should still view Givens at the Orioles’ primary closer.
The pecking order is a little less clear for the Twins and Royals, who just kicked off a two-games series. The Twins prevailed in the opener, even though Taylor Rogers allowed the Royals to take a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on Adalberto Mondesi’s off-the-wall, inside-the-park home run. That put an end to Rogers’ string of 29 consecutive innings without a run allowed, dating back to last July 28.
Rogers was spared from absorbing the loss, as Eddie Rosario’s RBI single off Ian Kennedy tied the game back up in the top of the ninth inning. This was the second straight save opportunity that Ned Yost gave to Kennedy. However, he has yielded five hits in those two innings of work, so it remains to be seen if Kennedy will get the Royals’ next save chance. In giving up the winning run in the 10th inning, Brad Boxberger did not help his chances for getting back in the saves mix.
Blake Parker was successful in converting his first save opportunity of the season, holding the Royals scoreless in the bottom of the 10th. Only a two-out walk to Alex Gordon prevented Parker from having a perfect inning.
Quick hits: A.J. Minter (shoulder) may return for the Braves on Thursday. If Arodys Vizcaino (shoulder) proves to not be healthy enough to close, Minter may inherit the ninth-inning role upon his return…Justin Wilson recorded a 1.2-inning save against the Marlins, as both Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia were unavailable…Greg Holland is 2 for 2 in his save chances after throwing a scoreless ninth inning against the Padres on Tuesday night…With a 6-2 lead over the Giants, the Dodgers began the ninth inning in a non-save situation, but after Yimi Garcia yielded an Evan Longoria double and a walk to Buster Posey, Kenley Jansen came on for the save. He allowed both inherited runners to score (plus a third unearned run), but he did record his second save of the season.
Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.