Bullpen Report: August 13, 2017

The Twins blew an 11-6 seventh-inning lead on Saturday. Their new (interim?) closer Matt Belisle relieved Trevor Hildenberger in eighth after Hildenberger allowed a two-run homer with two outs. Belisle got a strikeout to end the inning, but then allowed a leadoff single and a walk-off home run to Justin Upton in the ninth.

The next day, Hildenberger was summoned with two outs in the eighth to face Upton, who represented the tying run. He struck him out on three pitches, then came back out for the bottom of the ninth. He remained very sharp as he struck out two and induced two weak ground balls for his first career save.

The strong appearance, coupled with Belisle’s struggles in the ninth on Saturday, mean that Hildenberger could seize the closer’s role and run with it. His numbers in his brief major league career are impressive: in 23 innings this year, Hildenberger has a 26.8 percent strikeout rate, a 3.1 percent walk rate, and a 58.5 percent ground ball rate. He has a 3.13 ERA/2.79 FIP/2.67 xFIP. He’s allowed just two home runs. He seems more than capable of handling the closer’s role, and he’s probably worth grabbing in all formats before he successfully converts a few more save chances and gains national attention. It’s worth noting that Glen Perkins is expected to return from the disabled list sometime this week, and his presence may further complicate the outlook for Belisle and Hildenberger.

It’s a full-blown closer by committee in Anaheim, at least for the time being. Manager Mike Scioscia has used three different pitchers in his team’s last five ninth-inning save opportunities. Keynan Middleton got the save on Tuesday, Cam Bedrosian on Thursday, Yusmeiro Petit on Friday, Bedrosian again on Saturday, and Middleton again on Sunday. Analyzing the pattern, it could be that Bedrosian is Scioscia’s preferred choice but he doesn’t feel comfortable pitching him on back-to-back days.

When Bud Norris was pulled from the ninth-inning role, it was speculated that Parker was the most logical choice to take his place. Naturally, he’s pretty much the only one who hasn’t seen a save opportunity recently. It’s anyone’s guess who exactly to target here. Bedrosian is probably the most likely to continue seeing saves based on this week’s pattern, but Middleton, Parker, and Petit are names to watch as well. Middleton did allow a run on three hits on Sunday, so his save conversion wasn’t exactly smooth. This is a situation to monitor in the coming days to see how it unfolds. For now, there’s too much instability to provide any clearcut advice. We’ll leave the grid as it is for now, but it’s subject to change at any time.

Mark Melancon returned from the disabled list on Saturday, and he pitched a scoreless eighth inning with the Giants trailing by two. He struck out one and allowed one hit. Upon Melancon’s activation, Bruce Bochy indicated that he won’t immediately slot his high-priced reliever back into the closer’s role. That decision probably came easily, since Sam Dyson has been effective in Melancon’s place. He’s converted nine out of 10 save chances with the Giants, with solid peripherals to boot, including a ground ball rate north of 65 percent.

Despite the success Dyson has had in San Francisco, it remains likely that Melancon will eventually reclaim the closer’s role. The Giants have a history of loyalty to players, especially when those players are making lots of money. Think Matt Cain and Barry Zito. The Giants will give Melancon every opportunity to earn his way back into the ninth. However, if he struggles or gets hurt again, Dyson is clearly their go-to option. Dyson is worth holding onto in the meantime. Melancon’s arm injury has lingered all season, and there’s no telling if it will act up again. Dyson will remain first on the grid until we see at least a couple of successful save conversions for Melancon.

Brad Ziegler had pitched on back-to-back days, so Odrisamer Despaigne got the save for the Marlins on Sunday. His name won’t be added to the grid, however, since the Marlins have used him mostly as a multi-inning reliever since he joined the club, and didn’t have any saves or holds with Miami until today.

***Update: Aroldis Chapman surrendered a game-tying home run to Rafael Devers in the bottom of the ninth on a 103 mph fastball. Despite clearly having his good velocity on Sunday, Chapman is having a down year (by his standards) across the board. His 12.7 percent swinging strike rate is much lower than his 17.2 percent career average. Opponents are making contact against him (both inside and outside of the zone) at career high rates: both about 10 percentage points worse than his career average. For what it’s worth, he’s also taking about 3.5 seconds longer on average between pitches than he ever has before, which could be indicative of something. Any way you slice it, Chapman hasn’t been his usual dominant self this season, and with the glut of excellent relievers the Yankees have at their disposal, it’s not impossible to seem them going another direction at some point, possibly in the near future. Dellin Betances, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle, in that order, are probably the best bets. Robertson may jump ahead of Betances because the latter has struggled mightily with command this year, and the Yankees have seen Robertson have success as their full-time closer. Stay tuned for updates.

Other closer activity on Sunday: Cody Allen picked up his 21st save. He struck out two and walked one. A.J. Ramos struck out two in a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation. Corey Knebel notched his 22nd save. He struck out one. Arodys Vizcaino struck out one as he picked up his sixth save. Kenley Jansen struck out one in a perfect ninth to earn his 32nd save. Down five runs with two outs and nobody on, Zach Britton was brought in to face Matt Olson and he allowed a solo home run. He then allowed a better to reach on an error, but finally retired Bruce Maxwell on a ground ball to end the inning. Chris Devenski walked the first two batters he faced in the eighth with a one-run lead, and Ken Giles was summoned to put out the fire. He retired Carlos Gomez on a sacrifice bunt, then got Joey Gallo to line into a 3-6 double play. He struck out two (and allowed a single) in the ninth to secure his 23rd save. Wade Davis allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt and issued two walks but finished off the Diamondbacks in a non-save situation.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
ARI Fernando Rodney Archie Bradley David Hernandez
ATL Arodys Vizcaino Jim Johnson Jose Ramirez
BAL Zach Britton Mychal Givens Brad Brach
BOS Craig Kimbrel Addison Reed Matt Barnes Carson Smith
CHC Wade Davis Justin Wilson Carl Edwards Jr.
CWS Tyler Clippard Gregory Infante Jake Petricka Nate Jones
CIN Raisel Iglesias Michael Lorenzen Drew Storen
CLE Cody Allen Joe Smith Bryan Shaw Andrew Miller
COL Greg Holland Pat Neshek Adam Ottavino
DET Shane Greene Alex Wilson Bruce Rondon
HOU Ken Giles Chris Devenski Luke Gregerson Will Harris
KC Kelvin Herrera Joakim Soria Brandon Maurer
LAA Cam Bedrosian Blake Parker Yusmeiro Petit Huston Street
LAD Kenley Jansen Luis Avilan Pedro Baez
MIA Brad Ziegler Junichi Tazawa Drew Steckenrider Kyle Barraclough
MIL Corey Knebel Anthony Swarzak Jacob Barnes
MIN Trevor Hildenberger Taylor Rogers Matt Belisle Glen Perkins
NYM A.J. Ramos Paul Sewald Jerry Blevins Jeurys Familia
NYY Aroldis Chapman Dellin Betances David Robertson
OAK Blake Treinen Ryan Dull Santiago Casilla
PHI Hector Neris Luis Garcia Jesen Therrien
PIT Felipe Rivero Juan Nicasio Joaquin Benoit
STL Trevor Rosenthal Seung Hwan Oh Tyler Lyons
SD Brad Hand Kirby Yates Phil Maton
SF Sam Dyson Hunter Strickland Mark Melancon
SEA Edwin Diaz Nick Vincent Tony Zych David Phelps
TB Alex Colome Tommy Hunter Steve Cishek
TEX Alex Claudio Jose Leclerc Matt Bush Keone Kela
TOR Roberto Osuna Ryan Tepera Dominic Leone
WSH Sean Doolittle Ryan Madson Brandon Kintzler Koda Glover

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]





Ben Kaspick is the host Locked On Giants, a daily podcast focused on the San Francisco Giants. He began writing for FanGraphs' RotoGraphs in 2016, and also contributes for SB Nation's Beyond the Box Score. Follow him on Twitter @BenKaspick.

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JimmyJack
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JimmyJack

Melancon velocity down in first appearance, according to fangraphs’ pitch graphs…