Bullpen Report: August 2, 2017

Last Saturday, Jim Johnson blew his eighth save of the season, and apparently Brian Snitker had seen enough. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Johnson was being dropped as the Braves’ primary closer and, going forward, he would “mix and match” in save situations. On Wednesday night, Snitker had his first opportunity to pick a closer since demoting Johnson, and not surprisingly, he went to Arodys Vizcaino. After all, Vizcaino has been Snitker’s favored eighth-inning option and had successfully served as the Braves’ closer for part of 2016, collecting 10 saves.

Johnson is presumably still a candidate to close on occasion, and Jose Ramirez and Rex Brothers could be part of that mix as well, though the latter reliever has struggled in his recent forays in the late innings. Vizcaino has had no problems getting whiffs, posting a 14.9 percent swinging strike rate entering Wednesday, and while he does not have the best control of the closer candidates, he has been the best at getting chases on pitches outside of the strike zone. He successfully closed out the Dodgers on Wednesday, and he appears poised to take over the job. Among all of the relievers who have recently ascended to the closer’s role, only Brad Hand has a more enviable skill set, and Vizcaino is much more widely available.

Brad Ausmus announced on Monday that, in the aftermath of Justin Wilson being traded to the Cubs, Shane Greene would take over as the Tigers’ new closer. He has gotten comfortable in his new role, notching a five-out save on Tuesday against the Yankees and closing them out again on Wednesday, tossing a perfect ninth inning. This was Greene’s 15th straight appearance without giving up a run, covering 13 1/3 innings. He has also walked nine batters over that stretch. However, we can be encouraged that Greene’s hard contact rate between July 1 and Aug. 1 was 29.6 percent, as compared to the bloated 46.7 percent rate he compiled through June 30.

The Marlins wasted no time getting Brad Ziegler into the closer’s role, as his first appearance off the DL came on Tuesday, when he was asked to hold down the Nationals with a 7-6 lead. He was in typical form, inducing grounders, though two of them resulted in singles. Still, Ziegler emerged with his first save as a Marlin. As recently as last season, Ziegler was an effective closer, particularly during his three months with the Diamondbacks (18 saves in 20 opportunities and a 2.82 ERA, but with a 1.46 WHIP). Between 2012 and 2016, Ziegler had a 35.7 percent O-Swing rate, which was the 18th-highest of any qualified reliever during that five-year span. If he can improve on this season’s 32.5 percent mark, Ziegler could be a reliable closer, albeit one without many strikeouts.

On Wednesday, the Indians placed Andrew Miller on the 10-day DL with patella tendinitis in his right knee. Even though, just one day earlier, Cody Allen blew a save against the Red Sox, he should have the closer’s role all to himself during Miller’s absence. Prior to Tuesday’s walk-off loss, catalyzed by a pair of wild pitches, Allen had come off a solid month of July, going 4 for 4 in save opportunities with a 2.31 ERA and a .480 OPS allowed. Bryan Shaw has struggled lately, so newly-acquired Joe Smith could slide into the primary setup role. Smith made a triumphant return to the Indians on Tuesday with two scoreless innings of one-hit ball.

Zach Britton is still an Oriole, and therefore, still a closer. However, should Britton get dealt this month, it may no longer be Brad Brach who is next in line. Mychal Givens set up for Britton in the eighth inning of a tie game on Monday, and then on Wednesday, he pitched the eighth with a three-run lead against the Royals. (The Orioles scored three times in the bottom of the eighth, so Britton was not needed for the ninth.) Meanwhile, Brach’s most recent appearance was on Tuesday, when Buck Showalter brought him in for the ninth inning with a six-run lead. While Brach has been less consistent recently, Givens has gone 11 straight appearances without giving up a run, striking out 18 batters and walking one over 11 1/3 innings. If you are a Brach owner who needs to free up a roster spot, it seems safe to drop him at this point, whereas Givens is not a bad speculative pickup.

Mark Melancon (elbow) moved his rehab assignment to Advanced Class A San Jose on Wednesday, and he threw a scoreless inning. Once he returns to the Giants, he will resume his work as the team’s closer. If you have been relying on Sam Dyson for saves, it’s time to line up a replacement.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
ARI Fernando Rodney Archie Bradley Jorge de la Rosa
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 Jake McGee Adam Ottavino
DET Shane Greene Alex Wilson Daniel Stumpf
HOU Ken Giles Chris Devenski Will Harris
KC Kelvin Herrera Joakim Soria Brandon Maurer
LAA Bud Norris Cam Bedrosian Blake Parker Huston Street
LAD Kenley Jansen Tony Watson Pedro Baez
MIA Brad Ziegler Junichi Tazawa Drew Steckenrider Kyle Barraclough
MIL Corey Knebel Anthony Swarzak Jacob Barnes
MIN Taylor Rogers Matt Belisle Tyler Duffey 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 Brett Cecil Seung Hwan Oh
SD Brad Hand Kirby Yates Phil Maton
SF Sam Dyson Hunter Strickland George Kontos Mark Melancon
SEA Edwin Diaz David Phelps Nick Vincent
TB Alex Colome Tommy Hunter Steve Cishek
TEX Alex Claudio Jose Leclerc Keone Kela
TOR Roberto Osuna Ryan Tepera Joe Biagini Danny Barnes
WSH Sean Doolittle Brandon Kintzler Ryan Madson Koda Glover

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

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.

newest oldest most voted

Just curious — what’s the rationale for Gregory Infante as First Chair for the White Sox?