Bullpen Report: July 7, 2017

The Braves’ solid late-innings trio has taken a couple of hits lately. Jim Johnson blew his seventh save of the season Friday night, and it was his fifth blown save since May 23. Over that stretch, Johnson has a 5.59 ERA with a 4.7 BB/9 ratio, after posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.4 BB/9 ratio prior to this stretch. His BABIP has also risen from .245 to .323, though some of that increase could be a function of pitching in less favorable counts.

In a post-game interview, Brian Snitker said he has “no problem” with Johnson, so we can expect him to get the Braves’ next save opportunity. In general, when blown saves pile up, an ouster is almost inevitable. Remember when it seemed that Francisco Rodriguez and Matt Bush were on seemingly infinite leashes? Their respective managers stood by them far longer than many fans and fantasy owners would have preferred, but in both cases, patience and support had their limits. I suspect if Johnson’s next blown save occurs within a week after the All-Star break, Snitker’s patience will reach its end as well.

Arodys Vizcaino has been the clear closer-in-waiting in Atlanta, but he was placed on the 10-day DL with a right index finger strain on Wednesday. That would put Jose Ramirez next in line, but by the time Johnson’s job could be in danger, Vizcaino could be back from the DL. Even if he has a longer stint than expected, I would expect that Ramirez would merely keep the seat warm for Vizcaino until he was ready to return. Vizcaino is the best speculation target in this situation.

So the Braves’ closer situation is deteriorating, the Mets and the Marlins could be sellers and the Nationals may not have a closer right now (more on this below). It’s strange to think the Phillies may have the most stable closer situation in the NL East, but it’s only by default and by virtue of them having tried every other conceivable option. Then again, just as it seemed Hector Neris might have found his groove, he failed to keep the Phillies tied with the Padres in Friday’s series opener, allowing the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth.

His third loss of the season notwithstanding, Neris should keep the closer’s role for now, but there could be an intriguing option on the horizon. The Phillies are considering putting Vince Velasquez (elbow) in the bullpen once he is ready to come off the DL sometime after the All-Star break. It’s far from a certainty, and being converted to relief is one thing, and being in consideration for closing is another thing entirely. Still, given the Phillies’ challenges in finding a consistent closer, it’s not too hard to see a path that would eventually lead Velasquez to the ninth inning.

It has been more than a month since Koda Glover got his final save before being put on the DL, and since then, the Nationals have accrued exactly one save. That save belongs to Enny Romero, but if the Nationals have a closer right now, it would appear to be Matt Albers.

After the Nationals tied the Braves in the bottom of the ninth in Friday night’s contest, Dusty Baker brought in Matt Grace to face lefties Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman (and Brandon Phillips in between them), but Albers came in to get the final two outs by way of a Matt Kemp double play grounder. The last time the Nationals had a save opportunity entering the ninth inning was on Monday, when Baker sent Sammy Solis out to face the first three Mets batters due up, with two of them (Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda) being left-handed. Then Albers was summoned with Travis d’Arnaud due up, but Terry Collins countered with lefty Curtis Granderson. Albers coughed up a two-run homer, resulting in his third blown save.

The last opportunity before that one was on June 29, and it was granted to Blake Treinen, who blew it with a three-run inning. If not for the fact that Albers had pitched on each of the three previous nights — all in the ninth inning and all in non-save situations — maybe he would have received that save chance, too.

So as best as we can tell, Baker seems to have a closer platoon with Albers getting to face most of the righties. On the basis of this pattern, I have moved Albers back into the closer’s column in the grid below. Unless you are absolutely desperate for saves, it’s best to avoid this situation for now. Within a couple of weeks, the Nationals’ closer could be David Robertson, Raisel Iglesias or Kelvin Herrera (should the Royals recede in the standings). You’d be better off speculating on Tommy Kahnle, Michael Lorenzen, Drew Storen, Mike Minor or Peter Moylan than on Albers or anyone else who would likely be a mere placeholder for the next couple of weeks in D.C.

With Seung Hwan Oh getting the save in the Cardinals’ series finale against the Marlins on Thursday, it appears that the closer committee may have been abandoned. Trevor Rosenthal pitching in a non-save situation against the Mets on Friday is another clue that Oh is back in business as the Cardinals’ full-time closer.

While Friday’s slate did not lack for closer drama, one of the more notable performances belonged to Josh Hader, who tossed three innings of middle relief for the Brewers after starter Junior Guerra was lifted after a rain delay and having sustained a shin contusion. Hader struck out seven Yankees on his way to his first career win, raising his K/9 ratio to 9.5. In getting 13 whiffs on 53 pitches, he also increased his swinging strike rate to 16.2 percent.

Hader walked two batters and gave up a solo homer to Aaron Judge (no shame in that), so he paid for his shaky control and strong flyball tendencies. However, if the 23-year-old can make even modest progress in those areas, he could be a useful pickup in leagues where closers are unavailable. Just maybe Hader could parlay this middle relief stint into a starting role at some point this season.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
ARI Fernando Rodney Archie Bradley Jorge De La Rosa JJ Hoover
ATL Jim Johnson Jose Ramirez Sam Freeman Arodys Vizcaino
BAL Brad Brach Zach Britton Mychal Givens
BOS Craig Kimbrel Matt Barnes Joe Kelly Carson Smith
CHC Wade Davis Koji Uehara Carl Edwards Jr.
CWS David Robertson Tommy Kahnle Anthony Swarzak Nate Jones
CIN Raisel Iglesias Michael Lorenzen Drew Storen
CLE Andrew Miller Cody Allen Bryan Shaw
COL Greg Holland Adam Ottavino Jake McGee
DET Justin Wilson Alex Wilson Shane Greene
HOU Ken Giles Will Harris Michael Feliz
KC Kelvin Herrera Joakim Soria Mike Minor
LAA Bud Norris Cam Bedrosian Keynan Middleton Huston Street
LAD Kenley Jansen Pedro Baez Luis Avilan Josh Fields
MIA A.J. Ramos David Phelps Kyle Barraclough
MIL Corey Knebel Jacob Barnes Carlos Torres
MIN Brandon Kintzler Taylor Rogers Matt Belisle Glen Perkins
NYM Addison Reed Paul Sewald Jerry Blevins Jeurys Familia
NYY Aroldis Chapman Dellin Betances Tyler Clippard
OAK Santiago Casilla Sean Doolittle Ryan Madson
PHI Hector Neris Pat Neshek Luis Garcia
PIT Felipe Rivero Juan Nicasio Daniel Hudson
STL Seung Hwan Oh Trevor Rosenthal Matt Bowman
SD Brandon Maurer Brad Hand Ryan Buchter Carter Capps
SF Sam Dyson Hunter Strickland George Kontos Mark Melancon
SEA Edwin Diaz Nick Vincent James Pazos
TB Alex Colome Tommy Hunter Chase Whitley Brad Boxberger
TEX Matt Bush Jose Leclerc Alex Claudio Keone Kela
TOR Roberto Osuna Ryan Tepera Danny Barnes Joe Smith
WSH Matt Albers Enny Romero Blake Treinen 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.

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Anon
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Anon

Agree that the Nats’ closer situation is a mess but I’ll throw this out there. Per MLB Gamecast, Treinen was sitting 99 tonight, nearly reaching 100. That continues a trend where his velo has exploded over the last month plus to well over 98, basically averaging 98.5 over the last 10 or so appearances. All while maintaining basically a 65% GB%.

Certainly the results are what they are and his have been spotty, but 98+ with a 65% GB%?

KobraCola
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KobraCola

That’s great and all, but I’m not sure his velocity or his GB% will convince Dusty to put him as closer, given the results the last time it was tried.

Jason B
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Jason B

I would just leave the Nats’ line blank. Stay away, stay far, far away. (File under “your fantasy team may need help…but not *that* kind of help.”)