Bullpen Report: July 9, 2014

An quick Bullpen Report return since writing after a Boston-to-Ann Arbor trek is not high on my list of desires this evening. Good news? At least I got to listen to a lot of Gameday Audio of the White Sox pen imploding…

• Robin Ventura is going to have to answer some interesting questions. After Chris Sale cruised against the now-punchless Red Sox (who started five rookie position players in a game before August for the first time since 1952 according to their radio broadcast) for exactly 7 2/3 innings, the White Sox skipper lifted his ace lefty with a runner on third. Jake Petricka (the closer du jour for Ventura’s squad) face four batters and retired none of them, allowing three hits and a walk. Javy Guerra did stop the bleeding by retiring Mike Carp with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, but the former Dodger closer ran into more trouble in the ninth, hitting Mookie Betts before allowing a game-tying double to Daniel Nava and a game-winning single to Brock Holt. None of the hits either reliever gave up were particularly cheap, either, so this wasn’t a “death by BABIP” situation, but just bad relief pitching.

Guerra’s xFIP climbed to 4.73 after the outing (his ERA is up to 2.70). A low BABIP and a high strand rate have saved his bacon this season, but his SwStr% is below average (even with a mid-90’s fastball) and he is in the midst of posting a double-digit BB% for the third consecutive year. With a career 4.22 xFIP, he’s an OK reliever, but the walks are problematic for him locking down a ninth inning gig (see 2013, Dodgers). Petricka owns a similar xFIP/ERA (4.04/2.22) split. He’s been a bit more BABIP lucky than Guerra and has similar issues with walks and a flat fastball. Ironically, the deposed Ronald Belisario continues to have the best peripherals in this pen, but expect Zach Putnam (3.60 xFIP) to be the favorite for the next save opportunity. He’s the closest thing to a “can run with the job” guy in this pen, although it’s almost not worth chasing saves here without a clear cut upside candidate.

• Tampa’s committee suffered similar problems this afternoon. Joel Peralta was given the save opportunity, but was yanked after only retiring one of three batters. Kirby Yates tried to clean up the mess but merely poured gasoline onto a bonfire in giving up a three-run, game-winning shot to Salvador Perez. You can possibly make an argument that manager Joe Maddon was too quick with the trigger finger in yanking Peralta who still owns a 3.48 xFIP (and a 2.88 SIERA). The home run ball will continue to be a problem for Yates as he only owns a 27% GB% on the season (let’s assume a league average HR/FB% of 10% and one out of every 13 balls in play against the righty leave the yard– ouch). Regardless of Peralta’s peripherals, he’s probably off of the next save opportunity which will go to Jake McGee, Grant Balfour, or Brad Boxberger. Boxberger’s velocity is up nearly 2 mph and it’s helped both his SwStr% and K% bounce well above his Padres numbers from a few years ago. You could do worse as a speculative play in deep leagues, although like Chicago, this pen is messy enough that it might not be worth the trouble unless you desperately need some “SV”s.

• Quick hits: Kirk Gibson says Addison Reed is still his closer. Keep Brad Ziegler on speed dial, though, and this bullpen is going yellow (would be red without the manager support). Steve Cishek blew a save spectacularly today. Five earned runs in only four July innings is rough but he has job security. Joe Nathan racked up another save this afternoon versus the Dodgers. He’s peripherals still aren’t great, but at least his K% and BB% are both trending the right direction in June/July. He’s back to yellow with a little leash. Jeurys Familia couldn’t get loose last night. Terry Collins called it a “red flag” for the setup man who has a history of elbow issues. Green light for Jenrry Mejia.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Addison Reed Brad Ziegler Oliver Perez
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden Shae Simmons
Baltimore Zach Britton Tommy Hunter Darren O’Day
Boston Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Andrew Miller
CHI (NL) Hector Rondon Neil Ramirez Pedro Strop
CHI (AL) Zach Putnam Jacob Petricka Javy Guerra Matt Lindstrom
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jonathan Broxton Sam LeCure Sean Marshall
Cleveland Cody Allen Bryan Shaw John Axford
Colorado LaTroy Hawkins Adam Ottavino Rex Brothers
Detroit Joe Nathan Joba Chamberlain Al Alburquerque Joel Hanrahan
Houston Chad Qualls Tony Sipp Josh Fields
KC Greg Holland Wade Davis Aaron Crow
LAA Joe Smith Jason Grilli Kevin Jepsen
LAD Kenley Jansen Chris Perez Brian Wilson
Miami Steve Cishek A.J. Ramos Mike Dunn
Milwaukee Francisco Rodriguez Will Smith Brandon Kintzler Jim Henderson
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) Jenrry Mejia Jeurys Familia Vic Black Bobby Parnell
NY (AL) David Robertson Dellin Betances Adam Warren
Oakland Sean Doolittle Luke Gregerson Dan Otero
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Ken Giles Antonio Bastardo Mike Adams
Pittsburgh Mark Melancon Tony Watson Ernesto Frieri
St. Louis Trevor Rosenthal Pat Neshek Jason Motte
SD Huston Street Joaquin Benoit Alex Torres
SF Santiago Casilla Jeremy Affeldt Sergio Romo
Seattle Fernando Rodney Danny Farquhar Dominic Leone
TB Jake McGee Grant Balfour Joel Peralta
Texas Joakim Soria Jason Frasor Neftali Feliz
Toronto Casey Janssen Sergio Santos Aaron Loup Brett Cecil
Wash. Rafael Soriano Tyler Clippard Drew Storen

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

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There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

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Belle of the League
Belle of the League

When it comes to Sale, I can’t figure out anything Ventura does.
The info I do have: The White Sox bullpen regularly sucks. Sale is an elite pitcher who rarely, if ever, does.
That bullpen sucking thing is what I “assumed” was the reason Ventura let him go deeper into games/pitch counts than I would have just after he had returned from the DL. (Nobody made me an MLB manager, so what do I know?)
The only short outing after his time on the DL was a rain shortened game.
If you followed Sale’s games this year, Ventura’s use of the pen at that point in the game (Pitch count 107) with a runner on and 2 outs was extremely inconsistent.
It’s possible Ventura spotted something that made him think that he was done, but Sale certainly looked like he was on autopilot this game.
I’m curious to hear the explanation.