Bullpen Report: July 9, 2017

Another compelling day of bullpen activity around the major leagues as the unofficial first half of the season comes to a close…

One day after allowing two walks and a walk-off homer, All-Star closer Corey Knebel entered in the eighth inning with a two-run lead, two outs, and a runner on second. He walked Ji-Man Choi, but retired the next batter on a ground ball to short. In the ninth, Knebel walked Brett Gardner to open the inning, but then struck out Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, and Gary Sanchez to notch his 14th save and secure the first-place Brewers’ 50th victory. The strikeout of Judge marked Knebel’s 44th consecutive appearance with at least one strikeout, which is now just five shy of the major league record for a relief pitcher set by Aroldis Chapman in 2014. Knebel’s 43 consecutive appearances with at least one strikeout to open the season is already the single-season record and the most ever to begin a year.

Another day, another redeeming outing for Sam Dyson. He pitched two scoreless innings, the ninth and 10th, of a tie game at home. He hasn’t allowed a run in 10 of his 12 appearances since joining the Giants thanks to a solid 24.0 percent strikeout rate, 7.8 percent walk rate, and a ground ball rate north of 65 percent. He’s looked every bit like the reliable closer he was in years past with Texas, and he’s filled in admirably as San Francisco’s closer for the injured Mark Melancon. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Hank Schulman reported today that Melancon will begin throwing after the All-Star break, so Dyson should see at least a couple more weeks as the Giants’ closer once games resume following this week’s Mid-Summer Classic. Dyson may be worth an add to those desperate for saves, and perhaps in deeper holds leagues. If he can remain sharp, Dyson figures to hold onto a prominent role in San Francisco’s bullpen even after Melancon returns.

Bud Norris struck out one in a perfect ninth inning to secure his 13th save of the season. With a 2-0 lead, Cam Bedrosian pitched a perfect eighth with a strikeout, and David Hernandez walked one and struck out two in a scoreless seventh. With Bedrosian back from the disabled list, it appears as if the Angels bullpen has finally stabilized, and Norris is the man at the back end. He’s had an incredible season, fueled by a 32.0 percent strikeout rate that’s more than 10 percentage points higher than his career average. All told, he boats a sterling 2.23 ERA/2.96 FIP/3.21 xFIP. Bedrosian was the Angels closer to start the season, and he would likely do well if given another opportunity, but Norris appears to have a firm grasp on the job for now.

Joe Kelly allowed a run for the first time since April 30, and it came on a two-out, two-run blast in the eighth inning off the bat of Brad Miller that gave the Rays the lead. Kelly has deservedly ascended all the way to second in command behind closer Craig Kimbrel, and he’ll likely remain there for the time being. Regression, however, seems likely. Despite his tidy 1.49 ERA, Kelly has a 3.40 FIP and 4.07 xFIP in 36.1 innings, and his 18.1 percent strikeout rate is nothing to write home about. Kelly has stranded an unsustainable 88.1% of his baserunners, which at least partially explains his exceptional run prevention this season. Combined with the fact that Kimbrel could not be more firmly ensconced as the Red Sox closer, Kelly is probably not worth owning in most fantasy formats unless Kimbrel suffers an injury.

Alex Colome picked up his American League-best 25th save of the season Sunday against the Red Sox. Despite the lofty save total, Colome’s peripherals remain relatively shaky, as his 3.76 ERA/3.82 FIP/5.00 xFIP line suggests. Meanwhile, former closer Brad Boxberger was activated off the disabled list on Thursday (Danny Farquhar was designated for assignment to make room), and Boxberger pitched a scoreless eighth inning in a tie game on Sunday. Boxberger’s strikeout rate is over 30 percent for his career, which is more typical of a closer than Colome’s approximately 20 percent career strikeout rate. If Colome struggles, as his peripherals suggest he might, it’s possible that Boxberger (or perhaps the resurgent Tommy Hunter) could claim the closer’s role at some point. For now, however, a changing of the guard is unlikely.

Other closer activity: Aroldis Chapman walked one and struck out one in a scoreless ninth down by two runs. Hector Neris pitched the ninth in a 7-0 game, and he allowed one run on two hits and a walk. Despite allowing a leadoff double, Matt Albers pitched a scoreless ninth with the Nationals up by five. He struck out one. Edwin Diaz struck out two in a perfect ninth in a non-save situation. Raisel Iglesias struck out two in a perfect ninth to secure his 16th save of the 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 Joe Kelly Matt Barnes 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 David Hernandez Huston Street
LAD Kenley Jansen Pedro Baez Luis Avilan
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 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.]

Ben Kaspick is the host Locked On Giants, a daily San Francisco Giants podcast on the Locked On Podcast Network. He is also a former contributor for the baseball statistics and analysis websites RotoGraphs and Beyond the Box Score. Follow him on Twitter @BenKaspick.

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4 years ago

Hunter will likely remain a righty setup guy. His lefty splits are BAD, and a closer faces a higher percentage of opposite-handed batters than a setup guy.

4 years ago
Reply to  Jim

really? I’m seeing .154/.250/.231/.481 vs LHB this season