Bullpen Report: June 21, 2014

• Mike Scioscia must not listen to the Backstreet Boys. Today’s reliever tasked with protecting a one-run, ninth inning lead? Well, it wasn’t Ernesto Frieri or Joe Smith. Righty Kevin Jepsen trotted out of the bullpen instead. Of course, Shin-Soo Choo immediately crushed a no out delivery to center field, giving him the unfortunate BS in the box score. Scioscia’s faith in Frieri has clearly waned recently, but typical standby Smith had pitched each of the last two days, rendering him potentially unusable. Jepsen actually decreased his xFIP to a solidly respectable 3.28 after tonight’s outing. His K% is actually the highest it’s been during his career. Part of it may be due to the addition of a changeup in Jepsen’s arsenal, which has helped nearly double his fastball SwStr% from his career mark. Regression is to be expected, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old Jepsen may be able to keep pitching at a elevated level. Unfortunately for him, he blew his chance to get in his manager’s good graces, so he’s unlikely to see the next save opportunity. Smith Time?

Zach Britton had his first major meltdown of 2014 on Friday, allowing a walk and three hits in a crushing loss to the Yankees, which was punctuated by Carlos Beltran’s three-run walk off home run. The Baltimore closer’s ERA shot up to 1.64 with the outing. While that mark is over a run below his xFIP, a 2.93 mark is not shabby. While Britton has pitched well enough to earn the notion than this performance can probably be written off as a minor hiccup, his low punchout rate and mediocre K%-BB% (11.7%) still don’t inspire great confidence. His value is almost fully tied up in his 77% GB%; keeping the ball on the ground is the easiest way to keep it in the yard. However, be forewarned: only Brad Ziegler and Jonny Venters have been relievers capable of putting up GB% greater than 70% over the last 7 years, and neither had the rates Britton has. I’m expecting regression — even if Britton doesn’t turn back into his pre-2014 self, he just can’t keep up these wormburning rates all season.

• Quick hits: Mark Melancon struck out the side in his first save appearance as Pittsburgh’s new closer. Make sure he’s owned in all leagues, obviously. Just remember that the team has said they want Grilli back in the role. Cody Allen took the loss in a non-save situation today. Before you panic about some recent hiccups, June has actually been his best month of 2014 (1.76 xFIP, 12/1 K/BB). One step forward, one step back for Joe Nathan who had looked better recently. He wasn’t quite bombed tonight so I doubt he lost the gig, but he did toss 32 pitches so almost certainly will have Sunday off. Glen Perkins got a dirty save (allowing an earned run) but, hey, what do fantasy owners care? He’s pitched three days in a row so he’ll likely join Joe Nathan in the “relaxing in the bullpen” crowd.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Addison Reed Brad Ziegler J.J. Putz
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Shae Simmons Jordan Walden
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) Ronald Belisario Zach Putnam Jacob Petricka Matt Lindstrom
Cincy Aroldis Chapman Jonathan Broxton Sam LeCure Sean Marshall
Cleveland Cody Allen Bryan Shaw John Axford
Colorado LaTroy Hawkins Rex Brothers Adam Ottavino
Detroit Joe Nathan Joba Chamberlain Al Alburquerque Joel Hanrahan
Houston Chad Qualls Kyle Farnsworth Tony Sipp Josh Fields
KC Greg Holland Wade Davis Aaron Crow
LAA Ernesto Frieri Joe Smith 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 Casey Fien Jared Burton
NY (NL) Jenrry Mejia Jeurys Familia Vic Black Bobby Parnell
NY (AL) David Robertson Dellin Betances Shawn Kelley
Oakland Sean Doolittle Luke Gregerson Dan Otero
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Jake Diekman Mike Adams
Pittsburgh Mark Melancon Jason Grilli Tony Watson
St. Louis Trevor Rosenthal Carlos Martinez Pat Neshek
SD Huston Street Joaquin Benoit Alex Torres
SF Sergio Romo Santiago Casilla Jean Machi
Seattle Fernando Rodney Danny Farquhar Dominic Leone
TB Grant Balfour Jake McGee Joel Peralta
Texas Joakim Soria Jason Frasor Neal Cotts Neftali Feliz
Toronto Casey Janssen Brett Cecil Sergio Santos
Wash. Rafael Soriano Tyler Clippard Drew Storen

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

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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S. Urista
S. Urista

I don’t know why Pittsburgh would want Grilli back in the role. His K/9 is down to 8.6 vs double-digits since 2011, he’s walking over 5 batters per nine and his FIP is 5.63. Ohbytheway he’s also 37yrs old.

Melancon’s been the better pitcher this year, even if the K/9 of 7.8 isn’t ‘elite closer’ range. I’ll take the BB/9 of under 2, a 60% GB rate and a FIP of 2.46 which is only slightly higher than his 1.89 ERA.

Mike Wimmer
Mike Wimmer

I think it has more to do with Hurdle not wanting to hurt Grilli’s confidence or maybe trying to avoid “embarrassing” a popular veteran. Unless Grilli taps into whatever he had the past couple years prior to his arm injury last year, I dont see him getting the job back. The Pirates are trying to get back into the Wild Card/NL Central race and if Melancon is pitching well and the team is winning games, I dont see him bumping Grilli back in. The past couple times Grilli got the role back was because of injury, he was back healthy and Hurdle seems to prescribe to the “injury doesnt cost you your job” theory.