Bullpen Report: May 12, 2018

For the second night in a row, Raisel Iglesias nailed down a save for the Reds. In getting the final two outs of his club’s 6-2 win over the Dodgers, he extended his string of scoreless appearances to seven. During that stretch, Iglesias has three saves and win. To be sure, he’s been missing a lot of bats, but when Iglesias has allowed contact, it’s been of the airborne variety. Of the 15 batted balls he has permitted, only four were grounders.

For the second time in three nights, Tyler Clippard was used as a closer would be. After securing a save against the Mariners on Wednesday, Clippard tossed a perfect top of the ninth inning on Friday, keeping the Blue Jays tied with the visiting Red Sox. Like Iglesias, Clippard has had past and current success as a closer despite some strong flyball tendencies. Calling Clippard’s flyball tendencies “strong” is actually a gross understatement. His career ground ball rate is 28.4 percent and so far this year, it’s a microscopic 18.2 percent.

That brings us to Hector Neris. Like Iglesias and Clippard, Neris is plenty able to induce swings-and-misses, but when hitters connect, they frequently put the ball in the air. Over the course of his career, he has a 15.6 percent swinging strike rate, but also a 37.5 percent ground ball rate. Yet despite the similarities, Neris has been a riskier choice as a closer than either of his flyballing counterparts. Going back to 2015 — the first season in which Neris was integral part of the Phillies’ bullpen — Iglesias has posted the second-lowest hard contact rate on flyballs (27.5 percent) of all relievers who have allowed at least 200 flyballs. (Nick Vincent sits atop this leaderboard with a 26.9 percent rate.) Clippard ranks fourth at 29.8 percent. Neris has the 10th-highest rate, clocking in at 36.9 percent. Of the nine relievers with higher rates, only Brandon Maurer (who has the highest rate of all, at 40.9 percent) has substantial closing experience.

Over 2016 and 2017 combined, Maurer tallied 35 saves, but after posting a 5.44 ERA over that span, his closing days are likely behind him. If this puts a chill into the spine of Neris’ fantasy owners, there’s a good reason for that. He’s been far more effective than Maurer, but his 3.14 career ERA and 1.23 career HR/9 definitely do not say “untouchable closer.” In blowing a save on Friday night against the Mets, allowing home runs on consecutive pitches, Neris has now failed to convert two of his last four save chances, covering a six-day period.

Gabe Kapler says he will continue to use Neris as his closer “if he’s the best option at any given scenario.” That’s not necessarily encouraging. He could view Tommy Hunter, who has a 69.6 percent ground ball rate and a 45.3 percent O-Swing% (though in only 7.2 innings) as a better option. Kapler may even give Luis Garcia, who has been splitting the setup role with Hunter, a try. Maybe he sends recent callup Seranthony Dominguez on the Justin Anderson path, getting his feet wet in some save situations after getting only a smattering of big league experience. On Thursday, Dominguez got a seventh-inning hold in only his third major league appearance.

We don’t know if Neris will lose his job, but at minimum, he looks like an at-risk closer. Possibly in the coming days, it will become clearer whether Hunter, Garcia or Dominguez will have the best chance to replace him, should that time come.

Speaking of Anderson, Mike Scioscia gave him his second chance to earn a save in the last week, and his second opportunity did not go much better than his first, when he failed to retire any of the three Mariners he faced. Anderson did pitch a perfect eighth inning against the Twins on Friday, but he allowed Eddie Rosario to lead off the ninth with a home run that shrank the Angels’ lead to 4-3. After allowing Logan Morrison to hit a one-out double and issuing an intentional walk to Max Kepler, Anderson was lifted for Jim Johnson, who subsequently blew the save. It’s hard to know if Scioscia will turn to Anderson or Johnson for the next save, but if Keynan Middleton is available in your league, it’s best to pick him up. He would appear to be a candidate to share the saves load, if not win his old job back outright.

As mentioned in Friday’s Bullpen Report, Craig Counsell does plan to return Corey Knebel back to closing, but that return did not happen in Friday’s extra-innings win over the Rockies. Josh Hader secured the win for the Brewers in the bottom of the 10th inning for his sixth save. That save was made possible by Manny Pina‘s two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning and Travis Shaw’s RBI single in the top of the 10th. Rockies closer Wade Davis gave up Pina’s shot, leading to his second blown save in 16 tries.

The Indians activated Andrew Miller before Friday’s game against the Royals, and Terry Francona wasted no time putting the lefty to work. He brought Miller out for the seventh inning with a 9-8 lead, and after walking Jon Jay, he settled down to strike out Jorge Soler and Mike Moustakas. Miller couldn’t quite get out of the inning, as he left a 1-1 slider out over the middle of the plate for Salvador Perez, who deposited it not far inside the left field foul pole. Miller did tell reporters he felt “a little rusty” when he walked Jay, but he got into more of a groove after that, Perez’s homer notwithstanding.

Quick hits: Brad Ziegler pitched his sixth straight game without allowing an extra-base hit, as he shut down the Braves for his 100th career save…For the second time in four days, Brandon Kintzler pitched the eighth inning in anticipation of a save, so he appears to have supplanted Ryan Madson in that role…Amir Garrett entered Friday’s game against the Dodgers with two outs in the seventh inning to face Yasiel Puig, and then came out for the eighth inning with Enrique Hernandez leading off. He finished the frame and may be moving into the primary setup role for the Reds…Tyler Lyons was placed on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to May 9, with a mid-back strain.

Not Very Stable
Hot Seat
Bullpen Report — 5/12/2018
Team Closer First Up Second Up Minors/DL
ARI Brad Boxberger Archie Bradley Yoshihisa Hirano
ATL Arodys Vizcaino Dan Winkler A.J. Minter
BAL Brad Brach Mychal Givens Richard Bleier Zach Britton
BOS Craig Kimbrel Matt Barnes Joe Kelly
CHC Brandon Morrow Carl Edwards Jr. Steve Cishek
CWS Joakim Soria Nate Jones Bruce Rondon Danny Farquhar
CIN Raisel Iglesias Amir Garrett Jared Hughes
CLE Cody Allen Andrew Miller Nick Goody
COL Wade Davis Adam Ottavino Jake McGee
DET Shane Greene Joe Jimenez Buck Farmer Alex Wilson
HOU Ken Giles Chris Devenski Brad Peacock
KC Kelvin Herrera Brad Keller Blaine Boyer Justin Grimm
LAA Jim Johnson Keynan Middleton Cam Bedrosian
LAD Kenley Jansen Pedro Baez Ross Stripling
MIA Brad Ziegler Kyle Barraclough Tayron Guerrero
MIL Josh Hader Jeremy Jeffress Corey Knebel
MIN Fernando Rodney Addison Reed Zach Duke
NYM Jeurys Familia AJ Ramos Robert Gsellman Anthony Swarzak
NYY Aroldis Chapman David Robertson Dellin Betances
OAK Blake Treinen Lou Trivino Santiago Casilla Ryan Buchter
PHI Hector Neris Tommy Hunter Luis Garcia Pat Neshek
PIT Felipe Vazquez George Kontos Michael Feliz
STL Bud Norris Greg Holland Jordan Hicks Dominic Leone
SD Brad Hand Kirby Yates Craig Stammen
SF Hunter Strickland Tony Watson Sam Dyson Mark Melancon
SEA Edwin Diaz Juan Nicasio Nick Vincent
TB Alex Colome Sergio Romo Jose Alvarado
TEX Keone Kela Jake Diekman Jose Leclerc Chris Martin
TOR Tyler Clippard Ryan Tepera Seung Hwan Oh Roberto Osuna
WSH Sean Doolittle Brandon Kintzler Ryan Madson

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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5 years ago

Why wouldn’t the Phils consider using Eudebray Ramos in higher leverage situations? Any thoughts? His FIP is up a touch but his WHIP, K’s and BB’s are down. His leverage is roughly the same. What am I missing in the stats?

5 years ago
Reply to  Thelongball24

His FIP is up more than a touch (2.91 to 3.76), due to his HR/9 basically doubling (0.62 to 1.20). Not coincidentally, his HR/FB has also basically doubled (7.4% to 14.3%).