Bullpen Report: May 13, 2019

Remember when Joe Maddon had said that virtually every reliever in his bullpen could get a crack at some saves, with Pedro Strop (hamstring) on the IL? I’m starting to get a little skeptical.

Steve Cishek pitched a perfect ninth inning to close out the Cubs’ 4-1 win over the Brewers on Sunday night, and he has been Maddon’s choice to pitch in both save opportunities that have arisen since Strop sustained his injury. Maddon did show an openness to use other relievers in a closer-type situation on Saturday, when he summoned Brandon Kintzler and Kyle Ryan to pitch the top of the ninth in a 1-1 tie (with Cishek coming in for the 10th inning). However, it is looking clear that Cishek is Maddon’s preferred choice to close in Strop’s absence. For now, I am still designating the Cubs’ situation as a committee.

With A.J. Minter getting demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday, Luke Jackson no longer has to look over his shoulder for threats to his status as the Braves’ closer. Since giving up David Peralta’s game-tying home run on Thursday, Jackson pitched in two of the final three games in the Braves’ series against the Diamondbacks, and he recorded saves on both occasions. While Jackson pitched a perfect frame on Friday, his performance on Sunday was impressive as well, as he held the Diamondbacks scoreless over two innings. He ran into some trouble in the eighth inning, allowing a Carson Kelly single and Adam Jones double, but he ended the threat by getting Ketel Marte to ground out on the first pitch. With a 68.6 percent ground ball rate, Jackson trails only Zack Britton among qualified relievers in those rankings.

At the opposite end of the ground ball rate leaderboard is Brad Hand. In getting Chad Pinder to ground out in the Indians’ 5-3 win over the Athletics, he raised his ground ball rate to 10.8 percent. Hand followed that up by getting a Robbie Grossman flyout (naturally) and a strikeout of Ramon Laureano, recording his 11th save of the season.

The extreme flyball tendencies have not hurt him. Hand has yet to blow a save, and he has a 1.53 ERA and a 0.51 HR/9. There are currently 219 pitchers who have allowed at least 25 flyballs and line drives combined this season, and of those pitchers, only Ryan Yarbrough has a lower average exit velocity allowed on flies and liners than Hand (88.2 mph) does, according to Baseball Savant.

Home runs had been a problem for Collin McHugh — so much so that he was moved from the Astros’ rotation to the bullpen. After having allowed a total of eight homers over his final four starts totaling 18 innings, McHugh made his first relief appearance of the season on Sunday against the Rangers, taking over from his replacement in the rotation, Corbin Martin, with one out in the sixth inning.

He had a 10-1 lead to work with, and also an inherited runner on first base. Right away, McHugh got into a jam, allowing a hard-hit single by Elvis Andrus and an RBI line drive single by Nomar Mazara. McHugh would allow one more run before getting out of the inning. The Astros countered with five more runs in the bottom of the sixth, so McHugh came back out for another inning. He began by loading the bases with two walks and a single, but McHugh cleaned up his own mess, striking out Shin-Soo Choo and Danny Santana and then inducing a soft liner from Andrus. There was both good and bad in McHugh’s performance, but it’s still safe to drop him, even in leagues where long and setup relievers have value.

Jose Leclerc may be showing signs of coming around. He got the final out against the Astros in the sixth inning and then struck out the side in a perfect seventh inning. Leclerc has induced eight swinging strikes out of 49 pitches in his last two appearances (16.3 percent SwStr%) after posting a 5.2 percent SwStr% over his prior four appearances. Perhaps Chris Martin’s time as the Rangers’ closer will be short-lived.

Quick hits: Shane Greene (15) and Will Smith (10) both added to their save totals on Sunday…David Hernandez  allowed the Giants to score twice in the eighth inning to overcome a 5-4 deficit and prevent a Reds sweep, leaving him with both a blown save and a loss. However, he is still one of 11 relievers who have pitched at least 15 innings without allowing a home run…In getting one out against the Twins (by striking out C.J. Cron), Buck Farmer is now only one out away from joining the 15-inning, no-homer list. Yet he is the only reliever who has allowed 25 or more batted balls to have yielded an average exit velocity on flyballs and line drives in excess of 100 mph…Chad Green’s return from Triple-A was a triumphant one, as he struck out all three batters he faced in the Yankees’ 7-1 win over the Rays. Six of his 12 pitches resulted in swings-and-misses…Scott Alexander is day-to-day with hamstring and hip issues…The Mets expect to activate Jeurys Familia on Monday, but he will not go immediately back into a setup role.

Not Very Stable
Hot Seat
Bullpen Report — 5/13/2019
Team Closer First Up Second Up Minors/DL
ARI Greg Holland Archie Bradley Yoshihisa Hirano
ATL Luke Jackson Dan Winkler Sean Newcomb A.J. Minter
BAL Mychal Givens Paul Fry Shawn Armstrong Nathan Karns
BOS Matt Barnes Ryan Brasier Brandon Workman Brian Johnson
CHC Steve Cishek Brandon Kintzler Brad Brach Pedro Strop
CWS Alex Colome Kelvin Herrera Jace Fry Nate Jones
CIN Raisel Iglesias David Hernandez Amir Garrett
CLE Brad Hand Nick Wittgren Adam Cimber
COL Wade Davis Scott Oberg Carlos Estevez
DET Shane Greene Joe Jimenez Victor Alcantara
HOU Roberto Osuna Ryan Pressly Hector Rondon
KC Wily Peralta Ian Kennedy Brad Boxberger
LAA Hansel Robles Ty Buttrey Luke Bard
LAD Kenley Jansen Pedro Baez Julio Urias Caleb Ferguson
MIA Sergio Romo Adam Conley Nick Anderson Drew Steckenrider
MIL Josh Hader Junior Guerra Jeremy Jeffress
MIN Blake Parker Taylor Rogers Trevor Hildenberger
NYM Edwin Diaz Seth Lugo Robert Gsellman Jeurys Familia
NYY Aroldis Chapman Adam Ottavino Zack Britton Dellin Betances
OAK Blake Treinen Lou Trivino Joakim Soria
PHI Hector Neris Pat Neshek Adam Morgan David Robertson
PIT Felipe Vazquez Kyle Crick Francisco Liriano Keone Kela
STL Jordan Hicks Andrew Miller John Gant
SD Kirby Yates Craig Stammen Adam Warren Trey Wingenter
SF Will Smith Tony Watson Reyes Moronta
SEA Roenis Elias Brandon Brennan Cory Gearrin Hunter Strickland
TB Diego Castillo Jose Alvarado Emilio Pagan
TEX Chris Martin Jose LeClerc Ariel Juardo Shawn Kelley
TOR Ken Giles Ryan Tepera Joe Biagini
WSH Sean Doolittle Kyle Barraclough Joe Ross

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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