After the Phillies announced there would be a committee approach to the ninth inning, fantasy owners should worry. Gabe Kapler’s still plying his trade as a first year manager armed with an emerging bullpen. Hector Neris started the year in the traditional closer role, but lost the role following a blown save last Friday. Edubray Ramos recorded his first save on Sunday yet no clarity arose. On Wednesday, Philadelphia started with Ramos in the top of the ninth in a save situation and he responded by striking out both hitters he faced on six pitches, both being right-handed batters. Then, they brought in Neris to pitch to Chris Davis, a left-handed slugger, who grounded out to second base securing the win. For the Phillies, the win will be the important factor, not preventing Ramos or Neris from notching a save. This will be important to remember when trying to chase saves in this bullpen going forward, especially given Ramos has limited left-handed hitters to a .200 batting average against this year compared .184 for Neris. No matter how the team spins the ninth, it’s going to be match-up based which will mean headaches for the saves chasers looking at this bullpen. All being told, it may be easier to avoid until clarity arises.
One day removed from suggesting a fluid bullpen, Atlanta provided Arodys Vizcaino with a redemption save chance last night. Vizcaino responded with his first clean save of the season. It’s Vizcaino’s eighth save and even though he has his warts, he’s closed out 20 of 23 save chances dating back to July 30th of last year. Of course, overlooking his 10 walks in 20.2 innings of work this year would be shortsighted, but dropping him due to the latest committee warning would be as well. A.J. Minter garnered the win in relief working one inning giving up a hit and striking out one. Many will keep tabs on Dan Winkler, and rightly so, due to his minuscule 0.98 ERA and 0.65 WHIP with 27 strikeouts versus 67 total batters faced (40.3 strikeout percentage) in 18.1 innings. With Vizcaino working the last two games, perhaps Winkler will get an audition on Thursday?
While no one likes to roster Brad Ziegler, he recorded his seventh save, in as many chances, on Wednesday allowing a leadoff single then ending the game by inducing a double play ground ball. Ziegler’s settled in as the Marlins closer even though his “stuff” may be the fourth best in the bullpen. Yes, skills over role, but Ziegler’s not going anywhere until Miami decides to trade him. Kyle Barraclough worked a scoreless eighth for his fifth hold with a strikeout. He’s only yielded two earned runs over his last 15 outings and has 16 scoreless appearances in 20 games this season.
Those hoping for a quick return to the closer role for Greg Holland, will need patience. He only recorded one out in the eighth inning in Minnesota allowing two hits, two earned runs and two walks before being lifted for Bud Norris. Norris responded working a clean 1.2 innings en route to his ninth save. This marks the third save of four outs or more for Norris and he’s entrenched as the St. Louis closer going forward. Holland could give way to Tyler Lyons and Jordan Hicks in the eighth inning as well if he does not regain confidence in his fastball. A phantom disabled list appearance for Holland could be in the offing to let him work on mechanics, since he will not go to the minors.
Owners of Joakim Soria hoping he could get back to saves cannot be encouraged by his first appearance in a week happening in the seventh inning of an eventual loss. Soria allowed two hits, an earned run and a walk with two strikeouts but has yielded runs in three of his last four outings while getting further away from the ninth inning. Nate Jones worked a scoreless eighth giving up a walk with a strikeout. So, this could signal Bruce Rondon may be the “closer” in upcoming games for the White Sox, stay tuned.
Early season struggles caused panic for Alex Colome owners, but he’s pitched well recently including saving all three games in Kansas City during the Rays sweep on the road. Colome pitched a scoreless ninth and has now converted nine of 11 save opportunities this year. His first eight appearances resulted in a 9.00 ERA in seven innings giving up 14 hits with both of his blown saves. However, over his last 12.1 innings, Colome’s recorded a 1.42 ERA with 15 strikeouts. Patience can pay in fantasy. Teammate Matt Andriese worked three scoreless innings en route to his first win in relief since June of 2016. Andriese whiffed three batters while giving up three hits to lower his ERA as a reliever to 3.65 for his career in 76.1 innings.
It’s difficult to be concerned about Craig Kimbrel. He closed out his 12th save on Wednesday but allowed his fourth home run this year and third this month. Last year, Kimbrel only allowed six home runs in 69 innings compared to four in only 18.1 in 2018. Looking at his underlying numbers, it could be bad luck given his hard hit percentage is down almost 15 percent compared to last season but his home run per fly ball rate has grown by nearly 10 percent along with his fly ball percentage up 6.5 percent. Given the struggles of Kenley Jansen, Kimbrel owners cannot complain, but keeping an eye on the home runs will be intriguing going forward. Once again, Joe Kelly worked a scoreless eighth inning for his fifth hold and his high leverage innings will continue based on 21 strikeouts in his last 20 innings with a 0.45 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in them.
Quick Hits: Felipe Vazquez recorded his eighth save giving up a hit on Wednesday. He’s only allowed one earned run over his last 17 innings. Cody Allen struck out the side along with yielding a hit in a non-save appearance. But, his last seven games have resulted in six innings, 10 hits, six earned runs, six walks and seven strikeouts. Texas turned to Jose LeClerc with runners on and he responded getting one out and has stranded 14 of 15 inherited runners this year. Keone Kela did not get a save chance when the Rangers pushed the lead to five with four runs in the top of the ninth. Kela allowed a home run to Kyle Seager during his inning but remains eight-for-eight in save chances this year with 7.1 scoreless innings and 11 strikeouts in them. However, he’s struggled in non-save appearances giving up nine earned runs in 8.2 innings. Raisel Iglesias continues to improve his trade stock notching his eighth save and finishing his ninth straight scoreless outing. During his streak, Iglesias has recorded five saves and a win with 10 strikeouts in 9.1 innings along with retiring 20 of the last 21 hitters he’s faced. Another rough outing for Carl Edwards Jr. who took the loss in Atlanta allowing runs in his third straight appearance. This comes on the heels of 15 straight scoreless outings raising his ERA from 0.53 to 3.79 after three more runs allowed on Wednesday. A non-save outing, but Blake Parker turned in a clean ninth with two strikeouts and seems to be primed for a second chance in the closer role. Will Mike Scioscia trust him?