• Ronald Belisario took the BS tonight. It wasn’t a complete meltdown, as the two hits in the inning were not tremendously well-struck and the walk that shows up in the box score was intentional. But results are results and he did not convert the save. Over the last few weeks, Belisario still has the best peripherals in this pen (2.70 xFIP) but now owns the worst ERA (5.40). Manager Robin Ventura has previously said he’ll stick with Belisario, but this string of outings where he’s being BABIPed may cost him a shot at locking down the ninth inning gig.
So who should we look at if Chicago pulls the plug and turns elsewhere? Jake Petricka had a save last week and hasn’t allowed a run in a while. However, he hasn’t been pretty while doing it, with the righty posting a sub-par 16% K% and an even more sub-par 13% BB% (4.19 xFIP). Daniel Webb continues to own the best raw stuff in this bullpen but also continues to struggle with command. He’s been pushed out of high leverage innings over the last month and probably needs a strong run of outings to work his way back into the discussion.
Scott Downs has closing experience but is a lefty with poor platoon splits. He would be an option in a true committee, but not standalone closer material. Javy Guerra is similarly experienced but hasn’t been that good… well… ever. The dark horse in all of this may be Zach Putnam. The 26-year-old may not have elite-elite stuff but had a career K% north of 20% and a groundball rate on the right side of 50%. He is gaining his manager’s trust, as he is only behind Petricka (and ahead of Belisario) in leverage index while entering the game (1.49) over the last two weeks. It’s tough to tease out the depth chart exactly with the odd usage over the last few weeks, but I’m prioritizing Putnam and Petricka in this bullpen for speculation plays.
• An ugly ninth inning for the Rockies tonight. LaTroy Hawkins opened the frame with a one-run lead. After a lineout, a Josh Rutledge error put a runner on. Hawkins then gave up a single to power-hitting Ben Revere before inducing a Jimmy Rollins fly to left. With two lefties due up and key lefty Rex Brothers already used, Walt Weiss turned to Boone Logan to finish off the game. A Chase Utley single and a Ryan Howard bomb later and Colorado is on the losing end of a 6-3 score.
We’ve covered Hawkins extensively in this space. He has showed decent control for a 41-year-old, but it’s almost impossible to be a late inning reliever with a sub-10% K%. His whiff issues are compounded by the fact that he relies on outs in play while playing in the ballpark that is worst for converting balls in play into outs. Blech. The time has come to make sure Adam Ottavino and Brothers are scooped up in all leagues. Brothers has the pedigree but is a lefty and is sporting a near-Marmolesque 14% BB% on the season. Ottavino is less heralded but has better peripherals during the 2014 season. I’m prioritizing the righty (Ottavino) ahead of the lefty (Brothers) here, but both should be owned across the board. For what it’s worth, Logan’s implosion tonight effectively torpedoed any discussion of him seeing high-leverage innings in the near future.
• It continues to be tough to get a bead on exactly who has the upper hand in the Cleveland bullpen. Bryan Shaw took the loss tonight, although his run was unearned thanks to a Mike Aviles error. He also was held back for later in the game unlike Cody Allen who pitched the eighth. Allen was on the hook for the loss until Cleveland tied it up off Belisario (see above). The righty wasn’t terribly impressive, giving up a hit and a pair of walks. We’ll keep Shaw ahead of Allen on the depth chart, but I need to stress that it’s for table formatting purposes only. If you have a real good idea who is going to get tomorrow’s save, you’re apparently Terry Francona. Tito, thanks for reading!
• Quick hits: Jonathan Papelbon picked up a scab win in the Phillies/Rockies game. I still don’t love the velocity drop and would still try to sell, but he’s pitching well enough to continue chugging along as a mid-tier closer. Jeurys Familia nabbed a multi-inning save after coming in in the eighth and getting to stay in after the Mets extended their lead. Jenry Meija is still the main squeeze in this pen, but Terry Collins is apparently “in love” with Familia’s stuff recently, so he’s worth a grab in deeper leagues if you desperately need saves and can cut someone of non-importance loose. I’ve flipped the Pirates bullpen over to red based on this source that Alan dug up last night. It’ll flip back to green at some point (one way or the other).
[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.