August 1, 2013
Welcome to another installment of The Bullpen Report. As a reminder, closers are rated in five tiers from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, a pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week this factors into the ranking as well.
This week’s edition of The Bullpen Report will focus on moves teams made at yesterday’s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline. Additional analysis is also available at today’s Free Agent Write-Up, but if you’re looking for more specific analysis about middle relievers/deeper league fodder like Jesse Crain, you’ve come to the right place.
Tier 1 – Money in the Bank
No one moves into the top tier this week while four pitchers get pushed down. The money-in-the-bank crowd is usually reserved for solid pitchers week in and week out who have strong numbers, the confidence of their manager, and few strong internal options behind them. As I mention nearly every week, Reed is the lone pitcher in this group that I waffle about, but his overall performance and strong K%, BB%, and other numbers speak to an elite status.
Tier 2 – Solid and Reliable
Jim Henderson moved up from the bubble to the solid tier. His numbers are solid, and the concerns about John Axford taking over Henderson’s job don’t seem as relevant as they did a week ago, even though Axford didn’t get moved.
I moved Parnell down last week because of a lack of strikeouts in recent outings, but the whiffs have returned. With the trade deadline having passed, he is also much less of a trade risk; Parnell would probably get claimed on waivers if the Mets tried to slip him through.
Romo is fine, but a couple of losses and a blown save move him out of the elite tier. Papelbon slips because it looks like the Phillies might be looking at 2014 and beyond. The Cody Asche call up seemed to signify that the team is raising the white flag on 2013 and even without any big trades will probably start running some younger talent out there.
Tier 3 – Yeah…You’re…Good
Allowing runs in back-to-back appearances will push you down a slot in rankings. Perkins is fine, though, and should close the rest of the way barring a waiver trade. Rodney moves down only because with the Rays acquisition of Jesse Crain he might have a shorter leash if/when Crain is healthy. It was only one outing, but Balfour’s blown save on July 23 made me nervous. He had nothing, and hitters were just waiting to square up Balfour’s fastball. He has been fine since then, and remains the closer in Oakland.
Tier 4 Uninspiring Choices
With seven runs allowed across last three outings, I thought about moving Frieri all the way down to the bubble. He stays here, though, in part because the Angels have made no noises about yanking him. Dane de la Rosa is the man to grab if you’re looking to speculate, though I suspect Frieri needs to blow at least one more and probably two before the team considers mixing things up.
Tier 5 – On the Bubble
With the trade deadline now passed, I would not be surprised if the Cubs simply yanked Gregg out of the closer’s role. He didn’t pitch particularly well in July and isn’t going to be part of the next winning Cubs team. With the exception of a five-run outburst on Monday, Pedro Strop has been excellent and—more importantly—is throwing strikes and isn’t walking the park. I’m merely speculating, but Strop might be the closer sooner rather than later.
Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reported on Tuesday that the Astros are going to go with a committee to replace Jose Veras, but Cisnero seems not only like the most realistic option for Houston but one of the only viable ones. The only other pitchers in the pen with an ERA under 5.00 are Wesley Wright and Travis Blackley. They might play matchups, but Cisnero looks like the guy. One problem with the Astros weakened bullpen is that save chances will likely be even harder to come by than they had been already.
Jose Veras loses his job as closer with the trade to the Tigers. Jim Leyland says that Veras will be used “in the seventh inning” but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Veras got a handful of save opportunities when Benoit can’t go. He moves to a better situation with a much stronger team and should be held onto in deeper mixed and only leagues.
Jesse Crain was traded from the White Sox to the Rays on Monday. It is not clear when Crain will be back but he will be a significant asset for the Rays when he is healthy. It is likely that Crain moves to the front of the line behind Fernando Rodney as the Rays’ closer in waiting. Rodney has had his shaky spells this year so this situation is worth monitoring.
Marc Rzepczynski was traded on Tuesday from the Cardinals to the Indians. A once promising left-hander, Rzepczynski was a mess this year in St. Louis and needed a change of scenery. He has no fantasy value at the moment, even though the Tribe did call him back up to the Majors.
Joe Thatcher’s overall numbers are terrific but he profiles as a quintessential LOOGY. Even in NL-only, he isn’t worth owning; the drip, drip, drip of his qualitative stats isn’t worth it.
This one wasn’t a trade, but Brian Wilson signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wilson is unlikely to close this year unless something happens to Kenley Jansen, but he could provide value out of the pen in a set-up role.
On the $ Values
Dollar values in the charts below represent my 2012 dollar valuations for 5x5 “only” Rotisserie-style formats using 2013 player statistics. These values use a Standings Gain Points (or SGP) model that is similar to the SGP model used in Baseball Prospectus’ Player Forecast Manager.
Earnings Through Games of Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Closer Earnings to Date
Top Reliever Earnings, Non-Closers