A look at why you shouldn't give up on retread closers, plus updates on the ninth-inning situations around the league.
When bullpens struggle, it shows in big and spectacular ways. There are a few ways major-league teams in contention go about shuffling fungible assets, the most common fix being the acquisition of retreads—journeyman relievers whose careers crested long ago and are now in decline.
The reasoning is simple: If you look hard enough, you can still see the heights of a player’s career arc—the high-water mark of competence and perhaps even borderline brilliance still visible on the worn façade of a given pitcher’s life in baseball.
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The Angels' beleaguered bullpen gets some reinforcement in the form of a righty with eye-popping peripherals.
The Situation: In recent years, Angels manager Mike Scioscia hasn’t had many reliable bullpen options to work with, and that’s continued to be the case in 2014. Anaheim’s bullpen entered play on Wednesday with a 4.32 ERA, the fifth-highest mark in the majors. In search of setup assistance, the Angels have called up 22-year-old right-hander Cam Bedrosian from Double-A Arkansas, where he’d posted some eye-popping numbers. He saw his first action on Tuesday, setting down the Astros in order with one K.
Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.
This is an abbreviated version of the Closer To Me series. You’ll notice it’s out on Monday instead of Tuesday; we’re changing it up a bit here, and this piece will consistently be out on Mondays from now on.
Chicago White Sox Robin Ventura gave Ronald Belisario an endorsement on May 30 after he had blown a lead against the Cleveland Indians. I’m still tracking Zach Putnam’s usage, as he has exhibited the best control in the White Sox bullpen this year. He’s not a swing-and-miss guy, and I don’t know if that pitcher exists in the White Sox bullpen, but he’s got a good splitter and the command profile we all thought Matt Lindstrom had. Hold Belisario for now, but keep looking at Putnam.
Three members of our staff share different perspectives on the 15th edition of the popular baseball sim.
My experiences with Out Of The Park Baseball began early, as I was a young fan of baseball sims. I started with What If Sports and moved around to a few different ones before settling in for a long and meaningful relationship with OOTP. I have a long relationship with video games, as I grew up a child of the 90s; before baseball took a firm hold of my heart, Sega and PlayStation dominated my childhood. The transition to video games and baseball was a natural one for me, as I wanted to emulate the players I revered.
Updates on the top-five preseason closers and notes on the ninth-inning situations around the league.
Before we get into the unfortunate stuff, let’s go back to the preseason and check in on the top five closers, as ranked by Paul Sporer.
Kimbrel is dominating as he boasts a 1.96 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. He had a few health scares, but he’s shown very few ill effects. He’s got a 5.14 K:BB ratio and is striking out 47.4 percent of batters faced.
The Tigers promote one of the minors' best relief prospects.
The Situation: The Tigers bullpen has floundered out of the gate to the tune of a 4.22 ERA and a bunch of revolving doors for the last two spots. Enter Corey Knebel, the Tigers’ fifth-rated prospect according to Jason Parks' preseason ranking, and one of the best pure relief arms in the minors. Knebel will look to lock down the middle to late innings and hand the ball off to Joe Nathan.
Background: Selected in the compensatory first round (39th overall) in the 2013 draft out of the University of Texas, Knebel flew through the minors at a torrid pace after eviscerating the competition. In Low-A West Michigan last season, Knebel appeared in 31 games, allowed 14 hits, and struck out 41 with 15 saves, posting a .133 batting average against and a 0.87 ERA. After that stellar performance, he headed to the Arizona Fall League, where he 8 tossed 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs and striking out 11. To start this season, the Tigers gave Knebel an aggressive assignment to Double-A Erie—where he allowed two earned runs in 15 IP, striking out 23 with a WHIP of 1.06—before sending him to Triple-A Toledo for three appearances that spanned four scoreless innings.
Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.
Chicago White Sox Ronald Belisario was named the closer following an injury to Matt Lindstrom. The White Sox bullpen struggles have been well documented in this column. Surprisingly, the White Sox are only on their second closer, as Lindstrom survived early troubles to hang on to the job as the rest of pen around him took a curious shape. Belisario has come a long way since carrying a 15.75 ERA on April 9. In 22 innings from April 12 through May 20, Belisario posted a 2.05 ERA, a 17-to-4 K:BB ratio, and a .169/.229/.208 opponents’ slash line. He’s the clear hot hand in the bullpen. Daniel Webb is still in the periphery but given his control issues I think Belisario is a safe option. As of writing he’s widely un-owned in both Yahoo (14 percent) and ESPN (2.5 percent) leagues, but that will change fast.
Chicago Cubs Hector Rondon blew the save for the Cubs today which might induce some itchy trigger fingers given the success Neil Ramirez has enjoyed this season. I’d keep those fears in check as it was Rondon’s fourth straight day of work and he really only gave up a few bloop hits and a walk. An error behind him by the usually sure handed Darwin Barney made it look worse than it was. Ramirez is still a very good stash name, but I’m holding on to Rondon. If for some reason you were holding out hope that Jose Veras might be able to figure something out this year I’m going to squelch those dreams. Veras has completely lost what tenuous command he had of his curveball and its manifesting itself in ugly ways. Veras is still boasting an ugly 25 percent walk rate. He walked one and gave up three hits during a loss to the Yankees today and his command looked bad throughout his outing.