Mike explains why elite middle relievers haven't climbed his tiers, before revealing the latest edition of those tiers and the updated dollar values.
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.
Last week, one of my readers wanted to know why I didn’t have a middle reliever in the top tier. Although middle relievers are integral in some leagues, I have not been ranking them due to the fact that their value is vastly different depending upon each league’s rules. In leagues that use holds as a separate category, non-closers carry a great deal of value. In standard mixed leagues with no start limits, you might not feel the need to carry a middle reliever on your staff at all. My goal is to take a cursory look at a handful of valuable middle relief arms in a non-holds, deeper-league, standard Roto format.
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Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen is among the numerous ninth-inning men who moved down a tier in this week's update.
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.
Since the big news right now is Biogenesis, it’s worth noting that there are no active major-league relievers listed in the reports released so far. This isn’t a definitive or final iteration of the list by any means: There are other names in the documents that haven’t been released or that are listed under code names, according to the sources in the story as reported by ESPN. However, in terms of known risk, there isn’t anything to see here.
Two closers jump into the top tier, as Mike catches you up on the latest news and shuffling from the league's bullpens.
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.
Starling Marte makes Bobby Parnell throw 13 pitches.
Last Friday, I started a new series in which I'll be breaking down, marveling at, and ruminating on the longest plate appearance of the preceding week. This is the second installment of that series. The inaugural edition featured a 12-pitch showdown between Mike Moustakas and Chris Sale that remains exactly as interesting as it was when it was published, so if you want to watch that plate appearance, click this link. If you’ve already seen it, or you’re interested only in the latest longest plate appearance, read on.
Janssen, Fuentes, and Thayer are discussed in this week's Value Picks
The debate between the old and new schools as to the usefulness of defined bullpen roles is as strong as ever, and with such a high turnover rate in the early going of this season, both sides have had plenty of fodder to build their arguments. For those of us who partake in fantasy leagues, however, such philosophical pedantry is a mere luxury. Chasing saves, after all, is a dirty game, so let’s have a look at some relievers of interest.
Just because you're out in your fantasy league doesn't mean you shouldn't go shopping for potential ninth-inning guys.
For the past four years, I’ve written an article at the end of each season discussing one of my favorite keeper league strategies: stashing potential closers. Today, I’m going to do the same, explaining the strategy and then trying to figure out which middle relievers are poised to step into the ninth-inning role.
The Strategy All keeper leagues are different, but if you are in one where your leaguemates make a habit of keeping top closers, this strategy will be especially good for you. In these leagues, when auction day or draft day rolls around, the number of closers will be limited. Those who haven't kept a top closer will be bidding against each other for the leftovers, the second-tier closers. By default, their prices will rise, quite possibly above their raw value. This can trickle down the list of closers until Kevin Gregg is being auctioned for some crazy amount, like $18.
With murky situations in Chicago and San Fran, Chris Sale and Jeremy Affeldt join VP this week.
Joining the party
Chris Sale, White Sox (Yahoo! 25%, ESPN 12%, CBS 20%)
In few places has the dichotomy between fantasy baseball and “real” baseball been laid out more clearly than when Chicago manager Ozzie Guillenspoke to theChicago Sun-Times last weekend:
Mike speculates about the trade deadline, remarks on the messy situation in Chicago, and tries to figure out how the Mets bullpen will shake out.
My team might be 11 games under .500 and mired in the midst of a beyond embarrassing courtroom scandal, but it’s still my favorite time of the year: trade deadline season. Among closers, Heath Bell and Leo Nunez seem to be the most likely to be moved, though we could see some surprises in places like Washington and Kansas City as well. That, of course, means that some current setup men could soon be pushed into new roles over the next week.
Mike analyzes the fallout of the K-Rod trade and the messy situation in Cincinnati.
When I realized my column this week landed on the final day of the All-Star break, my first thought was, “Hooray! No worrying that some closer will get bombed or hurt out in Seattle or San Diego at 2am ET, long after I’ve submitted the article.” That was quickly followed by, “Argh, there probably won’t be much news after four days of inactivity.” Well, so much for that, because the news of Francisco Rodriguez’ trade to Milwaukee was a bombshell. Neither Rodriguez nor John Axford are eligible for inclusion here since they’re owned in nearly every league, but I’ll still weigh in with my two cents: unless Brewers GM Doug Melvin has completely lost his mind, Axford should still be the closer. He’s simply been a better pitcher, and the Brewers won’t want to be on the hook for the $17.5m option Rodriguez will be in line for if he closes enough games.
Pitchers have gotten bent, causing hitters to complain about too much tail.
NEW YORK—Mets manager Terry Collins caught a glimpse of the evolution in relief pitcher Bobby Parnell.
It happened sometime last year when both were at Triple-A Buffalo, Collins as the team's minor league field coordinator, and Parnell as the ninth-round draft pick with a fastball that routinely tickles the triple digits. Collins had seen the flame-throwing type before, although during his time in the game, they have become much more common.
The Mets' fireballing setup man can hit 100 mph on the radar gun, but it's his improved slider that he hopes will give him an unstoppable arsenal.
When your fastball has been clocked as high as 102.5 mph, you don’t necessarily need a plus secondary pitch. Much to the chagrin of National League hitters, Bobby Parnell has one, and it is getting better. The Mets closer-in-waiting has been fine-tuning his slider, and the offering may be what takes him from overpowering to almost unhittable.
The 26-year-old right-hander was already no fun to face in 2010, as he logged an 8.4 K/9 and an even more impressive 4.1 K/BB out of the New York bullpen. Despite an abnormally high .374 BABIP, his ERA was a strong 2.83. He promises to be an even bigger challenge for hitters this year with an improved slider augmenting his heater.
Better and Better
“His breaking ball is getting better, as I think everybody will see,” said Josh Thole, who has established himself as the Mets' primary catcher. “Toward the end of last year he started becoming more aggressive with it, and this year I feel he’s refined it a little bit. You can see how it has improved.
“He gets good action on his slider, down and in to lefties,” continued Thole. “He can use it as his put-away pitch. When you throw that hard, having a put-away pitch that you can bury in the ground and get some swings and misses—it’s a great thing to have in your repertoire.”
According to Mets skipper Terry Collins, the pitch could be a difference maker for the hard-throwing right-hander.
“He’s got one of those special arms where late in the game he can do some damage,” said Collins. “But he doesn’t have to throw 100. He’s worked very hard to make sure that his secondary pitches are effective, and I think that will really help him.
“You have to have something that breaks. Against major-league hitters, you need something that moves, you can’t go just fastball, changeup. You have to get something that’s going to go away from some of these guys, or in to some of these guys, so I think the slider is a good idea for him.”
More and More
Parnell threw his slider just 15.7 percent of the time last year, a number that should increase markedly in 2011. While a pair of outings represents far too small a sample size to give a meaningful projection, PitchFX data shows that he has thrown 41.4 percent sliders to the seven batters he has faced this season. The pitch has averaged 84.3 mph, down from 87.3 last year, and the increased frequency at which it been used has been by design.
“I’m throwing my slider more and in different counts than what I was used to,” explained Parnell late in spring training. “I’m using it as a pitch to get ahead of hitters instead of just trying to strike them out with. In the past it’s been an 0-2, 1-2 pitch and now I’ll even use it on the first pitch of a count."
“I’m trying to throw strikes with it more consistently," Parnell continued. "It’s the same slider, I’m just starting it out in a different location in order to throw it for a strike. I’m not going to float one in and give them something good to hit, but in the same respect, I’m not going to throw one in the dirt. I need to find that happy median and throw the same pitch that I throw on 0-2, for a strike.”
While opposing hitters can expect to see more sliders from Parnell, they can mostly stop worrying about his changeup. He hasn’t completely scrapped it, but it won’t be seen often.
“My changeup is still there,” said Parnell, “but it’s more of a third pitch now. In my situation, having two good pitches is better than having three average pitches, so I’m focusing on fastball-slider. If I’m facing somebody who has seen me several times, my split-finger changeup is something I might pull out of my pocket, but only on occasion.”
Faster and Faster
Parnell averaged 96.4 mph with his fastball last season, hitting triple digits numerous times. Even with the improved slider, it remains his signature pitch, as only five hurlers threw it with a higher average velocity in 2010. Despite that, the flamethrower downplays the importance of his radar gun readings.
“Velocity really isn’t all that important,” opined Parnell. “It’s a side factor for me, I think, more than anything. I have to focus on location and pitch movement to be successful. Velocity comes secondary.
“My four-seamer is going to run a little bit in on a righty, and the more you can make it move, the harder it is on the hitter to see it and hit it. Movement is very important for me, more so than velocity.”
Thole doesn‘t necessarily disagree, but he knows what makes Parnell such an intimidating presence on the mound.
“His fastball is hard,” said Thole. “Not too many guys can say they throw 100 mph. When you’re throwing a heavy ball like he does, it makes it tough on the hitters. He throws a sinker, too, where he takes a little off his velocity, but when you’re throwing a sinker at 96 and then you can go up top at the letters with a 100-mph fastball, you’re going to get a lot of swings and misses. Then you add in the slider, and what you have is a guy you’d rather not face.”