Sean Doolittle’s struggles continue

August 18, 2019

Washington Nationals — Sean Doolittle blew a threw run lead giving up three home runs and four runs in just 13 pitches.  Doolittle’s velocity was down and manager Davey Martinez said he may need to reconsider Doolittle’s workload.   If Doolittle receives more rest, that could open up more save chances for Daniel Hudson, Hunter Strickland and maybe even our old friend, Fernando Rodney.

Hierarchy remains: Doolittle | Hudson | Strickland.

New York Mets — Seth Lugo bounced back from his disastrous outing on Wednesday to throw a perfect ninth inning for his third save of the season.  The Mets will likely continue to use both Lugo and Diaz to close out games.

Hierarchy remains: *Diaz | Lugo | Wilson.
* = closer-by-committee

Atlanta Braves — The relievers that the Braves acquired at the deadline did what they were supposed to do on Saturday and it was a welcome sign for the team.  Shane Greene struck out the side in a perfect eighth inning and Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save.  We will slide Greene back to first in line and if Melancon can convert a couple more saves he will likely shed the committee asterisk.

Updated hierarchy: *Melancon | Greene | Jackson.
* = closer-by-committee

Seattle Mariners – Matt Magill struck out the side to record his first career save.  Magill has put together five straight scoreless outings, picking up a win, hold, and save during that time.  Anthony Bass picked up the win yesterday.  The Mariners’ bullpen likely won’t yield many saves for the rest of the season but Bass and Magill look to be the most likely candidates at this point.

Updated hierarchy: *Bass | Magill| Tuivailala.
* = closer-by-committee

Chicago Cubs — Rowan Wick closed out a 2-0 Cubs win to get his first career save.  The Cubs are expected to activate Craig Kimbrel from the IL today.  

Updated hierarchy: *Strop | Kintzler | Wick.
* = closer-by-committee

Arizona Diamondbacks — Yoshihisa Hirano has been placed on the IL with right elbow inflamation.  Andrew Chafin should take over Hirano’s role in the later innings.

Updated hierarchy: *Bradley | Lopez | Chafin.
* = closer-by-committee

Tampa Bay Rays – Although it did not result in a save, it would be hard for a website dedicated to bullpens to not acknowledge what the Rays did on Saturday.  5 relievers combined for 6.2 perfect innings of relief, striking out 14 batters.  The Rays overall set a major league record, striking out 24 batters without any walks.  Speaking of strikeouts, Nick Anderson has struck out the side in three straight scoreless appearances.  Since joining the Rays, Anderson has seven scoreless appearances with 17 ks in 7 innings.  That’s pretty good.

Updated hierarchy: *Pagan | Alvarado | Anderson.
* = closer-by-committee

1. Adam Ottavino – Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton have pitched in two straight and the Yankees are the only team in the majors to not use a reliever on three straight days.
2. Daniel Hudson/Fernando Rodney – Sean Doolittle will almost certainly get Sunday off.  Daniel Hudson only threw 7 pitches yesterday but both he and Hunter Strickland have pitched in two straight so that could leave Fernando Rodney.

1. Ty Buttrey – If Hansel Robles pitches on Sunday, it will be two straight and four of five.


Updated MLB Closer Depth Chart

Closer1st in line2nd in lineUpdatedCloser1st in line2nd in lineUpdated

* = closer-by-committee

Brandon Kintzler is back but the Cubs are still blowing saves

August 17, 2019

Chicago Cubs — The Cubs activated Brandon Kintzler from the IL yesterday, and after Kyle Ryan faced the first two batters in the ninth, Kintzler came on to finish the game. After getting one out he walked three straight batters, one intentionally, to give up the lead before giving up a walk-off single. Craig Kimbrel can’t return fast enough; he was eligible yesterday, but the Cubs are still weighing a possible rehab assignment for the big-money acquisition. After back-to-back blown saves from their patchwork bullpen, the Cubs may activate Kimbrel today.

Updated hierarchy: *Strop | Kintzler | Phelps.
* = closer-by-committee

Minnesota Twins — With Minnesota holding a one-run lead, Taylor Rogers took the eighth inning to face the lefty-loaded heart of the Rangers lineup. He gave up a couple hits, but got out unscathed, which left the ninth inning to Sergio Romo. Romo shut the door for his 3rd save as a Twin. This is certainly a committee, and Rogers arguably got the harder assignment yesterday, but both Rogers and Romo will continue to see save opportunities going forward. Yesterday shows that Rocco Baldelli won’t be afraid to play matchups in the final two innings.

Hierarchy remains: *Rogers | Romo | Dyson.
* = closer-by-committee

Los Angeles Dodgers — Julio Urias came in to protect a two-run lead in the seventh inning. He then stuck around for the final two frames after the Dodgers extended the lead to five to earn his fourth save of the year. Urias sees some longer relief appearances, but the Dodgers are not afraid to use him in higher-leverage spots. 

Hierarchy remains: Jansen | Kelly | Baez.

San Francisco Giants — Will Smith came in to protect a two-run lead in the 10th inning, but blew the save after giving up a pair of solo homers. When the Giants retook the lead in the 11th, Smith came on try again, but ran out of gas after his 35th pitch, leaving the last out for Trevor Gott. Gott induced a groundout to earn his first career save. Gott normally doesn’t feature in the late innings for San Francisco. 

Hierarchy remains: Smith | Watson | Moronta.

Cincinnati Reds — The Reds were on the receiving end of a 13-4 beatdown yesterday, but one silver lining was the second relief appearance of Jose Peraza. Peraza is nominally a second baseman, but pitched a clean ninth inning, throwing 11 straight curveballs according to pitchf/x. This follows his other scoreless appearance, getting a single out in cleanup duty after the Pirates-Reds brawl on July 30. Despite Peraza’s dominance as an emergency option, he is blocked by fellow second baseman Kyle Farmer, who also sports a 0.00 ERA on the year. 

Hierarchy remains: Iglesias | Lorenzen | Garrett | Farmer/Peraza.

1. Craig Kimbrel – If Kimbrel is activated today, he is the most likely option for a save from the Cubs. Brandon Kintzler threw 28 pitches last night.
2. Buck Farmer – Joe Jimenez has pitched in two of the last three, including a 29-pitch outing last night.
3. Scott Barlow – Ian Kennedy has also pitched in two of three, throwing a total of 38 pitches.
4. Adam Ottavino – Aroldis Chapman has pitched in four of six while Zach Britton has pitched in three of the last five. 
5. Tony Watson – Will Smith threw 35 pitches last night.

1. Yoan Lopez – Archie Bradley is the best-rested option for today, but if he pitches it will be back-to-back and three of four. 
2. Bryan Shaw – Today would be two straight and three of four for Scott Oberg
3. Seth Lugo – Today would be three in a row for Edwin Diaz. 

Craig Kimbrel could return soon, and boy, do the Cubs need him

August 16, 2019

Chicago Cubs — It all unraveled so quickly for the Cubs on Thursday. They held a 5-1 lead entering the ninth, but could not hold serve, allowing six runs in a crushing defeat. Rowan Wick and Pedro Strop played key roles in the disaster; Wick got the last two outs in the eighth, then ran into trouble in the ninth and was lifted for Strop, who allowed two baserunners without recording an out. Everyone came home when Derek Holland coughed up a walkoff grand slam to Bryce Harper. This leads us to Craig Kimbrel, who “felt fine” after a bullpen session Thursday and could be activated as soon as Friday — or later, if he gets a rehab assignment. After Thursday’s debacle, we’d bet on the former.

Hierarchy remains: *Strop | Wick | Phelps.
* = closer-by-committee

New York Mets — It didn’t look like the Mets would need a closer Thursday, but things got scary in the ninth. With a 10-4 lead, Drew Gagnon gave up three homers, and it was ol’ Edwin Diaz called on to rescue the Mets at 10-8. After walking the first hitter on four pitches, Diaz managed to get a K for the one-out save, his first since July 31. Justin Wilson could get some shots and Seth Lugo will be the relief “ace,” but the Mets are apparently going to give Diaz yet another chance to keep the closer role.

Updated hierarchy: *Diaz | Lugo | Wilson.
* = closer-by-committee

Cincinnati Reds — Jared Hughes was claimed off waivers by the Phillies, ending his tenure in Cincinnati. The Reds then called up highly touted youngster Joel Kuhnel, who has triple-digit heat and “the potential to be a power arm in the back end of the bullpen,” according to manager David Bell.

Hierarchy remains: Iglesias | Lorenzen | Garrett.

Minnesota Twins — Normally a starter, Devin Smeltzer pitched the final four innings of the Twins’ win over the Rangers, earning the vulture save.

Hierarchy remains: *Rogers | Romo | Dyson.
* = closer-by-committee

1. Luke Jackson/Shane Greene — Mark Melancon probably gets a second day off.
2. Jose Quijada/Ryan Stanek — Jarlin Garcia has gone in two of three and four of six.
3. Blake Treinen — Liam Hendriks has pitched two nights in a row.

1. Ty Buttrey — Hansel Robles has gone in two straight.
2. Matt Barnes — If Brandon Workman goes Friday, it’ll be three of four.
3. Andres Munoz — Same with Kirby Yates.
4. Zack Britton — Aroldis Chapman will be rested Saturday if he pitches Friday, which would be his fourth appearance in six days.

It’s a bad night for bullpens when the Mets play the Braves

August 15, 2019

New York Mets — Pump the brakes on the Seth Lugo bandwagon after Wednesday night’s five-run abomination. Using Lugo in the seventh inning of a one-run game meant someone else was getting the save chance anyway, probably Justin Wilson. Lugo wasn’t exactly smacked around, giving up a walk and a handful of singles, but Mickey Callaway’s eagerness to use his best reliever early on makes it impossible for you to trust Lugo for saves. Our guess is Wilson gets the next shot.

Updated hierarchy: *Wilson | Lugo | Diaz.
* = closer-by-committee

Arizona Diamondbacks — One day after Torey Lovullo credited Archie Bradley’s “confidence” with saving Lovullo from “sucking [his] thumb” in his office after a loss, Bradley gave up a walk-off homer to the Rockies. No one is happier than Dodger fans, whose team didn’t take kindly to Bradley’s, uh, confidence the other night. Consider Lovullo’s thumb day-to-day.

Hierarchy remains: *Bradley | Lopez | Hirano.
* = closer-by-committee

Atlanta Braves — With a four-run lead, the Braves played it safe and called on Mark Melancon. After a groundout, Melancon gave up a walk, four hits, and a fielder’s choice, putting the go-ahead run on base. Melancon recovered to get a strikeout, and Brian Snitker brought in lefty Jerry Blevins for the platoon advantage against former teammate Michael Conforto. Blevins got the K and the save, and the Braves managed to escape with the W.

Hierarchy remains: *Melancon | Jackson | Greene.
* = closer-by-committee

Washington Nationals — For Proust, it was a madeleine: sensual vector to transcendent reverie; summoner of deep and dormant ecstasy; midwife to the ever-present past. For Closer Monkey, it is Javy Guerra. Our muse. Subject of our fourth post, ever. And so a vulture save for a 33-year-old journeyman — three innings, three runs, five hits — becomes, somehow, very much more. With Proust, we find “the vicissitudes of life become indifferent to [us], its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory.” Here, there is no Sean Doolittle. There is no Daniel Hudson. There is definitely no Fernando Rodney. There is, at long last, only “the echo of great spaces traversed,” and a blue-check Twitter confused about what team it plays for. Until next time, Javy. May there ever be a next time.

Hierarchy remains: Doolittle | Hudson | Strickland.

St. Louis Cardinals — John Gant has been fine, but he’s no Giovanny Gallegos, the most unhittable pitcher in baseball. Gant’s appearance in garbage time on Wednesday gives us a chance to make the swap.

Updated hierarchy: Martinez | Miller | Gallegos.

Milwaukee Brewers — After another rocky outing, Josh Hader was given the day off by Craig Counsell, allowing Matt Albers to grab his third save in eight days. 

Hierarchy remains: Hader | Albers | Peralta.

1. Zack Britton — Three appearances in four days means an almost-certain day off for Aroldis Chapman.
2. Luke Jackson — Mark Melancon and Shane Greene have pitched in two straight.
3. Tony Watson — Will Smith threw 37 pitches on Tuesday and might get a second day off.

1. Yoan Lopez — Archie Bradley will have gone in three of four with an outing Thursday.
2. Aaron Bummer/Evan Marshall — Alex Colome had a 28-pitch outing on Wednesday.
3. Blake Treinen — And Liam Hendriks threw 24.

Sam Dyson, Jose Alvarado return from the IL

August 14, 2019

Minnesota Twins – The Twins activated Sam Dyson from the IL on Tuesday and immediately sent him into a high-leverage spot. Dyson responded with a perfect eighth inning ahead of Sergio Romo, who closed out a 7-5 win since Taylor Rogers was unavailable. Rogers has struggled when pitching a second consecutive day, so it’s likely that Romo sees some more frequent save chances going forward as the Twins try and manage Rogers’ workload.

Updated hierarchy: *Rogers | Romo | Dyson.
* = closer-by-committee

Tampa Bay Rays – Jose Alvarado returned from the IL on Tuesday and immediately saw some high-leverage work, getting the ball in the eighth inning with his team ahead by three. It wasn’t the easiest inning for Alvarado, who committed one of two Rays errors in the frame and allowed one run. He did get two outs, however, and had good velocity on his fastball. Kevin Cash said before the game that he will likely slot Alvarado into high-leverage situations, and that’s exactly what happened. We’ll update our hierarchy accordingly, with Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, Chaz Roe and Colin Poche also expected to be in the mix for holds and save chances at any given moment.

Updated hierarchy: *Pagan | Alvarado | Castillo.
* = closer-by-committee

Boston Red Sox — Prior to Tuesday’s game, Alex Cora said that Nathan Eovaldi was likely to start Wednesday’s game and that he will build up to eventually rejoin the starting rotation. Of course, that was only if Eovaldi didn’t pitch in relief on Tuesday, and sure enough it was Eovaldi who pitched the Sox out of an eighth-inning jam (on just six pitches) to preserve a one-run lead that Brandon Workman blew in the following frame. That led to Andrew Cashner, whose terrible pitching is the reason Eovaldi is moving back to the rotation in the first place, to pick up his first career save in the 10th inning. Cashner’s save opportunity was by chance – he was going to pitch the 10th anyway – but the bigger story is Eovaldi’s usage. He will be available out of the bullpen today, but his time on our hierarchy is done for now.

Updated hierarchy: Workman | Barnes | Taylor.

Washington Nationals – We predicted that Sean Doolittle would get a night off on Tuesday, but it was Daniel Hudson who picked up a four-out save, not Fernando Rodney. In fact, Rodney didn’t even pitch in last night’s 3-1 win; it was Hunter Strickland and Wander Suero who got the ball to Hudson. We’ll move Hudson into Rodney’s spot in the hierarchy based on last night, but with all the new relievers pitching well since arriving in Washington, Dave Martinez can be flexible on when to deploy his top arms in the late innings. Don’t be too surprised to see Rodney back in a high-leverage spot soon.

Updated hierarchy: Doolittle | Hudson | Strickland.

Atlanta Braves – Mark Melancon locked down his second save of the season, pitching the first 1-2-3 inning by a Braves reliever in a save situation since July 15. Luke Jackson completed a clean seventh inning to maintain a 5-1 lead, but Shane Greene’s struggles continued and he gave up two more runs in the eighth to create the save situation. Greene has allowed 13 hits and seven earned runs in 4.1 innings with the Braves. We’ll see how much longer Brian Snitker keeps running him out there with a lead.

Hierarchy remains: *Melancon | Jackson | Greene.
* = closer-by-committee

San Diego Padres — Craig Stammen has struggled lately, having allowed a run in each of his last three appearances. That includes one run in the sixth inning last night, which was unearned because of a throwing error Stammen himself committed. If Kirby Yates is unavailable, it makes sense to let potential future closer Andres Munoz have a crack at the ninth inning over Stammen.

Updated hierarchy: Yates | Munoz | Stammen.

Toronto Blue Jays – Ken Giles looks like he will avoid another IL stint after he walked one and struck out another to record a save yesterday. The Jays should continue to be careful with Giles’ workload, but it’s a good sign that he was able to pitch without any issue last night.

Hierarchy remains: Giles | Law | Shafer.


1. Tony Watson – Will Smith threw 37 pitches last night and has appeared in three of the last four days.
2. Jose Quijada – Don’t rely on Marlins’ relievers for saves. Now that we got that out of the way, Jarlin Garcia has pitched in three of the last four days.
3. Derek Law – The Jays may not want to throw Ken Giles out there on consecutive days.