Brad Ziegler picks up first save; Brewers’ Will Smith gets jiggy with foreign substance

May 22, 2015

Arizona Diamondbacks — Brad Ziegler picked up his first save since June 2014 in a 6-5 win for the Diamondbacks. Manager Chip Hale said before the game that Enrique Burgos, who earned the first two saves after Addison Reed was demoted, was unavailable for Thursday night’s game. Hale explained afterward that although Burgos would continue to get save chances, the team would use him carefully. Reed, meanwhile, pitched a scoreless eighth inning to garner his first hold of the season. He has not allowed a run since his demotion. For now, Ziegler stays at the head of this uncertain bullpen.

Hierarchy remains: *Ziegler | Burgos | Reed.
*closer by committee

Texas Rangers — Shawn Tolleson converted his second save since taking over as head of the Rangers’ closer committee. Manager Jeff Bannister said after the game that the committee remains in place, but called Tolleson “a viable guy there.” Neftali Feliz was seen warming up in the later innings, but he never made it into the game. Instead, Bannister turned to Keone Kela in perhaps the most important spot in the game; Kela (2.25 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) pitched well, tossing 1.1 innings of scoreless relief and retiring the side in order in the eighth inning.

Updated hierarchy: *Tolleson | Kela | Feliz.
* = closer-by-committee

Milwaukee Brewers — Umpire Jim Joyce pulled an “Uncle Phil” and threw Will Smith out… of the game in the seventh inning Thursday due to a foreign substance found on his arm. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez asked officials to check Smith, who threw just four pitches and hit the only batter he faced before getting tossed. A suspension is possible for Smith, who hurled a bunch of profanities at Gonzalez on his way off the field.

Hierarchy remains: Rodriguez | Broxton | Smith.

Atlanta Braves — Fredi Gonzalez’s decision to point out Will Smith’s foreign substance proved masterful, as his Braves followed up with a 7-spot in the 7th inning to win 10-1. Lost in all the drama was the performance from Brandon Cunniff, who tossed a scoreless inning in the eighth. The rookie now sports a 1.93 ERA and 0.71 WHIP, and opposing hitters are hitting just .048 this season against him, the lowest mark in the majors. He has allowed eight walks, so we’ll be watching his control, but he’s pitched well enough to earn a promotion to the Braves hierarchy.

Updated hierarchy: Grilli | Johnson | Cunniff.

Miami Marlins — A quick look at the box score would lead you to believe that Steve Cishek pitched pretty well Thursday night, tossing 1.2 scoreless innings. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll see that Cishek entered a tie game and allowed both inherited runners to score, coughing up yet another lead. We’re making note of it because GM-turned-manager Dan Jennings used the demoted Cishek in a tight situation, albeit in the sixth inning. Perhaps Jennings is trying to justify Cishek’s $6.65 million salary.

Hierarchy remains: Ramos | Dunn | Morris.

Detroit Tigers – Bruce Rondon wasn’t terribly effective in his first rehab outing on Thursday, but the Tigers are just happy that he looked healthy. He still has at least three rehab outings ahead of him before he can return to the big club and buttress its mediocre middle-inning options.

Hierarchy remains: Soria | Chamberlain | Gorzelanny.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
1. Enrique Burgos, Arizona Diamondbacks — Burgos was unavailable for Thursday night’s game and Brad Ziegler got his first save. The D-Backs could turn right back to Burgos in the 9th if the situation comes up Friday night.
2. Keone Kela/Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers — Shawn Tolleson has saves in back-to-back nights, and Kela tossed 1.1 high-intensity innings Thursday, so Feliz could get the call in what continues to be a committee situation in Texas.
3. Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays — Brad Boxberger has been great (1.13 ERA, 12 saves) this season, but former closer Jake McGee is also an endgame option for Tampa.

Updated MLB Closer Depth Chart

Closer 1st in line 2nd in line Updated Closer 1st in line 2nd in line Updated
BAL Britton O'Day Hunter 5/14/15 ATL Grilli Johnson Cunniff 5/22/15
BOS Uehara Tazawa Barnes 5/15/15 MIA Ramos Dunn Morris 5/22/15
NYY Miller Betances Carpenter 5/10/15 NYM Familia C.Torres A.Torres 4/25/15
TB *Boxberger McGee Jepsen 5/20/15 PHI Papelbon Giles Garcia 4/22/15
TOR Cecil Osuna Loup 5/4/15 WAS Storen Barrett Roark 5/16/15
.                    
CHW Robertson Duke Jennings 5/16/15 CHC Rondon Strop Wood 5/17/15
CLE Allen Shaw McAllister 5/21/15 CIN Chapman Cingrani Diaz 4/30/15
DET Soria Chamberlain Gorzelanny 5/22/15 MIL Rodriguez Broxton Smith 5/22/15
KC Holland Davis Herrera 5/21/15 PIT Melancon Watson Hughes 4/24/15
MIN Perkins Boyer Thompson 5/16/15 STL Rosenthal Siegrist Maness 5/17/15
    .              
HOU Gregerson Qualls Neshek 5/20/15 ARI *Ziegler Burgos Reed 5/22/15
LAA Street Smith Salas 5/9/15 COL Axford Betancourt Logan 5/9/15
OAK Clippard Scribner Otero 5/14/15 LAD Jansen Hatcher Garcia 5/18/15
SEA Rodney Smith Farquhar 5/15/15 SD Kimbrel Benoit Quackenbush 5/4/15
TEX *Tolleson Kela Feliz 5/22/15 SF Casilla Romo Affeldt 5/9/15

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* = closer by committee

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Weekly Hot Seat Update: May 22, 2015

With Addison Reed and Neftali Feliz now stuck in committees behind more effective pitchers, who’s left to discuss on the Hot Seat? You (and your leaguemates) already know Sean Doolittle is on a rehab assignment, giving up hard singles to Josh Hamilton, and planning to return as soon as this weekend. It’s no secret that Brett Cecil and Jason Grilli can’t be trusted, or that A.J. Ramos, Brad Ziegler, and Shawn Tolleson are the best guys to own in less-than-perfect situations. So today, let’s dig a little deeper — and find some possibly overvalued closers you might be able to flip for a profit. It’s the Selling High(-ish) edition of the Hot Seat.

1. Greg Holland
We know Holland has been phenomenal ever since he seized the closer’s role in Kansas City in July 2012. But this season, he has as many walks as strikeouts (6) and, given his history of stints on the disabled list, the stiff neck that kept him out on Tuesday looms ominously. Holland’s 0.90 ERA might look fantastic but, as Bill James once wrote, there are lizards hiding in the cellar: namely, a Jeremy Guthrie-esque K-rate, a .154 BABIP, and a 14% increase in batter contact that, together, scream reversion. Yes, he’s pitched only 10 innings this year, and he could always bounce back and make us look silly, but if you can score a superstar return from a guy with the sixth-highest FIP among closers, do it — and don’t ever look back.

2. John Axford
Okay. Not quite as exciting as the last guy. Not quite the same history of recent success. Not quite the same expected return. But if you’re in a league with an owner in thrall to the surface stats, and you’re okay rolling the dice with Closer Monkey for the next exciting new option, why not let Axford’s “proven closer” status and delightful 1.13 ERA speak for itself? After all, his K-BB% ratios for the last five years are 20-17-13-11-9 — and friends, you don’t want to be the one depending on the Ax Man to keep that neat little disappearing act profitable.

3. Mark Melancon
We mentioned Mark last week, and all he’s done since is further lower his K rate, make three more appearances (including 50 pitches last weekend), and have his pitching coach defend him as “a winner.” True enough; we just think the best way he can help you win is by turning himself into a quality infielder. Same goes, to a lesser extent, for Joakim Soria, whose numbers aren’t on the verge of collapse, but do look unsustainable. He even blew his first save today (sorry we didn’t post this sooner!).

Just remember — if you don’t want to pay for saves (and you shouldn’t), then you don’t want to overvalue them either. Keep track of your closers and hang onto the truly dominant — but don’t be afraid to flip a guy before luck (or mediocrity) catches up to him.

Zach McAllister making impact in Cleveland bullpen

May 21, 2015

Cleveland Indians – Zach McAllister pitched the eighth inning ahead of Cody Allen last night. Despite taking a loss on Monday, he has found himself pitching in higher-leverage spots as of late mainly due to his ability to make hitters miss with a 10.8 K/9 ratio. Manager Terry Francona recently praised McAllister and his usage suggests that he may get a crack at save opportunities if Cody Allen, who allowed another run on Wednesday, is unavailable.

Updated hierarchy: Allen | Shaw | McAllister.

Texas Rangers – Shawn Tolleson converted his first save opportunity as the head of the Texas committee. It wasn’t as smooth as he would have liked, as he gave up a double and an intentional walk, but he got the job done. It was a true committee leading up to the ninth, as utility pitcher Ross Ohlendorf was used in the eighth, combining with Alex Claudio and Tanner Scheppers to hold the Red Sox scoreless. Manager Jeff Banister was happy with his bullpen’s performance, and guys like Scheppers and Tolleson seem to be buying in to the committee. Still of interest is where Neftali Feliz, who had thrown 23 pitches on Tuesday, fits in all of this, and we may find out on Thursday if the Rangers have a late lead. For now, it appears that a cavalcade of pitchers will be used ahead of Tolleson on any given night.

Hierarchy remains: *Tolleson | Feliz | Scheppers.
* = closer-by-committee

Kansas City Royals — Greg Holland is feeling better after dealing with a stiff neck on Tuesday and is once again ready for regular duty in the ninth inning.

Hierarchy remains: Holland | Davis | Herrera.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
1. Bryan Shaw, Cleveland Indians – Cody Allen has appeared in two straight, tossing 38 pitches.