This week, we’ll spotlight the Pirates and check in on the four committees on our depth chart.
We’ve already written a lot about Mark Melancon’s velocity. Now, we’ll look at the arms behind him. But before we dive in, let’s state one thing up front so the rest of this section doesn’t get misconstrued: Tony Watson is the handcuff. He’s the guy you want. But for two reasons, we’re still going to spend a little time talking about the Pirates.
-Lefthandedness: Watson wouldn’t be the first set-up man who gets passed over just because he happens to be a lefty. But he’s got a few things going for him, chief among them that he’s faced a greater percent of righthanded batters every year since 2012 — this year, 29 of the 33 hitters that he’s retired have been righthanded. This makes him the farthest thing from a LOOGY this side of Aroldis Chapman. Also in Watson’s favor is that he’s not the only lefty in the bullpen — the Pirates can also look to Antonio Bastardo if they want to play matchups.
-Clint Hurdle: In 2012, Jason Grilli was one of the best set-up men in baseball. Pitching the 8th inning ahead of Joel Hanrahan, he put up 90 strikeouts in 58.2 innings, a 2.91 ERA, and 32 holds. And every time Hanrahan needed a night off, Grilli would still pitch the 8th inning and Juan Cruz would get the save opportunity. So Clint Hurdle has pulled the “I like my 8th inning guy to stay in the 8th inning no matter what” thing before. Fortunately, he’s already looked to Watson on nights when Melancon is unavailable.
If either of these factors does end up trumping Watson’s handcuff status, there are two guys who could potentially benefits. Jared Hughes had been the most effective reliever in the Pittsburgh bullpen until Wednesday, when he gave up 2 runs without recording an out. The wild card is Arquimedes Caminero, who throws 101 mph and has 11 strikeouts in 8.2 innings so far.
Quick takes on the committees:
Dodgers: Joel Peralta probably could’ve kicked his asterisk if he’d managed to lock down a 4-out save on Thursday. Instead, he walked the first two hitters he faced and didn’t have enough to return for the 9th inning. He’s still the best guy to own until Kenley Jansen comes up, though the newly recalled Sergio Santos might be someone to watch. Yimi Garcia is also having quite a season, and his save on Friday night could be a sign of big things to come.
Yankees: Despite all the turmoil that faced Dellin Betances in the early going, he’s still got a 0.00 ERA. And since starting the year with 6 walks in 3.1 innings, Betances has looked a lot more like his former self, posting 9 strikeouts and only 1 walk and 2 hits in his past 6 innings. Betances’s resurgence is probably why Joe Girardi stubbornly refuses to declare that Andrew Miller is the full-time stopper. Despite Miller’s early-season brilliance, Betances’s rally means the lefty is probably on a short leash.
Rays: The Rays know that Brad Boxberger is far and away their best reliever. They’re just using him the way sabermetricians have been urging for years — against the strongest portion of the other team’s lineup. So look for other relievers in Tampa to get a save opportunity every other week or so, with Kevin Jepsen being the best non-Boxberger reliever to own.
Blue Jays: Despite a powerful arsenal, Miguel Castro hasn’t been generating a ton of strikeouts, managing just 7 Ks (and 4 BBs) in 9.1 innings so far. Roberto Osuna is the one with the better ratios thus far (10 Ks, 3 BBs in 9.2 innings), while Brett Cecil continues to lurk with the “experience” trump card in his back pocket. Still hard to predict what’s going to happen here, though Castro obviously remains the guy with the leg up. (Though if the Jays stay in contention, their closer at the end of the season might be more the equine type.)
Other Hot Seat notes: Fernando Rodney has put up three scoreless innings since getting wrecked in back to back games earlier this month. Just as encouraging, his control seems to have returned, as he’s posted 5 Ks and 0 BBs in that span, compared with 1 K and 4 BBs in his first four outings… Cody Allen rebounded nicely the day after his meltdown on April 20. He’s probably bought himself at least a couple more blown saves before the Indians look elsewhere… Tyler Clippard’s ratios are alarming (2 Ks and 5 BBs in 6 innings), but he’s only allowed one run so far and no one else in the A’s bullpen has looked particularly sharp… Neftali Feliz still hasn’t pitched since his 47-pitch outing on April 19, but he’d probably need to blow another save before his seat gets hot.