Mad about Madson’s save? There’s a reason it wasn’t Herrera

July 13, 2018

Washington Nationals — Manager Dave Martinez surprised some by going with recent acquisition Kelvin Herrera in the eighth inning and the struggling Ryan Madson in the ninth. Before the game, Martinez informed Herrera that he’d face the top of the Mets order in the late innings, even if that came before the ninth. Herrera — who has been a bit wild since joining the Nats —  allowed a home run, another hit and a walk but escaped the eighth with just the one run allowed. Madson pitched a clean ninth for the save. With Sean Doolittle out, Herrera is still the most likely save-getter, but it appears he’s entering more of a bullpen ace role, which may mean some opportunities for Madson and Brandon Kintzler, too.

Updated hierarchy: *Herrera | Madson | Kintzler.
* = closer-by-committee

Los Angeles Dodgers — Dylan Floro returned to LA in a trade with the Reds and has picked up back-to-back eighth-inning holds in front of Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers’ hierarchy behind Jansen has been murky all year long — so we won’t make a setup move just yet — but Floro and Daniel Hudson are certainly strong holds candidates alongside Scott Alexander and Erik Goeddel.

Hierarchy remains: Jansen | Goeddel | Alexander.

Oakland A’s — Closer Blake Trienen got the night off Thursday after pitching in two of the previous three games, and the A’s handed the ball to Lou Trivino, who converted the vulture opportunity for his fourth save.

Hierarchy remains: Treinen | Trivino | Buchter.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
Today:
1. Victor Arano — Seranthony Dominguez has worked in three of four and four of six.
2. Kyle Crick — Felipe Vazquez has pitched in two straight and five of six!
3, Diego Castillo — Even though Sergio Romo was off Thursday, he has still pitched in four of the last six days.
4. Anthony Swarzak — Jeurys Familia has gone in three of four.

Saturday:
1. Joe Kelly — Entering Friday, Craig Kimbrel has gone in two straight.
2. Erik Goeddel et al. — The same is true for Kenley Jansen.
3, Ryan Madson/Brandon Kintzler — Madson and Kelvin Herrera have each worked in two of three entering Friday.
4. Kyle Crick/Edgar Santana — In addition to Vazquez’s heavy workload, the Bucs have a doubleheader on Saturday.

Ken Giles taking his talents to Chukchansi Park

July 12, 2018

Houston Astros — A few hours after Ken Giles met his manager on the mound with a less-than-friendly salutation, GM Jeff Luhnow greeted Giles with his own F-word: Fresno. Yes, the once-dominant closer will be punching his ticket in the minors for the first time since his breakout rookie year in 2014. You really can’t go wrong with anyone else in the Astros’ stable of middle relievers: Will Harris has good K numbers and an ERA inflated by a high BABIP; Joe Smith has fashioned four scoreless outings since his return from the DL; Tony Sipp is an effective lefty; and even Brad Peacock’s recent struggles haven’t wrecked a very good season. But for second in line, we’ll bet on converted starter Collin McHugh, whose ERA has hovered around 1.00 all season, while he’s struck out 57 in 44 innings.

Updated hierarchy: Rondon | Devenski | McHugh.

Detroit Tigers — Shane Greene will be activated on Thursday and should immediately resume his role as the Tigers’ closer. If Greene can prove that he’s healthy, he could wind up moving to a contender in need of bullpen help.

Updated hierarchy: Greene | Jimenez | Wilson. 

Minnesota Twins — An MRI on Wednesday revealed inflammation and swelling around Addison Reed’s triceps, so he’ll rest on the DL through the All-Star break. Ryan Pressly (13.08 K/9) — in Rochester exile no longer — should get more looks in the seventh inning; he picked up a sixth-inning hold last night.

Updated hierarchy: Rodney | Hildenberger | Pressly.

Tampa Bay Rays — Jose Alvarado was unfortunately placed on family medical emergency leave and will be out through the All-Star break. Stepping up in his place in the eighth inning on Wednesday was Diego Castillo, who could also be in line for a vulture save on Thursday. In Alvarado’s absence, Ryne Stanek (1.99 ERA; 39 K in 31.2 IP) could be called upon occasionally in the late innings when he’s not serving as a lights-out “opener.”

Updated hierarchy: *Romo | Castillo | Stanek.
* = closer-by-committee

Cleveland Indians — The only pitcher from either team in Cleveland’s 19-4 victory to leave without allowing a run was knuckleballing Reds third baseman Alex Blandino. Far less effective was Adam Plutko, who entered with a 16-run lead, gave up three runs and eight baserunners, and yet came away with a save because Jerome Holtzman said so.

Hierarchy remains: Allen | Ramirez | Perez.

Colorado Rockies — Bryan Shaw is back from the disabled list and predicting a return to form commensurate with his large contract.

Hierarchy remains: Davis | Ottavino | McGee.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
Today:
1. Diego Castillo — Romo has pitched in three straight and four of five.
2. Kyle Crick — Felipe Vazquez has also pitched in four of five.

Friday:
1. Victor Arano — If Seranthony Dominguez pitches Thursday, he’ll have gone in three of four.
2. Anthony Swarzak — Same is true of Jeurys Familia.
3. Josh Hader — And Corey Knebel.
4. Brad Brach — And Zach Britton.
5. Lou Trivino — And Blake Treinen.

Kelvin Herrera is a closer once again (for now)

July 11, 2018

Washington Nationals – The Nationals placed Sean Doolittle on the DL yesterday with a left toe injury. Kelvin Herrera will take over the ninth inning in Doolittle’s absence.

Updated hierarchy: Herrera | Madson | Kintzler.

Tampa Bay Rays – With Chaz Roe on the DL, look for Diego Castillo to take over Roe’s role in the Tampa bullpen. Castillo, 24, made his big-league debut on June 6 and has been very good for the Rays, posting a 1.89 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 19 IP. If the Rays end up selling what’s left of their bullpen at the deadline, Castillo has the stuff to be the team’s next closer. Keep an eye on Castillo as the second half of the season gets underway.

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

Chicago Cubs — For the second time since Brandon Morrow came off the DL, Joe Maddon gave his closer a second day off. Instead, Maddon turned to Steve Cishek in the ninth inning on Tuesday, and Cishek delivered for his third save of the season in a 2-0 win. Maddon raved about his deep bullpen, and he showed off that depth on Tuesday by also using Justin Wilson in the eighth after CJ Edwards struck out the side in the seventh. It’s clear that Maddon has options, and it’s also clear he’s not afraid to use them in order to give Morrow extra rest. While it truly could be anybody getting the ball in the ninth when Morrow’s not available, we’ll slide Cishek into that spot after Tuesday’s strong outing.

Updated hierarchy: Morrow | Cishek | Edwards.

Milwaukee Brewers — Corbin Burnes is the Brewers’ top pitching prospect, and he showed why in his major league debut on Tuesday. He notched his first strikeout in a 1-2-3 eighth, and when the Brewers added two runs to extend their lead to 8-4, Burnes stayed on for another 1-2-3 inning and his first career save. The Orioles are very interested in Burnes, but the Brewers aren’t interested in dealing him. Milwaukee also insists that Burnes will be a starter next year. Don’t be surprised if he continues to shine in the bullpen for the rest of this season, however, as the Brewers look to keep their lead in the division.

Hierarchy remains: Knebel | Hader | Jeffress.

Chicago White Sox — Bruce Rondon entered Tuesday’s game with the bases loaded. He retired the first batter he faced, then walked the next three hitters to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 7-2 deficit. That should be it for Rondon in Chicago, as he was seen receiving well-wishes after the game. Nate Jones should be back after the All-Star break, but until then, lefty Xavier Cedeno (0.75 ERA, 15 K in 12 IP) is probably the best option for the White Sox when they enter the late innings. Juan Minaya and Luis Avilan should also be in line for some holds.

Updated hierarchy: Soria | Fry | Cedeno.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
Today
1. Brad Brach – Zach Britton has pitched in two straight and three of four.
2. Lou Trivino – Same goes for Blake Treinen.
3. Neil Ramirez – Cody Allen threw 31 pitches in a rough outing yesterday.
4. Jose Alvarado – Sergio Romo only threw three pitches yesterday, but it was his third appearance in four days.

Tomorrow
1. Archie Bradley/Yoshihisa Hirano – If Brad Boxberger pitches today, that will be two straight and three of four. Same goes for Archie Bradley…
2. Ken Giles/Chris Devenski – …and for Hector Rondon. Ken Giles threw a hissy fit after getting pulled last night following a brutal ninth inning, and while he didn’t hit himself this time, he may get an extra day off.
3. Neil Ramirez – If Allen gets the ball today, he may due for a day off on Thursday.
4. Jose Alvarado – If Romo does pitch today, he should get a day off tomorrow.

Will Smith, Wily Peralta emerging from their committees

July 10, 2018

Kansas City Royals – Wily Peralta was held back on Sunday, seemingly for a possible comeback that would require saving. He looks to be solidly at the front of this committee, but the Royals bullpen has not recorded a save since June 27, as the team is mired in a 10-game losing streak. If and when Peralta finally does notch another save or two, we’ll consider removing his asterisk.

Hierarchy remains: *Peralta | McCarthy | Maurer.
* = closer-by-committee

San Francisco Giants – In a tie game, Bruce Bochy used the 7-8-9 combo of Watson-Melancon-Smith, which has seemingly become his preferred order. The last three saves have all gone to Smith, and he looks to be well ahead of his committee counterparts in the pecking order. We’ll consider removing his asterisk, as well, if this continues for another few games.

Updated hierarchy: *Smith | Watson | Melancon.
* = closer-by-committee

Philadelphia Phillies – It was an eventful doubleheader for Victor Arano. In game 1, the righty threw five pitches, the last of which was hit over the wall for a walkoff home run, but the Phillies went right back to him to get the final out of a 2-run game in the nightcap, and he earned his third save of the year. Arano now appears the second-most-likely candidate to receive save chances in Gabe Kapler’s anything-goes bullpen. (For his part, committee-leader Seranthony Dominguez threw two scoreless innings in game one and likely wasn’t available for game 2.)

Hierarchy remains: *Dominguez | Arano | Ramos.
* = closer-by-committee

New York Yankees – Giovanny Gallegos got a three-inning save in the second game of the Yankee doubleheader yesterday. He doesn’t factor in to the team’s usual late inning plans.

Hierarchy remains: Chapman | Betances | Robertson.

VULTURE SAVE WATCH
Today
1. Kyle Crick – Felipe Vazquez has gone in three straight.
2. Drew Steckenrider/Brad Ziegler – Kyle Barraclough, Steckenrider, and Ziegler have all pitched in back to back games and three of four, so anything could happen tonight — or tomorrow.

Tomorrow
1. Trevor Hildenberger – If Fernando Rodney goes tonight, it’ll be back to back games and five of six.
2. Brad Brach – If Zach Britton goes tonight, it’ll be back to back and three of four.