Yoshihisa Hirano impresses en route to his first MLB save

September 12, 2018

Arizona Diamondbacks — Heading into Tuesday’s game, we liked Jake Diekman to see the first post-Boxberger save chance, and sure enough Diekman was first out of the ‘pen for the final inning. However, he allowed a double and a bunt single to the only two batters (both lefties) he faced before Yoshihisa Hirano replaced him. Hirano recorded two straight strikeouts and induced a fly out to pick up his first MLB save. After the game, Torey Lovullo said that he told his bullpen to be prepared for some different roles ahead of last night’s contest, and this is still very much a committee. However, Hirano looked mighty impressive last night and Lovullo may opt to play the hot hand with his team fighting for a playoff spot, though he also indicated that Diekman will continue to get high-leverage opportunities. We’ll see what Wednesday brings for Arizona’s committee.

Updated hierarchy: *Hirano | Diekman | Ziegler.
* = closer-by-committee

Los Angeles Angels — After Blake Parker blew a combined no-hitter in the eighth inning, Ty Buttrey came on to record the final four outs of Tuesday’s 1-0 victory and lower his ERA to 0.77 in the process. Buttrey has allowed just one earned run over 11.2 IP this season and now has two of the Angels’ last three saves. Mike Scioscia, who used eight different pitchers last night, has not yet anointed Buttrey as his new closer, but at the very least Buttrey is firmly in the mix for save chances. We’ll keep Parker at the top of a committee at the moment, but Buttrey is worth a stash on your postseason roster if he is available.

Hierarchy remains: *Parker | Buttrey | Anderson.
* = closer-by-committee

Washington Nationals — Sean Doolittle picked up his first save since returning from the DL in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader in Philadelphia. Greg Holland, who pitched the eighth inning ahead of Doolittle in game one, tossed a scoreless 10th inning in the nightcap to earn his third save of the year. Doolittle may get some extra rest here and there depending on how cautious the Nats want to be, but he should be their first option in the ninth inning the rest of the year. Holland, meanwhile, has allowed only one earned run in 18 appearances with Washington.

Updated hierarchy: Doolittle | Holland | Miller.

Oakland A’s — We predicted in Sunday’s Vulture Save Watch that Blake Treinen may get two straight days off following three consecutive outings, and our prediction came true when Jeurys Familia closed out Tuesday’s 3-2 win at Baltimore. After the game, Bob Melvin confirmed that he indeed wanted to give Treinen an extra day of rest.

Hierarchy remains: Treinen | Familia | Rodney.

Cleveland Indians – With two lefties due up and Cleveland clinging to a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning, Brad Hand overcame a walk to force a bases-loaded pop-up and keep the Rays scoreless. Hand stayed on for the eighth before Cody Allen closed out the victory. Allen has put together a stretch of eight straight scoreless appearances to put himself back in the mix for save chances. His resurgence will allow Terry Francona the flexibility to deploy Hand in more high-leverage situations like we saw on Tuesday.

Hierarchy remains: *Hand | Allen | Miller.
* = closer-by-committee

Chicago White Sox – Nate Jones was activated from the 60-day DL on Tuesday and pitched in an eventual 6-3 loss that night, allowing one hit and striking out one. Rick Renteria said that the team will monitor Jones’ usage throughout the rest of the year and make sure he is healthy entering the offseason. Don’t bank on Jones making too many ninth-inning appearances in September, but he could certainly vulture a save in this bullpen over the final three weeks of the season.

Updated hierarchy: *Fry | Gomez | Jones.
* = closer-by-committee

Chicago Cubs — Carl Edwards Jr has walked at least one batter in each of his last four appearances, which he equates to a form of writer’s block. Whatever the reason for his recent struggles, Joe Maddon likely won’t hesitate to pitch him in a high-leverage spot in a bid to get him right for October.

Hierarchy remains: Strop | Edwards | Cishek.

1. Jared Hughes – Raisel Iglesias has pitched in three straight.
2. Kevin McCarthy – Wily Peralta has gone in two straight and four of five.
3. Hector Rondon – Same goes for Roberto Osuna.
4. Adam Conley/Kyle Barraclough – Drew Steckenrider threw 28 pitches on Tuesday and the Marlins play a doubleheader today.

1. Adam Conley/Kyle Barraclough – Thursday’s late innings may be dictated by how Wednesday’s doubleheader goes.

Brad Boxberger out of a job; Josh Hader K’s everyone

September 11, 2018

Cleveland Indians – Andrew Miller returned from the DL yesterday, striking out two hitters in a clean inning of work. He figures to slot back in behind Cody Allen and Brad Hand, the latter of whom had maybe the most frustrating blown save of the season yesterday.

Updated hierarchy: *Hand | Allen | Miller.
* = closer-by-committee

Milwaukee Brewers – A slow news day gives us the chance to post this video of Josh Hader, who struck out all six Cubs (David Bote, Addison Russell, Daniel Murphy, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez) he faced yesterday, needing just 24 pitches (4 per hitter!) to do it. Jeremy Jeffress closed out the game and remains the best guy to own in this closer committee, but goodness, this was as dominant a relief outing as we’ve ever seen.

Hierarchy remains: *Jeffress | Hader | Knebel.
* = closer-by-committee

Arizona Diamondbacks – Brad Boxberger is out as the Diamondbacks closer and Torey Lovullo is planning to play matchups. We like Jake Diekman, Brad Ziegler, and Yoshihisa Hirano in that order to get the first shot, but it’s anyone’s guess at this point, and it may be that no one really “wins” the job for the next few weeks.

Updated hierarchy: *Diekman | Ziegler | Hirano.
* = closer-by-committee

1. Jordan Hicks – Carlos Martinez has gone back to back and we’re guessing he’s not ready for three in a row yet.

1. Jared Hughes – If Raisel Iglesias goes today, it’ll be three straight.
2. Kevin McCarthy – If Wily Peralta goes today, it’ll be back to back and four of five.
3. Hector Rondon – If Roberto Osuna goes today, it’ll be back to back and four of five.
4. Dan Winkler – If AJ Minter goes today, it’ll be back to back and three of four.

Brad Boxberger replaced as Arizona closer by committee approach

September 10, 2018

Arizona Diamondbacks — As we told you this morning, Brad Boxberger is out as the Diamondbacks closer and Torey Lovullo is planning to play matchups. We like Jake Diekman, Brad Ziegler, and Yoshihisa Hirano in that order to get the first shot, but it’s anyone’s guess at this point, and it may be that no one really “wins” the job for the next few weeks.

Updated hierarchy: *Diekman | Ziegler | Hirano.
* = closer-by-committee

Carlos Martinez will close full time for St. Louis; Brad Boxberger should be out

September 10, 2018

St. Louis Cardinals — As we speculated a few days ago, Mike Shildt has elected to leave Jordan Hicks in the eighth inning and use opening-day starter Carlos Martinez as the Cardinals’ new closer. Martinez pitched a perfect ninth on Sunday for his second save of the season. Bud Norris’s role has been “reshuffled” and we think he’ll find himself behind Dakota Hudson at second in line.

Updated hierarchy: Martinez | Hicks | Hudson.

Arizona Diamondbacks — We fully expect Brad Boxberger to lose his job today. Handed a two-run lead to start the ninth, Boxberger gave up two singles and a three-run homer, good for his seventh blown save and third bad outing of the month. With Archie Bradley also struggling, Boxberger is probably most likely to be replaced with a committee of Jake Diekman, Brad Ziegler, and Yoshihisa Hirano — whom we like in that order.

Updated hierarchy: Boxberger | Diekman | Ziegler.

Milwaukee Brewers — Corey Knebel has been really good since his return from the minor leagues last week, and he got the nod for a vulture save while Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader got the night off. If Knebel keeps this up, he could have his old job back in time for the playoffs.

Updated hierarchy: *Jeffress | Hader | Knebel.
* = closer-by-committee

Los Angeles Dodgers — Scott Alexander got the save chance on Sunday in Kenley Jansen’s absence, and he converted, picking up his third save this year. Now that the Dodgers have left the high altitude of Colorado, which poses a danger to those with atrial fibrillation, Jansen will be back with the team.

Hierarchy remains: Jansen | Maeda | Alexander.

New York Mets — Seth Lugo grabbed a two-inning vulture save on Sunday, striking out five Phillies and giving up a solo home run. Anthony Swarzak was activated from the disabled list over the weekend and will rejoin Lugo and Robert Gsellman in the late innings.

Updated hierarchy: Gsellman | Lugo | Swarzak.

Los Angeles Angels — After Blake Parker put the go-ahead runs on base in the ninth, Jose Alvarez came on to strike out a fellow lefty and pick up his first save of the year.

Hierarchy remains: Parker | Buttrey | Anderson.

1. Jake Diekman/Brad Ziegler — Arizona ain’t going back to Boxberger tonight.
2. David Robertson — Dellin Betances has gone in two straight and has a finger injury.

1. Jeurys Familia — The A’s have today off, but Blake Treinen has gone in three straight and might get two days off.
2. Hector Rondon — An appearance today for Roberto Osuna will be three out of four.

Dellin Betances records another save while Cody Allen is coming around

September 9, 2018

New York Yankees – The Yankees went with Zach Britton in the 7th, David Robertson in the 8th, and Dellin Betances in the 9th to close out a tight game yesterday.  Britton and Robertson each threw perfect innings, with Robertson striking out the side.  Betances also struck out the side but he made things a lot more interesting by loading the bases on a double, walk, and hit batter.  Betances has now gotten both Yankees saves in September and we will move him back to the head of the committee.

Updated Hierarchy: *Betances | Robertson | Britton.
* = closer-by-committee

Cleveland Indians — The Indians called on Cody Allen to protect a one-run lead in the 9th inning and he responded with a scoreless inning for his 26th save of the season.  Brad Hand pitched in three of the previous four games.  Allen has now strung together six straight scoreless appearances and although Hand should see the majority of save chances down the stretch, the Indians also won’t be afraid to use Allen based on match-ups or rest.

Hierarchy remains: *Hand | Allen | Cimber.
* = closer-by-committee

Washington Nationals — Sean Doolittle saw his first action in over two months yesterday in game two of the Nationals’ doubleheader.  He got the last two outs of the 8th inning, including one strikeout.  After that inning, the game was delayed by rain and Doolittle would have gotten the save if the game did not resume.  However, the rain stopped and Greg Holland came on to pitch a scoreless 9th inning and record his second save.  It sounds like Doolittle was only used in the 8th because of the threat of rain and may have gotten the 9th in a normal game.  We expect Doolittle to see the next save chance.

Hierarchy remains: *Doolittle | Miller | Holland.
* = closer-by-committee

St. Louis Cardinals — Bud Norris returned to the mound after getting four days off, but unfortunately the rest did not appear to help.  Norris got the bottom of the 9th in a tie game and walked a couple batters before ultimately allowing the game-winning run to score on a wild pitch.

Hierarchy remains: *Hicks | Martinez | Norris.
* = closer-by-committee

1. Kenta Maeda – Kenley Jansen is still unavailable as the Dodgers play in Colorado.

1. Joe Jimenez – Shane Greene has pitched in two straight…
2. Hector Rondon – …so has Roberto Osuna…
3. Kevin McCarthy – …and Wily Peralta.