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“On Bzdek” Bullpen Briefing: Week 7

Another week in the books that saw just two new closers, which is an improvement from last week. There’s a lot to talk about in Seattle, so let’s start there and work our way around the league.

Seattle Mariners

Edwin Diaz was removed from the closer role earlier this week after giving up his 4th home run of 2017. Diaz, a potential top 10 closer coming into the season, is not living up to the hype. His K% is down from 40.6% to 29.4% year over year, while his BB% is up from 6.9% to 14.7%. Diaz’ bigger problem has been inability to keep balls in the park. His HR/FB rate this year is 23.5%, which is absurdly high. This should regress toward Diaz’ 2016 rate of 14.7%, though 14.7% is still well worse than average. Additionally, Diaz is allowing a lot more fly balls this year, with a FB% of 45.9%, up from 30.6% in 2016. Less strikeouts, more walks, more fly balls, and more home runs is not a formula for a successful pitcher of any type. Diaz is just 23 though, so a rebound is hopeful. The Mariners will take him out of the closer role for the time being, but if Diaz can make some adjustments he should be able to be an effective late inning reliever again and could return to closing games for the Mariners.

Behind Diaz are a few solid arms. Nick Vincent, for one, has been pitching well. He has a sub-3 ERA and sub-1 WHIP, but his fastball sits around 90 mph and he doesn’t generate a ton of strikeouts. Then there are the two lefties: James Pazos and Marc Rzepczynski. Rzepczynski has been used as the team’s left specialist, so he likely stays in that role. Pazos has gotten more work against righties than lefties, but his splits indicate that maybe this isn’t the best usage of him. His BAA against right handed batters is .250, 120 points higher than against left-handed batters. Pazos may get a save here or there as the M’s look to mix and match until they sort things out, but I don’t think he’s a long term play for the closer role.

Garnering a lot of consideration is Steve Cishek, who was the M’s closer the first half of 2016 before poor performance cost him the job. He finished 2016 on a high note with 12 scoreless innings and a 1.02 WHIP on the year – not too shabby. Cishek started the season on the DL and saw his first MLB action this week, allowing a 2-run homer in his second appearance. Cishek is a solid gamble for saves due to his closing experience, but his history of blow-ups scares me away.

That brings us to Tony Zych, the Mariners’ most intriguing option. Zych started the season on the DL and has pitched adequately in 11 innings since his return. He has 9 Ks in 11 innings in 2017, but posted 45 Ks in 32 innings in 2015 and 2016 combined. He struggles with walks at times, but so far has only allowed two home runs which is comforting. With just 43 MLB innings across two and a quarter seasons, the sample size is small, but the stuff backs up the numbers. Zych’s fastball sits just above 95 mph and his slider is around 81. He recorded his first save Monday night, and should see more in the coming weeks.

Overall, on a short term basis, the Mariners are likely to mix and match between Cishek, Pazos, and Zych. Based on the analysis above, Zych looks like the best option of the three when looking at the remainder of the 2017 season. If Diaz can right the ship, he’s also a long term option for saves, but it is not too often a closer loses his job and gets it back just a short while later. Still, in deep leagues it might be worth holding onto Diaz, especially if Zych has already been scooped up in your league.

 

New York Yankees

Aroldis Chapman landed on the DL last weekend and is expected to be out a month with rotator cuff inflammation. Dellin Betances will take over closing duties in the Bronx for the time being.  His 40+% K rate is elite and certainly closer material, although he’s struggled with control at times. A 17.3% walk rate can get him into trouble, but his strike out ability gets him out of it. Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren both move up a spot and both should see a fair share of holds.

 

San Diego Padres

Trade rumors have been floated about in regards to Brad Hand, who owns a 1.88 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 31 Ks in 24 innings on the year. The left hander is worth keeping an eye on. A trade could result in a boost in holds for Hand, plus the Padres own closer Brandon Mauer and Carter Capp who remains on the disabled list.

 

San Francisco Giants

Mark Melancon returned from the DL on Wednesday but has yet to make an appearance. Given the current injury environment, I would wait the weekend before dropping Derek Law.

Baltimore Orioles

Brad Brach’s struggles continue. He came into a bases loaded jam and gave up a grand slam on Tuesday. The only reprieve for Brach owners is that he was only credited with the one earned run. It’s been frustrating to own Brach the last couple of weeks, especially after he was so stellar in 2016 and April 2017. Not much has changed in terms of his pitch usage, velocity, or batted ball stats, which leads me to believe this is just a bump in the road and he will right the ship. I’m hanging onto him for the time being, though Buck Showalter has been using him earlier in games recently, perhaps trying to boost Brach’s confidence. Darren O’Day, Brach’s main competition for saves, struck out two in his first outing in almost a week. The short break was due to slight shoulder fatigue. He may get some saves, but I like Brach to see the majority of save chances going forward.

Washington Nationals

The National’s bullpen continues to be a mess. Koda Glover closed out Tuesday’s game in which the Nationals had a 4-run lead, thus a non-situation. Glover has not allowed a run in his last three innings of work, but he’s allowed 4 hits and one walk. Shawn Kelley was credited with 3 earned runs in his Sunday appearance, and Matt Albers allowed one earned run on Wednesday night in a non-save situation. Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker is not committing to naming a closer, probably because the team doesn’t have one. Continue avoiding this bullpen.

Oakland Athletics

Santiago Casilla blew the save last Friday, then closed out another game in which the A’s led by four, though he allowed one run in doing so. He’s been solid on the year.  But if he slips up in his next appearance, that would be three straight outings allowing runs. Ryan Madson and Ryan Dull both allowed earned runs in their last two appearances as well, so that gives Casilla some extra breathing room.

Three Stars of the Week

Craig Kimbrel, Bos – Kimbrel pitched 4.2 innings, striking out 9 batters and recording two saves and one win.  He allowed just one hit and no walks during that stretch. Kimbrel has returned to dominance this season.

Alex Wilson, Det – Alex Wilson threw 4.1 innings, recording a win, a save, and a hold. He only struck out two, but allowed no hits and no walks. The lone save, Wilson’s first of the year, came on a night that Justin Wilson got the day off so Justin owners need not be concerned.

Corey Knebel, Mil – Head of the closer committee in Milwaukee, Knebel recorded three saves while striking out 12 in the last week. He’s further establishing himself as front-runner for the Brewers’ closer, though he’s not officially been named yet. Knebel did walk 5, but only allowed one hit. As I detailed in past Bullpen Briefings, Knebel is prone to walks, but that’s about his only flaw. He should be owned in all leagues.

 

That’s all for this week, thanks for reading. I will be on the Major League Fantasy Sports radio show this Sunday night so tune at 7pm eastern time, see additional details below.

 

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Is a New Exciting Fantasy Football Challenge what you’re looking for?

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea Lamont, and Kyle Amore live on Monday May 15th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #87 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Lenny Melnick. Lenny is fantasy baseball pioneer, current FSWA Hall of Famer, and the host of his daily podcasts on lennymelnickfantasysports.com Mon-Fri at 9am EST. He also co-hosts a show every Sunday morning from 7-10am EST with Craig Mish on the fantasy sports station on Sirius.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday May 21st, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #88 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles focus on bullpens and publish every Friday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I am a fantasy baseball enthusiast. I joined my first league in 2004 and haven't stopped playing. I am also an auditor and CPA at a midsize public accounting firm where I analyze information every day. Combined, my passion for baseball and my analytical background create a unique perspective to analyzing fantasy baseball.

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