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“On Bzdek” Bullpen Briefing: Week 11

After a rather busy week 10, week 11 was a bit calmer. A lot of the news this week is related to pitchers hitting and returning from the DL. I’ll touch on those situations, as well as provide updates from the bullpens discussed last week that I’ve been monitoring, including Washington, Pittsburgh, and Texas. I’ll also recommend one reliever to invest in who has a great chance to be a closer by August 1st . We’ll kick things off with the Tigers though, the only bullpen with a middle reliever with 437 career saves.

Detroit Tigers

In the last two weeks, Tigers’ set-up man Alex Wilson saw his ERA rise from 1.88 to 3.07, while striking out just one batter. During this time, Francisco Rodriguez did not allow a run, nor has he been shy about his desire to get back to pitching in higher leverage situations. He got that opportunity last night, coming into the 8th inning to protect a 3-2 Tigers lead. He proceeded to allow a solo home run that tied the game before getting out of the inning. K-Rod may have to wait a while longer for his next high-leverage opportunity. I wouldn’t rush out to grab him in any league.


Washington Nationals

Koda Glover hit the DL last week with a back stiffness. I noted last week that Matt Albers has been the most trustworthy reliever for Washington this season, so it was no surprise when he got the first save opportunity. Unfortunately, Albers allowed a three-run home run and blew the save. Despite the blown save, Albers ERA and WHIP for the season are a praiseworthy 2.10 and 0.86, respectively. Digging deeper, Albers’ 2017 success seems to stem from using his slider more; he’s throwing it 27% of the time in 2017 versus 13% of the time in 2016. This has translated to a huge increase in K%, up to 30% in 2017 from 13% in 2016. Albers deserves a little more credit for his bounce back season. The blown save will have owners doubting him but he is still deserving of an add for those in need of saves.

Long-term, this bullpen needs reinforcements and National’s manager Dusty Baker has stated this publicly. Expect a trade or two to bolster this pen, including a trade for an established closer such as David Robertson or Kelvin Hererra.

Chicago White Sox

As noted above and throughout the season, the Nationals’ bullpen has been in a state of constant struggle. White Sox closer David Robertson has been a trade candidate to Washington since the winter and there is a high probability he gets dealt before the trade deadline. In that case, Tommy Kahnle is next in line for Chicago. Kahnle is posting ridiculous strikeout rates this year, accumulating 46 Ks in 27 innings. He also boasts a 1.35 ERA and 0.79 WHIP, making him one of the game’s elite middle relievers this season, and if a trade occurs he will become one of the game’s elite closers. The time to pick him up is dwindling. I’ve added him in my leagues where he is available. You’ll essentially be getting 3 ½ months of elite strikeout and ratio stats plus two months of saves, a sound investment in off the waiver wire. In holds leagues, target Anthony Swarzak, who is also having a career season and will move up a spot in the White Sox hierarchy in the wake of a Robertson trade.

Philadelphia Phillies

Joaquin Benoit returned from the DL last Sunday but has given up 3 runs in his first two appearances. Meanwhile, Pat Neshek has been pitching in the 7th inning and there are no signs he will get an extended opportunity to close games. Hector Neris allowed a run in his lone appearance this past week as he continues to search for his slider. I still believe in Neris long-term, but I recommend continuing to avoid this bullpen for now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Last week, Tony Watson pitched himself out of the closing role in Pittsburgh. After the usual kerfuffle about who will close next, Felipe Rivero recorded two saves in as many chances and Juan Nicasio recorded 3 holds, all but confirming Rivero is the go-to guy.

Texas Rangers

Matt Bush appears to have righted the ship this week going 2/2 in save chances. Jose Leclerc is staying hot, striking out 6 batters in 3 innings while recording a win in the last week. While he did not record a hold during this time, he has pitched in games where Texas had the lead. The trust is building with Leclerc as he continues to pitch well, add him in holds leagues before he officially takes over the set-up role in Texas.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Cam Bedrosian is expected to be activated from the DL this weekend, and Huston Street began a rehab assignment this past week. Bud Norris has earned the right to hold onto the closer role, but Bedrosian should see high leverage situations and is a target in holds leagues. With Bud Norris, Blake Parker, and Cam Bedrosian all in action, the back end of the Angels’ bullpen is looking very formidable.

New York Yankees

Aroldis Chapman should be activated sometime this weekend. The fireballer should resume closing immediately. As with any pitching injury, let’s see a couple of appearances without issue before dropping the interim closer, especially because they don’t get much better than Dellin Betances.

Three Stars of the Week

Matt Barnes, Bos – Barnes recorded a whopping 11 strikeouts in 5 innings, while notching two holds and two wins. He did not allow a run during this time.

Kenley Jansen, LAD – Jansen pitched 3.1 perfect innings, striking out 4, while earning 3 saves and a win. This guy is amazing.

Jerry Blevins, NYM – Blevins pitched 3.2 perfect innings, recording 5 strikeouts and notching two holds and one win. Typically regarded as a LOOGY, but the Mets’ bullpen struggles have forced him into a more prominent role. He has been up to the task thus far.


That wraps up this week’s article. Feel free to drop a comment if you have any questions or thoughts on the above, and enjoy the weekend.


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