Buck’s Bullpen Briefs 8-12-15

By on August 12, 2015

Note: All stats current as of close of play on August 11, 2015.

In contrast to the tumultuous wheelings and dealings during this year’s non-waiver trade deadline, last week was rather quiet around major league bullpens. The aforementioned deadline activity did create some high-leverage openings in some bullpens, though, and who ends up filling those roles is of paramount importance to astute Fantasy managers.

There looked to be a budding closer in Detroit, but in keeping with what has been a decidedly negative season for the Tigers, their top reliever has been bitten by the injury bug. Will his absence be short-term, or is this yet another setback in a forgettable 2015 campaign in Motor City?

The post-deadline bullpen hierarchy is still up in the air out west, as Oakland has yet to have anyone step up and assert himself as the team’s new ninth-inning man. A veteran had the inside track, but his performance of late is casting a lot of doubt on whether he’s up to the task.

Meanwhile, in the City Across the Bay, the Giants’ closer has already imploded twice this month, prompting speculation as to whether the winds of change could soon blow through the San Francisco bullpen.

Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle (54) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. (photo Rafael Suanes / USA TODAY Sports)

Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle (54) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. (photo Rafael Suanes / USA TODAY Sports)

The Rockies may have found a replacement for John Axford, whose Cinderella season has turned nightmarish over the past few weeks. Speaking of nightmares, a reliever who once looked like he was ready to take over the ninth inning in the Windy City is now struggling to maintain his hold on a meaningful role.

The Bosox’s closer is done for the year, but who will close in Beantown in his stead? We’ll have all these stories and more in this week’s edition of Bullpen Briefs.

Who’s Out?

Boston’s Koji Uehara was hit in the lower right arm by a line drive following the final pitch of his save on August 7, and he looked to be in a great deal of pain as he left the field with a trainer. Uehara was subsequently diagnosed with a non-displaced distal radius fracture, and he will miss the remainder of the season. Jean Machi and Junichi Tazawa figure to share save opportunities for the near future. Tazawa blew his first chance at a save in the post-Uehara era August 11; this looks like a situation to avoid for now.

Alex Wilson looked to be on the verge of seizing the full-time closer’s gig in Detroit, but a bout with shoulder fatigue has prompted the team to give him a few days off to rest his weary wing. Follow this situation closely; Bruce Rondon would be the most likely fill-in if Wilson misses extended time.

Edward Mujica was named the Oakland closer following Tyler Clippard’s departure, but the veteran reliever has allowed seven earned runs in his last 6.1 innings – prompting manager Bob Melvin to imply that someone else might receive the next save chance. Mujica has closing experience, but his 7.56 ERA, 1.68 WHIP and .389 BAA in 10 second-half outings doesn’t inspire confidence. Neither Drew Pomeranz nor Fernando Rodriguez has pitched well lately either, but if a member of this bullpen was to go on a hot streak, he could easily end up being the team’s ninth-inning man.

Who’s In?

Colorado’s Tommy Kahnle celebrated his 26th birthday by successfully converting the first save of his major league career August 7, and he notched his second save just two days later. Kahnle has a big strikeout pitch, but his struggles with his command figure to keep his WHIP at an elevated level. Kahnle looks like the top option in Colorado at this point, so go ahead and add him if you’re chasing saves.

Relievers on the Rocks

Not long ago, Jason Motte looked like he was in position to take over as the ninth-inning man on the north side of Chicago. Unfortunately, Motte has scuffled to a dismal 6.30 ERA and 1.80 WHIP after the All-Star break, and opponents are batting a robust .348 against him. Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop have re-asserted themselves as the Cubbies’ closer and primary set-up man, respectively – leaving Motte to pitch primarily in lower-leverage situations.

Giants’ closer Santiago Casilla has allowed earned runs in two of his four August appearances, and he owns a 6.43 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in eight second-half outings. Meanwhile, steady understudy Sergio Romo has not allowed an earned run since July 11, and fireballer Hunter Strickland owns a 1.67 ERA and 0.93 WHIP through 33 appearances. The Giants are in the thick of a pennant race, and a shaky closer is rarely an ingredient for postseason success.

Reliever on the Rise

Converted starter Trevor May has reeled off eight consecutive scoreless outings, and he looks to have won the eighth-inning job in Minnesota. May is not yet a threat to close games, but he could enter that conversation if ninth-inning man Glen Perkins hits a rough patch or simply needs a breather.

While he’s not really “on the rise”, he has been pitching rather well lately, so this seems a good spot to send along congratulations to Toronto reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who last week became only the 13th man in major league history to record a save against all 30 teams. He also became the oldest Blue Jay to record a save, adding another honor to his long and remarkable career.

Keep an eye on…

Former Oakland closer Sean Doolittle is progressing in his rehab, and he could be a late-inning factor sometime down the road.

That’s all for this week; good luck in your fantasy leagues and we’ll talk again soon.

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