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Bullpen Report :: 7/17/08
by Surge
Published: July 18, 2008, 7:38 pm

The last couple weeks have not been easy for the closing crew. The elites have remained elite, but we've seen injuries to Taka Saito, Troy Percival, and Matt Capps. Those injuries have pretty much created a giant curve that allows some poorer closers to move up. However, the rankings still mean the better closers are ahead.


So how do I grade these ninth-inning flamethrowers? Well, one is job security. Usually, signing a megadeal, having a strong track record or flat out dealing this season will certainly lead to job security. How the closer has done recently will be part of it, too. Age is somewhat of a big deal, but Mariano Rivera has nothing to worry about with his numbers. But security must also involve teammates. Does he have a talented bullpen housing a future closer candidate around him or is the job guaranteed?

First Tier

. . . These guys have been great all season, for the past couple seasons and for the past few games as well. When they come in, the celebration may as well begin.

 1. Francisco Rodriguez, Angels
Last 10 Appearances: 9/10 saves, 9 IP, 8:8 K:BB, 3.00 ERA.
2008: 38/41 saves, 42 IP, 41:26 K:BB, 2.36 ERA.
The K:BB is anything but impressive, but his lone blown save, a three-run disaster in the ninth versus Texas on July 9th, was just a blip on the radar. Oakland did get three base runners on versus K-Rod in the most recent outing for the closer, but he allowed no runs in the one-run victory.

 2. Mariano Rivera, Yankees
Last 10 Appearances: 6/6 saves, 10 IP, 20:2 K:BB, 1.80 ERA.
2008: 23/23 saves, 42.1 IP, 50:4 K:BB, 1.06 ERA.
His opportunities have been scarce considering the team he pitches for. But the ridiculous K:BB ratio means he still gets it done.

 3. Joe Nathan, Twins
Last 10 Appearances: 9/9 saves, 10 IP, 14:4 K:BB, 0.00 ERA.
2008: 27/29 saves, 39.2 IP, 46:10 K:BB, 1.13 ERA.
Nothing to see here like Mo.

 4. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox
Last 10 Appearances: 8/9 saves, 9.1 IP, 11:3 K:BB, 3.86 ERA.
2008: 28/32 saves, 40.2 IP, 51:7 K:BB, 2.43 ERA.
Let's just get down to the guys with some real question marks.

5. Bobby Jenks, White Sox
Last 10 Appearances: 5/6 saves, 11 IP, 5:3 K:BB, 2.45 ERA.
2008: 18/21 saves, 32.1 IP, 19:8 K:BB, 1.95 ERA.
I do worry about the five strikeouts in eleven innings along with the nineteen over the season, but Jenks still gets saves and does not walk many batters. Chicago's in first, and he remains an elite but often overlooked closer.

6. Brad Lidge, Phillies
Last 10 Appearances: 2/2 saves, 10 IP, 16:6 K:BB, 1.80 ERA.
2008: 20/20 saves, 40 IP, 55:19 K:BB, 1.13 ERA.
He didn't move up any ranking spots, but Lidge did move up in tiers. What hurts Lidge is his teammates. Two saves in July for the best team in the NL East? Whatever's going on outside of Lidge is irrelevant because Lidge seems to be doing his job. His only earned runs allowed in the last ten were in two non-save situations.

7. Joakim Soria, Royals (up four)
Last 10 Appearances: 7/8 saves, 11 IP, 14:0 K:BB, 1.64 ERA.
2008: 25/27 saves, 43 IP, 46:9 K:BB, 1.47 ERA.
Soria seems to be ready for starmdom. Those K:BB numbers look a lot like Rivera's, but let's hope he doesn't end up like a Manny Corpas in the second half. Put him in the elites.

Second Tier

. . . I've said it before. These guys are pretty much locked into their jobs as of now, but something I've seen just keeps them from the elites above.

 8. Kerry Wood, Cubs (down one)
Last 10 Appearances: 6/7 saves, 8.1 IP, 11:5 K:BB, 5.40 ERA.
2008: 24/29 saves, 44.2 IP, 55:13 K:BB, 3.02 ERA.
The ERA is terrible and the walks are very high compared to his control for most of this season, but Wood was near perfect in saves. The only error was when he gave up three earned runs to the Cardinals on the fifth. Wood gave up one run two more times during the streak, once in a non-save situation.

 9. Francisco Cordero, Reds (up four)
Last 10 Appearances: 4/5 saves, 9.1 IP, 11:5 K:BB, 0.96 ERA.
2008: 19/23 saves, 43 IP, 47:23 K:BB, 2.30 ERA.
Cordero's been very good recently, and he seems to be living up to the billing. The one big worry is clearly Cordero's walk rate, but his strikeout rate is hovering over one per inning. The Reds may not give him many opportunities just like the first half considering their inconsistency with pitching and hitting.

 10. George Sherrill, Orioles (down two)
Last 10 Appearances: 6/9 saves, 8.2 IP, 13:8 K:BB, 6.23 ERA.
2008: 28/34 saves, 39.2 IP, 43:24 K:BB, 4.08 ERA.
Sherrill gave up twelve hits in the eight and two-thirds innings he pitched in addition to those eight walks. If he continues to struggle, Baltimore really doesn't have any other options to go to. He's been consistent all year until the recent 1-for-4 stretch.

11. Brandon Lyon, Diamondbacks (down two)
Last 10 Appearances: 5/7 saves, 9 IP, 9:2 K:BB, 6.00 ERA.
2008: 19/23 saves, 37 IP, 28:7 K:BB, 2.43 ERA.
Lyon's ERA primarily comes from one terrible outing vs. Oakland, a four-run showing in a non-save situation. Lyon's last blown save was due to allowing an inherited runner to score. Chances are he'll be fine.

12. Billy Wagner, Mets (up two)
Last 10 Appearances: 7/8 saves, 10 IP, 11:2 K:BB, 2.70 ERA.
2008: 22/28 saves, 39 IP, 45:9 K:BB, 2.31 ERA.
After a tough four-game stretch where he blew four consecutive saves, Wagner has come back to life like he normally does. The strikeout to walk rate is still among the elites, and he assuredly won't lose his job with the Mets in need of a veteran presence at closer as they make a stretch run.

13. Jose Valverde, Astros (up three)
Last 10 Appearances: 7/8 saves, 10 IP, 9:3 K:BB, 2.70 ERA.
2008: 24/29 saves, 45 IP, 52:16 K:BB, 3.80 ERA.
Valverde has struggled at moments this year, but the Astros seem comfortable with him back there as opposed to whomever else would be stuck back there without Valverde. The 52 strikeouts are a tremendous total for a reliever, and the last ten games are a good indication of his dominance he can display on his good days

Third Tier

. . . Like the group above, I'd feel solid over the next couple weeks with their names on my fantasy roster. However, there are pitchers in the bullpen capable of closing. Maybe a slump this week or the weeks prior have contributed to their low tier.

 14. Huston Street, Athletics (down two)
Last 10 Appearances: 5/7 saves, 11.2 IP, 8:3 K:BB, 6.17 ERA.
2008: 17/21 saves, 42 IP, 42:11 K:BB, 4.07 ERA.
Street's been pathetic over the recent weeks. Oakland needs all the help they can get, so a struggling Street may find his way to a setup role if that ERA remains high. He might even get dealt.

 15. Trevor Hoffman, Padres (up five)
Last 10 Appearances: 6/6 saves, 9.1 IP, 10:0 K:BB, 3.86 ERA.
2008: 17/20 saves, 28.1 IP, 33:6 K:BB, 5.08 ERA.
Hoffman's improved off that terrible start and avoids the possible replacement for the first time. However, his ERA remains over five due to three consecutive appearances with at least one run allowed. His last walked batter was June 1st, which was also his last blown save.

 16. BJ Ryan, Blue Jays (up seven)
Last 10 Appearances: 4/4 saves, 9.2 IP, 9:2 K:BB, 2.79 ERA.
2008: 18/20 saves, 31.2 IP, 33:16 K:BB, 2.84 ERA.
Ryan's allowed runs in two of his four July outings, but he has converted six straight saves. He did finish June with seven straight scoreless appearances with just three base runners allowed.

17. Brian Wilson, Giants
Last 10 Appearances: 6/6 saves, 10.2 IP, 9:7 K:BB, 5.91 ERA.
2008: 25/27 saves, 37.1 IP, 40:20 K:BB, 4.58 ERA.
He's still got the job thanks to a remarkable 25-for-27 save success despite the 4.58 ERA. Runs have come in non-save situations, but he's survived outings to leave with the save. In the end, how many games a closer finishes will be the memory and not the ERA. Check back next time to see if his luck runs out.

18. Jon Rauch, Nationals
Last 10 Appearances: 2/4 saves, 10.2 IP, 10:2 K:BB, 4.22 ERA.
2008: 17/22 saves, 47.1 IP, 43:7 K:BB, 2.85 ERA.
As he is pitching for the Nats, Rauch has blown two saves, though one blown save was due to an inherited runner. He allowed three runs to Arizona on the tenth in the tenth inning, but the game was tied entering the tenth but avoided the loss. Really, his drop is due to the Nationals as a team.

19. Salomon Torres, Brewers (up three)
Last 10 Appearances: 7/8 saves, 8.2 IP, 5:5 K:BB, 4.15 ERA.
2008: 15/18 saves, 49.1 IP, 33:20 K:BB, 2.74 ERA.
Torres has been fairly average numbers-wise, but the 36-year old converted fourteen saves in a row when he got the job from Derrick Turnbow. He did blow his last save opportunity, but with the consistency prior to that, it's hard to move him down.

20. Kevin Gregg, Marlins (up four)
Last 10 Appearances: 6/8 saves, 7.1 IP, 5:3 K:BB, 3.68 ERA.
2008: 20/26 saves, 45 IP, 36:27 K:BB, 2.60 ERA.
Gregg has been terribly un-closer like if you look at the numbers. A 4:3 K:BB ratio just won't get it done in the long haul. The 30-year old even went seven straight outings without a strikeout . . . or a walk. He hasn't allowed a hit in five straight. So far, Gregg's survived, and the Marlins being in the race means he might not be dealt for prospects.

Fourth Tier

. . . Their jobs are not safe, but to their credit, the ERA hasn't resulted in losing their jobs or too many saves. Whether that lasts on the two mediocre teams both these guys are on is a question mark.

 21. Brian Fuentes, Rockies
Last 10 Appearances: 3/4 saves, 8.1 IP, 12:1 K:BB, 7.56 ERA.
2008: 14/18 saves, 37 IP, 37:11 K:BB, 3.41 ERA.
The ERA looks horrific, but Fuentes suffered one setback, pitching 1/3 of an inning and allowing five runs in a tie game. His only blown save in this span was a 2-run outing two days prior to the whooping. Since those games, Fuentes has not yielded a single base runner and struck out nine of fifteen batters faced. The only problem for Fuentes owners will be the trade deadline and a possible deal making him an almost useless set-up man.
Possible Replacement
Taylor Buchholz
Last Ten Appearances: 1-1, 0/1 saves, 3 holds, 9.2 IP, 8:2 K:BB, 2.79 ERA.
2008: 15 holds, 1/2 saves, 44.1 IP, 35:11 K:BB, 1.83 ERA.
But if Fuentes is dealt, the first guy in line will be Buchholz. His numbers have held up all year, and as a former starter, his arm may not fall apart. Also, at 26, he certainly doesn't have any wear and tear. Manny Corpas is another significant consideration, but I think his chance ran out earlier this year.

 22. CJ Wilson, Rangers (up three)
Last 10 Appearances: 7/7 saves, 10 IP, 12:7 K:BB, 5.40 ERA.
2008: 22/24 saves, 41.1 IP, 36:23 K:BB, 5.01 ERA.
Wilson's either really lucky or extremely smart about where to allow his runs. In his most recent outing, for example, Wilson gave up three runs with a four-run lead. He gave up a two runs with a 3-run lead versus Baltimore on the sixth as well. He's surviving, but how long will the luck hold up?
Possible Replacement
Eddie Guardado
Last 10 Appearances: 1/1 save, 6 holds, 0 blown leads, 8 IP, 4:1 K:BB, 1.13 ERA.
2008: 2/2 saves, 19 holds, 0 blown leads, 34.1 IP, 19:9 K:BB, 2.88 ERA.
Guardado's been an excellent pickup for the Rangers. Not only are the nineteen holds impressive, but the 34-plus innings at this point maybe more than anyone expected, let alone the 2.88 ERA to go with it. If he holds up, they might give him a shot when Wilson's luck finally runs out. A 5+ ERA usually does not equal success in a closer's role.

Sixth Tier

. . . Virtually just noobies.

 23. Mike Gonzalez, Braves (debut)
Last 10 Appearances: 3/3 saves, 10.2 IP, 16:0 K:BB, 2.53 ERA.
2008: 3/3 saves, 10.2 IP, 16:0 K:BB, 2.53 ERA.
Not too often a guy comes off the DL and looks so dominant, but Mike Gonzalez has solidified his role as the ninth-inning stopper in Atlanta. With Soriano hurt, expect Gonzalez to keep the job for the rest of the year with his perfect strikeout to walk ratio.

 24. Masa Kobayashi, Indians (debut)
Last 10 Appearances: 2/2 saves, 9.2 IP, 6:4 K:BB, 3.72 ERA.
2008: 5/7 saves, 44.1 IP, 28:11 K:BB, 3.05 ERA.
Kobayashi has been solid as the closer, but he allows plenty of runs. On the season, Kobayashi has been very good at strikeouts to walks and I've discussed both the previous weeks about his previous role as closer in Japan.

 25. Brandon Morrow, Mariners (up three)
Last 10 Appearances: 7/9 saves, 9.2 IP, 12:4 K:BB, 3.72 ERA.
2008: 9/11 saves, 3 holds, 30.2 IP, 42:11 K:BB, 1.76 ERA.
Whether Putz comes back or not, I like Brandon Morrow as a permanent closer in Seattle. Putz's arm problems sure help Morrow's case, but two consecutive blown saves with three homers allowed leave a door open for Putz.

Seventh Tier

. . . The clock is ticking.

26. Ryan Franklin, Cardinals
Last 10 Appearances: 3/4 saves, 10.1 IP, 8:5 K:BB, 5.23 ERA.
2008: 12/16 saves, 42 IP, 28:18 K:BB, 3.43 ERA.
Franklin's been such a find for the Cardinals, but recently, he's reverted to the 4 ERA type guy he was back with Seattle. He blew a save with a homer from Gary Sheffield on the 26th. He had a pair of two-run outings with homers as well, but neither was a blown save nor a loss. With Isringhausen struggling since his return, expect Franklin to keep his job for a little while.
Possible Replacement
Kyle McClellan
Last Ten Appearances: 1-2, 4 holds, 3 blown leads, 12.2 IP, 5:3 K:BB, 4.26 ERA.
2008: 20 holds, five blown leads, 52 IP, 41:12 K:BB, 2.94 ERA.
The rookie has started to struggle in recent outings, probably due to working 59 total innings last year and just 60 the year before that. He's nearing the maximum for innings since the 2004 season when he made 24 starts for Peoria. However, with Izzy's injuries, he remains the number one replacement for a struggling Franklin.

27. Todd Jones, Tigers
Last 10 Appearances: 4/6 saves, 9 IP, 3:2 K:BB, 8.00 ERA.
2008: 17/19 saves, 36.1 IP, 13:13 K:BB, 4.95 ERA.
Ugh, can Zumaya move a bit faster?
Possible Replacement
Joel Zumaya
2008: 7 IP, 6:3 K:BB, 1.29 ERA (minors).
Looks like he's getting there.

28. Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers
Last 10 Appearances: 0/0 saves (no opp. since being closer), 4 holds, 10 IP, 9:2 K:BB, 1.80 ERA.
2008: 13 holds, 5 blown leads, 39.2 IP, 46:15 K:BB, 3.40 ERA.
Despite Saito's unbelievable run since being signed, Broxton has been a closer-in-waiting for a couple years now. At just 22, Broxton struck out 97 batters with a 2.59 ERA and followed it up with a 32-hold, 2.85 ERA campaign with a 99:25 K:BB ratio. Now, the star youngster will get the opportunity to close and show that Saito may be trade bait for a bat down the line.

29. Damaso Marte, Pirates
Last 10 Appearances: 3/3 saves (3 opp. since Capps got hurt), hold, 11.1 IP, 7:5 K:BB, 2.38 ERA.
2008: 4 saves, 15 holds, 2 blown leads, 44.2 IP, 44:14 K:BB, 3.22 ERA.
The 33-year old Marte has had a pair of double-digit saves seasons, but he won't be anything more than a short-term fix for Capps. With the Pirates inability to actually build a winner, a short-term fix is fine. For two years, Marte's done a solid job as a middle reliever with 28 holds total, and the 15 he had this year put him on pace for a career-best 25 holds.

30. Grant Balfour / Dan Wheeler / J.P. Howell, Rays
Of the four saves since Percival got injured, two went to Balfour while one was given to Wheeler and Howell each. Joe Maddon's clearly not picked one guy to take over the aging closer meaning we have no idea to pickup. Balfour might be the best bet with a 1.64 ERA and 33:11 K:BB as a middle reliever. If he does get the job, just hope the Rays current 7-game winning streak is a thing of the past.

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