It's the officially the final month of the regular season and the NFL season kicks off in less than a week! If you're reading this column, it means you're still in the thick of either playoff contention or winning your roto league. There's still plenty of action in the bullpen, but as it happens nearly every season, role changes are slowing down and teams are making sure their bullpens are established heading into the playoffs.
Around the League:
- Blake Parker has converted each of his last three save chances and seems to have moved to the top of the pecking order in Anaheim. The Angels made a flurry of moves on Thursday as the waiver trade deadline came to an end, so they're positioning themselves for a post-season push. Parker has pitched excellent for the Angels this season, cutting down on his walks and increasing his strikeout rate to levels we haven't seen from him since the minor leagues. His 75:16 strikeout-to-walk rate is great and the uptick in strikeouts seems to have staying power considering his swinging strike rate increased 3% to 14% this season. He's also inducing contact just 69% of the time and of those balls in play, more are being hit on the ground (about half) than ever before. Parker is a former closer in the minor leagues, so he certainly has experience closing the door on opponents. He's the man to own right now and his arrow is pointed directly up.
- As we mentioned last week, Greg Holland is on the verge of losing his job in Colorado and it looks like Jake McGee will be his primary handcuff. McGee has received the save opportunities in each game Holland has been unavailable, and he has experience as being a closer when he was in Tampa Bay. Holland's slider has completely lost its bite, whether the cause is the high altitude, fatigue, or injury it doesn't matter. The Rockies are eyeing a spot in the post-season and they're going to do what's the best thing to win now. McGee should be owned universally.
- We highlighted Tyler Lyons in this column last week, but the Cardinals appear committed to Seung Hwan Oh in the 9th inning. The 35-year old Oh is signed through the end of the season, so the Cardinals are likely trying to determine whether or not they want to try to re-sign him to be the team's closer for 2018. Oh hasn't allowed a run in any of his last three appearances, although he has completely stopped striking out opposing batters, striking out just 3 over his last 8 appearances.
- Juan Minaya blew his first save for the White Sox on Thursday after he allowed two runs on two hits and two walks. Minaya struggles with his control, as evidenced by his 4.67 BB/9 rate, but the White Sox just don't have too many relieving options left after trading most of their talent at the trade deadline. Minaya should see the next save chance for the South-Siders.
- Updating our previous report last week, Zach Britton did not have to go on the disabled list and he pitched a pair of clean outing for his 12th and 13th saves over the past week. With the Orioles still in the playoff picture, the team will likely continue rolling him out there. If they go on a losing streak and their playoff hopes start to dwindle, look for Baltimore to possibly shut him down for the rest of the season.
- For those of you in leagues that count holds, Dominic Leone is a nice option. Over the last month, he has emerged as a trusted set-up man for Roberto Osuna. Leone was used in sixteen games during the month of August and he carries some strikeout upside with him. Receiving opportunities is half the battle with middle relievers, so Leone is already ahead of the game in that aspect.
- Both Corey Knebel and Anthony Swarzak have been used heavily over the last month as the Brewers continue to rely on the back-end of their bullpen substantially more frequently than their front end guys. Knebel will enter 2018 as a top-15 closing option. His 13% walk rate remains a little higher than we normally like to see and his 93% strand rate is bound to regress, but we love the strikeout upside.
- Shane Greene continues to pitch well in the closing role for Detroit and Brad Ausmus has problem handed him the ball in the 8th inning. Tigers' beat writer Jason Beck astutely pointed out that Greene now leads the AL in saves in which 5+ outs are recorded.
- In a strange move, the Pirates designated Juan Nicasio, their best set-up man, for assignment. He was claimed by the last place Philadelphia Phillies and the Pirates let him go. The Pirates are 9.5 games out of the wild card race, but the move by Philly to place a claim on him is questionable. Nonetheless, AJ Schugel will now be the primary backup to Felipe Rivero and Nicasio will presumably be the primary set-up man for Hector Neris.
As we mentioned earlier, Greg Holland has completely lost the feel for his slider, making him EXTREMELY hittable. His ineffectiveness has opened the door for Jake McGee to stake claim to a role he hasn't actively controlled since last season. If there was ever a pitcher who was built for Coors Field, it's certainly Jake McGee. The last-hander relies on his above-average fastball to get opposing batters out. In fact, he throws the pitch 93% of the time. Nevermind what the high altitude in the Rocky Mountains can do to breaking pitches, McGee completely takes that factor out of the equation. All those fastballs can cause McGee to be a little heavy on the flyballs at times, but so far he and his 34% hard hit rate allowed has managed to stay out of long ball trouble. As far as handcuffs go, it's sometimes difficult for a team to find out with McGee's previous experience and skillset to slot into a high profile closing gig, but there's not questioning the lefty's ability. McGee doesn't possess incredible swing and miss ability (10% SwStr%), but he does a great job at getting ahead in the count (64% first strike%) to set himself up for more pitcher-friendly pitches. He's a veteran that knows how to pitch and knows how to save games and that's a commodity worth going out of your way to acquire.
Click on the following link for the rest of the closer report (including more "Around The League" notes, our closer rankings & statistics, as well as handcuff grades) in the member area: http://www.fantistics.com/baseball00/M-Closer.htm.
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