Welcome back to the newest edition of our Reliever Ranks series! This will bring you up-to-date bullpen depth charts every morning for the day’s games and makes for an excellent tool for those looking to stream saves or wins. This series runs seven days a week, so check in every morning to get your daily bullpen fix!
Transaction and Schedule Notes
- We saw all 30 teams take the field on Saturday including a doubleheader between LAA and OAK.
- Only four teams have off on Monday: CLE, PHI, CIN, and SDP. There is no big break for teams until next Thursday(May 19th).
- Red Sox long man Kutter Crawford was sent back down to the minors. I’d expect Tanner Houck to get some work as a follower/long reliever, but Tyler Danish is probably filling Crawford’s role.
- Erik Swanson was placed on the IL by the Mariners temporarily removing him from saves contention. Drew Steckenrider probably benefits most as he now will take over opportunities when Andrés Muñoz isn’t available and Paul Sewald has been used in a high-leverage situation before the 9th.
- Camilo Doval came on for a maintenance inning after not having pitched since last Sunday. While he needed 20 pitches to get through the inning, I still think he’d be available if needed on Sunday.
- Ryan Helsley was called upon to put out a fire in the 7th, then work the 8th to bridge the game to Giovanny Gallegos. Helsley wasn’t his sharpest self here as twelve of his nineteen pitches went for balls and he issues his first walk of the year, but Helsley is still plenty good enough even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Given his usage patterns so far this year, I’d guess that Helsley will only be available in case of emergency for Sunday’s game. Gallegos, despite also tossing seventeen pitches to complete the 9th in a non-save situation, should be the top option if they need a save on Sunday.
- It was a crazy 8th inning in Atlanta and Steven Wilson was one out away from getting out of it. However, he allowed three straight hits to the middle of Atlanta’s order to allow the inherited run and three runs of his own to score tagging him with the blown save and the loss. It was just one too many sliders to Marcell Ozuna and Wilson finally left one up and in the zone. He’s still one of the top holds options in San Diego despite this outing.
- It was smooth sailing in the 7th for Atlanta as A.J. Minter picked up his fifth hold, but things got interesting in the 8th. Will Smith allowed four unearned runs as Atlanta’s defense fell apart and Smith just didn’t have enough to pick them up. Smith ended up getting credited with a blown save and Kenley Jansen ended up recording the final five outs of the game and recording the win. It was the second straight day with a blown save for Smith who has now allowed seven runs in the past two games. Today wasn’t entirely his fault, but there are several warning signs here. A zone contact rating approaching 90% and declining swinging strikes on his slider are both contributing to a plummeting K-rate. I’m not sure how much longer he’s the top holds option in Atlanta when they have other strong arms out there.
- Game two of this double header saw only clean-up work for Angels relievers, but they used their top arms in game one. Ryan Tepera earned his tenth hold of the season taking sole possession of the major league lead. Raisel Iglesias stepped on in the 9th to protect a two run lead and gave up a double and a walk before allowing a walk off three-run shot to Luis Barrera. It was a slider that was left up and Barrera was able to turn on it. However, I think if you replay that at-bat 20 times, Barrera doesn’t hit another homer. Iglesias wasn’t quite on with his command and Oakland took advantage this time. No reason to concern about him yet. The top three arms for the Angels have all worked in three out of four days, so my guess is they’re all unavailable for Sunday. Any save that falls LA’s way will be handled by someone in the right place at the right time as there’s no clear fourth option.
- All of Oakland’s top three arms managed to avoid being used in this double header, so they’re all good to go on Sunday. Lou Trivino was the beneficiary of Barrera’s unlikely walk-off and earned the win. Other than that, there’s not much to read into here.
- Jorge López made his return from the bereavement list and didn’t seem to miss a beat. He retired the side in ten pitches, however, his O’s were unfortunately down three runs. Felix Bautista did perform admirably in his absence, but Bautista is a guy who has very little experience (less than 50 total innings above A-ball) and who has historically had command issues. I think Baltimore takes a bit longer before trusting him in the 9th with any kind of consistency.
- The Tigers unexpectedly needed nearly eight innings from their relievers after Michael Pineda left with a broken finger and they only went and pitched a combined shutout. Andrew Chafin picked up his third hold and has quickly established himself as a high-leverage option. Gregory Soto locked down his fifth save, but yet again required more than 20 pitches to do so. He’s averaging 20 pitches per inning and has a K-BB% of 4.3%. Throw in a rising fly ball % and you have a ticking time bomb unless he somehow, finally, reigns in his command and control.
- Jordan Romano worked in a non-save situation and looked fine. No reason to fear after his last outing. Tim Mayza ended up picking up the win in relief.
- Hey, remember when J.P. Feyereisen took the league by storm at the beginning of last season and didn’t allow an earned run in his first 16 IP? Well, he’s doing it again. He’s up to 16.1 IPs scoreless on the year with just three hits and three walks, good for a 0.37 WHIP. Ryan Thompson had a rough night in this one, but his role should pretty much remain the same.
- The Brewers brought up the clean-up crew after going down early, then allowing the lead to balloon in the middle innings. Nothing noteworthy here.
- Anthony Bender started warming up in a 4-1 game on 0 days’ rest. Oh, so he was warming up for a save situation in the 9th? Nope! Top of the 7th! And he still went out there when the lead ballooned to 8-1! I don’t know if you call that a closer, but I sure don’t. Mattingly seems to be experimenting a bit recently with other guys in the role, but seemingly anybody he puts in the 9th immediately folds. Oh, and the savior Dylan Floro? He was sitting nearly two ticks slower than last year and gave up a bomb to Hunter Renfroe. The saves that will come from this bullpen over the next couple of weeks will be very dangerous to pursue. Proceed at your own risk.
- Jeff Hoffman is, no joke, potentially looking at save opportunities in the near future. It’s both a combination of the sheer desperation of the Reds to find anyone who can get three outs in the 9th and some impressive performances from Hoffman. He’s working with a 2.97 FIP and 2.48 xERA on the year and, while I don’t think he’s a sub-3 ERA reliever capable of dominating the 9th, the time and place might be right for him to snag a couple saves at some point.
- Chris Stratton’s struggles have really forced the Pirates to use David Bednar in the most fantasy-friendly way possible; as a multi-inning closer. Bednar recorded his sixth save of the season and third of more than three outs by retiring four consecutive batters on fifteen pitches. Bednar’s numbers, both surface-level and periphery, are ridiculous and we were always going to like the innings we got from him. With the Pirates being willing to use him in this role, managers who took the risk on Bednar could be rewarded with a 25-save season to boot.
- Despite a chaotic day at Nationals park, we saw Ryne Stanek and Héctor Neris work on two days’ rest leaving the 8th and 9th open to Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly on Sunday. Stanek is still throwing harder than he ever has. This has turned into a pretty solid top-4.
- Tanner Rainey got some low-leverage work in the 8th inning on five days’ rest and, despite the two runs allowed, looked OK. Six swinging strikes and a 75% strike percentage are recipes for success for Rainey. It’s when he falls behind in the count early and loses his command that he gets in trouble. He’s historically been a pretty volatile reliever, so only time will tell if he’ll be able to keep putting it together.
- Ok, it was mop-up duty in the 8th inning and Matt Barnes only threw three fastballs, but they were all over 95 mph and two induced swinging strikes. 95 is the magic number for Barnes. If he’s hitting that consistently, he has a chance to find the form he had at the beginning of last year. Keep monitoring that closely.
- Two more scoreless innings for Matt Moore who lowered his ERA to 2.16 through his first 16.2 IPs this year. Moore has struggled a lot with walks so far this year, but he’s generating a lot of ground balls, has a 31 % hard hit rate, and has only allowed one barrel. There’s some questions on sustainability here, but he’s a fun story to cover for now.
- Patrick Mazeika jumped on an Andrés Muñoz fastball on the first pitch of the inning and sent it out giving the Mets a 5-4 lead that would hold on to. Muñoz was tagged with his first loss of the campaign. After getting jumped, he relied mainly on bis slider which was as filthy as we know it can be going 6/14 on swinging strikes bringing the swinging strike rate on the year for the pitch to 31%. It’s not uncommon to have small growing pains for young relievers, but skills like this will win out. We still don’t expect Muñoz to go in back-to-back days, so any save opportunities will be left for Paul Sewald or Drew Steckenrider depending on the situation.
- Edwin Díaz struck out the side in order to earn his eighth save of the season. He now has thirteen punchouts in his last six appearances and is looking like the elite reliever he was drafted as.
- Cleveland had to burn some of their top arms to do it, but they managed to eek out a win with Emmanuel Clase earning his seventh save of the season on Saturday. Trevor Stephan continues to be great. Stephan is going to be unavailable on Sunday, but with just sixteen pitches thrown, Clase should be good to go if needed especially with Cleveland being one of the few teams with a scheduled off day on Monday.
- Two big pieces of news here. First of all, blah blah, Jhoan Duran topped 103 mph twice and threw the fastest pitch in Twins history twice. The average on his eight fastballs yesterday was 102.2 and the slowest one he threw was 101.3. BUT, HE THREW IN BACK-TO-BACK DAYS!!! Duran only threw ten pitches on Friday, so the Twins were comfortable letting him go out there again on Saturday. Needless to say, he was feeling good. Now, he’s definitely out for Sunday and Emilio Pagán probably is as well leaving the 9th on Sunday to whoever is available after a couple days of heavy usage. However, the Twins’ willingness to throw Duran in back-to-back days moves him one step closer to being used as a true closer capable of fielding 70-80% of the team’s opportunities. Time will tell if he’s already there, but this weekend has been a big step forward.
- Aroldis Chapman retired just one of the four batters he faced on Saturday and eventually allowed a walk-off single to Luis Robert saddling him with his first loss of the season. Chapman tried to dial up the heat in this one, but you could tell how much harder he had to work to hit 100 than in the past. On the 0-0 and 1-0 pitches to Robert, he completely buried two fastballs and it looked to me like he was trying to blow the hitter away like he could in the past, but the power just wasn’t there anymore. When he had to turn to the splitter to get a strike, it ended up staying well in the zone instead of diving out as it’s supposed to. Chapman has, up to this point, been able to make things work despite seeing a drop in velocity of over 1.5 mph and working with a career low swinging strike rate. His zone contact rating has climbed above 80% and his o-swing rate has stayed below 30%, so the drop in velocity, potentially among other things, has led to an overall drop in deception as well. Until Chapman either finds a way to miss more bats or walk fewer hitters, he’ll be a risky reliever to have on your roster.
- The win will likely help people look past it, but Liam Hendriks blew his third save of the season on Saturday and has now blown two straight this week after earning saves in five straight games last week. Hendriks has been struggling to locate his breaking balls for strikes, so he just decided not to throw any this time. 24 of the 26 pitches he threw were fastballs and he was able to work out of a jam in the 8th without throwing a single breaking ball. Once Anthony Rizzo stole third, I’m not sure he trusted it enough. Like Chapman, Hendriks didn’t get completely rocked in this one. Neither closer allowed a batted ball of over 100 mph exit velocity. Walks and lapses in command came back to bite both of them, though. With Hendriks maintaining a very good 26.1% K-BB%, we can put a lot more faith in him and hope he regains confidence in his slider.
- With David Robertson still on the COVID-IL, Rowan Wick was called upon to try to earn his third save of the season. He ended up doing so, but not before providing us with a bit more entertainment to the tune of a walk and a pair of bloop singles. Wick needed 33 pitches to close out his last save opportunity and he needed 28 pitches for this one. Efficiency has never been his strong suit. Still, he looks to be the guy with Robertson out.
- Mark Melancon was brought on to protect a 1-1 tie, but was unable to retire any of the four batters he faced. He allowed two walks and two hits before leaving J.B. Wendelken to handle a bases loaded, no out situation. All told, Melancon ended up registering three earned runs and taking the loss, his fifth of the year already. He’s already tied his career high in losses and he’s struck out just four batters on the year which is good for a 6.8% K-rate. As I wrote in the pre-season, a lot about Melancon’s team and home park context changed from last year to this year, so he could pitch just as well as he did last year and have considerably worse results. Unfortunately, he’s also pitching worse. His cutter barely sits above 90 most outings and his curveball is catching much more of the plate this year allowing hitters to go 8/18 against it with just two punchouts. I wish I saw a path to the type of success Melancon had last year, but I just don’t. I think he settles to an ERA in the mid 4s this year, but there’s potential for it to be worse. Even if he does keep closing games, will the ratios hit make it worth it? The D’backs likely have a couple of days to think about it as Ian Kennedy will likely handle any save opportunity that comes along on Sunday.
- Just four mop-up innings for Ronald Bolaños who performed admirably in Coors. Not admirably enough for an extended look, but good enough.
- Tyler Kinley got some maintenance work in this one and needed just six pitches to retire the side. He’s allowed just one run in fourteen appearances on the season and is the clear number two option in Colorado.
- Welcome back to the show, Connor Brogdon who started the year in AAA as he’s had a whole lot of problems finding the strike zone recently and had decreased velocity in the early going. He struck out the side, but also issued another walk. He’s got a lot of work to do to get into the holds conversation.
- Reclamation project Reyes Moronta has gone pretty well so far for the Dodgers. With two scoreless innings on Saturday, his line for the year is up to 8 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks. Not as dominant as he once was, but maybe he can get back there one day.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)