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
- All 30 teams played on Sunday with CHW and NYY logging a double-header. There are lots of beleaguered bullpens out there, so expect a team or two (BAL, TBR, TOR, LAD and STL are all candidates) to announce some moves this morning after this article gets posted.
- Six teams (BOS, TBR, CHW, LAA, TEX, MIA) have off on Monday, so we could expect bullpens to get pushed until then.
- Aaron Bummer was activated from the IL and figures to immediately slot back into the 7th and 8th innings for the White Sox.
- The Royals optioned Dylan Coleman to AAA to work on his command issues. He still has some very good stuff, so if he figures it out down there, he could come back to the majors and immediately work high-leverage innings.
- The Padres recalled Steven Wilson after a quick sejour in AAA. He should still be in the holds conversation.
- The Rays placed Andrew Kittredge on the IL due to his back issues. Dusten Knight was the one called up to fill the roster spot, but you can expect several pitchers to share in filling the void Kittredge leaves behind in the bullpen.
- Starter Steven Matz left the game after four pitches on a day where they needed him to help limit the workload of the bullpen. Angel Rondón came on as a savior and got a miraculous fifteen outs before passing it off to T.J. McFarland for nine and Yadier Molina for the final three. I was worried that they’d have to burn several guys and make a few roster moves to get through the early part of the week, but, unfortunately, Rondón’s reward for doing so well is that he’ll likely be the only one demoted.
- Tyler Beede was an interesting early sleeper pick for the Giants before they signed Carlos Rodón and pushed him out of a roster spot. Well, Beede’s a long reliever on the Pirates now and it very much did not go well in this one. It may be worth remembering the name due to the early pre-season hype, but moving from San Francisco to Pittsburgh is about as bad as it can get for a pitcher save for moving to Coors, so the window may be closed for now.
- Paul Sewald worked the 9th inning of a tie game and passed it to Andrés Muñoz for the 10th when the Mariners took a one-run lead. Muñoz struggled to get ahead of the first few batters and ended up giving up a walk and four hits, the last of which being a walk-off grand slam tagging him with four earned runs and the loss. This brings his ERA on the year up to 6.08. This is still a really exciting pitcher who figures to pitch towards the end of games for the Mariners. However, he’s a young reliever who relies heavily on his slider. When he’s sharp with it, he’s nearly unhittable. When he’s not, well, here’s what can happen.
- Boston asked Hansel Robles to try to get a five-out save, but he was able to only record four before blowing the save on a solo bomb to Eugenio Suárez. Jake Diekman worked the top of the 10th, only allowing the inherited runner to score, and this was good enough for his first victory of the year. Robles is tied for the team lead for saves with…. two. He also allows a ton of hard contact, so I honestly don’t think he’s the guy. Matt Barnes‘ velocity has been back the past few outings and he recorded the Red Sox’ most recent save, but it’s easy to tell from Alex Cora’s most recent quote that he’s very much not trusted yet. John Schreiber has been working his way into the late innings, but his lack of major league experience makes him hard to trust, too. Pick your favorite horse if you want, but this race is mucky and far from over.
- Tons of holds handed out to Rays relievers in this one, but it was Ryan Thompson who was brought on for the save opportunity, He couldn’t hold this one and gave up a pair of runs for his third blown save of the season. With Andrew Kittredge hitting the shelf, there’s a large share of late inning work waiting to be picked up. Thompson and Brooks Raley figure to continue to get the occasional save opportunity, but look for Jason Adam and J.P. Feyereisen to step in to each fill a part of Kittredge’s role.
- This feels like a game the Orioles would never have won in the previous few seasons. Starter Spenser Watkins lasted just three batters before succumbing to an injury and this bullpen needed to somehow find bulk innings. They stepped up to the plate in a major way putting up a combined line of 11 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 12 K with Cionel Pérez picking up the win. This team is fifth in team bullpen ERA on the year. FIFTH!!! It’s been an amazing turnaround. Unfortunately, Baltimore did have to push a couple of guys to their limits to get this bulk, though, so expect a roster move or two to bring a fresh arm into the pen for Monday’s action.
- After a stretch where the Dodgers couldn’t find a close game, this week was packed with them and their bullpen was, as a result, gassed coming into this game. It’s worth noting that the Dodgers had a second chance to bring in Craig Kimbrel in a save situation for his third straight day of work and, again, opted not to do so. They instead went to Yency Almonte for his first stab at the save. which he blew in the ninth. When Los Angeles took the lead again in the top of the 10th, Evan Phillips got his chance and promptly squandered it, giving up two runs and taking the loss. These guys were playing way out of their typical role due to how the bullpen day played out on Saturday, so we shouldn’t read too much into this.
- While the Dodgers were working with limited options, the Phillies threw a few of their top bullpen arms to snag a victory. Corey Knebel worked the top of the 10th and, while he allowed the inherited runner to score and walked two, did well enough to earn his first win of 2022. The strikeouts are down for Knebel, but the batted ball data is good and the swinging strikes are there. No reason for now to think anything but injury would take him out of the 9th.
- Alexis Díaz tossed two perfect innings to lower his ERA back under one and Art Warren came on for the ninth to pick up his second save. This was probably the best that the Reds bullpen has looked all year on the road against a dangerous, albeit struggling, Blue Jays offense. Both Diaz and Warren have struggled a lot with walks this year, but this game is an indication that they can be a solid one-two punch if they get their command. There’s a decent risk of that happening and the reward is whatever save chances the Reds manage to scrape together. Not much reward for that risk.
- Yimi García gave up three hits and a run in the top of the 8th which ended up earning him his third loss of the season. Adam Cimber worked a clean 9th for his sixth consecutive scoreless appearance. The latter performed well when Jordan Romano was out sick for a few days, even earning a couple saves, and should be considered the primary handcuff for Romano.
- Alex Lange and Andrew Chafin each logged their fifth hold of the season while Gregory Soto picked up his seventh save. Only eight pitches on the night for Soto to record three outs which I’m sure Soto was surprised to find out isn’t an illegal thing to do. He’s walked the tightrope in many of his appearances this year, but was squarely in control of this one.
- Sam Hentges fired yet another clean inning to bring his ERA down to 1.20 and his WHIP down to 0.60 through his first 15 IPs of the season. Given Hentges’ plate discipline metrics, I wouldn’t expect the 30+% K-rate to stick, but he’s commanding the strike zone and generating tons of ground balls. If he keeps that up, he’ll ascend to be one of the Guardians’ top holds options fairly soon.
- Atlanta was playing from behind and chose to use a couple of depth pieces in the late innings to spare the back end of their bullpen, which had seen a lot of work between Tuesday and Saturday. Everyone, including Kenley Jansen, should be good to go, but another 20+ pitch outing for Jansen on Monday could earn him multiple days off.
- There are two ways to read the fact that Sandy Alcantara was allowed to go back out for the 9th inning at 103 pitches. Optimistic: Wow, Alcantara is such an ace! Mattingly is trusting his guy to go get him a win. Pessimistic: Wow, Mattingly has NO faith in ANYONE in this bullpen. Anthony Bender, Anthony Bass, and Cole Sulser were all working with at least three days of rest here. However, with a five-game week next week, Alcantara is guaranteed an extra couple of days of rest. At the end of the day, probably a little of column A, a little of column B.
- Nothing too interesting to note from the Rangers in terms of usage. They played from behind and, while they used a couple of their high-leverage guys, it was mainly because they were all working on a few days of rest.
- Rafael Montero and Ryne Stanek each continued their dominant seasons and each earned a hold. Stanek is working on an eleven appearance scoreless streak. The improvements these two have shown have been remarkable and they’re a big reason why Houston has the best bullpen ERA in baseball right now. Ryan Pressly also stepped on in the 9th to clean up a bit of a mess and earn his second save of the weekend. His job is safe for now, but if he struggles or if he goes down with injury again, Montero or Stanek would be high-value targets.
- The Twins staged a massive six-run comeback over the final two innings and the beneficiaries of that were Tyler Duffey, who notched his second win and Jhoan Duran, who earned his third save. Duran hit 100 mph on every one of his seven fastballs, allowing just one ball in play, six fouls, and five whiffs on twelve swings. This is peak Duran. Enjoy it.
- It was a rough day for the Royals bullpen on the other side of that comeback. Neither Scott Barlow nor Josh Staumont could stem the tide and Staumont ended up being saddled with his third blown save of the season and first loss. The two have pretty evenly split save opportunities so far this year, but each have things under the hood that could lose them the job. Barlow’s lost velocity has led to a dip in swinging strikes and strikeouts and a troubling increase in zone contact to above 90%. He’s not as deceptive as he has been the past couple of years and it could catch up to him. Staumont’s raw stuff is still there, but the walks, which have plagued him his entire career, are still popping up in troublesome places. While he’s more likely to be the one to run away with the job, his lack of consistency might be the reason Barlow, even though he’s not quite himself, sticks around all year.
- Tanner Rainey and Kyle Finnegan were each working on a few days of rest, so Washington decided to go ahead and throw them out there to close out a big lead. They both cruised through their respective innings without allowing a baserunner. Rainey had walked multiple batters for the first time all year in his most recent appearance on Wednesday, so this work could have been to get him a lower leverage opportunity to get back on track.
- The Brewers went down early and went down big in this one, so it was exclusively the clean-up crew who worked this one. Nothing very interesting here.
- Arizona brought on Ian Kennedy to maintain a 4-3 lead in the 8th for his fourth day of work in the past five. Five pitches later, Kennedy had given up back-to-back homers and blown the game, leaving him with his third loss of the year. It’s a bold move sending Kennedy out in any high-leverage situation given his under-the-hood numbers so far this year and even bolder to do it for the fourth time in five days. As I’ve mentioned in previous write-ups, Kennedy is not the guy you want late in games for you right now.
- Keegan Thompson picked up the win in relief on Sunday, his fourth of the year. He closed out the final three innings. The Cubs opted to let Thompson close this one out himself after David Robertson struggled and ended up throwing 26 pitches on Sunday. If the Cubs allow Thompson to settle into being a three to four-inning guy, he could be decently valuable. Not sure how he translates to starting, though.
- Adam Ottavino and Joely Rodríguez shared the 8th to each pick up a hold before passing it to Edwin Díaz for his tenth save of the season. Díaz has been excellent in bounce back games this year after allowing a run in his previous appearance. His 47.9% K-rate is second only to Ryan Helsley among all qualified relievers.
- Tyler Kinley is absolutely allergic to runs. He’s now logged eight straight scoreless appearances and 16 of his 17 appearances on the year. He was extremely efficient in this one, requiring just nine pitches, and remains the top setup option in Colorado as well as the top option if the Rockies should choose or be forced to remove Daniel Bard as closer.
- Steven Wilson is back after a brief stint in AAA. It was a bit surprising to see Wilson get sent down, but it appears that it was just due to a quick roster squeeze. He’s had a couple struggles on the year, but he should still be in the conversation for holds and is currently tied for second on the team with five.
- Outfielder Luis González was at it again this time throwing TWO scoreless frames. So, that’s three and a third scoreless innings for Gonzalez with a 0.60 WHIP. So you’re telling me that even the Giants’ OUTFIELDERS are good relievers?!
- Justin Grimm was the only Oakland reliever to see action on Sunday. He’s filled his role well so far this year, but doesn’t seem to be doing enough to push for much more.
- Ryan Tepera snagged his league-leading twelfth hold and passed it off to Raisel Iglesias, who struck out the side on twelve pitches for his tenth save of the season. The ERAs should come down for both of these guys as the year goes on and they should remain among the top options for holds and saves respectively.
- In game one of this double-header, the White Sox had a narrow lead going into the late innings and sent out Joe Kelly, Kendall Graveman, and Liam Hendriks in that order. Aaron Bummer had just returned from the IL that day and he’d likely figure in to the 7-8-9 mix next time out, but Kelly, Graveman, and Bummer should be seen as the top holds options for Chicago now despite the early success of José Ruiz. and Matt Foster. Great sign to see Hendriks get a called strike and three whiffs on his slider. He needs that to get back into elite territory. The second game featured a wider margin of victory, so the White Sox were able to use lower leverage relievers to secure the game.
- Sunday’s double-header put a head on the problems of a couple of struggling relievers who just don’t look the same as they did last year. In game one, Aroldis Chapman took the loss after allowing three of four batters faced to reach. Two ended up coming in to score. In game two, Jonathan Loáisiga allowed four hits and four earned runs to earn the loss and balloon his ERA to 7.02. Chapman sat just a hair over 96 mph on seven fastballs in this one and the results weren’t good. The formerly dominant four-seamer which returned a 20.1% swinging strike rate in 2020 has fallen to 10.9% so far in 2022. The splitter, newly unveiled last year, returned a 36% swinging strike rate in 2021 and that’s fallen to 22% so far this year. Even the slider is getting roughed up more than it ever has. The ERA doesn’t say it yet, but the house of cards that Chapman kept up for most of the year in 2021 (except for June) is starting to come down. Loáisiga, on the other hand, certainly doesn’t deserve to have an ERA over seven right now, although he also isn’t the same dominant pitcher he was last year. The 13.7% walk rate is the first thing that jumps out at me, then the increased launch angle, specifically on the sinker. Guys could only bash the sinker into the ground last year, but they’re able to elevate it more this year, which we can see in the ground ball and fly ball rates as well. In this run environment, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’d have to research more to figure out exactly what’s going on. If he goes back to walking 6% of batters, my gut tells me he goes back to being a really good pitcher, but getting that rhythm back mid-season can be very tough.