With the dust settling from the trade activity that took place last week we’re starting to get a clearer picture of how the distribution of saves and holds has changed, at least in the short term. However, there are still a few teams whose bullpens are in disarray. In this week’s bullpen report we’ll take a closer look at the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets bullpens who are still trying to find their way after the trade deadline. Also, since Bruce Bochy won’t do it, we’ll go ahead and name the Rangers’ closer. In addition, we’ll break down a bullpen that appears to be in flux and whose current closer might be out of a job real soon.
(Unless otherwise noted, statistics quoted in this article are accurate as of the morning of August 9th, 2023)
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When the Royals traded Scott Barlow to the Padres last week it appeared that Carlos Hernandez would step up and fill his shoes as the team’s closer. He still might, however, in his last three appearances Hernandez has given up five earned runs, two home runs and he’s walked four batters in 2.2 IP. His recent downturn is strange, considering that in his previous 17 appearances leading up to the MLB Trade deadline he had pitched to a 0.98 ERA and recorded a save and seven holds in that time frame. Unfortunately, with the Royals having won just 37 games heading into Wednesday’s action, their bullpen isn’t exactly a hotbed for saves but if you’re looking for a speculative add to your watch list, Austin Cox picked up the Royals’ most recent save and he has a respectable 3.58 ERA on the season. The Royals have been using Nick Wittgren in the seventh and eighth innings of games lately and he hasn’t given up a run in his last seven appearances. He has six career saves.
Mets manager Buck Showalter told the media that they’d be surprised at who would be getting save chances for the Amazins with David Robertson jettisoned to the Marlins. Up until Wednesday night Brooks Raley was the only Mets reliever to record a save in the post Robertson era. However, on Wednesday night Phil Bickford, who the Mets acquired at the trade deadline from the Dodgers for cash considerations, came to Adam Ottavino’s and the Mets’ rescue and picked up his second career save. With the way Showalter has been managing his bullpen lately it would be difficult to place much trust in any of the Mets’ potential late inning high leverage relievers for the rest of the season. After all, they’re just placeholders as Mets fans anxiously wait for Edwin Diaz to be reinstated from the IL. There have been whispers that he might see some action in September but don’t hold your breath.
When the Rangers originally traded for Aroldis Chapman at the end of June, manager Bruce Bochy claimed that Will Smith would continue to be the team’s closer with Chapman filling the role as his set up man. Then in the middle of July Bochy changed his tune and claimed that Smith and Chapman would be matchup dependent co-closers. Smith has recorded all six of the Rangers’ saves since July 16th. In that same time period Chapman has a win and four holds. If you’re rostering Chapman based on the hope that he’d be a good resource for saves it doesn’t look good.
Alex Lange seems to be losing control over his closer gig for the Tigers. Lange has had issues throwing strikes throughout his career but with his current 7.4 BB/9 rate, losing control may be an understatement. With Lange and three other relievers recording the last four saves for the Tigers, their bullpen hierarchy has become fluid of late. Other than Lange, Jason Foley, Tyler Holton, and Beau Brieske have all saved games for the Tigers over the past two and a half weeks. Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who doesn’t like naming a specific reliever as his closer, was non-committal about how he’d manage his bullpen moving forward. However, based on his recent performance (7.40 ERA in his last 22 appearances with 26 walks in 20.2 IP) Lange’s days as the team’s closer are likely numbered. Foley, who has four saves on the season and a sparkling 2.16 ERA, would be the logical choice to take handle the Tigers’ ninth inning duties but Holton and Brieske could continue to be used in late inning high leverage situations as well.
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