THROW IN THE TOWEL?
Is it time to just give up when it comes to bullpens? Literally half the teams in baseball have already made 9th inning changes, and more are certainly on the way.
The Nationals continue to say Henry Rodriguez is their closer. I'm not so sure. Yes he has tons of heat, his average fastball sits at 98 mph leading to 21 Ks in just 15.2 innings, but he's also walked 12 batters. In his last two outings he's also registered only three outs while walking five batters, he's struck out no one and has allowed four runs on his way to a blown save an a loss. Monday night he had to be removed from the game as Sean Burnett picked up the save. At some point doesn't Tyler Clippard, their best relief arm (12 Ks only four hits allowed in his last 10 innings), get a shot in the 9th even though the team has repeatedly said they want him working the 8th inning?
The Yankees have David Robertson who was supposed to take over for Mariano Rivera. An elite arm, Robertson has made 15 appearances and has only been scored on one time as he's racked up 24 Ks in 14.1 innings. Unfortunately he has had continued pain in his side, is off taken an MRI, an the specter of a DL stint for an oblique injury is certainly at the forefront of everyone's mind making Rafael Soriano a must add in all leagues.
The Mets said that Frank Francisco is still their 9th inning man. He rewarded their faith Monday with a save, but it was ugly yet again. In fact, over his last three outings he's picked up two loses, a blown save and has allowed a run in each outing (six in 1.2 innings) to push his ERA to 8.59 and his WHIP to 2.05. His hold on the 9th inning job is tenuous at best. Bobby Parnell has a 2.16 ERA and 16 Ks in 16.2 innings and he has a better arm than Jon Rauch (2.93 ERA, 0.98 WHIP), but I get the feeling that Rauch would be next in line if FF continues to struggle.
For more on these closer situations you might want to check out my Around the Horn video.
I also thought I would link to a rather interesting take on how teams are handling their bullpen, and specifically their closers. Is it time for a change in theory/strategy? Here is the piece by Zack Meisel.
Michael Morse hopes to be able to return from his lat issue on June 8th. He's progressed to hitting and throwing, he'll do both every other day for now, before he heads out on a minor league rehab assignment. He's been gone for so long that many may have forgotten that he hit .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBI last year. There is still three weeks before he hopes to be back, and it remains to be seen if he will hit the ground running and be at full strength immediately, but he's worth a pick up if he's been cast adrift since there is serious second half potential here.
Kevin Youkilis (back) is ready for his rehab assignment to start. He will be sent to Triple-A Pawtucket Wednesday here he will DH. He'll then be worked back into the mix defensively and could, barring a setback, return late this week or early next week to the Red Sox. At that point, things will get really interesting. In my opinion, one shared by nearly every baseball person out there, Youkilis will play every day when he's healthy. If he's at third, David Ortiz is at DH and Adrian Gonzalez is at 1B, where does hot shot rookie Will Middlebrooks play? That's a great question. There were some rumors that the Sox might have Will play outfield, but given that he has never done that the team has reconsidered, a wise decision in my book. You don't ask a rookie, in the pressure cooker of Boston, to play a position that he's never played before and expect that to go well. So does this mean that Middlebrooks, who is hitting .304 with four homers an a 1.021 OPS in 11 games might actually be sent down to the minors? I think it's certainly a possibility. Middlebrooks would be allowed to get some outfield work in down on the farm, and if the Red Sox were able to move Youkilis, a rumor that is gaining steam, he might not be in the minors for too long. This is all supposition of course, but my contention is this – if you are currently counting on Middlebrooks as your starting third baseman in a mixed league, make sure you have a fall back plan for as early as next week.
BY THE NUMBERS
.198: The batting average of Gaby Sanchez of the Marlins through 32 games. After hitting .273 and .266 the past two years, that's a pretty shocking number. Blame two things. One, he just isn't hitting the ball on the screws as his 10.1 percent line drive rate is ridiculously low. The past four years Sanchez has hit at least 16.7 percent in that category, and for his career that number is 17.8 percent. Second, Sanchez has a .239 BABIP, this after back-to-back seasons of .299 and .287. Both numbers will certainly come up, but it's fair to question if he will continue to be in the daily lineup for the Marlins given his horrific start.
.250: That is the batting average of Adam Dunn who has 12 homers, 28 RBI an a 1.003 OPS through 36 games for the White Sox as he has returned to being the batter he always was before last seasons disappearing act. That .250 number also happens to be the OBP of Dee Gordon. Notice I didn't say batting average, I said OBP. Gordon is hitting just .212, and though he has 12 steals he has also been caught on the bases five times. Given that he has one homer, eight RBI and is hitting .212, starting him in a mixed league is risky as all get out despite his elite speed.
1: The number of hits that J.D. Martinez has racked up in his last 35 at-bats. Benched in four of the Astros last six games to work on shortening his swing, J.D. Is hitting a mere .224 after his hot start to the year. He's still drawing walks at an impressive rate (19 in 126 plate appearances), but he's striking out 20 percent of the time, hasn't stolen a base, and with only eight runs scored through 30 games he's been a pretty big disappoint in the fantasy game after that hot start.
1.74: The ERA of Ryan Dempster, fourth best in the NL. Through six starts he has allowed a total of eight earned runs. Too bad for R.D. that he pitches for the Cubs because they simply have not supported him at all offensively. Dempster has a total of, wait, he doesn't have a total - he hasn't won a single game this season. The same thing can be said about Cliff Lee who has a 2.17 ERA in four starts for the Phillies – he's winless. In Detroit Drew Smyly has only one victory despite a 2.31 ERA. Example # 2,487 of why trying to predict wins is impossible.
2.81: The ERA of Joe Blanton in his last seven starts as he has gone 4-2 for the Phillies. For the year his ERA is impressive at 2.96 while his WHIP is 1.07. For his career the best numbers he has ever posted in those two categories are 3.53 and 1.22. Something tells me that a regression is coming. That also figured to be the case when you look at his 1.29 BB/9 rate which is roughly half his career rate of 2.44 leading to a 5.00 K/BB ratio that is more than double his career mark of 2.41. Ride the way but have a lift vest handy for when your tossed up against the rocks.
10: The length of the hitting streak for Dustin Ackley. Unfortunately he has just 11 hits in those 10 games as he's only been able to boost his average up to .248. He's also had only one RBI and one steal in those 10 contests though he has scored eight runs. Through 474 career at-bats his batting line looks decidedly blah at .266-8-46-57-2 with a .738 OPS.
11: The hitting streak length of Melky Cabrera of the Giants. He lost the streak Monday night against the Rockies, but he was so amazingly good in that time that he merits a mention. In the 11 games he hit .468 as he racked up twenty-two hits. Cabrera, who hit .305 last year, is now hitting .338 for the Giants though he has just two homers through 35 games. That won't matter much to anyone if he pushes 100 runs and 25 steals though, now will it?
30: The major league leading walk total of Ubaldo Jimenez who has issued 30 free passes in 40 innings. Remember back to the first half of 2010 when he was historically good? You know, the time he was 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 1.05 WHIP at the All-Star break? In the 18 starts he made before the break that year he walked a total of 46 batters. At his current pace he would walk 77 batters over 18 starts, one less than he walked last season when he made 32 starts for the Rockies and Indians.
151: The number of games that Rickie Weeks has played since the start of last season (he's in the lineup for the Brewers Tuesday after missing time with an injured wrist). In those 151 games Weeks has 23 homers and 90 runs scored, impressive numbers indeed for a second baseman. However, questions still abound. He's knocked in just 55 runners. He's stolen a mere 11 bags. He's hit an anemic .246. His OPS is just .771 in those 151 games. Isn't it time we all admit that Weeks just isn't an elite option?
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.