Sveum was hired for his finger point (USAT)
Some nights, you simply can't predict ball.
We'll start in the Cubs bullpen, destined to be one of the Waterloos of the season. Chicago trimmed the Reds on Tuesday, 4-2, despite mediocre work from the two relievers who followed a terrific Carlos Villanueva (8.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K). Carlos Marmol pitched like his hair was on fire in the ninth, as usual, allowing a sharp single and two walks before the inning was complete. Another blown save for the ledger. But the Cubs scored two runs in the top of the tenth, setting up Marmol to be the winning pitcher.
Enter a new pitcher and good lord, that's Gregg's music. The well-traveled and begoggled righty cobbled together three outs in between a couple of sharp singles. Okay, Gregg did have two strikeouts and he ended the game with a whiff of Joey Votto (the wonders never cease). But let's not forget the horror show Gregg showed us over the last two seasons in Baltimore (4.95/1.69 last year, 4.37/1.64 in 2011, 13 homers over 103.1 innings). This is destined to end badly.
Save chasing is one of the most variable pursuits in our fantasy game; it's significantly different from league to league. In some deeper pools you need to chase every handshake you can, acting proactively; in smaller or more casual groups, you can sit back and let a story develop before you act. If it's a blood-for-saves league, maybe you have to hold your nose and make a Gregg pick. Valverde looks a little safer to me (if that word can ever be tied to him), trimmed down and tied to a better team. Andy Behrens offered a few words on Valverde here.
I still think Kyuji Fujikawa finishes the year as the top saves guy in Chicago, and I expect James Russell to have the best ratios there. But Dale Sveum isn't looking for my advice. For now, Gregg has the baton, and that's a critical part of save speculation. Place your closing bets in the comments below.
• What's your level of confidence with J.J. Putz right now? Arizona's closer frittered away another lead on Tuesday, serving up a two-run moon shot to Brandon Belt in the ninth. The Snakes rallied to win the game in extra innings nonetheless, but it's Putz's third blown save of the year. It's reasonable to be concerned.
Putz's stuff hasn't vanished overnight - he's struck out 12 over his nine innings of work - but two homers and five walks have been his undoing. Perhaps it's time to make a preemptive addition of David Hernandez (2.79/1.24, 13 strikeouts, three walks), who's been the eighth-inning bridge all season.
• The handshake parlay of Miami-Houston doesn't come into play very often (even with a doubleheader to draw from), so let's get a quick check-in with their closers.
Cishek at work (USAT)
Cishek at work (USAT)
I can't say much about the Marlins as a club, but I'd still bet on Cishek to push over 20 saves. He's struck out 10 batters against a modest three walks and generally he keeps the ball in the park. I'm staying the course, even if my expectations start from a modest place.
Down at the juice box, Jose Veras set down the Mariners in order, with two strikeouts, en route to his second save. It's the first perfect inning he's given us in 2013. The lack of save chances in Houston is more about the awful pitching staff (MLB-worst 5.31 ERA) than it is the offense (78 runs, 17th the majors). Nonetheless, Veras has a reasonable chance to knock and ping his way to 20 saves. You probably won't want to watch him, but in deeper leagues, Veras is rosterable.
• Everyone's heard the nuclear fallout joke: your only survivors will be cockroaches and Keith Richards. Maybe it's time to add Bartolo Colon to that list.
The ancient righty, just a month shy of his 40th birthday, didn't have any trouble with the Red Sox on Tuesday, cruising to a 13-0 victory (7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K). Colon's sitting on 17 strikeouts against just one walk for the year, with tidy ratios in the money categories (2.42 ERA, 0.92 WHIP). While two starts against the mediocre Astros helped the cause, he's also faced a couple of testing assignments (the Tigers, albeit in Oakland, and the latest start at Fenway).
I'll endorse Colon for Sunday's home start against the Orioles, but no matter what I see in that one, I can't dial him up at Yankee Stadium the following week. He's currently ready to roster in 89 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Speed Round: The Matt Garza rehab tour has been put on hold due to a dead arm. That's one of those physical maladies that sounds 100 times worse than it really is . . . Justin Maxwell (broken hand) wasn't crushing the world in Houston, but the Astros will miss him. Perhaps Rick Ankiel will get more run out of this (lots of strikeouts, occasional homer) . . . A two-homer game from Mark Ellis pushed his roto tag up to 13 percent. He's off to a .348 start and has batted second all year; this is the type of player you should own in place of Didi Gregorius . . . Chad Billingsley (elbow) is headed for Tommy John surgery, a further reminder that you can never have too much pitching . . . Franklin Gutierrez (hamstring) is on the 15-day DL, a location he knows well . . . A lot of these Matt Cain turns are starting to look the same: struggles early, better results later. He wound up with a no-decision against the Snakes, and a passable line (6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K). I'm staying the course. Patrick Corbin continued to impress on the other side, posting his fourth excellent start in a row (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 7 K). He's at home for Colorado on the weekend, then works at San Diego. You can bicycle kick the tires in 67 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
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