Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Dodgers' Bullpen Blues

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I have mixed feelings about Don Mattingly's abilities as a manager, but I give him plenty of credit for how he tried to work the Dodgers' bullpen this year. Of course, Kenley Jansen is a better pitcher than Brandon League. Mattingly knew that was the case, yet he still thought his team was better off with League pitching the ninth and Jansen serving as the bridge. And I firmly believe he was right; Jansen is more valuable working in tie games and coming in to bail out the seventh-inning guys when they struggle than he is while being locked into the ninth.


All that said, League pretty much forced Mattingly's hand when he gave up four runs in a blown save and a loss last Monday against the Diamondbacks. If Mattingly had stuck with League after that, he would have been crucified in the media, and his position probably isn't secure enough to handle it right now.


Unfortunately for Mattingly, Jansen had to go and give up a game-tying homer Saturday in his second save chance after taking over the closer's role. Then League went on to pitch a scoreless 11th inning for his 14th save of the year. Also bad: in the first four games after making the switch, the Dodgers gave up a run in the eighth on three occasions. Previously, Jansen would have been the pitcher of choice in two of those games.


It probably sounds like I'm arguing for the Dodgers to go right back to League as closer, but I'm not saying that. Now that the Dodgers have made the switch, they might as well stick with it. League isn't a Jose Valverde; he doesn't need to be in the closer's role to have value. But the Dodgers do need to get him right no matter what direction they go in from here. Otherwise, they're going to struggle just to get to the ninth inning with a lead.


AL Notes (Rotoworld MLB news - Rotoworld on twitter - Matthew Pouliot on twitter)


- The Rays are finally calling up Wil Myers after losing three out of four to his old club, the Royals, over the weekend. Myers was batting .327/.367/.673 with five homers in 55 at-bats for Triple-A Durham this month. He also stole four bases, bringing his season total to seven steals. I think Myers will have some difficulties hitting for average in the majors, and he'll be playing in a park that isn't overly kind to power hitters (though it's better for right-handers like Myers than left-handers). My guess is that he proves to be a fringe outfielder in mixed leagues this year.


With Myers up and playing regularly, Ben Zobrist will play mostly second base going forward, though that's been the case already this year (39 starts at 2B, 22 in RF, 4 at SS). Matt Joyce will man the other outfield corner, leaving Kelly Johnson and Luke Scott to battle for DH at-bats. A couple of weeks ago, that would have been really bad news for Scott. However, he's been better at the plate lately, while Johnson has suddenly gone ice cold. Those relying on Johnson in mixed leagues should consider looking elsewhere.


- Incredibly, it doesn't appear that Alex Cobb (concussion) will miss all that much time after that brutal liner to the head on Saturday. Still, the Rays will need either Jake Odorizzi or Alex Colome to fill in this week. If Cobb and David Price (triceps) both make it back by early July as hoped, it could spell the end of Chris Archer's stint in the rotation.


- Mike Zunino's Triple-A numbers suggested he wasn't quite ready for the majors and the scouty-types who watched him at Tacoma seemed to agree, but here he is as Seattle's new starting catcher and he homered Friday in his second game in the bigs. For now, Zunino figures to be a J.P. Arencibia-type hitter, except that he has to deal with batting in a poor lineup in a pitcher's park. He's a decent option in two-catcher mixed leagues, but I wouldn't suggest grabbing him in shallow leagues that play just the one catcher. He should be a top-10 fantasy catcher someday, but perhaps not until 2015.


- I don't know how many bullets Erasmo Ramirez has in his right arm this year, but the Mariners would be crazy to let him waste many more in the minors after he pitched 15 scoreless innings with a 14/1 K/BB ratio in his last two Triple-A starts. It's true that no one from the group of Jeremy Bonderman, Aaron Harang and Joe Saunders necessarily deserves to be replaced right now, but it's also true that Ramirez is better than all of those guys. He could be a big asset in mixed leagues when his time comes, and I don't think he'll have to wait much longer.


- With Tom Wilhelmsen struggling to throw strikes, the Mariners backed off him and went to Oliver Perez in a save situation Friday. The left-hander converted it for his first career save. Many would have preferred manager Eric Wedge went to Carter Capps instead, and I'd certainly be curious to see how Capps would fare in the ninth. Still, the fact is that he hasn't earned the Mariners trust against left-handed batters yet. As is, he's still in the mix for saves, but Perez looks like the favorite to get chances this week. As for Wilhelmsen, the job will be his to win back as soon as he gets his act together. His velocity remains excellent, and he could flip the switch at any time. I wouldn't go dropping him.


- Not only did Kevin Youkilis (back) and Mark Teixeira (wrist) experience setbacks for the Yankees last week, but it sounds like Curtis Granderson (finger) isn't progressing as quickly as hoped. He might not return until after the All-Star break. As for Teixeira, it looks like he'll give it another go this week. However, he's probably always going to be one bad swing away from season-ending surgery.


- Vinnie Pestano finally got his first save chance in three weeks as the Indians' fill-in closer on Sunday and converted it. It remains to be seen whether he'll get another, as Chris Perez (shoulder) made his first rehab appearance Saturday, pitching a scoreless inning for low Single-A Lake County. He'll probably be activated after just one more appearance, and while he may set up in his first couple of games back, he'll resume closing not long after.


- If Nick Swisher lands on the DL with his shoulder injury -- and really, even if he doesn't -- the Indians should give Lonnie Chisenhall another crack at the third base job. He's batting .432 in June and .387/.455/.673 in 101 at-bats overall for Triple-A Columbus. Factoring in defense, Mark Reynolds has been one of baseball's very worst players over the last five weeks. It's probably just a coincidence, but he was much more productive offensively while playing first base and DHing early on. He's hit .171 with seven RBI in 34 games as a third baseman.


- Anibal Sanchez wasn't quite right Saturday after skipping one start with shoulder stiffness, and I still don't understand why the Tigers put him on the mound in the first place. It's entirely possible that he'll land on the DL soon. It's what the Tigers should have done in the first place.


- Manager Jim Leyland showed exactly how much faith he had in Valverde on Sunday, when he got him up in the ninth yet stuck with Joaquin Benoit in a three-run game. Benoit, likely making things simpler than Valverde would have, retired four of the five Twins he faced for his fourth save. Valverde is still nominally the Tigers' closer and he might even rack up a few more saves, but he's also probably just one or two bad outings away from being released. Should that happen, Benoit is the likely stopgap, but Bruce Rondon, who has a 1.05 ERA in Triple-A, would probably get another chance to show what he can do in the majors.


- The Angels' Tommy Hanson showed his best fastball of the season while striking out eight Yankees on Saturday, but it still averaged a bit under 90 mph. While it's a nice surprise that he's been able to hold his own (4-2, 3.94 ERA in eight starts) despite the diminished velocity, I remain skeptical that it's going to last. He has the peripherals of a guy with a 5.00 ERA, and his shoulder probably isn't going to allow him to throw much harder.


- I'm not sure it happens within the next month or so, but there's a good chance Jonathan Singleton will finish the season as the Astros' first baseman. He's hit .271/.397/.627 with five homers in 59 at-bats for low-A Quad Cities and Double-A Corpus Christi since he returned from his 50-game marijuana suspension, and he was promoted to Triple-A on Sunday. George Springer is also making a good case for a trial as the Astros' center fielder after the All-Star break with his .298/.400/.595 line in Double-A. With 18 homers and 19 steals, he's on pace for a 30-30 season. The big issue there is that he's fanned 82 times in 242 at-bats, suggesting that he's not ready to handle major league breaking balls just yet.


- The Astros have been waiting for signs of life from Justin Maxwell (hand) before activating him from the disabled list; he's hit just .125/.167/.125 in nine minor league games. He still figures to return at some point this week, and when it happens, the Astros will likely demote Jimmy Paredes, who started just two games last week and is hitless since June 4.


- As expected, the Rangers are going to start having Jurickson Profar work in the outfield now that Ian Kinsler is back. If he were a lesser athlete, they probably would have sent him down to play there in the minors for a couple of weeks. As is, they think they can teach him the outfield while he remains in the majors. He stands to take at-bats away from David Murphy and maybe Leonys Martin once he gets comfortable tracking flies.


- Barring a setback, Texas will activate Mitch Moreland (hamstring) on Friday. Chris McGuiness will be sent down.


- Jarrod Dyson (ankle) has hit just .189/.250/.243 through nine games with Triple-A Omaha, delaying his return a bit, but he'll still be activated before the week is out. It's going to be interesting to see if the Royals demote David Lough to make room for him or if maybe they go with five outfielders and send down Mike Moustakas. I doubt they'll release Jeff Francoeur. That homer Sunday should buy him another month.


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Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
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