Thursday, July 21, 2011

Warming Up In The 'Pen: NL Edition: July 21st, 2011

Greetings once more, folks!

While we haven't had that blockbuster of a deal involving the back-end of anyone's 'pen like last week (trade deadline's only 10 days away!), there is a bit of news that's worthwhile to report about one of my picks from the last NL article. Let's get to that previous week review:
  • Drew Storen was straight dominant in two appearances this last week, both saves. He only allowed one hit in two innings of work, fanning four in the process and walking none.
  • Logan Ondrusek and Nick Masset saw a good amount of work this past week (three appearances for Masset, four for Ondrusek). Each added a hold to his line, working 5.1 innings of scoeless ball combined. Each man allowed a hit, a walk, and a strikeout over the last seven days.
  • Francisco Cordero seemed to recover nicely from being the co-"Heart Attack Winner" this past week, notching two saves in two perfect innings of work...
  • ...But Carlos Marmol went pure nuclear, giving up six earned runs in 1.2 innings of work. He only gave up three hits, but allowed an astounding seven walks in three outings. The Cubs are working Marmol on the side to fix up a "mechanical flaw" centered around his slider, and have installed Sean Marshall as the go-to closer for the team in the interim.
  • Zach Braddock continued to be, well, Zach Braddock, giving up four runs on two hits and two walks in his only appearance over the last week. Oh, by the way, did I mention he didn't even record a single out? I think that's enough about Mr. Braddock for now.
 So onto this week's fun!
  • Our "Doing Work" star is none other than John Axford from the Milwaukee Brewers. Since the Francisco Rodriguez trade, Axford has doled out three saves in four outings, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits in four innings. He walked two in those outings, but also punched out four. If K-Rod's arrival on the scene has phased the young right-hander, it hasn't shown. The Brew-Crew have stayed the course using Axford as their closer, even after acquiring K-Rod, and it's not hard to see why: 26/28 Saves, 1.52 GO/AO ratio, 3.00 K/BB ratio, and a 73% Contact Percentage. He's a strike-thrower, pitches to contact, and lets his defense help him. Even though the defense behind him is the third worst in the NL, his stats say that he's perfectly capable of doing things himself (reference the K/BB ratio, and his FIP of 2.28 versus his ERA of 2.78). But the stats also tell us that he could be walking a fine line. His WHIP (1.368), H/9 (8.5), and BAbip (.353) are all pretty hefty numbers. While a sub-par defense (and gracious scorers) could be driving numbers like those upward, it could be indicative of a younger arm starting to tire and lose the control that contact pitchers need to be effective. Axford is on-pace to work more innings (74.1) than he's ever pitched in the Majors, and the second most in his career as a whole (his most being his '08 stint with Milwaukee's A+ club at 95 IP).The K-Rod deal could easily have been one to bolster the 'pen and save Axford's arm. K-Rod's a proven commodity and could help down the stretch while the club eases Axford into more innings, instead of sacrificing a solid "future considerations" arm. Fantasy owners should read that as: the Brewers will likely ease off using the young phenom as the season soldiers on, bringing K-Rod in for more save opps come August and September, especially if the Brew-Crew finds themselves in an NL Central dogfight near the end. And for those of you wondering, K-Rod's line since coming to the Brew-Crew: 1-0, 6.00 ERA, 0/1 Saves, 1 Hold, 3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
  • This week's "Unsung Hero" has been mentioned in my previous article: Jason Isringhausen of the New York Mets. Post K-Rod, Izzy has been dubbed the closer in this MacGyver'ed back-end of the Mets' 'pen, and he's come out strong. He worked three games this week, notching save #294 in his career (and win #47). Through four shutout innings (including two innings of work last night), he allowed two hits and two walks, but sat down six. The 38 year-old northpaw gets a lot of help from his defense nowadays (0.58 GO/AO, .221 BAbip, 2.76 ERA vs 4.28 FIP), but does still have something left in the cannon (1.80 K/BB with 27 Ks in 32.2 IP). The big thing with Izzy will be stamina. Terry Collins has stated that Izzy will get a day or two off after pitching two innings last night, and that likely means any save opportunities will fall to Bobby Parnell (who, incidentally, got the hold in Izzy's save). There are rumblings that Izzy could be dealt by the Trade Deadline, which would be a blow to Mets fans and baseball at large (Izzy has a chance to hit 300 saves with the same club he broke in with), but could be an interesting twist for fantasy leagues with Holds as a stat as Izzy could fit into the eighth inning plans of several staffs. I would say grab Izzy up if he's available in free agency or the waiver wire in your 5x5 or 6x6 league, but I also wouldn't mortgage the farm to get him. His age may put him as only a temporary solution in whatever bullpen he's in.
  • The "Heart Attack Award" for today goes to Fernando Salas of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards have scuffled of late, losing three straight, and seven of their last ten. Salas hasn't exactly helped right the ship in his last three outings, saving one, blowing one, and losing two (including the blown save). He gave up three runs in three innings, allowed five hits (including two longballs), and only struck out two. While Fernando's numbers this season are no slouch (2.68 ERA, 17/20 Saves, 0.915 WHIP, 4.18 K/BB, .569 OPS, .227 BAbip), the fact that he's melted down in the last week when the Cards have been desperate to stay atop their division is distressing. Though there's not many numbers to back this up (he only made his ML debut in late May of '10), Salas could be in for a rough second half. Cards fans will be hoping for a turn-around from Salas and a quick return to his "old" form. Otherwise, Jason Motte is waiting in the wings for a shot to get the Cards back into the thick of the hunt. Fantasy owners may want to be aware of things like these: 4.78 ERA, 1 Save, 1.595 WHIP, 1.93 K/BB, .859 OPS, .324 BAbip. Those are Salas' second-half numbers. Again, Salas is only 26, and is pitching in his first FULL season with the Cards, so take the numbers as you will. My opinion is one of cautious optimism in Salas' youth and current production, but keep other options on your roster in case the bottom does (once again) fall out.
  • My "ZOMBIE!" is the aforementioned Carlos Marmol of the Cubs. His season has seemed to go from bad to worse. Now the Cubs are trying to get his mechanics back in shape with his slider. The Cubs are hoping to platoon Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood in the closer's role while Marmol gets right, but neither one of those men has been exactly lighting things up (3.18 and 3.45 ERAs respectively, with 2/7 Saves between them). Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the Cubs are 14 games out, and can take the time to get Marmol back to form. To fantasy owners who still have Marmol, I think it's safe to let go at this point and attempt to get someone that'll be more useful to the depth of your rotation.
Next week is looking to be a doozy. Not much in the way of big moves just yet, but the way the trade winds are swirling, it could be the calm before the storm.

As always, comments are welcome below or reach out to me on Twitter @JCPronkFan48.

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