BLOW-PEN REPORT: Neftali No Es Feliz

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TEXAS RANGERS

After being mostly a starting pitcher in the Minors, Feliz was converted to a relief pitcher upon his Major League arrival in 2009, but the transition appeared smooth for him as he developed into one of the better closers in the game in 2010 and 2011.  But for the 2012 season, the Rangers went out and signed Joe Nathan to be their closer as they shifted Feliz back into a starting pitching role.  This transition back to a starting pitcher didn’t end well as not only were the results not spectacular but Feliz also suffered a serious arm injury that required Tommy John surgery.  When Feliz rejoined the Rangers in late 2013, they changed his role yet again and put him back in the bullpen.  But ever since coming back from the procedure, Feliz’ velocity has been down significantly from where it was pre-Tommy John when he worked as a relief pitcher.  In his hey day, Feliz averaged 96.3 MPH with his fastball.  But since his return up through this season, he has been clocking in around 93.5 MPH with his heater and just not seeing the same results that he had back in 2010-11.

This past Saturday, Neftali Feliz blew the save and took the loss for the Rangers against the Indians and I had this to say about him:

“Rough go for Feliz who is not pitching very well this season and now has a 5.51 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, and is 6 for 9 in save opportunities.  It’s probably not quite time for a change in the Rangers bullpen yet, but one more game like this could do the trick.”

The following day, the Rangers had another late inning lead hosting the Indians as they were up 4-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning.  With a save situation still standing, Feliz got up in the Rangers bullpen to warm up.  But then oddly, while the game was still a 3-run differential with the save opportunity still on its way, Feliz sat down in the bullpen and Shawn Tolleson began to get loose.  The Rangers went on to tack on an insurance run in the inning to take away any potential save opportunity to begin the 9th inning and Tolleson came on to work a clean frame, allowing one hit and striking out two.  Though Tolleson technically didn’t take a save away from Feliz, it was certainly an interesting sequence of events and has to have some meaning behind it.

Here is what else I said this past Saturday after Feliz blew the save and took the loss:

“The candidates to take over would be Shawn Tolleson and Keone Kela.  Tolleson has been working the 8th inning in front of Feliz, and although his 3.86 ERA isn’t great, his 22 K/3 BB in 16.1 IP is dazzling.  The 22-year old rookie Kela owns a 2.55 ERA and has been working the 7th inning and is considered the closer of the future, but he had a fart of a game himself.  I would put Tolleson ahead of Kela for next in line due to Tolleson’s superb K/BB ratio and because of Kela’s lack of experience in the Majors.  I give permission to stash Tolleson right meow.”

At the very least, Feliz could be looking at some sort of possible injury that he dealt with while getting loose on Sunday.  Or in the most extreme of situations, one that would impact the fantasy baseball community immensely, Feliz could be out as the team’s closer due to his poor performance up to this point.  And Rangers manager Jeff Bannister went on to say there are no defined roles in the bullpen at the moment to possibly shut down any suspicion of a Feliz injury, but to confirm that there could be an imminent changing of the guard.

Well, hopefully on Saturday evening you were able to get that waiver claim in for Tolleson like I suggested, especially if you are a Feliz owner.  You really should listen to me!  Although it is entirely possible that Kela gets a chance, so he would not be a terrible grab either for those speculating on saves.

Getting Cranky With Greinke (and other notes from 5/16/15)

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Zack Greinke pitched on Saturday night versus the Rockies and he finished the game going 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the loss.  It is a tough luck loss for Greinke, but he is looking like a nice sell candidate for any Greinke owners out there.  He is 5-1 with a 1.52 ERA and 0.88 WHIP and he pitches in front of an offense that can score with the best of them, so the opportunities to log a lot of wins will be there.  And his strikeout to walk ratio of 44 K/11 BB is very solid.  So what’s not to like?

According to PITCHf/x data, Greinke’s fastball velocity for the most part has progressively gotten worse every season since 2009 from 93.7 MPH to 90.6 MPH this year.  Greinke is dealing with a 1.2 MPH decline in his fastball velocity from last year to this year, which would qualify as the largest drop in a single season during the time frame from 2009-present.  Though he has maintained his excellent control, his strikeout rate is down from 9.21 K/9 last year to a current season mark of 7.42 K/9 with the likely culprit being the aforementioned velocity loss.

From when Greinke first entered the Majors in 2007 all the way through 2012, the slider pitch was his bread and butter and he used it anywhere from 15.1% to 19.2% of the time during those years.  But a strange thing happened in 2013 after he signed a 6-year/$148 million contract with the Dodgers.  His slider usage that year mysteriously dropped to 5.4%.  The reasoning behind it though was that Greinke understood that the slider is known to be the most stressful pitch on the arm/elbow, so he intentionally used it less that year an in effort to preserve his health for the long term and for the duration of his newly minted deal.  However, that slider had been his most effective pitch over the course of his career, so subtracting it from his arsenal (or using it more seldom) had an adverse effect.  Greinke’s strikeout rate was at just 7.50 K/9 in that season, which was one of the lowest marks that he had ever since having a breakthrough season in 2008.  Perhaps it was a coincidence, but I see it more as a causal relationship because in the following 2014 season, Greinke apparently had a change of heart and ramped back up his slider usage to 17.5% and finished the season with a healthy 9.21 K/9.

So with his slider usage back up last year and currently at an all-time high this year, could it be that it has had adverse effects to be the cause to his diminished velocity?  There is no actual way of knowing, but I believe it to be a valid theory.  Furthermore on Greinke and being a sell candidate, his SIERA currently sits about 2 full runs higher than his actual ERA, he is stranding base runners at a high mark over 85%, and his .217 BABIP is super low.  He has only once posted a BABIP under .300, and that was way back in his rookie season.

With the name value, the stunning stats on the surface, and playing for a good team, you should be able to get a good return on the Greinkster.  I envision him to be more of a 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP type of pitcher while maintaining strikeout and walk rates near his current marks. That’s not terrible, and at least the great win potential is still there, but there’s someone out there who will look at his current stats and erroneously think that he is a fantasy ace.

Keep on reading to see what else happened for Saturday’s baseball action. Continue reading