Let’s check in on a few ninth-inning situations from around the game …
- The Athletics are engineering a change in their closer situation, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). Just-minted All-Star Liam Hendriks is going to be relied upon to secure final-inning leads for the foreseeable future, she indicates. Blake Treinen had performed the job with aplomb last year but hasn’t been nearly so trustworthy in 2019. He has been issuing a dizzying number of walks of late and took a loss in his most recent appearance after returning from a brief injured-list stint. Hendriks, meanwhile, is humming along at a 1.29 ERA clip through 48 2/3 innings, with 11.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. He has only permitted a single long ball this year, with a paltry 1.8% HR/FB rate. That’ll need to hold up, at least to some extent, if he’s to succeed with an exceptionally flyball heavy approach; his current 0.56 GB/FB rate is by far the lowest in his career.
- While Greg Holland was and probably still is at risk of losing his hold on the 9th with the Diamondbacks, he’ll still be in line for save duties unless and until we hear otherwise. Skipper Torey Lovullo tells reporters, including Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link), that he won’t “run from” the veteran reliever — even after a pair of brutal outings. Last we checked, Lovullo was sleeping on the decision so he could make it “with a clear head.” It seems he wasn’t quite ready to open that can of worms. The team would no doubt prefer for Holland to work through things, as we explored in the above-linked post. Another factor: the alternatives, or lack thereof. It has been an off year for Archie Bradley, though he fares much better in the eyes of fielding-independent pitching metrics than his 5.21 ERA would suggest. It’s the opposite scenario for Yoan Lopez, who has secured excellent results despite a pedestrian 6.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. There’s an argument for Andrew Chafin (3.03 ERA; 11.2 K/9 vs. 3.3 BB/9) and perhaps Yoshihisa Hirano, who long closed in Japan, but it isn’t as if there’s a single, clear alternative to Holland.
- In more forward-looking news, surprise Royals closer Ian Kennedy is settling nicely into his new gig, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes. “I]t’s fun to be good at something again and contribute,” says the former starter. While his big contract will run out after 2020, the 34-year-old Kennedy says he anticipates continuing his career thereafter. “You can sign one-year or two-year deals,” he explains, “because even though you’re older, teams know you can still pitch and help a team. You look around the league and you see that all the time.” We’re still a ways away from considering Kennedy as a free agent, but perhaps he will have a shot at a productive run through his mid to late-thirties. Of more immediate concern for the foundering K.C. club is whether Kennedy can be turned into a trade chip. With $16.5MM salaries this year and next, there’s little chance of moving all of the money, but Kennedy’s relief revival makes it reasonable to expect that some kind of deal can be structured to save the rebuilding organization some cash.