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Bullpen Report: April 22, 2019

By now, we have all become aware of the home run explosion that’s occurred in the early weeks and the appearance of a juiced ball. High-leverage relievers have not been immune to the deluge of dingers. Josh Hader, Matt Barnes and Kenley Jansen all allowed home runs on Sunday that led to a loss or a blown save. The three normally-reliable relievers have teamed up to allow seven home runs over their last 8.1 innings combined. Hader has allowed homers in each of his last three appearances, Barnes has allowed one in each of his last two outings, and Jansen has given up two homers over his last three appearances.

Despite the rash of long balls, it’s far too soon to be concerned about any of the three. Hader is still missing bats at a stratospheric rate, sporting a 22.8 percent SwStr%. However, his flyball rate of 72.2 percent is even more otherworldly. It’s nearly double the major league average of 36.7 percent. Not only is Hader letting the ball get lofted, but hitters are making a lot of hard contact on those airborne balls, averaging 97.4 mph in exit velocity (per Baseball Savant). As he accumulates more innings, this could become a real problem barring some serious regression, even with his healthy whiff rate.
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Bullpen Report: April 19, 2019

I know it’s early, but I think we can spot a pattern with Mychal Givens.

It’s fair to call Givens the Orioles’ primary closer, but a better (if not catchier) title would be “guy who comes in to clean up a mess in the eighth inning.” On Thursday night, and for the fifth time this season, Givens was called upon with runners on base in the eighth inning. Paul Fry and Evan Phillips had already allowed the Rays to whittle a 5-2 lead down to 5-4, but Givens restored order by getting the final two outs. In coming back out for the ninth inning, Givens had a chance to collect his first save of the season, but a one-out solo shot by Avisail Garcia ruined that.
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National League Lineup Analysis: April 18, 2019

We are now three full weeks into the season, and managers are starting to respond to players’ hot and cold starts. That gives the fantasy owners of players like Brian Dozier, Kyle Schwarber, and Ender Inciarte something more to think about, and owners of Yasmani Grandal and Manuel Margot something to feel good about.

Here are the lineup and batting order trends of note for each of the 15 teams in the senior circuit.
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Bullpen Report: April 17, 2019

The Phillies, Red Sox and Twins have made it difficult to know who we can rely on for saves, but that’s been pretty much by design. Suddenly, the Braves’ bullpen has become possibly the toughest one to figure out.

When the Braves placed Arodys Vizcaino (shoulder) on the IL on Sunday, that appeared to actually simplify their bullpen situation, as A.J. Minter figured to inherit virtually all of the save opportunities. The lefty fared well enough on Sunday night, pitching a perfect ninth inning in a Braves 7-3 win over the Mets. The stakes were a little higher on Tuesday night, as Minter was charged with keeping the score knotted at 6-6, giving his offense a chance to top the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth inning with a single run. It took only two pitches for Minter to allow the Diamondbacks to surge ahead, as Christian Walker drove a cutter in the middle of the strike zone for a solo home run. He was charged with two more runs when Jacob Webb allowed an Adam Jones double that brought in two inherited baserunners.
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What Has Happened to Carlos Carrasco and Miles Mikolas?

After Monday’s smallish slate of games, there have been a total of 241 games played so far this season. That’s 9.9 percent of the total schedule. By the time Tuesday’s games are done, the status bar will have moved to 10.5 percent. For a very brief moment, we still have the opportunity to say, “we’re not even 10 percent through this season!”. That’s something of a comfort when coping with the angst that comes with having drafted players who underperform early in the season.

Mike Podhorzer has looked into a number of slow starters in separate columns for hitters and pitchers, and a couple of the subjects from the latter column have been particularly concerning to me. Mike pointed out that Carlos Carrasco and Miles Mikolas are both posting a lower SwStr% so far this season, but what had caught my eye about them was where they were ranking on Baseball Savant’s leaderboard for exit velocity on flyballs and line drives (EV FB/LD).
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Bullpen Report: April 15, 2019

Perplexing bullpen situations did not get less perplexing on Sunday.

After the Phillies’ 3-1, 14-inning win over the Marlins, I am leaving their portion of the closer grid untouched, but that hardly means that the saves picture is getting clearer. Brian Anderson‘s home run in the bottom of the sixth inning knotted the game up at 1-1, and it would stay that way for seven-and-a-half innings. Because the Phillies were the visiting team, it’s hard to read too much into Gabe Kapler’s choice to use Pat Neshek in the seventh, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris in the eighth and David Robertson in the ninth and 10th.
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Bullpen Report: April 12, 2019

Ken Giles‘ nearly perfect season finally hit a snag on Thursday night. Through his first six appearances, the Blue Jays’ closer had not allowed a run through 5.2 innings, and the only baserunners he put on were by way of two singles, a double and a walk. In appearance number seven, Giles started off the bottom of the ninth inning against the Red Sox by getting Andrew Benintendi to ground out, but that would be the last out he would get. After walking Mookie Betts and giving up a Mitch Moreland RBI double, the Blue Jays’ 6-5 lead had vanished.

Then Giles intentionally walked J.D. Martinez, but it backfired, as he loaded the bases with an unintentional walk to Xander Bogaerts and coughed up Rafael Devers‘ walk-off single. Devers’ chopper had an xBA of .100, but he wouldn’t have been in a position to win the game if Giles hadn’t issued three walks, two of which were unintentional. Walks have generally not been an issue for Giles the last couple of seasons, and he has been good at inducing out-of-zone chases throughout his career. Despite the poor results on Thursday night, there is no reason for Giles’ owners to panic.
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National League Lineup Analysis: April 11, 2019

The past week in lineups has featured some interesting developments, including a couple of bottom-of-the-order hitters being highly productive and the outfield mixes for the Padres and Giants shifting a bit. I’m breaking the lineups down, team-by-team, starting…now.

Arizona

With Jake Lamb (quad) out for at least five more weeks, first base appears to belong to Christian Walker, as he had started every game since Lamb went on the IL up until Thursday night’s game against the Padres. Jarrod Dyson has started six of the seven games with a right-handed starter, all in center field. That hasn’t resulted in a reduced role for Ketel Marte, as he has started every game so far, playing second base when Dyson is in center field. It’s Wilmer Flores who has gotten squeezed out of playing time, starting only seven of the team’s 13 games.
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Bullpen Report: April 10, 2019

We often begin this column with the grisly details of the latest reliever meltdown. So why not start things off this time with some good news?

A pair of closers who had forgettable 2018 seasons are off to a nice start in 2019. Ken Giles recorded his third save in as many tries on Tuesday, securing the Blue Jays’ 7-5 win over the Red Sox. He has yet to allow a run in 5.2 innings, though this appearance was a little more eventful than his past ones from this season. Giles issued his first walk of the year, which came on the heels of a Dustin Pedroia leadoff single. Then he needed all of three pitches to retire Blake Swihart and Andrew Benintendi, and after going to a full count on Mookie Betts, Giles finished him off by getting him to chase a low slider.
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This May Not Be Last Season’s Trevor Williams

Trevor Williams ranked 32nd in Roto value for standard 12-team mixed leagues last season. Yet the Pirates’ righty typically went undrafted in those formats this year (292 FantasyPros ADP), and it’s not hard to figure out why. Williams was below average as a strikeout pitcher (18.0 percent K-rate) and didn’t stand out as a control pitcher or inducer of chases or ground balls. His .261 BABIP and 76.6 percent strand rate were just favorable enough to make owners suspicious.

I liked the 2018 version of Williams. I drafted him in my 12-team Head-to-Head points league and wish I had picked him up in a few more places. Last season, there were three pitchers who allowed at least 500 batted balls, averaged less than 91 mph on exit velocity on flyballs and line drives and averaged less than 83 mph on exit velocity on ground balls. They were Williams, Zack Wheeler and Miles Mikolas. In research I conducted this offseason with Alex Chamberlain, we learned that EV FB/LD has been positively correlated with HR/FB over the last four seasons and EV GB has positively correlated with BABIP. Both EV measurements have also had statistically significant (p < .05) year-to-year correlations.
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