As the season winds down and bullpen committees continue to populate the landscape, change could be upon us in fantasy baseball. This site featured a terrific article detailing how handling relievers evolves in an interview with A.J. Hinch. Blended bullpens, new roles and keeping pitchers healthy make this column a necessary stop if chasing saves. For starters, 10 different relievers have recorded a save for the White Sox this year. Joakim Soria (16), Nate Jones (5), Jace Fry (4), Hector Santiago (2) and Luis Avilan (2) to this point, although only two of them remain on the roster. Also, Chris Beck, Xavier Cedeno, Juan Minaya, Bruce Rondon and Thyago Vieira each own one save this year. Last night, Ian Hamilton attempted his first career save but incurred the loss giving up a walk-off grand slam to Jason Kipnis. The inning started with Juan Minaya facing one hitter, Josh Donaldson and allowing an infield single after review. Then Caleb Frare entered yielding a hit to Yandy Diaz and recording the innings only out on a popped up bunt by Melky Cabrera. Hamilton then entered and hit Yan Gomes with a pitch prior to the Kipnis slam.
What does all this mean? The team will continue to audition relievers the rest of the season to try and see what roles will be applicable during their rebuild. Jones will handled carefully and it appears will not pitch in consecutive outings. He will be a factor in saves the last week and a half, but not overworked. Jace Fry pitched 1.2 scoreless innings giving up only a walk, but his ability to work more than one inning, along with Minaya make them valuable and not just ninth inning options. It stands to reason, if chasing a save, to avoid this bullpen due to the volatile usage and auditions still to come as the White Sox evaluate their young arms in high leverage.
Only trailing the White Sox by one in terms of pitchers to record a save, the Phillies have nine different relievers to notch a save this year. However, in September, only three saves have been converted, one each by Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek and Hector Neris. They all appear in our reliever chart under the committee designation for good reason. Neshek pitched the ninth on Wednesday preserving a shutout but in a non-save appearance. Over the last two seasons, Neshek owns the lowest ERA of relievers with at least 50 innings pitched (1.47 – 85.2 innings). He’s also only walked four batters in his last 33 outings spanning 30.1 innings. Health has depressed his save totals, along with role, but like the White Sox above, chasing a save with Gabe Kapler at the helm can be a daunting task.
In one of the most unique developments this year, it’s been easier to chase a win with a reliever than a save at times. Crazy? Ryan Yarbrough won his 15th game of the season in Texas Wednesday evening. He appeared as the first pitcher on the mound following the Rays opener, Diego Castillo. Personally calling this the “bridge” to high leverage. Yarbrough’s won seven straight decisions and his last five as a reliever. Over his last eight outings in relief, Yarbrough’s 5-0 with a 2.61 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 26:8 K:BB in 31 innings. Identifying which days he throws proves easier than figuring out the whimsy of Rick Renteria or Kapler in the late innings. This adds to the evolving bullpen theory with teams starting to copy the Rays blueprint this year. It’s time to evolve kids.
As the National League West plays out with the division and playoff berths on the line, Scott Oberg served up a three-run pinch hit home run to Yasiel Puig turning the tide in the game last night. It’s a tough one for Oberg, who pitched in back-to-back games and in three of the last four days. Oberg’s been terrific replacing Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee in a setup role owning a 1.67 ERA, a 6-0 record and 40:7 K:BB in 43 innings dating back to his recall on May 28th prior to last night. Again, volatility rules in bullpens and Oberg still has a 2.25 ERA, 0.50 WHIP and impressive 15:2 K:BB this month after the Puig home run.
Benefiting from this, Kenley Jansen notched his 36th save. Jansen’s converted saves in two of his last three appearances and only given up one run over his last nine games securing saves in all four of his chances within them. On the surface, Jansen’s in the midst of his best month since May with a 1.13 ERA, 2.27 FIP and 0.75 WHIP with eight strikeouts against two walks in eighth innings so far in September. However, heed his precipitous drop in K-BB percentage of 21.3 this year, down over 18 percent compared to last season along with a rise in contact percentage by almost eight percent. While going into his peripherals, Jansen’s swinging strike rate in September sits at 10.3 percent with 78.6 contact allowed but a tidy ERA- of 29. Trying to predict how to value Jansen in 2019 will be open to debate. He’s been able to persevere through heart problems, medication issues and bounce back twice from rough patches. Jansen’s ability to perform under these circumstances cannot be ignored, but neither can his underlying data. Intriguing to say the least. Jansen could be a tremendous value or risk depending on where he’s taken in drafts next year.
Quick Hits: A.J. Minter worked around a hit and two walks for a scoreless ninth inning. He’s not allowed a run his last three outings but needs to reduce traffic to finish the season strong as the Braves closer heading into postseason.
Mychal Givens recorded his eighth save, and seventh in nine chances since the Zach Britton trade. Givens owns a 3.18 ERA and 0.88 WHIP with 15 strikeouts versus six walks his last 17 innings for the Orioles.
Not sure how to react to the Pirates using Felipe Vazquez for the fourth time in the last five days. With the playoffs not in the picture, risking injury to their best reliever does not seem prudent. Vazquez did register his 35th save bouncing back from his blown save on Tuesday. He’s converted 25 of his last 26 save chances but yielded runs in four of his last seven appearances and could be fatigued.
In non-save outings, the Diamondbacks used Brad Ziegler in the seventh, Yoshihisa Hirano in the eighth and Andrew Chafin in the ninth. Not sure fantasy owners should read into this since Hirano’s received the save chances since the demotion of Brad Boxberger from the closer role, but still worth noting.
New York activated Aroldis Chapman from the disabled list and reported he would be eased back into the closer role. However, once he returns to the ninth, order seems to be restored in this bullpen. Plan accordingly.
Last, Pedro Strop hopes to return for a game or two before the season ends, but no guarantee he will make it back or get a save chance. Encouraging, but probably not fantasy worthwhile. The committee will continue.