I find mining for holds to be a pretty thankless endeavor. While one might gripe about wins and saves being particularly fickle (and of course, potentially meaningless), every time I feel like I have a grasp on my holds for the season, the ebb and flow of late inning talent wipes it all away. With that in mind, there are a few guys I’d like to draw your attention to relative to holds.
On the season, Jeurys Familia has a 1.89 ERA (3.00 FIP) and 1.18 WHIP. He has just a 20% strikeout rate despite an average fastball topping 96 mph and an altogether too high 10% walk rate. But over the last month, few relievers have been as dominant as the late-inning Met reliever. In his last 12 games he’s thrown 11 innings, given up just five hits, giving up one run and striking out eight.
The knock on Familia is his wildness, however, and over the last month he’s also had a 12.5% walk rate and xFIP pegs him at something closer to 4.00. But if you’re digging deep on holds, he’s managed to register five of them out of those 12 outings. He started the season appearing mostly in the sixth and seventh innings but since the beginning of July, he’s been used almost exclusively to set up Jenrry Mejia. And heck, if you’re looking to snipe some saves, Mejia is dealing with some kind of calf issue, so it might be worthwhile to stash Familia anyway.
Another hot hand has been Bryan Morris for the Florida Marlins, who was traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates for a competitive balance pick back on June 1. Morris has posted a 0.82 ERA over his last 12 games, giving up seven hits and striking out 13. In that span, he’s registered five holds and much like Familia, Morris has been used almost exclusively in the eighth inning to set up his closer Steve Cishek. As a Pirate, Morris was pretty terrible with an FIP near 6 and a strikeout rate of just over 13%. Since heading to the Marlins though, Morris has had some kind of switch flip. In 31 innings with the fish, he’s 3-0 with a 0.29 ERA (2.59 FIP), a 1.02 WHIP, and a 24% K rate.
The big difference seems to be in the number of cutters the Marlins have him using, dialing back the use of his pretty solid 95+mph fastball:
But regardless, the results have certainly been there, and although his cumulative season statistics might not be terribly sexy, Morris looks like a pretty decent bet going forward.
Lastly, there’s Brandon Maurer who was simply terrible as a starter going on two years. His career results over 102 innings as a starter include a 6.62 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, a 15% strikeout rate, 8% walk rate, all while allowing a .312/.371/.517 slash line. He basically turned everyone into Robinson Cano. Few outside of Seattle have noticed his body of work to date as a reliever, however.
The Mariners pulled the plug on Maurer the starter and brought him up in late June to give the bullpen another power arm. Since that time, he’s amassed almost 20 innings pitched, allowed ten hits, 23 strikeouts (32% K rate), posted a 0.47 ERA and held opponents to a .147/.194/.191 slash line. As a reliever, Maurer has routinely sat in the high-90’s with his fastball and save for one outing where he let his control get away from him, he’s been absolutely dominant. There are many among the Seattle faithful who have not-so-quietly called him a closer of the future, which is really saying something for a guy who appeared lucky to be considered even organizational depth as recently as April. He’s frequently featured in late innings and since July 21 he’s picked up four holds. Going forward, there’s really no reason to expect his role to change.
Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.