The ESPYS are coming soon, so I decided it might be time to nominate some relief pitchers for mid-season hardware and steal a little bit of ESPN’s ESPYS thunder (that’s just wrong on more than one level) in the process. Anyway, I’ll soon be handing an award to one of the relief pitchers with a chance to regress in a bad way and I’m calling these awards the Jurrjy’s because Jair Jurrjens was a pitcher that was as up and down as I can recall a pitcher being. He was (is, I could say, after all he still exists, somewhere) a BABIP dependent* pitcher because of a low strikeout rate. For instance, here are his 2011 1st half/2nd half ERA splits: 1.87 in 110.2 1st half innings vs 5.88 in a small sample of 41.1 second half innings. While it might have been better to pick a reliever to name this after, I can’t think of anyone that fits the description better than Jair Jurrjens. The only problem is, I’m not sure if the “winner” is the one whose ERA regresses the most or the one who maintains the mirage. I guess that’s up to the Academy to decide. So without further ado, your 2015 Jurrjy nominees in the “rising ERA” category are: Steve Delabar, middle reliever, Toronto Blue Jays (1.42 ERA /4.05 FIP). Bryan Shaw, middle reliever, Cleveland Indians (2.10 ERA /4.62 FIP). Joakim Soria, closer, Detroit Tigers (2.73 ERA /5.09 FIP). Brad Ziegler, closer, Arizona Diamondbacks (1.45 ERA /3.78 FIP), Darren O’Day, middle reliever, Baltimore Orioles (1.21 ERA /3.17 FIP), and JJ Hoover, middle reliever, Cincinnati Reds (1.31 ERA / 3.10 FIP). (*This article basically claims that pitcher BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) is 75% luck, 13% defense, and 12% pitcher’s skill).
I expect most of these pitchers to end up with a final 2015 ERA about 1.00 to 1.50 points higher than their current ERA, but that’s just a guess off the top of my head. (Hey, I’m seeing the makings of a 2015 year end post here..). I wrote about Joakim Soria last week because I think he can be the exception to the ERA risers, but only if he improves his strikeout rate to his normal levels. The bottom line for all of them is, I don’t think it sounds any major alarms. Brad Ziegler and Joakim Soria should still be owned in all leagues. However, I would consider Brad Ziegler a great sell high for teams that have stockpiled closers. For the middle relievers, I think this means you generally shouldn’t be owning Steve Delabar and Bryan Shaw because if they start pitching like their FIPs suggest they will, that’s just too ugly to own when there are other worthwhile middle relievers. And while we should expect plenty of regression for Darren O’Day, he is a great next in line reliever to own and J.J. Hoover is ownable because Aroldis Chapman is a candidate to be traded.
Last week I wrote about some bullpens that seemed like they were using a closer by committee approach. The Tampa Rays have used Brad Boxberger, Jake McGee and Kevin Jepsen to close out multiple games in June. As of this writing it might be a stretch to call it a committee because Brad Boxberger has nailed down the last five saves. As for the next in line players there, Jake McGee is one of the top next in line relievers on any team, thanks in large part to his closing experience and 24:1(!!!) K:BB ratio, and he’s the first one I’d own but Jepsen is ownable as well. The Cubs have also used three men, but they have primarily stuck with Hector Rondon. At this point Jason Motte looks just as ownable as Pedro Strop and it may soon be Rafael Soriano’s time.
In other situations worth monitoring, Robert Osuna has won the job of Toronto Blue Jays closer at least for now. Even with Cecil replaced by someone superior, I still have to wonder if they will make a trade for Francisco Rodriguez or someone else with closing experience. Bobby Parnell has been good but in my opinion is no threat to Jeurys Familia. Like the aforementioned J.J. Hoover situation, Will Smith, and Evan Scribner are also behind closers with an above average chance to be traded.
SAGNOF (Saves Ain’t Got No Face) recommendations for this week: I’m going back to my recommendations from last week because I see that Will Smith (50%), J.J. Hoover (49%) and Evan Scribner (20%) are nowhere near 100% owned, and I’d also like to remind you that Darren O’Day (75%) is a highly skilled next in line middle reliever. I would like to think that I had some influence on Will Smith’s ownership rising by 41% from last week. I picked him up in a league last week as well and when I look at the ESPN league feature “Active Stats” I see he’s contributed 2.2 IP, 5 K, 2 Wins a 0.00 ERA and 0.75 WHIP to my team. While he is a good pitcher, those stats tell me it’s often better to be lucky than good. In another league, I’ve owned O’Day for quite a while, to the tune of 18 IP, 27 K, 5 Wins, 2 Saves, 1.50 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. That’s the type of stat line that can quietly be the difference for your team. It’s also an example of why I’d generally rather own a skilled middle reliever even if he’s behind a solid closer than a shaky middle reliever behind a shaky closer. Of the previously mentioned players, I think Steve Delabar (66%), Kevin Jepsen (40%) and Bryan Shaw (10%) may be owned too much. I’d rather own any of the above recommendations for saves speculation.
Steals Ain’t Got No Face
Once again, I’ve let S(aves)AGNOF steal the spotlight leaving only time for some quick stolen bases blurbs: Jose Peraza seems to be getting closer to the majors. I don’t think he’d necessarily play every day if called up, but if he were to, I think he could manage .255ish AVG with 17 SBs in half a season. I don’t think he’s good enough to stash for any real length of time, but if you get wind that he’s going to be called up soon then he’s worth adding. Players with increased playing time that I think could be worth owning are: Rougned Odor (79%), Michael Taylor (68%), and Alejandro De Aza (33%). Don’t fret if the one you really wanted is already snatched up because none of them are that special and it’s likely that they could be dropped yet again. Also keep in mind these are not true speedsters but players with some speed that also can do some other things, like hit for a bit of power. I keep forgetting to write about Jose Iglesias (50%) because for some reason I assume he would be owned everywhere a long time ago, but he’s not. In a way, I think that’s good because he’s a bit “flavor of the year”, in my opinion, and I think he will regress but he’s actually proving to be a solid middle infielder that’s worth owning. Just don’t expect him to continue at his current pace for AVG and SB.