Bullpen report: Diving into Jordan Romano’a issues, four relievers on the rise and more

Encapsulating all the changes in the high-leverage ecosystem each week can be difficult. Since our last post, leverage ladder hierarchies have continued to evolve, while injuries and performance have caused adjustments. For instance, the Mets have suffered a blown save in their last seven save opportunities and placed their closer on the injured list with a right shoulder impingement. 

Colorado and Detroit have unsettled situations in their bullpen structures, resulting in shared save pathways that frustrate fantasy managers. 

Milwaukee’s Trevor Megill avoided severe injury on a comeback line drive, which struck his forearm near his elbow. He has a contusion and will return when the swelling subsides. Devin Williams will begin a throwing program and is targeting a return in late July, near the trade deadline. Coincidence? Maybe. 

Per his manager, Evan Phillips will be activated on Friday, a change that will be reflected in our pathway charts. And finally, Jhoan Durán recorded four saves in five days, assuaging the fantasy community’s fears about his role within the Twins’ bullpen hierarchy. 

With that all in mind, let’s check the updated…

Now on to the bullpen overviews!

Recognizing how a manager prefers handling high-leverage innings can create a competitive advantage. Here are our high-leverage pathway identifiers. Each team will receive one of the following labels:

Mostly Linear: This is a more traditional approach, with a manager preferring one reliever in the seventh inning, another in the eighth, and a closer (when rested) in the ninth. There are shades of gray, but it’s usually a predictable leverage pathway. 

Primary Save Share: The Team prefers one reliever as the primary option for saves. However, he may also be used in match-up-based situations, whether dictated by batter-handedness or batting order pockets in the late innings. This provides multiple relievers with save chances each series or week throughout the season. 

Shared Saves: Usually, two relievers split save opportunities, sometimes based on handedness, rest, or recent usage patterns that keep them fresh. While these situations usually rely on a primary and ancillary option, others can get into the mix. Some teams also prefer a match-up-based option, assigning pitchers a hitter pocket for a series, causing fluid save opportunities. 

(For daily coverage of bullpens, check out my work at Reliever Recon and Closer Monkey)

American League High-Leverage Pathways

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AL Notes of Interest

  • Baltimore Orioles: Craig Kimbrel owns a seven-game scoreless streak with eight strikeouts against zero walks with four saves. 
  • Boston Red Sox: It remains a matter of when, not if, regarding a Kenley Jansen trade. Monitor reports as trade talks will ramp up with the trade deadline drawing nearer. 
  • Detroit Tigers: Can Jason Foley regain his April form? Will this bullpen’s lack of swing-and-miss stuff create more problems during high-leverage events? Which reliever emerges with a larger leverage role may determine any stability for this leverage ladder in June. Alex Faedo and Tyler Holton may be intriguing, but usage patterns will dictate fantasy relevance. 
  • Houston Astros: Does Ryan Pressly need a change of scenery? 
  • New York Yankees: In his last outings, Clay Holmes has suffered a loss while converting three of five save opportunities. He has allowed nine hits, four earned runs, and three walks while striking out three through 4.1 innings (2.79 WHIP). Does this represent a blip or a trend? 

National League High-Leverage Pathways

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NL Notes of Interest

  • Chicago Cubs: How long can Héctor Neris outpace his underlying indicators? Will an in-house high-leverage option emerge between Hayden Wesneski and Porter Hodge? 
  • Cincinnati Reds: After a slight mechanical tweak, Alexis Díaz has converted three straight saves and been scoreless in his last four games with five strikeouts against one walk. 
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: As indicated above, Evan Phillips will be activated on Friday, per reports
  • Miami Marlins: It flies beneath the radar, but Tanner Scott has turned his season around. He’s recorded 10 scoreless appearances in May with an 11:5 K:BB through 10.1 innings with a 0.87 WHIP, which enhances his trade value. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent. 
  • Milwaukee Brewers: Manager Pat Murphy provided insight on Trevor Megill’s status in this interview. Nothing definitive about a “few” days, but it beats the alternative. 
  • New York Mets: This leverage ladder has struggled and projects as a shared save situation. Those taking the long view hope Edwin Díaz returns and benefits from a fresh start. Also, keep tabs on Drew Smith. He could garner a save share if he returns soon from his rehab assignment. 

Relievers on the Rise

Jeremiah Estrada (SDP): If only someone had been writing about him soone — wait, he was featured in this spot a week ago! He’s on a prolific streak, striking out the last 13 batters he’s faced. He also owns a modest five-game scoreless streak with multiple strikeouts in each outing, totaling 18 among 21 batters (85.7 strikeout percentage) and a robust 23 percent swinging strike rate. After tweaking his mechanics and changing shape on his pitches, his splits by pitch illustrate his emergence as a leverage force this year: 

Bryan Hudson (MIL): Although he’s not receiving save chances, the southpaw has been scoreless in eight of nine appearances in May with a win and five holds. He’s logged 14 innings in these contests with 19 strikeouts against two walks and a 0.71 WHIP. He’s not flashy but has not displayed any split disadvantages either: 

  • Hudson vs. RHH: .145/.213/.217 slash line, 24:4 K:BB of 75 batters faced
  • Hudson vs. LHH: .152/.216/.242 slash line, 12:3 K:BB of 37 batters faced

Fernando Cruz (CIN): Another valuable reliever despite the lack of save upside, Cruz’s splitter has flummoxed hitters all season. He owns a robust 36.3 swinging strike percentage with it this year (69 whiffs of 190 pitches) and retired all five batters faced his last outing via strikeout with the split-fingered fastball. He leads all relievers with 27 strikeouts in May. 

Cade Smith (CLE): He has a modest seven-game scoreless streak, with 13 strikeouts against one walk, while recording a win, a save, and three holds. He’s settled in as a trusted high-leverage pitcher in the Guardians bullpen. 

Closer Concerns

Jordan Romano (TOR): In nine appearances in May, he’s allowed at least a run in five while going 1-2 with four saves in five chances. He’s logged eighth innings in this sample with eight earned runs allowed and a 1.88 WHIP, and he’s struggling with his four-seam fastball. 

Delving into his splits by pitch, this chart illustrates this year’s results versus the previous three:


Because of this, he’s leaning into his slider, making him predictable: 

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Fantasy managers should monitor his results in June closely. 

High Leverage Ladders

Save Stashes

Ancillary Save Options

Ratio Relievers 

*Multi-inning or bridge relievers who can vulture wins and help protect ratios


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Statistical credits: FanGraphs.comBaseball-Reference.comBaseballSavant.comBrooksBaseball.net

(Top photo: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

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