RELIEVERS: Best BPVs in June

This week the column reviews June's top BPV performers with at least ten innings. LIMA filters have been lightly applied as well—HR/9 under 1.2 was the key there. There are two groupings—BPV over 200, and BPV between 175-199. Let's start with the 200+ BPV relievers. Here is a chart:

June                Sv  IP   ERA xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9 BPV
===============     == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===
C.Green (NYY)        0 13.0 0.69 2.20 0.92 15.9 23.0  0.0 279
W.Smith (SF) (L)     9 12.7 0.71 2.07 0.71 15.6  7.3  0.7 238
J.Taylor (BOS) (L)   0 10.7 5.06 2.80 1.31 13.5 16.0  0.8 233
N.Ramirez (LAA)      0 16.3 0.00 2.64 0.55 11.6 21.0  0.0 215
B.Hand (CLE) (L)     9 13.3 4.05 2.74 1.05 13.5 10.0  0.7 215
J.Hader (MIL) (L)    6 12.7 0.71 2.18 0.71 17.1  4.8  0.7 214
G.Gallegos (STL)     0 14.0 0.00 2.70 0.50 10.3  --   0.0 202

First, four of the seven relievers on this list are left-handed. Three of those four left-handers are closers—the only closers on this list. Five of the seven have an actual ERA under 1.00(!) The two that do not, Josh Taylor (LHP, BOS) and Brad Hand (LHP, CLE) have expected ERAs (xERAs) in line with the entire cohort—an xERA between 2.07 and 2.80. Taylor is also the only one on this list with a WHIP over 1.05. All seven have Dom over 10.0, ranging from 10.3 to Josh Hader's (LHP, MIL) 17.1. Five of these relievers have a command ratio at 10.0 or higher for June. Will Smith (LHP, SF) has "only" a 7.3 command ratio. Hader has a 4.8 command ratio, which means he did have an elevated walk rate (3.5). Home runs were suppressed across the board. Chad Green (RHP, NYY) leads the entire list with a 279 BPV in June. That is a surprise, when compared to his terrible start to 2019. Given the carnage across MLB bullpens in June, it was a great showing for these seven relievers.

And here are these relievers year-to-date BPIs, with what owners should expect going forward:

YTD                 Sv  IP   ERA xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9 BPV
===============     == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===
C.Green (NYY)        0 26.3 6.49 3.63 1.56 12.3  6.0  2.1 185
W.Smith (SF) (L)    21 32.3 1.95 2.25 0.74 13.6  7.0  0.8 213
J.Taylor (BOS) (L)   0 10.7 5.06 2.80 1.31 13.5 16.0  0.8 233
N.Ramirez (LAA)      0 39.7 2.95 3.77 1.03 10.9  4.0  1.6 136
B.Hand (CLE) (L)    22 34.3 2.36 2.95 0.93 13.1  6.3  0.5 176
J.Hader (MIL) (L)   18 37.7 1.91 2.13 0.66 17.4  6.1  1.4 239
G.Gallegos (STL)     0 34.7 2.60 2.77 0.81 12.7  8.2  1.0 199

Now let's really dig into these relievers. The Yankees have gotten a ton of mileage out of Chad Green (RHP, NYY) the past few seasons. But this year started horribly for Green, just as the Yankees had to start the year without Dellin Betances (RHP, NYY) as well. Zach Britton (LHP, NYY), Adam Ottavino (RHP, NYY) and Thomas Kahnle (RHP, NYY) picked up most of the slack. Green has been lower than all of those relievers and closer Aroldis Chapman (LHP, NYY) in leverage in 2019 with just a 0.85 LI. And for Green, that stellar June came in just 0.77 LI, so not much leverage. But Green seems to have righted the ship and four of his last five appearances have been clean ones. Look for more Green than Jonathan Holder (RHP, NYY) in July and if he continues at his June clip, look for Green to get back into a familiar leverage set-up role by August.

Next on the list is Giants closer Will Smith (LHP, SF). Smith will be a trade target as an elite lefty more than as a closer. And yet, he has a 213 BPV on the year and would likely be the best reliever on any team he joins. As long as he is saving games, he will be on elite value lists. But if he gets traded in late July to a team that puts him in flexible non-closing leverage against tough left-handers, a la Andrew Miller (LHP, STL) in recent years, then expect his value to fall to a highly skilled vulture non-closer. Owners might consider this possibility and trade him; he will be worth owning even in a non-closer role.

Unheralded lefty Josh Taylor (LHP, BOS) finds himself on this list for Boston. Taylor has only pitched in June and it has been terrific. Taylor is the lefty that the Red Sox so desperately need in the bullpen. He is behind Matt Barnes (RHP, BOS) and Brandon Workman (RHP, BOS) in June leverage, but surprisingly ahead of Ryan Brasier (RHP, BOS) and Marcus Walden (RHP, BOS) although it is pretty close. Taylor and Walden are the ones inheriting runners. If Taylor can keep pitching at a 233 BPV clip (or even at a 120-150 BPV clip) he will remain in leverage and he will be critical to the Red Sox ability to hold leads down the stretch.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are closing with Hansel Robles (RHP, LAA) and are giving the big leverage moments to Ty Buttrey (RHP, LAA). And for the most part, it is working. But the best reliever in June for the Angels was Noe Ramirez (RHP, LAA), albeit in just a low 0.77 LI. Ramirez is up from a 0.41 LI across the season, but that's still plenty low for a 215 BPV performer. The reason is that Ramirez has had acute gopheritis earlier in the year (1.6 HR/9 for the season; no homers in June). If Ramirez can keep it in the park, he has a superb 2.95 actual ERA and 1.03 WHIP, fully supported by the BPIs, aside from the HR/9. Owners cannot expect the Angels to stir the roles too much while things are working. But Ramirez was a perfect eight-of-eight clean appearances in June and could be climbing the pecking order if it keeps up.

Brad Hand (LHP, CLE) is the Indians closer and he will remain in that role. He is the team's best reliever and it isn't even close. The only worry is that Hand might be traded if the team falls out of contention. But so far, the Indians are right there in the thick of the wild-card hunt. A team would have to go crazy to get Hand, and with other elite lefties for sale, the chances of a trade here seem remote.

Josh Hader (LHP, MIL) is the Brewers closer too—by necessity. The Brewers might like to use him a bit more flexibly, but when it comes down to Junior Guerra (RHP, MIL) and Matt Albers (RHP, MIL) as next in line, Hader has to do it all. Notably, Hader has fewer appearances than four other relievers on Milwaukee in the month of June. But his 1.68 LI dwarfs the 1.05 LI and below for the other four. As long as he doesn't break, Hader will be the closer, strikeout maven and WHIP/ERA preserver you expect him to be with his 239 BPV across the season-to-date.

Last is Giovanny Gallegos (RHP, STL) who will not close for the Cardinals now that Jordan Hicks (RHP, STL) is out of the year. Gallegos falls behind John Gant (RHP, STL) and Andrew Miller (LHP, STL) setting up Carlos Martinez (RHP, STL). Gallegos should see his LI go up from the season's 0.64 LI and June's 0.87 LI. Gallegos has shown the best skills in the Cardinals pen across the season so far and his 202 June BPV is right in line with his season's 199 BPV. He strikes batters out (12.7 Dom), he doesn't walk anyone (8.2 K/BB) and he keeps the ball in the park (1.0 HR/9). Gallegos has a 2.60 actual ERA fully supported by a 2.77 xERA and a superb 0.81 WHIP. Gallegos is down the list for saves, but he has everything you want from an elite skill set.

Next, here are relievers who posted a 175-199 BPV in June, and otherwise meet the additional criteria (at least 10 innings, HR/9 under 1.2):

June                Sv  IP   ERA xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9 BPV
===============     == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===
I.Kennedy (KC)       8 11.3 3.97 3.42 1.15 12.7  8.0  0.0 198
D.Hernandez (CIN)    0 10.0 5.40 2.59 0.90 12.6  7.0  0.9 190
O.Perez (CLE) (L)    0 11.0 2.45 3.17 0.91  9.0  --   0.8 187
A.Bummer (CHW) (L)   1 13.7 2.63 2.30 0.80 10.5  5.3  0.7 185
S.Oberg (COL)        3 16.3 2.76 2.65 0.92 12.7  4.6  0.6 183
B.Martin (TEX) (L)   0 11.7 0.77 2.43 0.94  8.5 11.0  0.8 177
A.Adams (SEA)        0 14.0 2.57 2.62 1.00 14.1  3.7  0.6 175

There are three left-handers in this group of seven and one right-handed closer, Ian Kennedy (RHP, KC). Actual ERAs are mostly between 2.45-2.76, with Kennedy (3.97) and David Hernandez (RHP, CIN) and his 5.40 actual ERA as outliers at the high end, and Brett Martin (LHP, TEX) with just a 0.77 actual ERA in June. xERAs range from Aaron Bummer's (LHP, CHW) 2.30 xERA to Kennedy's 3.42 xERA. All seven have a WHIP under 1.15. Five of the seven have a Dom over 10.0, and the worst command ratio is Austin L. Adams (RHP, SEA) at 3.7 K/BB. All seven kept the ball in the park in June. These relievers posted strong skills across the board in a month that was generally very rough on relievers.

And here are these relievers year-to-date BPIs, with what owners should expect going forward:

YTD                 Sv  IP   ERA xERA WHIP  DOM  CMD HR/9 BPV
===============     == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===
I.Kennedy (KC)      10 32.0 3.38 3.54 1.22 11.3  8.0  0.6 186
D.Hernandez (CIN)    1 34.7 4.15 3.69 1.18 11.4  4.0  0.5 136
O.Perez (CLE) (L)    0 23.7 3.04 3.26 1.06 11.0  9.7  1.1 187
A.Bummer (CHW) (L)   1 25.0 1.80 2.56 0.80  9.4  3.7  0.4 147
S.Oberg (COL)        3 37.7 2.15 3.71 1.04  9.1  2.4  0.7  87
B.Martin (TEX) (L)   0 26.7 4.39 3.75 1.20  6.8  4.0  1.4 113
A.Adams (SEA)        0 20.7 3.05 2.38 1.02 15.2  3.5  0.9 185

Ian Kennedy (RHP, KC), of course, is the Royals closer. He has ramped it up with eight saves in June (now ten on the year) but he has otherwise pitched just as he has all season—to a 186 BPV. That'll play anywhere—not just in Kansas City. For weird reasons only known to Ned Yost, Kennedy is fourth in leverage index at 0.87 LI on the year. Kennedy's 1.02 LI in June was also fourth on the team. He is far and away the best skill set—maybe Yost should use Kennedy more and differently, or at least in more leverage. Expect Kennedy to keep clicking along, getting whatever saves the Royals generate. He should be in more leverage than 0.87 LI, though.

The Reds have the misfortune of having a 190 BPV reliever in June with a 5.40 actual ERA over that same span. David Hernandez (RHP, CIN) has a 4.15 actual ERA across the season with a 3.69 xERA; it seems unlikely that his 2.59 xERA in June would lead to a 5.40 actual ERA, but those are the quirks generated when the sample size is just 10 innings. Hernandez has been terrific, obviously, and the Reds do like him in leverage. He has a 1.31 LI on the year and a consistent 1.26 LI in June—both numbers second only to closer Raisel Iglesias (RHP, CIN). Expect Hernandez to remain the main right-handed set-up for the Reds—the 5.40 actual ERA in June, notwithstanding.

Cleveland's second lefty after Hand is Oliver Perez (LHP, CLE), who posted a nice 187 BPV in June that fits perfectly in line with his 187 BPV across the season-to-date. Perez has the nice wipe-out skills in a second lefty role and as long as the Indians limit him to this purpose, he will put up the skills numbers. Aside from that, his value is limited and he only has 23.7 innings half way into the season, so buyers should probably look elsewhere unless the Indians trade some cogs in their pen.

Aaron Bummer (LHP, CHW) is also an elite lefty this year for Chicago where he has eclipsed Jace Fry (LHP, CHW). Bummer had only a 1.08 LI in June (0.98 on the season) but the skills are there for the entire year-to-date. Bummer has much the same problem as Perez in that he is innings-starved. The White Sox "should" be using Bummer more and more in leverage. But so far, that's not happening, limiting his effectiveness for your team's purposes.

Colorado used Scott Oberg (RHP, COL) for a short stint as closer and he did not disappoint, with three saves in June. Oberg has been fine, with a 2.15 actual ERA and 1.04 WHIP this season. But he turned that 87 BPV up to a 183 BPV and his 3.71 xERA into a 2.65 xERA in June. Returning to set-up, Oberg has the most leverage for the Rockies and has simply run with it, converting 12-of-14 clean appearances in June with a 1.62 LI. Oberg is fine to own and if closer Wade Davis (RHP, COL) contines to struggle or gets nicked again, Oberg will be the guy they use if they have to make a change.

Brett Martin (LHP, TEX) had a great June for Texas. Martin is an unlikely lefty to post that massive 11.0 K/BB across 11.7 innings and the 0.77 actual ERA and 0.94 WHIP are supported. Martin has not been as good the rest of the season, with a 4.39 actual ERA, 6.8 Dom, and 1.4 HR/9. As great as Martin's June was, buyer beware, as he will regress back to that 3.75 xERA on the year. Good, but not ownable.

Conversely, Austin L. Adams (RHP, SEA) has a 2.38 xERA and 185 BPV on the season for Seattle. that is better than his elite June. Adams has jumped from "other guy" into leverage with a 1.21 LI in June. In his limited time with the team, he has run circles around the other Mariners relievers and could supplant Roenis Elias (LHP, SEA) at closer, if he can keep up this elite work. Time will tell as there isn't a great history here. But Adams is on the right team to emerge and seize the role with just the slightest hiccup from Elias. Watch this situation carefully for a change and be ready to pounce.

Next week, we return to teams with recent changes in usage. Follow me @dougdennis41


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.