RELIEVERS: Looking for change in TOR, ARI, MIN, SEA and STL

Last week we promised ARI, MIN, PHI, SEA, and STL, but we are going to skip Philadelphia this week and instead start in Toronto where closer Ken Giles (RHP, TOR) just went onto the IL and Joe Biagini (RHP, TOR) has been named closer instead. Here are the Blue Jays year-to-date BPIs:

TOR                 Sv Hld  IP   Dom  Cmd HR/9 xERA BPV CLN/APP  LI  Sv' BPV'  LI'
===============     == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === ======= ==== ==  ===  ====
D.Hudson             1  5  30.0  8.7  1.8  1.5 4.92  49  21/28  1.01  1   15  1.24
D.Law                0  0  19.3  8.8  2.1  1.4 4.49  77   5/14  0.62  0   64  0.70
T.Pannone (L)        0  1  33.3  9.2  1.8  1.4 5.32  39  12/19  0.76  0  -41  0.62
J.Biagini            1  7  29.0  8.7  3.1  1.9 3.66 107  19/29  1.12  0  113  0.61
T.Mayza (L)          0  7  23.3 10.8  2.3  0.8 3.54 100  21/29  0.87  0   83  0.61
K.Giles (IL)        11  0  25.0 15.1  6.0  0.4 2.47 224  21/25  1.16  2  294  0.89

Sv' is saves over the past month. BPV' is the BPV over the past month. LI' is the leverage index over the past month. Relievers are listed in order of LI'. What a huge loss Giles is. Biagini is the closer only because there is literally no one else. He and Daniel Hudson (RHP, TOR) handle all the set-up leverage. So now, Biagini moves up into Giles's slot, and likely Tim Mayza (LHP, TOR) will be asked to handle more leverage instead of just his lefty role.

Hudson, Derek Law (RHP, TOR) and Thomas Pannone (LHP, TOR) are all really underwhelming from a skills standpoint, so it be a complete mess if Biagini cannot handle it. Pay attention to this situation and if you have an extra slot and cannot get Biagini, you might take a flyer on Mayza. Mayza has a strong Dom and has been the best across-the-board reliever for the Blue Jays after Giles.

Closer Greg Holland (RHP, ARI) has unexpectedly been Arizona's best reliever in 2019. And as good as he has been, he's amped it up over the past 30 days. Here are the year-to-date BPIs:

ARI                 Sv Hld  IP   Dom  Cmd HR/9 xERA BPV CLN/APP  LI  Sv' BPV'  LI'
===============     == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === ======= ==== ==  ===  ====
Y.Hirano             1  5  23.0 10.6  3.0  0.8 3.75 121  19/29  1.10  0   67  1.22
G.Holland           10  0  22.7 11.5  2.9  1.2 3.47 121  19/23  1.35  2  166  1.00
A.Chafin (L)         0  8  22.0 10.6  2.4  0.8 3.55  91  26/33  1.12  0   46  0.99
M.Andriese           1  0  35.0  9.8  2.7  1.5 3.90 105  15/26  1.03  0  144  0.88
Y.Lopez              0  6  25.7  6.3  2.0  1.1 3.83  61  25/30  0.97  0   71  0.83
A.Bradley            0  5  30.7 11.2  2.2  0.6 4.09  91  17/28  1.20  0   89  0.71

Holland and Yoshihisa Hirano (RHP, ARI) have been the two best relievers in this pen and Holland has the better Dom, xERA, clean appearances and leverage index. Moreover, Holland has amped it up with a 166 BPV over the past month, while Hirano has scuffled to a 67 BPV. No one else has performed nearly as well. Preseason predictions that Archie Bradley (RHP, ARI) would be the arm to own in this pen have not come to pass. Bradley has the Dom, but the Cmd ratio is shaky, he has the worst xERA of the bunch so far this season and his 0.71 LI is the lowest of the six main relievers over the past month. If anything, Bradley's role is going backwards at the moment. Consider Holland to be solid in the saves role and Hirano is Plan B if something happens to Holland.

The Twins have split saves among five relievers over the past month, with Blake Parker (RHP, MIN) still leading the way with three over that span, and Trevor Rogers (LHP, MIN) with two. That tandem has 15 of the Twins 18 saves on the season, but with five-of-eight the past month, it could be that Parker is losing his grip as a closer. Here are the BPIs:

MIN                 Sv Hld  IP   Dom  Cmd HR/9 xERA BPV CLN/APP  LI  Sv' BPV'  LI'
===============     == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === ======= ==== ==  ===  ====
T.Rogers (L)         6  9  28.0 11.9  6.2  1.3 2.97 189  16/24  1.21  2  184  1.24
T.May                1  8  23.3  8.9  1.6  0.4 5.09  30  23/29  0.81  1   -7  1.12
B.Parker             9  5  22.7  7.2  1.8  2.4 4.70  46  18/24  0.99  3   49  1.01
R.Harper             1  4  26.7  8.8  4.3  0.7 3.78 121  20/28  0.75  1  173  0.74
M.Morin              1  1  13.7  5.3  8.0  0.7 3.55 107  11/14  0.58  1   77  0.70

Skills-wise, the best relievers this season have been Rogers and unheralded Ryne Harper (RHP, MIN). Harper has a 4.3 Cmd ratio and 0.7 HR/9 on the season, and his 121 BPV has been pumped to 173 over the past month. Harper's leverage has not changed: 0.75 over the year and 0.74 over the past month. But that might start to change, given his skills. Conversely, Trevor May (RHP, MIN) just got a save, but the 5.09 xERA and 30 BPV (-7 BPV over the past month) is terrible and Parker's 4.70 xERA, 46 BPV and 49 BPV over the past month are not something a top team wants in leverage. Parker's 1.8 Cmd ratio combined with a 2.4 HR/9 is particularly troubling.

Expect more Rogers and more mix-and-match for saves going forward, with a little less Parker. Harper is well-situated to grab a larger role and it is time the Twins give it to him.

Hunter Strickland (RHP, SEA) had a set-back for Seattle so he is not going to close games in the near term. That leaves the same grouping as before, with Roenis Elias (LHP, SEA) grabbing the saves. Here are the BPIs:

SEA                 Sv Hld  IP   Dom  Cmd HR/9 xERA BPV CLN/APP  LI  Sv' BPV'  LI'
===============     == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === ======= ==== ==  ===  ====
A.Bass               1  0  10.7  6.8  2.7  0.8 3.80  83   5/8   1.62  1   83  1.62
R.Elias (L)          6  1  31.0  9.3  2.0  1.2 4.85  55  13/27  1.24  2   19  1.21
B.Brennan            0  6  34.0  9.3  1.9  1.1 3.90  70  16/29  0.96  0  -37  1.00
A.Adams              0  2  14.3 13.2  2.6  1.3 3.05 133   5/11  0.86  0  151  0.93
C.Gearrin            0  8  26.0  9.7  2.0  0.7 4.39  65  21/29  0.69  0   94  0.77

Elias has fallen on rough times the past month. He wasn't all that great to begin with, with a 4.85 xERA and 55 BPV. His BPV has sunk to a 19 over the past month. Elias is miscast as a closer and Seattle has to think about alternatives. It won't be Brandon Brennan (RHP, SEA). The Rule 5 right-hander has been solid most of the year, but a -37 BPV over the past month means that he will not get more leverage in the near-term. Cory Gearrin (RHP, SEA) has been better than Elias or Brennan--particularly over the past month. But Gearrin is not getting any leverage at all with a 0.69 LI on the year and 0.77 over the past month.

That leaves two relievers with low innings: Anthony Bass (RHP, SEA) and Austin Adams (RHP, SEA). Bass has a save and mediocre skills, but his 8 outings have come at a 1.62 LI. Adams has not pitched in that kind of leverage, but his 3.05 xERA and 133 BPV so far makes him the only reliever with a skill set that comes close to closer-worthy. It is all that 13.2 Dom. His 1.3 HR/9 and lousy 5-of-11 clean appearances should give owners pause. Thus, there are no great choices here. If Adams can get another 15-20 innings of 133-151 BPV skills in the books, and if he can get the home runs figured out, he could close. Otherwise, owners might be better off looking elsewhere, as Elias should be right at the very end of his days as a closer--Strickland or no Strickland.

The Cardinals closer remains Jordan Hicks (RHP, STL). Hicks has a 28 BPV over the past month and has been limited to just a 0.79 LI. Is a change in the works? Here are the BPIs:

STL                 Sv Hld  IP   Dom  Cmd HR/9 xERA BPV CLN/APP  LI  Sv' BPV'  LI'
===============     == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === ======= ==== ==  ===  ====
A.Miller (L)         1  8  21.3 12.7  2.7  2.1 3.42 117  17/28  1.24  0  182  1.66
J.Gant               3  9  35.0  9.0  3.9  0.8 3.21 121  22/30  1.27  1  118  1.62
C.Martinez           1  1   8.7  8.3  2.0  1.0 3.86  76   5/9   0.92  1   76  0.92
J.Brebbia            0  7  33.3 11.1  3.2  1.1 4.02 111  24/30  0.81  0  149  0.80
J.Hicks             13  2  22.3 10.9  2.5  0.4 2.93 115  19/24  0.85  4   28  0.79
G.Gallegos           0  3  28.7 13.2  7.0  1.3 2.68 200  16/24  0.55  0  201  0.63

The best skill set on St. Louis remains Giovanny Gallegos (RHP, STL) with a ridiculous 13.2 Dom, 7.0 Cmd ratio, 2.68 xERA, 200 BPV, 201 BPV over the past month, and yet he has by far the lowest LI at 0.55; 0.63 over the past month. It makes no sense whatsoever. If you need ERA/WHIP only, Gallegos is your guy. But he is no where near saves. That is where Hicks and his strong 2.93 xERA and 115 BPV live. Hicks has be strong skills-wise over the season, but the past month, that rut leaves him with a 28 BPV. That is not good. Hicks, closer-though-he-may-be, has the second lowest LI over the past month.

The leverage is all going to uber-lefty Andrew Miller (LHP, STL) who has been back to his old self the past month with a 182 BPV in 1.66 LI. Miller has a 12.7 Dom, 2.7 Cmd ratio, 3.42 xERA and 117 BPV on the year. The blemish is a 2.1 HR/9, which he has figured out of late. It is not getting him any save chances, though. Those are reserved for Hicks and a couple of vulture saves for John Gant (RHP, STL) who has been terrific as well, with a 9.0 Dom, 3.9 Cmd ratio, 0.8 HR/9, 3.21 xERA, 121 BPV and 22-of-30 clean appearances on the year. Gant has continued with a 118 BPV this month and in 1.62 LI. Gant remains Plan B for saves behind Hicks, perplexing as that may be.

Forgotten man John Brebbia (RHP, STL) has been everything the Cardinals could have hoped for, with an 11.1 Dom, 3.2 Cmd ratio, 1.1 HR/9, 111 BPV and the team's best 24-of-30 clean appearances on the year. Over the past month, Brebbia has a 149 BPV--just behind Gallegos and Miller, but ahead of Gant and far ahead of Hicks. Like Gallegos, Brebbia is pitching in lower leverage. Carlos Martinez (RHP, STL) has thrown 8+ innings so far. He is the weak link so far in this pen, but he has a save and more leverage than Brebbia, Hicks, or Gallegos over the past month. It is perplexing.

Clearly, the Cardinals have five skill sets with season-long 100+ BPVs, and the sixth guy is Martinez. But over the past month, Hicks has faltered and nothing has changed at all. And if a change is made, it is not clear what it might be. Gant figures to be Plan B, but the Cardinals could well leave him in high leverage and tap Martinez or Brebbia or Gallegos. There really is no telling, based on usage to date. But given the skills-struggles that Hicks has had over the past month, it would appear that a change could be on the horizon. Be ready when that day comes. For now, the guy to get if a change is made would be Gant, but even that is fluid at that point in time that a change is made.

Next week, we use the AL-only Tout Wars standings to suggest some reliever trades. Follow me @dougdennis41


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