The Oakland A's bullpen has ruined their season, but they have two months left to figure out which relievers could still be factors in 2016. Some are already gone -- Tyler Clippard was traded, Eric O'Flaherty was designated for assignment, Ryan Cook was sent away after continuing to struggle in Triple-A, and Ike Davis was converted back to first base despite a 0.00 ERA.
So, who is left? There have been a lot of comings and goings in the last week and the roster shakeup isn't done with Danny Valencia still yet to be added to the active roster, but the dust is starting to settle on the pitching front. Here is the current bullpen for Monday's game:
Edward Mujica (R) (closer)
Drew Pomeranz (L)
Fernando Rodriguez (R)
Fernando Abad (L)
Arnold Leon (R)
Evan Scribner (R)
Felix Doubront (L)
(Note: Mujica appeared in the last two games, though he only threw 18 total pitches; Rodriguez threw 25 pitches on Sunday; and Abad threw 12 pitches on Sunday.)
Mujica is definitely the closer for now, and Pom and Rodriguez seem to be the next-highest-leverage guys. I'm assuming Doubront (who has been starting all year) will serve as a long man, which leaves the other three to soak up any other available innings. One thing I'll note is that, with the possible exception of Mujica, I would be completely comfortable with any of these relievers working a second inning in a game. Here is the immediate Triple-A depth behind them, in order of number of MLB innings:
Dan Otero (R)
R.J. Alvarez (R)
Pat Venditte (L/R)
Finally, there are two more noteworthy guys who are in Nashville but not yet on the 40-man roster. One is midseason acquisition Aaron Kurcz, who has struck out 54 batters in 44⅔ innings this year (though with too many walks). The other is Ryan Dull, who struck out 52 batters in 45 innings in Double-A this year (0.60 ERA) and, upon his promotion to Triple-A, has seven Ks and no walks in four frames so far. I have no idea if he's ready for the bigs or not, but it's not unusual for relievers to jump up the ladder more quickly than other players. The A's do have a slot open on their 40-man roster, but I mention these last two guys mostly just to be thorough; with three pitchers ahead of them on the call-up list, I can't imagine we'd see Kurcz or Dull before September (when active rosters expand to the full 40-man), if at all before 2016.
Spotlight: Abad on fire
One of the biggest disappointments of the 2015 bullpen has been Fernando Abad. After posting a 1.57 ERA in 69 games last year, with a 3.40 K/BB ratio, he finished May of this season with a 5.93 ERA and a pair of blown saves (with just one hold). He looked completely lost, routinely missing locations with terrible consequences. But after a 10-day layoff to start June, here is his line since then (along with his early-season split):
Abad, thru May 30: 23 games, 5.93 ERA, 13⅔ innings, 7 Ks, 4 BB, 4 HR
Abad, since June: 17 games, 1.06 ERA, 17 innings, 22 Ks, 3 BB, 2 HR
It's important to note that all of his recent work has come in low-leverage situations, with the A's either trailing or en route to a blowout win. Well, all except for his most recent outing, in which he entered Sunday's tie game in the 8th and retired all four batters he faced on only 12 pitches.
Is it possible that Abad figured out whatever was wrong before, and has returned to being a reliable high-leverage arm? If so, it's good to know that he's still under team control for two more seasons after this. His overall ERA this year is down to 3.23, for an ERA+ of 122. I can't believe how quietly he became good again.
New face: Leon, the professional pitcher
Arnold Leon has already made seven appearances for the A's this year, so although he was called up on Monday he's not completely new. I just wanted to remind you of what he's done as a reliever this season (AAA and MLB combined):
Leon, relief: 25 games, 2.52 ERA, 39⅓ innings, 38 Ks, 5 BB, 4 HR
Most of that work came in Triple-A, but he does have 10 Ks to one walk in MLB so far. Will he continue to survive the jump to the bigs?
As for Doubront, I don't really understand why he's here or what he has to offer. He's terrible at everything -- not enough Ks, too many walks, too many hits and homers. But I also didn't get why Jesse Chavez was here in 2012 and learned my lesson on that one, so I will exercise a small amount of patience and give Doubront a chance. Maybe he has something to offer out of the pen (30 career games as a reliever with an 8.29 ERA oh god why did I look that up).
Notes on the rest
- Mujica could be auditioning for an August waiver trade, if some contender needs last-minute help. But for now, he's just the most experienced late-inning arm available to finish off a close game.
- Pomeranz appears to be back in the pen for good, with Aaron Brooks' strong starting debut on Saturday and Doubront on board as another potential starting option.
- Rodriguez has come back to Earth after a stretch of striking out 17-of-33 batters; he's given up runs in two of his last five games and has K'd only 5-of-17 batters. But he did earn the win on Sunday with a scoreless 10th inning.
- Scribner only appeared in five games in July, racking up four homers, a loss, and a 7.56 ERA. He still had nine strikeouts to only one walk, though! He is clearly in the doghouse right now, but he's out of minor league options and it looks like the A's aren't ready to part with him (and I agree with them).
- Otero was sent down on Monday, but he'll likely go back and forth the rest of the year as needed. He had a 4.32 ERA in six games during this most recent MLB stint -- better, but still not what he was the last couple years.
- Venditte was activated from the DL on Monday, but will wait his turn once again Triple-A. We will definitely see him again this year, though, and I would guess it'll happen before September call-ups.
- Alvarez was up in Oakland for a few days last week, and in his only appearance he threw two pitches to induce a hit and a flyout.