clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Liam Hendriks has been the Oakland A’s best reliever in the 2nd half

... and it’s not particularly close.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the home stretch of the 2016 season, and the bullpen continues to be the strongest area of the Oakland A’s. The offense is somewhere in the bottom 10 of MLB, the defense is dead last, and the rotation is one of the five or so worst in the game. But the pen ranks middle of the pack in ERA and WAR, offsetting a couple too many blown saves with an AL-leading rate of stranding inherited runners.

Most of that has remained true in the second half. The defense and rotation are still bad, and the offense has moved up a few spots but not to the level of league-average. The bullpen is still good too, but one thing that has changed has been where the quality innings are coming from. In particular, one of the weak links from the first half is now leading the charge: Liam Hendriks.

It’s easy to make a statistical case for Hendriks as the team’s best reliever of the second half. He’s made the most appearances (18) and thrown the most innings (22), with an ERA (1.64) that easily leads the other regular relievers. He’s also stranded 16-of-19 inherited runners, and he’s the only one who has faced save situations without blowing a single one (4 times, all holds). He’s been electric since the All-Star break.

This might not come as a surprise to you, since we talked about it a couple times in late-July. Hendriks had an 8.27 ERA when he went on the DL in early May, and since returning on June 19 he has been unhittable in his last 27 games:

Hendriks, post-DL: 1.93 ERA, 32⅔ ip, 32 Ks, 8 BB, 3 HR, 27 hits*

* with no blown saves and 21-of-26 inherited runners stranded

The A’s gave up a fan favorite in Jesse Chavez to gamble that Hendriks’ breakout 2015 season was real, and after an early hiccup it’s looking like the gamble is paying off. Chavez was only decent for the Blue Jays this year, and now the LA-area native gets to pitch in a Dodgers pennant drive before hitting free agency this winter. Meanwhile, the hottest reliever in Oakland’s pen is under team control for three more seasons.

The rest of the pen isn’t too shabby either. Here’s a quick stat for each reliever.

Ryan Madson | 25

That’s how many saves he has, tied for seventh in the AL. His 80.6% success rate (6 blown) is fine, within a normal range that won’t hurt his value. He’s 8-for-9 in the second half, so he’s on a roll lately. If he hits 30 saves, with the price teams are paying for relievers in trade, could the A’s get a good enough return to be worth moving him this winter? Cash in on the strong season now, or double down and hope he can lead another successful pen in 2017? There are good arguments both ways.

Ryan Dull | 9

That’s how many homers he’s allowed this year, in 62⅔ innings over 58 games. That number is slightly higher than you’d like, which makes it really the only flaw in his game. He’s still got a high K rate, a low BB rate, a low ERA, a good record in save situations, and of course his 40-for-46 mark of stranding inherited runners.

But as the year has gone on, he’s started to serve up an extra dinger now and then, four times in his last 14 games. It reminds me of last year, when he got past the 70-inning mark and gave up four homers in his last five games of the season for the A’s. He’s been worked hard in 2016, and I imagine he might be wearing out a bit. That might serve as a lesson for how to use him in 2017 — if you lean on him too much early on, you may not have him in top form for a potential pennant run later.

John Axford | 16.4%

That’s his walk rate in the second half, with 12 free passes out of 73 batters. That’s double his rate from the first half. The difference doesn’t show up in his ERA, but it will catch up eventually if left to continue. A high walk rate has been his biggest roadblock to success over his career, and it had been encouraging to see him improve on it in the first half. Hopefully he can find his control again in 2017.

Daniel Coulombe | 1

That’s how many lefties are in the pen now that Marc Rzepczynski has been traded, at least until Sean Doolittle returns from the DL. (Note: Patrick Schuster was claimed on waivers by the Phillies.) It’s time to see what the 26-year-old Coulombe has to offer. He’s been something around average so far in 35 innings, with the ability to go multiple innings rather than just being a lefty specialist — though he’d be even better if he could stop walking so many right-handed batters.

J.B. Wendelken | 7/31

That’s the last time he pitched in the bigs, so it’s been a month since we’ve seen him. But he’s still got that rate of 12.7 K/9 in the minors, so I’m still curious to see what he can do once a chance opens up for him.

Chris Smith | 2010

That’s the last year he pitched in the majors, as a member of the Brewers. The 35-year-old entered 2016 with a 5.19 ERA in 50 career MLB games, and after a couple good years as a starter in the upper minors he’s being rewarded with some more time in The Show. At this point, I’m not that worried where the relief innings go — may as well toss a few to a cool story like Smith. He’s been totally adequate in seven frames so far.


Check out FanDuel -- New players win cash in their first league or get their entry fee refunded!