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Addressing the Oakland A’s Bullpen

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros
Chris Hatcher is one of the AL’s 10-worst relievers in 2018.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of fWAR the Oakland A’s bullpen rates 15th in baseball and 9th in the American League. As a group it’s not bad, but also not good, and that is a problem for the team’s postseason dreams.

Don’t get me wrong, starting pitching depth has long been a problem for the A’s and may continue to be. However, thanks to some help on its way to the starting rotation the Oakland bullpen remains the area most in need of refurbishment.

State of the Bullpen

By ERA the A’s have a top-10 bullpen among MLB teams and are 6th in the AL, marks they’ve been lucky to achieve. The A’s have the 4th biggest gap between their ERA and FIP, and not in the good way, as their FIP is nearly a half-run higher than their ERA. With too many home runs allowed and not enough strikeouts the A’s relief corps doesn’t fare well by the more advanced pitching metrics. The unit is among the bottom-half of the league in xFIP, SIERA, and xwOBA.

A’s Bullpen: 2018 Totals

Name K% BB% K-BB% HR/9 WHIP BABIP LOB% ERA FIP E-F xFIP SIERA
Name K% BB% K-BB% HR/9 WHIP BABIP LOB% ERA FIP E-F xFIP SIERA
Blake Treinen 30.7 % 6.8 % 23.9 % 0.20 0.90 0.248 85.5 % 0.81 1.80 -1.00 2.57 2.59
Ryan Buchter 25.4 % 9.9 % 15.5 % 0.54 1.32 0.311 77.7 % 2.16 3.00 -0.84 4.29 3.79
Lou Trivino 27.8 % 10.6 % 17.2 % 0.70 1.02 0.222 94.8 % 1.41 3.20 -1.79 3.25 3.31
Josh Lucas 23.2 % 10.7 % 12.5 % 0.73 1.54 0.343 59.1 % 5.84 3.77 2.07 4.31 3.85
Santiago Casilla 17.5 % 15.0 % 2.5 % 0.00 1.24 0.221 71.8 % 3.49 3.97 -0.48 5.88 5.33
Ryan Dull 25.4 % 6.0 % 19.4 % 1.69 1.44 0.372 74.5 % 5.06 4.18 0.88 3.38 3.20
Yusmeiro Petit 17.6 % 4.3 % 13.3 % 1.38 1.12 0.263 76.9 % 3.63 4.22 -0.58 4.20 3.93
Emilio Pagan 22.8 % 8.0 % 14.8 % 1.43 1.27 0.279 84.1 % 3.58 4.42 -0.84 4.74 3.90
Chris Hatcher 16.4 % 9.7 % 6.7 % 1.26 1.74 0.351 72.7 % 4.71 4.87 -0.16 4.65 4.52
Carlos Ramirez 8.3 % 16.7 % -8.3 % 0.00 1.00 0.118 71.4 % 3.00 4.96 -1.96 5.77 5.94
Liam Hendriks 21.8 % 12.7 % 9.1 % 2.45 2.18 0.424 75.8 % 7.36 6.39 0.97 4.78 4.47
Fangraphs.com

A’s relievers have fared much better recently with the returns of Ryan Buchter and Emilio Pagan plus the continued dominance of Lou Trivino and All-Star Blake Treinen.

A’s Bullpen: Last 30 Days

Name K% BB% K-BB% HR/9 WHIP BABIP LOB% ERA FIP E-F xFIP SIERA
Name K% BB% K-BB% HR/9 WHIP BABIP LOB% ERA FIP E-F xFIP SIERA
Blake Treinen 31.0 % 6.9 % 24.1 % 0.00 0.78 0.222 91.7 % 0.59 1.56 -0.97 2.52 2.60
Ryan Buchter 28.0 % 12.0 % 16.0 % 0.00 1.33 0.333 75.0 % 3.00 2.29 0.71 4.47 3.89
Lou Trivino 31.3 % 6.3 % 25.0 % 0.66 0.59 0.138 100.0 % 0.66 2.54 -1.88 2.42 2.35
Emilio Pagan 30.7 % 6.5 % 24.2 % 1.15 0.96 0.243 73.8 % 3.45 3.12 0.32 3.34 2.82
Santiago Casilla 22.6 % 12.9 % 9.7 % 0.00 1.50 0.333 75.0 % 4.05 3.72 0.33 4.95 4.22
Chris Hatcher 15.8 % 13.2 % 2.6 % 0.00 1.75 0.346 66.7 % 5.63 3.87 1.75 4.69 4.93
Carlos Ramirez 12.5 % 18.8 % -6.3 % 0.00 1.00 0.091 50.0 % 4.50 4.37 0.13 5.60 6.29
Liam Hendriks 33.3 % 3.3 % 30.0 % 2.84 1.74 0.471 85.4 % 5.68 4.54 1.14 2.25 2.13
Josh Lucas 14.3 % 10.7 % 3.6 % 1.80 2.20 0.368 37.7 % 12.60 6.52 6.08 6.21 4.87
Yusmeiro Petit 17.7 % 7.8 % 9.8 % 2.77 1.15 0.206 95.7 % 4.15 6.66 -2.51 5.05 4.65
Fangraphs.com

The top three performers in each time frame stand out as obvious. Treinen, Trivino, and Buchter have been rock solid back-end options. Emilio Pagan has suddenly become another strong relief option. Overall Casilla has been fine, if unspectacular, and he’s more closely matched his peripherals to his ERA lately. Still, in an ideal scenario Casilla is this team’s mop-up option and last-ditch high-leverage reliever.

The biggest problems have obviously been Liam Hendriks (sadly), Chris Hatcher (duh!), and Yusmeiro petit (strangely). Hendriks has rightfully be jettisoned off the 40-man roster and into triple-A Nashville’s bullpen. Hatcher simply needs to go. He brings no apparent value to the organization at this point. Josh Lucas has had a moment or two of triumph but isn’t a difference maker and should merely be considered triple-A depth.

Perhaps Petit’s mediocre season can be attributed to A rough June in which he posted A 4.95 ERA and even worse peripherals. Even still, Petit’s strikeouts have seemingly disappeared and appears more suited for a long-relief role as we head to the second half of the season.

Conclusion

It will be a struggle for the A’s to reach the postseason and they shouldn’t be making it harder on themselves by carrying dead weight relievers. So what are the options to improve?

The team could decide to proceed with just 7 relievers instead of the 8 they’re currently carrying. But that still leaves them with either Hatcher or Lucas, and neither can justify a spot right now.

The team could pull any of the three standouts from triple-A Nashville: Ryan Dull, Bobby Wahl or JB Wendelken.

2018 at Triple-A Nashville

Player IP K% BB% K-BB% SwStr% HR/9 BABIP WHIP ERA FIP xFIP
Player IP K% BB% K-BB% SwStr% HR/9 BABIP WHIP ERA FIP xFIP
Ryan Dull 14.1 28.1 % 7.0 % 21.0 % 13.3 % 0.63 0.33 1.19 2.51 3.29 3.71
JB Wendelken 26.2 37.6 % 6.4 % 31.2 % 14.3 % 0.68 0.36 1.13 3.38 2.46 2.31
Bobby Wahl 35.2 39.3 % 12.1 % 27.1 % 18.7 % 0.50 0.23 0.95 2.52 2.93 3.28
Fangraphs.com

Or the team can make a trade and acquire another late-inning option such as Kirby Yates, Joakim Soria, or Jake Diekman, to name a few.

MLB Trade Candidates

Player IP K% BB% K-BB% SwStr% HR/9 BABIP WHIP ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Player IP K% BB% K-BB% SwStr% HR/9 BABIP WHIP ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Kirby Yates 35.1 31.2 % 7.8 % 23.4 % 14.6 % 0.25 0.256 0.93 1.53 2.19 2.93 2.66
Joakim Soria 33.2 28.5 % 5.6 % 22.9 % 14.5 % 0.53 0.326 1.19 2.94 2.26 3.29 2.83
Jake Diekman 31.1 26.6 % 13.7 % 13.0 % 11.0 % 0.57 0.325 1.50 3.45 3.51 3.98 3.94
Fangraphs.com

I’d prefer the trade route, other than that I think Dull could make the most sense given that he’s already succeeded at the MLB level. Let us know what you think!

Poll

You’re in Charge - how do you solve the bullpen problem?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Roll with what he have?
    (18 votes)
  • 4%
    Use what we have, but carry only 7 relievers?
    (19 votes)
  • 75%
    Call up Dull, Wendelken, or Wahl?
    (353 votes)
  • 16%
    Make a trade!!
    (78 votes)
468 votes total Vote Now