Has everyone recovered from the starting pitching review? Me either....but don’t worry because the review of the bullpen is far more interesting and holding promise for the future.
Unlike at points in 2015 where the bullpen was easily one of the worst parts of the team, the bullpen in 2016 was both a bit surprising as well as productive, in particular in the second half where they were a top 7 unit in baseball. Here are a few statistics about the Braves bullpen that may be of interest.
fWAR - 4.1 - 14th in the league
Innings Pitched - 567.1 - 5th most in the league
Saves - 39 - 21st in the league
K/9 - 8.61 - 14th in the league
HR/9 - 0.67 - Best in the league
ERA - 3.95 - 19th in the league
FIP - 3.71 - 7th in the league
BABIP against - .310 - 5th highest in the league
It is worth noting that I did grab these numbers from Fangraphs and have found a few errors on the individual leaderboard for the Braves (I feel pretty confident that Arodys pitched in more than 5 games and Ryan Weber and Jim Johnson’s numbers were also off). I don’t think there is any reason to think the team stats are off as they are a different leaderboard/filter, but make of that information what you will.
The big winner from the bullpen was Jim Johnson who posted a 1.3 fWAR in 2016 which ties his career high (2011). A steady hand in the late innings for the Braves, in particular with Viz battling injury and Mauricio still learning the ropes. Many were surprised that the Braves didn’t trade Johnson at the trade deadline, but with the two year deal he signed, he could easily have greater trade value this coming season if the Braves want to move Viz, Mauricio, or someone else into the closer spot given the extra year of control.
Other than that, there were solid contributions from throughout the bullpen with Chaz Roe, Mauricio Cabrera, and Ian Krol all providing substantial value from a WAR perspective anyways. The only players that really pulled the bullpen down were Chris Withrow, Brandon Cunniff, and Eric O’Flaherty...but given the passable to good if unexciting performance of the rest of the staff, that is a pretty good run.
Its worth noting that the bullpen had to deal with some injuries and between players coming back from injury and players like Chase-Johnson Mullins, Akeel Morris, Corbin Clouse, AJ Minter, and others in the minors...the bullpen could again be an area of strength.
Daniel Winkler suffered a horrific fractured elbow, but with no ligament damage its possible he could start the season with the team. Shae Simmons returned to the Braves late in the season after his rehab from Tommy John surgery and should be good to go for 2017. Arodys Vizcaino had two stints on the DL and Paco Rodriguez has yet to play for the Braves due to Tommy John surgery (and he could be released as opposed to being offered arbitration).
In short, despite some injuries and key players from 2015 departing early on (looking at you, Jason Grilli), the bullpen performed well for the Braves although there is certainly room for improvement. In the case of the bullpen, it’s very much a question of refining the staff and getting the staff the Braves want in place as opposed to the reclamation project it was in 2015. Fortunately, the Braves have enough openings and payroll to make appreciable improvements to the bullpen without having to break the bank on the top guys on the free agent market.