Arodys Vizcaino entered the season figuring to be a prominent member of the Atlanta Braves’ bullpen in 2017. Outside of a few rough outings, Vizcaino was one of the better options at manager Brian Snitker’s disposal.
What were the expectations?
Vizcaino struggled down the stretch in 2016 due to an elevated walk rate and an oblique injury that seemed to further throw off his timing. His stuff has never been in question, but rather whether or not he would be able to harness it. Vizcaino averaged an eye popping 6.05 walks per nine innings in 2016 but his overpowering stuff had him positioned as a late inning option for the Braves in 2017 if he could improve his control.
Vizcaino worked mainly in a setup role during the early part of the 2017 season but eventually replaced Jim Johnson as the team’s closer. There was a rough patch or two, but for the most part Vizcaino did his job and performed it well. He reduced his walk rate from 14.3 percent in 2016 to 8.9 percent in 2017. At the same time his strikeout rate fell very slightly.
Like most pitchers this season, Vizcaino saw his home run rate climb to 1.10 per nine innings which partially explains a slightly elevated FIP of 3.74 and an xFIP of 4.21. But, adjusting for changes in the run environment, his FIP was actually about 13 percent better than average, compared to nine percent better than average in 2016. (The xFIPs were the same, at three percent better than average.) He was worth 0.7 fWAR on the season which was one of the better numbers in terms of Braves’ relievers, tied for first on the team with Sam Freeman.
Vizcaino did one notable thing in 2017: he gained some consistency. Before 2017, he had never posted a calendar month with an FIP between 3.00 and 4.00, and had just one calendar month with an FIP between 3.00 and 5.00. In other words, he had six calendar months of his career with a really good FIP under 3.00, and another six with a really bad FIP above 4.00 (and most of those above 5.00). In 2017, though, he managed to post an FIP within the 3.00 - 4.00 range for three of the season’s six months.
Vizcaino is arbitration eligible again this offseason but figures to once again be featured prominently in the Braves’ bullpen. He performed pretty well in the closer’s role but could move back to a setup role if the team adds some free agent arms to the mix. He’s probably not going to be the best reliever on a contending team, but should still be an important part of the bullpen.