The Braves’ bullpen was legitimately very good during the 2020 season. What is even more remarkable is that the unit was so good and so deep despite some its better pieces from the 2019 season not producing. Luke Jackson’s season was....less than desirable and Jacob Webb, who put up 0.2 fWAR in 36 appearances for the Braves in 2019, only played in eight games in 2020. Lets take a look at what went right and wrong and what we can reasonably expect in 2021.
What went right? When he pitched in 2020, he pitched well as he did not give up an earned run in 10 innings pitched and saw and uptick in his strikeout rate albeit in an incredibly small sample. He was also good enough in that sample to earn a playoff roster spot. He wasn’t leaned on in the playoffs like some other guys, but getting carried on a playoff roster definitely counts for something.
What went wrong? Webb’s issue was primarily getting on the field in the first place and those issues dated back to last season. Webb had his 2019 season end with elbow issues that required arthroscopic surgery to repair. The late start to the 2020 season could have been a bit of a blessing for Webb as it would have given him more time to heal up from that procedure, but the Braves had to place him on the 45 day injured list with a right shoulder strain in July. He was reinstated from the IL towards the beginning of September and made eight appearances in the last month of the season before getting selected to the playoff roster.
What to expect in 2021: If Webb is healthy, he will be in the Braves’ bullpen in 2021. Lets get that out of the way now. He isn’t even arbitration eligible yet and is therefore cheap, plus it does seem probable that the Braves are going to lose at least a couple of bullpen pieces this offseason to free agency. Webb isn’t the highest leverage guy, but he does seem like a guy that could carve out a role as a solid 6th/7th inning guy with a chance for a bit more. The trick here is that he has to stay healthy to hold that status. It appears as though he ended the season in good shape on that front, but his is a status that could be in constant flux depending on his health not unlike a lot of other relief arms.