Major League teams have placed more value and importance on relief pitching in the past few years, but outside of a small handful of exceptions, relievers still tend to be the least popular players among fans. Can you name the 5 best relief pitchers right now who aren’t closers? We didn’t think so.
Relievers are people, too. And, it’s time to give these inconspicuous characters the attention they deserve! Surely this post will launch them straight into the national spotlight. : )
Check out what these guys are doing. It’s pretty incredible:
1. Luke Gregerson (HOU) is making right-handed batters miss on 55% of their swings.
That’s more than twice the league average 26.2 percent. Notice, too, that the #2 pitcher on the leaderboard is just a little behind Gregerson at 43.8%.
If you know Gregerson, you know that it’s his slider that generates most of those misses. It gets even more ridiculous when you break it down by pitch type:
So, yeah, if you’re a right-handed hitter and you decide to take a cut against Gregerson’s slider, you’re coming up empty 7 out of 10 times. Pretty amazing.
2. The two relievers striking out left-handed batters at the highest rate this season are not stud lefties Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. They are right-handers Edwin Diaz and Dellin Betances.
Edwin Diaz’s slider has been virtually unhittable for both right and left-handed batters. LHB’s are just 2-for-24 against it with 19 strikeouts! When Diaz keeps his slider down below the zone, it is really tough for hitters to lay off, and he has allowed just one hit in 11 AB ending on those pitches (the red minus below the zone was a weak-contact double). Note all of the blue “M’s” beneath the strike zone — those are swings and misses.
Betances you’re familiar with. Same situation for him. His curveball is slider-like and devastating. Of the 73 left-handed batters who have ended their AB on a Betances curve, 46 did so via strikeout (an impressive 63%). He’s a beast. Let’s move on…
3. Ryan Buchter doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, but he leads all relief pitchers in fastball strikeouts (yes, even Chapman).
Padres reliever Ryan Buchter averages 92.2 mph on his fastball (not hard, considering the league average for reliever is 93.1). But hitters have had a very hard time with that 92 mph heater:
Ok, so Chapman ranks higher in terms of percentage of PA ending fastball strikeouts, but still. This Buchter guy is pretty good. He’s approaching 2X the league average strikeout rate on PA ending with fastballs.
4. Carl Edwards has allowed a batting average of just .095 in the second half.
A walk is about the best thing opposing hitters can hope for against Edwards, who combines big whiff numbers with a ton of grounders. He’s walked eight of the 72 batters he’s faced in the second half, but 52 of the remaining 64 hitters (81 percent) have either struck out or put the ball on the ground.
Edwards has allowed just 1 hit in 20 AB ending on curves in the 2nd Half, with 14 of those concluding in strikeouts.
5. Chris Devenski hasn’t allowed a well-hit ball against his slider all season.
Devenski (another Astros bullpen arm) features a particularly deep arsenal for a reliever. Probably best known for his changeup, which has produced excellent results ( 38.6 Miss %, 29.7 K %), he has completely avoided hard contact with his slider:
And, there you have it. Five relievers who are doing some great things. Spread the word! Here are some visuals related to each pitcher mentioned above…
Gregerson’s SldierDiaz slider to LHBBuchter FastballEdwards CurveDevenski Slider
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