Maybe the most important movie in cinematic history, Executive Decision, starred Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal as the good guys who try to retake a hijacked plane. Although Russell received top billing on the movie, let’s get real: It was 1996. More than half the film’s attendees went to see Seagal do his weird interpretation of aikido at 40,000 feet. We were all shocked when about 20 minutes into the film, The Great One (Seagal’s real nickname by the way) got blown up before even getting on the plane. It was devastating.
That’s what has happened to Delosh Betader this year. Some background on Betader: Before the season I wrote a piece titled The Curious Case of Delosh Betader that explained why taking advantage of the thin market of undervalued but elite, non-closing relievers would gain you an advantage in your head-to-head league. Betader, the best combination of non-closing relievers (Josh Hader and Dellin Betances), was killed off before the season even started, with Betances’ lingering shoulder injury and Hader’s “promotion” to closer.
I then wrote a follow-up post predicting 2019 hopefuls for Delosh Betaders. For those pitchers I mentioned, I apologize to them personally. It now seems that naming them turned out to be like a death sentence: Jose Castillo, Chad Green, Brad Peacock, A.J. Minter, Zack Burdi, Kirby Yates, and Collin McHugh were either injured or changed to being a starter, which negatively affected their value (except Yates, who is a freak).
Let’s not dwell on the past. The Betader strategy is still viable; it just needs new blood. I want to be clear: There are still plenty of non-closing relievers worth playing but we are not going to have a combination as dynamic as Betader, which might be the best combination of relievers in the history of baseball:
|Dellin Betances (2018)||66.2||4||4||2.70||1.050||115||15.5|
|Josh Hader (2018)||81.1||6||12||2.43||0.811||143||15.8|
As a quick primer on what makes a Betader: combining two elite non-closing relievers to make one super spot starter who provides your team with Cy Young peripherals at the expense of saves. Some people call it punting saves; I call it being smart. To make this work, you need two of these elite relievers, because one is not enough to affect your weekly results. Those two relievers need to combine to achieve the following:
The innings threshold is very important. If the two pitchers reach 130 innings, that is 5.5 a week—just about a quality start. Asking for more than that is unrealistic, and asking for less significantly hinders the effectiveness of this strategy.
Let’s look at your Betader options for the rest of 2019.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Ryan Pressly is the best non-closing reliever in the game. His ability to keep runners off the bases and runs off the board is unparalleled. Pressly has maybe the most well-rounded sequencing in the league among relievers, with a fastball/slider/curveball repertoire where he doesn’t use any pitch 40 percent of the time. Instead, he uses all three pitches almost the same amount, making him very unpredictable. The K/9 is low for Pressly this year and likely to rebound even if it’s only a little, which would only make this combination stronger.
Combine Pressly with Yankees fireballer Tommy Kahnle and you have a projected 146.0 innings of the most elite spot starter you can imagine. What can make this matchup even better? If Kahnle uses his slider more. When he was at his best in 2017, Kahnle used his slider twice as much as he did in 2018 and this season.
What do you get when you combine a two-pitch power reliever and a three-pitch finesse reliever? Diegdon Workillo, the love child of Diego Castillo and Brandon Workman. Between the two of these high-leverage relievers, you get a projected 143.0 innings of elite ratios and a ton of Ks. This Workillo is also a good pairing because of the way the Rays handle their bullpen. Castillo could be in line with a number of wins or saves, and the Red Sox pen is so bad that Workman might end up fetching a few saves in the second half as well.
In an added bonus, Castillo still qualifies as a starter, so you do not have to punt saves to put him in your lineup—he can just take an SP spot on days you have a free one. That should be just about every day because how many times in a week can you fill your SP spots with starters actually pitching that day?
Let’s look at one of the more intriguing Betaders: Giovanty Buttegos. The combination of Ty Buttrey and Giovanny Gallegos yields the highest K/9 rate while still meeting the acceptable ratio requirements (2.50 ERA/1.00 WHIP) to be effective as a combined spot starter.
It is possible to see improvement in this combo, as Gallegos uses his changeup more. Not to mention his FIP is about a half a run lower than his ERA.
This is one of my favorite pairings because I think it has the most potential. I’ve already written about how good Pressly is. If you can combine him with not-so-reliable Josh James, this could be an explosive combination that anchors your staff going forward.
What is encouraging about James is that his velocity has not diminished. He is still averaging 97+ per fastball with nearly a 10 mph difference in his changeup. The slider seems like it just hasn’t been the same pitch in 2019 as 2018, but I’m convinced with more time, that will change. If James can drop his ERA by a run, this becomes the new best Betader of the season because not only will it be incredibly potent, but it will also project about 160 innings pitched for the season, which is more than six per week.
Others to Watch
There are more relievers to watch out for as the season progresses. Relievers who could be one part of an elite spot starter. There is obviously Betances, whenever he happens to come back. He was just experiencing shoulder pain last week, which suggests it will not be until after the All-Star break at the earliest. There is also Matt Barnes, who has steadily improved annually since 2015 into a borderline source of ERA/WHIP and a high-end source for Ks (14 per nine so far in 2019). Barnes is having his best season yet and should be mentioned. Let’s look at a few more: Jose Castillo and his elite fastball/slider combination finished the 2018 season very strong:
Castillo experienced forearm pain and was shut down this spring, but just started a rehab stint that could be completed in the next two weeks. Look for him.
Next we have Andres Munoz, whose fastball draws comparisons to Jordan Hicks‘—as does his lack of control. Still, it’s hard to deny a fastball/slider combination with corresponding velocities of 103/90. He’s worth keeping an eye on. Finally, there is the minor league strikeout leader the last two seasons: Colin Poche. While posting insane K-rates of around 15 per nine since 2017, Poche does not have overpowering stuff. Instead, he hides the ball very well and uses deception. It is hard to determine how well this will work at the highest level, especially since he struggled in Triple-A to start the season. He was just called up to the Rays last week and gave up one run in 1.1 innings against the Red Sox, but if you’re looking for a Betader, the potential for one is there.
(Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)