I don’t think anyone could have predicted Brad Boxberger‘s renaissance before the season started, but the Brewers appear to be one of those teams that have a magical effect on relievers, with Boxberger the newest member. So what is behind Boxberger’s newfound success at age 33? For starters, we can point to obvious things like the fact that his velo is the highest it’s been since 2014, with his fastball averaging 93.6 MPH. He’s throwing his slider more than he ever has (23.6%) and it’s been super successful, with a 37.5% Whiff rate and .225 xwOBA. Some of these changes started last season with Miami, as you see he was clearly working on upping his spin rate last season and it’s carried over to 2021. Until 2020, Boxberger’s fastball and slider spin rates sat around 2200 for his entire career, but over the past two seasons, they have been in the 2400-2500 range. The spin rate boost added to his increased velocity and increased slider usage has led to a completely different Boxberger than we are used to, and perhaps the best version of himself that we have ever seen during his ten-year career.
- The closer carousel in Tampa continues to operate at full speed, and following Diego Castillo‘s outing last night, perhaps we may see another change in the next week. For now though, it looks like the Rays are back to Castillo as their closer with J.P. Feyereisen now working in a middle relief/setup role again. For SV+HLD purposes, not much changes, although Feyereisen will be dropped a bit in tomorrow’s ranks.
- Taylor Rogers returns to the holds list after Hansel Robles picked up two saves last week, as he is the righty in the timeshare and will likely see the bulk of the Twins saves for as long as he is a part of their closer committee. Rogers continues to pile up called strikes at a rate of 20% and has also seen an uptick in his SwStr% this season (14.7%) given him a fantastic 34.7% CSW. Add in a .270 xwOBA and an insane 40.5% Chase rate and you have a high-level reliever.
- While he hasn’t factored into a ton of hold chances, sooner or later the Padres will realize that Austin Adams is their best reliever and reward him with more high leverage work. It could be that they are being cautious with Adams who has a lengthy injury history, but as long as he is on the active roster and pitching, why not use him when it matters most. Perhaps it’s the walk rate (10.5%) and command issues that come with throwing a slider 90% of the time. He’s also hit a ridiculous ten batters, which is twice as much as the second next reliever. Walks and hit batters aside, Adams 35.8% CSW and K rates plus a 2.80 SIERA make him one of the better non-closer relievers out there to roster.
- Zack Britton‘s rehab hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing but the good news is that he feels great and should be on track to return to the Yankees roster this weekend. His rehab results have me a little worried, so I’ve bumped him down a tier from where he usually would be if healthy, but if he looks sharp and has his typical velocity readings once he gets with the big club, then he will be moved up rather quickly. As with Seth Lugo, we should expect some rust early on from pitchers who have been out for multiple months.
- Tanner Scott and Gregory Soto are two similar relievers in a lot of ways. They both throw left-handed, have elite stuff with extremely poor command, and pitch in high leverage situations for bad teams. They are also both 26 years old and the more you look at it, the more you think they are just the same person. While they are ranked next to each other, I suppose Soto gets the edge given that he is in a closer committee, so hypothetically he should see some more consistent SV+HLD chances.
- Due to their respective teams’ lack of bullpen options, struggling relievers Mike Mayers and Ryne Stanek will likely stick in their setup roles, at least for the time being. With Mayers, despite having a highly productive 2020 featuring his slider nearly 40% of the time, he has reverted back to using it as his third offering, only throwing it 23% of the time despite having success with it once again. As for Stanek, he has seemingly lost all command/control of his fastball which in turn hasn’t allowed him to work of his plus secondary offerings.
- With Ian Kennedy hitting the IL, the Rangers will likely look to some sort of committee approach to fill in for the time being, but it would make sense for Josh Sborz to get the first crack at closing out a game. Other options would include Joely Rodríguez who has been really struggling as of late (12 ER over his last 5.2 IP) or perhaps the rookie Demarcus Evans, although I’d imagine the team wouldn’t want to throw him into the fire this early in his career.
- Codi Heuer and Wander Suero both move down the list but for different reasons. Heuer continues to be the victim of bad luck, as his .417 BABIP is the highest amongst all qualified relievers. Better times should be around the corner, but he could lose out on high leverage work in the meantime. With Suero, the Nationals just haven’t been using him in a setup role despite being very thin behind Brad Hand and Daniel Hudson. Hopefully, that changes soon as I like him more than Kyle Finnegan or even Tanner Rainey at the moment.
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