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The deep sleeper in the Rangers bullpen

Buckle up while reading this one, cause we’re diving deep. And I mean like really deep. So deep that the subject I am getting ready to discuss has a pretty minimal chance of making any rumblings in the fantasy world.

Anyway, last month it was reported that the 34-year-old Jesse Chavez had signed a one-year, major-league deal with the Texas Rangers.

Ah yes. You heard that correctly. This is a fantasy article about Jesse Chavez in the year 2018. The up and down player has had his moments in his years past, both as a starter and a reliever, highlighting his career with a respectable season in Oakland in 2014 when he put up a 3.89 ERA and 3.67 FIP in 146 innings.

Other than that, Chavez hasn’t really amounted to much. After his decent 2014 season, he went through another year of working in the back of the A’s rotation, entered free agency following the 2015 season, and spent the duration of the 2016 season as a middle reliever in the Blue Jays and Dodgers bullpens, putting up a less than fantastic 4.43 ERA and 4.49 FIP in 67 innings. He then swung a one-year deal with the Angels, who unwisely tried to throw him in their thin rotation to start the year.

I’d probably expect a lot of you to even not know what the overall state of Chavez’s 2017 season was like. To summarize for you, he had quite the whirlwind year, playing a variety of roles. He won himself a starting role out of Spring Training, but due to terrible performance mixed in with a couple of injuries, he found himself spending his time in the bullpen for the second half.

And to go further on how bad he was as a starting pitcher last year, let’s look at how he fared compared to the other 124 starting pitchers that threw at least 100 innings last year.

  • 5.24 ERA – 108th
  • 5.50 FIP – 114th
  • 4,87 xFIP – 100th
  • 17.8% K% – 94th
  • 8.3% BB% – 75h
  • 9.5% K-BB% – 97th
  • 39.9% GB% – 90th

And once moved to the bullpen, Chavez turned into a peripherals monster. Here are his ranks among the 291 relievers with at least 20 innings thrown last year.

  • 5.84 ERA – 255th
  • 3.20 FIP – 52nd
  • 2.39 xFIP – 3rd (!!!)
  • 32.4% K% – 25th
  • 4.9% BB% – 16th
  • 27.5% K-BB% – 13th
  • 47.6% GB% – 100th

(That’s right. His xFIP ranked third among relievers last year. Only Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen were ahead of him)

The peripherals took a significant bump.

The first order of business I wanted to knock out of the way is that unimpressive 5.84 ERA out of the bullpen. The underlying stats clearly think he got unlucky in that department. And he did, as his .400 BABIP in those 24.2 relief innings suggest. Going further, during his timeframe in the bullpen, Chavez had one of the bigger xwOBA-wOBA differences among relievers, .273 vs .345, with the difference ranking 45th out of 474 relievers with 100 results. The long ball didn’t do him any favors also, allowing a high 1.8 HR/9 on the year, a mark that is probably likely to regress.

What He Changed

Pitch Type Starter Usage % Reliever Usage %
FB 32.6% 37.5%
SL 14.1% 25.9%
CT 28.3% 25.4%
CB 9.0% 4.3%
CH 16.1% 6.9%

As a reliever, it looked a lot like Chavez utilized his fastball/slider combo. And with that, I want to zero in on the fastball. The underlying results with the pitch took a noticeable change once he made the transition to the bullpen, allowing a .279 xwOBA and 88.9 MPH Exit Velocity as a reliever, compared to his .386 and 90.3 marks as a starter. Perhaps due to a marked change in his location?

Fastball location as a starter


Fastball location as a reliever

Now for the slider. As seen above, the biggest change he had with that was he was throwing it 11.8% more of the time as a reliever. The effectiveness was there, as there was a noticeable rise is whiff% on it (see graph below). Add in the change in launch angle, which went from 2.2 degrees as a starter to -6.9 degrees as a reliever.

Slider Whiff Percentage By Month

I want to end this post by clarifying I am being really bold here. The most likely scenario here is Chavez doesn’t amount to any fantasy relevance. But if his results as a reliever carry over to next year, coupled with the fact that none of the Rangers bullpen roles are really set in stone, and you might have yourself something.

The Author

Patrick Brennan

Patrick Brennan

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