RELIEVERS: White Sox, Reds, A's, Diamondbacks, Orioles

This week it is Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Oakland and the Chicago White Sox. We start in Chicago, with Liam Hendriks (RHP, CHW) on the shelf and Kendall Graveman (RHP, CHW) in the closer role:

CHW                 Sv Hld  IP   ERA xERA WHIP  K%  K-BB% HR/9 pxERA
=================   == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===== ==== =====
K.Graveman           2  13 30.7 2.35 3.59 1.34  23    15   0.6  3.64
A.Bummer (L)         1   9 17.7 3.06 3.19 1.58  26    15   0.5  2.70
J.Kelly              1   6  7.7 9.39 3.81 2.09  29    13   1.2  3.23

Hendriks is expected back in just a few days at the most, but you never know until he is back and throwing darts. Graveman has been fine. He's not going to cause anyone to confuse him for Hendriks with a 15% K%-BB%.  And the other options are not any better. The White Sox are letting the season slip away, and while the pen was expected to be a strength, it really hasn't been. Hendriks has not been the top closer as expected and  a drop off to Graveman and lefty Aaron Bummer (LHP, CHW) (also a 15% K%-BB%) and you have to wonder if this is a team that could shop for reliever help in July. 

Don't drop Graveman yet.  Make Hendriks show you that he is back, on time, throwing strikes.  There are a lot of games left--this is a pen to monitor.

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Cincinnati put Alexis Díaz (RHP, CIN) on the IL and now will go back to a mixed bag. What else can the Reds do? Díaz was not the lights-out guy you would like to see. But at least he wasn't Hunter Strickland (RHP, CIN):

CIN                 Sv Hld  IP   ERA xERA WHIP  K%  K-BB% HR/9 pxERA
=================   == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===== ==== =====
A.Warren             3   3 24.3 7.03 4.32 1.52  26    13   1.5  3.46
H.Strickland         2   3 23.0 5.48 5.69 1.83  19     4   0.4  4.63
J.Kuhnel             1   0 19.3 5.12 3.49 1.24  26    20   0.9  4.16
L.Cessa              0   5 27.0 5.67 3.79 1.37  20    14   1.7  3.77

It has been a mess from the beginning and seems to just get worse. Strickland has a 4% K%-BB% (for those scoring at home). With Díaz, Tony Santillan (RHP, CIN) and Lucas Sims (RHP, CIN) on the shelf, the "best" options for the Reds all have an ERA over 5.00!  That's impossibly bad. And a cursory look at the metrics tells the story--terrible K%-BB%, terrible WHIP, gopheritis, you name it. When you start thinking that maybe Joel Kuhnel (RHP, CIN) is an option (3.49 xERA, 1.24 WHIP, 26% K%, 20% K%-BB%, 0.9 HR/9) you are not getting any positive contributions from this pen.

Add to it that this team just does not generate all that many save chances, and you really just want to pass. Maybe roster Díaz when he comes back.  He is already playing catch again.  But for your purposes, rostering anyone on the Reds for saves is a desperation play. Few chances, spread around, and with poor metrics across the various options, you would be better served getting a placeholder with better metrics to drive ERA/WHIP than chasing incremental one or two saves here.

Oakland just lost closer Dany Jiménez​ (RHP, OAK) to a shoulder injury. This is another team with few save chances. When it did get one, Zach Jackson (RHP, OAK) and A.J. Puk (LHP, OAK) combined to blow it in spectacularly pain-staking fashion--walking four batters in the ninth inning and turning a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 defeat in the process.

OAK                 Sv Hld  IP   ERA xERA WHIP  K%  K-BB% HR/9 pxERA
=================   == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===== ==== =====
L.Trivino            2   1 18.3 8.35 3.18 2.02  31    22   1.0  3.95
Z.Jackson            1  11 27.0 3.33 4.03 1.44  33    15   0.0  3.75  
D.Acevedo            0   8 30.7 3.83 4.17 1.08  23    16   1.8  3.83
A.J.Puk (L)          0   7 28.0 1.93 3.17 1.00  23    19   0.6  3.69

It seems likely that the A's stick with Jackson and Puk. Jackson has the 33% K%.  Puk has the 1.93 ERA. Despite that, the metrics point to 8.35 ERA reliever Lou Trivino (RHP, OAK) with a 31% K% and 22% K%-BB%. But 8.35. That is going to be hard to explain to a fanbase that has torches and pitchforks at the ready as it is. Domingo Acevedo (RHP, OAK) is having a solid enough year, to date. But his 4.17 xERA is the worst of the options, to date. 

So for now, it seems to be Jackson and Puk in something of a job share. And even though these are both better options than, say, the Reds have, the few chances spread around means that if you roster one of these relievers, you are going to have to keep save expectations in check. And Jackson could give way to another right-hander at any time, or give the job full-time to Puk, if he can stop walking batters at the end of games. 

Arizona is still going with Mark Melancon (RHP, ARI) but you have to start asking why. Melancon's 5.79 ERA supported by a 4.86 xERA, 1.63 WHIP, just an 11% K% and 7% K%-BB% is not going to cut it:

ARI                 Sv Hld  IP   ERA xERA WHIP  K%  K-BB% HR/9 pxERA
=================   == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===== ==== =====
M.Melancon          11   0 23.3 5.79 4.86 1.63  11     7   0.8  3.63
I.Kennedy            4   8 25.3 3.55 5.41 1.58  20    10   1.4  4.41
J.Mantiply (L)       2   6 26.7 0.34 2.52 0.82  26    25   0.0  3.60

Yes, he is left-handed, but Joe Mantiply (LHP, ARI) is having a season. Mantiply has a 0.34 ERA (not a misprint), 2.52 xERA, 0.82 WHIP, 26% K%, and 25% K%-BB% without allowing a home run in 26.7 innings.  Wouldn't you rather have him in the highest leverage possible?  The Diamondbacks are coming around to the idea. Mantiply has two saves and has far out-pitched Melancon and Ian Kennedy (RHP, ARI) the main right-handed options. 

It would not be a stretch to see a change this summer from Melancon to Mantiply for save chances. Arizona is in that no-man's land between playoff contender and truly putrid and could go in any number of directions with the roster in July. Melancon may be impossible to trade away. Mantiply may be easily traded to a team hunting for elite left-handed help. But if the current configuration remains, it will be hard to keep using Melancon over Mantiply at the end of games. 

Baltimore traded away the bulk of the pen early in the year to Miami and the holdovers have been terrific.  The four used the most all have ERAs below 2.00 and have avoided home runs to a significant degree. Jorge López (RHP, BAL) has been tremendous as a closer and Félix​ Bautista (RHP, BAL) has been terrific in set-up. It is a great combo:

BAL                 Sv Hld  IP   ERA xERA WHIP  K%  K-BB% HR/9 pxERA
=================   == === ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===== ==== =====
J.Lopez             11   0 34.3 0.79 3.05 0.84  25    16   0.0  3.85
F.Bautista           2   7 28.3 1.59 3.67 1.06  27    18   1.0  3.84
D.Tate               1   9 32.3 1.95 3.42 1.05  20    15   0.3  3.72
C.Perez (L)          1   8 20.7 1.31 4.33 1.55  22    10   0.4  4.18

There are a lot of teams in the playoff hunt who are going to covet these guys.  The ERAs are better than the xERA and K%-BB% would suggest, but part of that is home run suppression, which is critical in the playoffs. What you might see is the Orioles trading away López and handing the save chances to Bautista. Or you might see Bautista get traded and López remaining in the closer role. If they trade both, the Orioles will probably use Dillon Tate (RHP, BAL) to save games. Monitor the situation in July and be ready to pounce if trades are made.

Next week, the column runs some filters to pick out June's best skill sets. Follow me on Twitter @dougdennis41

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.