A’s have one of MLB’s best bullpens heading into 2019

A’s fans are fully aware by now of how terrific this Oakland bullpen is, but the rest of the baseball world isn’t. It’s one of the best in the Majors, and it will again play a huge role in the A’s outcome next season.

Last year, the A’s mostly had only one left-hander in the ‘pen at once, but after agreeing to terms with Ryan Buchter and Jerry Blevins, they’ll have two reliable arms in 2019. Blevins was signed to a minor league deal on February 4, but it’s likely he’ll end up making the club on Opening Day.

With the signing, it likely rounds off the A’s bullpen for next season. As of now, it’s shaping up to look like: Liam Hendriks, Yusmiero Petit, Fernando Rodney, Jerry Blevins, Ryan Buchter, Lou Trivino, Joakim Soria, and Blake Treinen. When looking at the numbers of these guys, you’ll figure out why they’re so dominant.

Liam Hendriks got off to a shaky start last season, and was even designated for assignment by the A’s on June 25. He cleared waivers, and made a huge turnaround to quickly become an important man in the Oakland ‘pen.

Hendriks was brought back up to the big leagues on September 1, and stayed up for the rest of the month to finish out the year. After the Tampa Bay Rays had tested out the “opener” strategy earlier in the season, the A’s decided to try it too, and chose Hendriks for the job. He excelled in it, and overall posted a 1.38 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 2.55 FIP over 12 games (8 starts) in September.

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The A’s have made it clear that they intend on using the “opener” strategy more in 2019, and it’s likely that Hendriks will be tabbed for the job.

Yusmeiro Petit is another valuable piece to the Athletics’ bullpen, appearing in a total of 74 games last season. He provided efficient, inning-eating support for the A’s, and will likely have a similar role next year.

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Across 93 innings, Petit went 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 3.92 FIP, and 81.8 LOB%. The elevated FIP was partially a result of the low GB% and high HR rate, but otherwise was able to keep his baserunners to a premium. Petit, at 34 years old, will be pitching on the back end of a two-year deal with the A’s and will be a free agent after next season.

Fernando Rodney will be starting the season with the A’s for the first time, as Oakland acquired the veteran reliever from Minnesota in August of last year. The 41-year-old Rodney pitched in 68 total games with the two teams in 2018, showing both production and struggle.

Photo Source: AthleticsPR via Twitter

Over a total of 64.1 IP, Rodney collected a 3.36 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 4.03 FIP, 4.48 BB/9 and 80.3 LOB%. He certainly wasn’t sharp, but Rodney was able to manage his baserunners and keep the runs at a decent rate. His 1.46 WHIP and 4.03 FIP don’t pair up well with a 3.36 ERA, but Rodney was able to work his way out of trouble, as suggested by his high LOB%.

A big portion of Rodney’s struggles came in the final month of last year, struggling to an 8.38 ERA, 2.48 WHIP and 6.68 FIP across 11 appearances. It’s definitely possible he just got tired, already being worked a lot throughout the season at the age of 41. Entering his 17th season in the Majors, Rodney will most likely be a middle reliever staying away from the later innings for Oakland next year.

Jerry Blevins, Oakland’s latest bullpen addition, will most likely be a part of the club’s Opening Day roster despite signing a minor league contract. He’s returning to the place in which he started his career, spending the 2007-2013 seasons in Oakland. Blevins played a big role in the A’s ‘pen during their 2012 and ’13 playoff runs, going a combined 10-1 with a 2.94 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 130 games. He was then traded to the Nationals, and now has spent the past four years with the Mets.

Photo Source: USA Today

The southpaw dominated in 2016 and ’17, pitching to a collected 2.87 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.09 FIP, 83.0 LOB%, and 11.9 K/9. However, after receiving $7 million on a one-year deal with New York in the 2017 offseason, he underperformed greatly.

Across 64 appearances in 2018, Blevins struggled to a 4.85 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 4.97 FIP and 4.64 BB/9. It was arguable the worst campaign of his twelve-year career, but only one year separated from a 2.94 ERA, he could return to old form in his second stint with the A’s.

Ryan Buchter is the other lefty in the Oakland ‘pen, and is also a good one. He appeared in 54 games last season, pitching to a 6-0 record, 2.75 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 3.54 FIP, 0.92 HR/9 and 9.38 K/9.

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Buchter was especially dominant against lefties, which was the plan, posting a 2.70 FIP, 10.88 K/9, and a .165 opponent AVG. He’ll be used in the same role again next season, along with Jerry Blevins.

Lou Trivino was a tale of two halves last year, dominating in the first half and struggling in the second half of his rookie season. Overall in 69 games, he tallied a 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3.69 FIP, 3.77 BB/9 and 9.97 K/9. While these look like solid numbers, they were much better before the last two months of the season.

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Trivino was outstanding in the first half, going 7-1 with a 1.22 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 3.07 FIP, 0.61 HR/9 and a remarkable 95.2 LOB%. Trivino’s elevated FIP was partially a result of his high walk rate, but was outstanding when pitching with runners on base. However, he was unable to keep them from scoring after the All-Star Break.

With Oakland’s acquisition of Jeurys Familia, Trivino moved out of the set-up role for the last couple months of 2018. He didn’t respond well, totaling a 5.46 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.61 FIP, and 1.52 HR/9. A big change was his inability to strand runners, posting a 70.3 LOB% in the second half; 24.9 % less than the first half.

With this, it’s unknown how Trivino will perform next season. He experienced both dominance and struggles last year, so we’ll see if he can turn things around in 2019.

One of the first moves the A’s made this offseason was a bullpen improvement, signing Joakim Soria to a two-year deal. At the age of 34, Soria is entering his twelfth Major League season for his seventh different team. He’s coming off a solid season with the White Sox and Brewers, collecting a 3.12 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.44 FIP, 0.59 HR/9 and 11.13 K/9. He was terrific all-around, and can still clearly be a valuable arm in the bullpen.

Photo Source: Associated Press

With the performance of Lou Trivino next season a question mark, it’s likely that Soria becomes Oakland’s set-up man. The A’s lost Jeurys Familia in free agency, and the main contender for the job is Soria.

Every great bullpen needs an efficient, reliable man closing out the ballgames. The Athletics have that in Blake Treinen.

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The A’s acquired Treinen from the Washington Nationals in 2017, and gave him the closer role for all of last season. He turned out to be arguably the best reliever in baseball, posting an unbelievable 0.78 ERA, the lowest of all-time for a pitcher who’d thrown at least 80 innings. Treinen’s total stat line was even better than video game numbers, as he went 9-2 with the 0.78 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP, 1.82 FIP, 0.22 HR/9, 85.9 LOB% and 11.20 K/9. He also went 38/43 in save opportunities, but was often used in tied ballgames where he would be in position for a win.

Treinen earned $6.4 million in arbitration this offseason; a $4.2 million increase from last year. He heads a terrific A’s bullpen which has the potential to contend for the title of the league’s best next season.

Photo Sources: Getty Images, TNS, AthleticsPR via Twitter, USA Today, Associated Press

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