04 September 2015

On Mychal Givens And The O's 2016 Bullpen

Mychal Givens hasn't accumulated many major-league innings so far, but in his 17+ innings of work, he's been outstanding. In fact, he's currently accomplishing something that only five other pitchers are doing this season:

Rk Player ERA IP SO9 ▾ BB9 Year Age Tm SV FIP ERA+
1 Kenley Jansen 2.27 39.2 14.75 1.13 2015 27 LAD 28 1.95 166
2 Jake McGee 2.57 35.0 12.34 1.80 2015 28 TBR 6 2.19 153
3 David Robertson 2.60 52.0 12.29 1.90 2015 30 CHW 27 2.10 147
4 Sergio Romo 3.20 45.0 12.20 1.80 2015 32 SFG 2 1.67 117
5 Yimi Garcia 3.55 45.2 11.43 1.77 2015 24 LAD 1 3.24 106
6 Mychal Givens 1.53 17.2 11.21 1.02 2015 25 BAL 0 1.72 271
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/4/2015.

That's a Baseball-Reference Play Index table of relief pitchers this season who have thrown more than 17 innings, have a strikeout rate of at least 11 per nine innings, and have walked fewer than two batters per nine.

I don't know a whole lot about Yimi Garcia, but this isn't the worst group of pitchers to be associated with. Kenley Jansen is making $7.4 million this season. Jake McGee: $3.5 million. David Robertson: $10 million (first year of a four-year, $46 million deal). Sergio Romo: $5 million (and $8 million in 2016). Givens, if he's able to stick, will be making the major-league minimum for the next few seasons. Salary isn't the most ideal way to determine the best players, but this group consists of good to very good relievers who are getting paid well for their work.

Of course, we haven't seen much from Givens. I even rigged that table with a low innings amount qualification just to make sure Givens was included.

After struggling in the minors in 2014, Givens clearly made adjustments and dominated Double-A hitters at Bowie earlier this year. In 57 1/3 innings, Givens posted a 1.73 ERA with a K/9 of 12.4 and a BB/9 of 2.5. He also allowed just one home run. Still, minor-league stats don't always translate. So far, they have.

Building a strong bullpen isn't easy, but the Orioles have assembled some excellent ones under Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette. The best reliever in that span has been Darren O'Day, who should command a hefty raise as a free agent. But even if O'Day walks, the O's could still possess the right parts to piece together an effective bullpen. Zach Britton is superb, but Brad Brach, Brian Matusz (if he's tendered a contract), Givens, and some combination of Chaz Roe, Oliver Drake, Jason Garcia, T.J. McFarland, Steve Johnson, some others (eventually Mike Wright?), and perhaps a free agent could still be good -- especially if Givens excels.

Watching O'Day pitch is phenomenal, and he's been a stabling force in the bullpen. But the Orioles are not going to be able to re-sign all of their impending free agents, and spending a large chunk of money on the bullpen may not be the smartest thing for a mid-market team with a seemingly inflexible budget.

I don't know if the O's will re-sign O'Day or not. But I do know Givens will be in the mix for a sizable role in the bullpen next year. From what he's shown, that seems like a very good thing.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the single most impressive thing about Mychal Givens is his walk rate. This is a guy who walked 6.0/9 last year. Now, at the major league level, he's walking 1.0/9. That will probably regress a bit, but even if it doubles to 2, it's still pretty incredible. He repeats his delivery pretty nicely. As long as he keeps locating, he'll be successful. The highest velocity i've seen at the mlb level is 97, but I heard that he scraped 100 in bowie this year and that he has another gear in there.
Remember when that trade deadline report came out that teams were asking about Machado, Gausman, Britton, and Givens but the Orioles considered them untouchable? Makes a little more sense now. Not to say Givens is as good as those other guys, but he's a legit back-end reliever

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Agreed. It would be extremely difficult for him to keep his walks that low, but he did demonstrate tremendous improvement at Bowie earlier this year before being promoted.

It makes more sense that they'd consider Givens "untouchable" if they are going to let Darren O'Day leave, though it was still somewhat odd. It's worth wondering how close they were to a major trade - probably not near one. That would be a lot of pressure for a young reliever, but from what he's shown so far, he may be up to the task.

Anonymous said...

Yeah the presence of Givens would definitely make O'day walking more palatable. But only if we turned that saved salary into some rotation/corner outfield help. Could the Orioles really go into 2016 thinking Tillman-Gausman-Jimenez-Gonzalez-Wright/Wilson is a rotation that can be competitive? I sure hope not.
I wonder if either Zimmerman or Samardzija could be gotten at a nice discount this offseason. Brett Anderson would be another good fit with that incredible groundball rate. I still think Zach Britton could start but that ships probably sailed at this point.

Anonymous said...

I am delighted by Givens and I enjoyed this article.
It is ironic that his first earned run actually scored off Matusz(or Brach, about whom more anon)
Why would we ever bring Matusz back? he's been barely acceptable in his increasingly limited role, and has never been worth the money he has been given. A bullpen that relies on Matusz for anything is not as good as it could be.

Re: Brach. He's a fine pitcher, but allows about 60% of inherited runners to score, so many that I cannot understand why Buck regularly brings him in with men on.
Is there any data on good pitchers who can't hold runners, and what they are doing-or not doing- to be so bad in that one category?

Finally, Garcia. Do you really think he's going to be an asset in a MLB bullpen, and that he's better in any way than the potential pen guys we already have?
He hasn't demonstrated any real virtues, he's already had TJ surgery, and his vaunted velocity has gone from 97+ to about 93-94, which doesn't bode well.

Here's hoping for some wise moves from Dan. Garcia and Matusz in next year's pen would not be among them.

Anonymous said...

Hello other Anonymous
I would like to see something like Britton-Givens-Brach-Roe-Matusz-Bundy-Wright
With Wright as the main optionable long reliever and Rondon/Cabral ready to pop up in his place.
Of course, there's the option to just non-tender/trade Matusz and think about using McFarland in that role. Mac actually hasn't been that bad this year at times, his velocity has been a bit better this year though for some reason his BB rate has exploded.
Oliver Drake is also a piece who I see as having the upside of a Brad Brach, 1.5 WAR kind of reliever. Useful enough to keep around.
Rondon throws really hard and seems to locate decently. Doesn't get as many whiffs as you'd like to see though.
I bet Wright would be 96-98 out of the bullpen with an above average slider. Remember when he struck out Mike Trout on a 98 MPH fastball? I do.
I think Tyler Wilson works best as a spot starter
Point is, we have a bunch of options.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Anon 1 - I wouldn't have much of an issue with non-tendering Matusz. He's pretty effective at times, but if they don't want to pay him around $4 million for his fourth arbitration year, that's defensible.

On Brach: It's more of a fluke than anything that he's allowed that amount of inherited runners to score. He's at 58% now, which is extremely high. In 2014, he was at 28%. I think the average is somewhere around 30%. I don't think I'd worry about it all that much. He's shown that he can be a good reliever, though he's not on the level as some of the best major-league relievers.

On Garcia: Jon has covered the Garcia topic extensively. He'll probably be in the minors for most of next season. I don't know if they'll want him to try starting games again or not. But could he be an MLB bullpen option next season? Yes, he's at least an option at some point.

Anon 2 -

I think it's too early to transition Wright into the bullpen. He could be a pretty good option there at some point, but he's a starting pitching option for now. They don't have that many rotation options, so they should find out if he can be effective first.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm going to say the unpopular thing. I think the O's need to bite the bullet and keep Chris Davis. Specifically, I think they should keep Davis and O'Day, and let Wieters and Chen walk. If they could've traded Matusz, they would have already. He can be non-tendered. I think Pearce can be a keeper - especially at a discount for a down season. I also think they should keep Parra. Dariel and Parra will make for some good choices in the lineup. That and bringing up Mancini to play 1B will really eliminate all questions about the lineup. The set of regulars - Davis/Jones/Parra/Alvarez/Pearce in the OF and Mancini/Schoop/Hardy/Machado/Flaherty in the IF and Joseph/Clevenger at C and Paredes at DH -will match up with anyone in the league. Then it becomes all about the pitching. The bullpen would be solid with Britton/O'Day/Givens/Brach/McFarland/Bundy plus someone from the minors (Cabral/Rondon/Garcia/Rule 5 or some such). That leaves the rotation which is a mess. Tillman/Gausman/Jimenez/Gonzalez/Wilson/Wright may give you 3-4 starters but the one thing that keeps this from being a championship team is a true ace/stopper.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I don't think keeping Chris Davis is the unpopular choice. A lot of fans want him back. And that's OK; he's talented and has power. Many fans weren't happy that both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis left Baltimore. They won't be happy if Davis leaves. Depending on the years/dollars, re-signing him could work out. But others teams will want him, and he's going to make big money. The O's aren't going to luck their way into bringing him back.

Other than letting Wieters leave, I'm not sure what else the O's should do. You can make pretty good cases for either signing or not signing Davis, O'Day, and Chen. I think they'll bring maybe two but most likely one of them back. I am not sold on Parra; I don't know how much it would cost to re-sign him. He's miscast as a top-of-the-order hitter, thanks to a fortunate first half. Alvarez is a question mark, as is Mancini. I don't think the O's should go into next season counting on a lot from either.

I think they could go in a few directions next season. There are a lot of moving parts. A really good starting pitcher would be a tremendous help. But signing a No. 1 starter AND re-signing Davis? That's not going to happen, and the O's might not do either. No matter what, the O's will do something creative. That's what they've done under Duquette and Showalter. But as this season showed, creative doesn't always work. Sometimes you just need more good players around.

Anonymous said...

OK, Matt, I never believed they would sign both a top flight starter and Davis but I think you have to start by appreciating what you have before coveting what you don't have. Davis is definitely worth more than Cruz and letting Cruz and Markakis walk were not bed decisions (as has been discussed here very many times). Davis is special and not just because of the HER and RBI. He has a higher OBP and OPS than Jones and provides flexibility in lineup design. Mantle could not have been as good a Mantle without Maris and the Yankees sucked after Maris went downhill. Frankly, signing Davis and relying on Parra/Alvarez/Mancini makes a lot more sense than bringing in some other unknowns and hoping for the best. Parra may not have been as good as advertised due to a career year but he can play good defense and provide a reasonably decent LH bat. Alvarez has shown me enough to think he can play the field and develop the bat. Mancini has been en fuego since he was signed and he is very young. Like it or not he has the most potential in the entire farm system. Mancini may not hit immediately but he could be the next coming of Machado, too. Machado's minors stats were not that overwhelming. Alvarez and Mancini will be cheap enough to offset Davis' contract. Chen may be the O's best starter but he is soft - cannot last past 6. And Gonzalez is near done ar maybe only good for a half season. Two of Gausman, Wilson, and Wright could be serviceable starters and we can hope that Bundy becomes that ace we're searching for. My proposal from above keeps the cost within control (losing Chen, Wieters, Matusz). The other option is to lose Davis and hope Mancini can replace him immediately (I don't believe in Walker yet). If they do that and pick up, say, Price then that may be a decent strategy but I think riskier than the option I propose. I have seen Davis carry this team virtually by himself but have not seen Jones do the same. Just have to make sure Davis gets his Adderall.