Yesterday we got the surprising news that Arodys Vizcaino could be lost for the season after undergoing surgery on his elbow. The easy assumption will be that A.J. Minter will assume full-time closing duties, but is that accurate? Is there someone else in the bullpen who could rise into the closer’s role? Let’s take a look (the recently recalled Dan Winkler, who wasn’t included in this article, could also thrust his name into the mix):
Another southpaw, Biddle has produced strong results over the past two seasons:
- 2018 – 63.2 IP, 3.11 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
- 2019 – 8.2 IP, 3.12 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
What’s interesting is that his underlying metrics appear to be a complete contrast. Obviously the 2019 numbers are over a small sample size, but still it’s hard to ignore:
- Strikeouts – 9.47 K/9 to 8.31
- Control – 4.38 BB/9 to 2.08
- Groundballs – 55.6% to 44.4%
His SwStr% has plummeted from 10.4% to 6.9%, despite throwing his fourseam fastball less and his slider more (19.25% to 25.79%). That’s still his big strikeout pitch, with his others not as effective. Will that lead to more sliders and less curveballs? Perhaps, but in time we’d expect him to figure things out (and it hasn’t led to a significant regression). The bigger change is the discovery of his control, and if he can maintain that he has a chance to emerge.
Of course the control abandoned him yesterday as he walked 3 batters over 0.2 IP and got saddled with the loss (it was an unearned run). He has potential, but he’s not ready to emerge as of yet.
You can argue that the righty has been the team’s best reliever thus far, with a 2.70 ERA and 0.75 WHIP over 6.2 IP (prior to working the 8th inning yesterday, allowing 1 H with 2 K). Obviously it’s not a lot of work, but with 7 K vs. 2 BB and a 2.00 GO/AO it’s enough to catch your attention.
The improved strikeout rate is an interesting development, though early on his velocity is up on both his fourseam fastball (93.13 mph) and sinker (93.00 mph). You have to wonder if that’s helping his slider be more effective, as he’s throwing it more (30.61%) and getting swings and misses (16.67%). When you couple that improvement with his groundball stuff (1.56 GO/AO over his minor league career) and solid control (2.5 BB/9 over his minor league career, 2.9 at Triple-A), the upside is there.
It may have seemed like a long shot, but there’s enough potential that should at least put him on your radar. Considering his usage yesterday, it’s far more likely than you may have thought.
Obviously this is the thought of the team going outside of the organization to bolster their bullpen. They’ve been tied to Kimbrel before and is it impossible that this injury tips the scales and pushes them into a move? He would clearly step into ninth inning duties, something you know he’ll want, and the move would also keep him away from the Mets, Nationals and Phillies (all of whom could try to make a move and give themselves an edge). It’s not a crazy notion for a team with playoff aspirations.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference