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Who Could Be The “Failed Starters” Turned Relievers To Help Your Fantasy Team This Season?

These players could see a big change statistically if they make a move to the bullpen in 2018.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals
Daniel Norris struggled last season with a 5.31 ERA, could a move to the bullpen help the 24 year old regain his composure.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

As fantasy owners, we must change our thinking as the game changes. In the past couple of years we have seen a rise in home runs and a decrease in stolen bases, but that is not the only change we have seen within the game.

The amount of 200 inning pitchers has started to decline, but with that we have seen more and more relieve pitchers make their way into the top 300 on the player rater.

As I stated in one of my prior posts, there were 21 pure relieve pitchers in 2017 that had less than 5 saves and still ranked in the top 300. A lot of these dominant relieve pitchers started off as “failed starters”. For example Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and most recently, Archie Bradley were all struggling to produce at the major league level until they made a move to the bullpen. Below are some of the players that could make their way in this category if given the chance to come out of the bullpen.

Now it is worth noting the omission of Joe Musgrove. I did this because he was used as a bullpen arm for a big part of last season, so we already know what to expect from the young Astros’ reliever.

Before we get started let’s take a look at why these managers and front office personnel are making this change. As you can see from the chart below, the ERA of starting pitchers goes up by almost a full point each time they go through a lineup.

Starting Pitchers Statistics Through The Lineup

1st Time Through The Lineup 3.62 4.12 0.246 0.315 0.417
2nd Time Through The Lineup 4.66 4.46 0.261 0.331 0.448
3rd Time Through The Lineup 5.55 4.86 0.269 0.338 0.463
4th Time Through The Lineup 6.48 4.52 0.273 0.342 0.447
Multiple Times Through The Lineup 5.03 4.71 0.265 0.334 0.454

A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals

Cole was a top prospect coming up through the minors, but it seems as if he has yet to live up to that promise. He has been used mostly as a starting pitcher in the majors, but his statistics suggest he is more of a bullpen arm than a bottom of the rotation pitcher.

The first time through the lineup he owns a 2.91 ERA and a 4.22 FIP. Now that is not great, but it is much better when you compare it to the 4.45 ERA and 5.89 FIP he owns seeing batters multiple times through the lineup.

His ground ball over fly ball rate is also improved immensely as it is nearly 2.0 points higher the first time through the lineup than what it is going through the lineup multiple times. Because of this his HR/9 jumps up a by 1.1 when batters face him more than once in a game.

Most notably however, may be his strikeout rate. When facing the lineup the first time through he owns a 10.0 K/9, but when facing batters multiple times his K/9 is nearly split in half at 5.9.

Now he will need to reduce his line drive rate against him and lower his walk rate to find more success out of the bullpen, but a move may be in order for the Nationals’ young right-hander.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Detroit Tigers

This next player is probably the most likely to make a move to the bullpen in 2018, especially when you see that they had already started to use him as a reliever by season’s end.

Over Norris’ career he owns a 2.77 ERA and a 3.80 FIP when going through the lineup the first time. Now when he has to face a lineup multiple times he owns a horrendous 5.66 ERA and 4.83 FIP. This is because the first time through the lineup he has held batters to a .235/.305/.385 slash line, which is superstarish when compared to the .290/.358/.502 slash line when he faced the lineup multiple times.

Norris could also be used as a lefty specialist if need be due to the .183/.284/.406 slash line left-handers owned against him the first time through the lineup. Norris may have not lived up to what we expected, but maybe we were not putting him in the right circumstances to excel.

Luis Perdomo, RHP, San Diego Padres

This is one move to the bullpen that is very unlikely to happen, but it is still worth noting.

Perdomo is #2 starter according to the Padres’ depth chart (Clayton Richards is number one), so for Perdomo to move to the bullpen they need to get some more arms in the rotation.

For those that don’t know much about Perdomo, he is a ground ball expert. Over the past two seasons he owns a 60.4% ground ball rate, which ranks up their with players like Marcus Stroman and Dallas Keuchel.

His career strikeout rate jumps up by 6.2% and his walk rate is lowered by 2.4% when he faces the lineup the first time through compared to when he faces those batters multiple times in a game.

Due to these polarizing statistics in these circumstances, his ERA and FIP are 2.29 and 1.29 better when comparing the first time he faces a lineup to the times after that.

Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Atlanta Braves

With so many young arms coming up from the Braves farm system, this move could make more sense then one would think.

Foltynewicz actually started his major league career out as a relieve arm in 2014 with the Astros. He was then traded and moved to the starting rotation by the Atlanta Braves, and it may be time to move him back to the bullpen.

Last season when he pitched the first time through the lineup he owned an impressive ERA and FIP of 2.93 and 3.14. Now when he faced a lineup mutiple his ERA more than doubled and his FIP was at an unimpressive 5.12.

This has a lot to do with the amount of hard contact he was giving up. For a fly ball pitcher like Foltynewicz it is very important to limit the amount of hard contact, because if they don’t then it is bye-bye baseball.

He did exactly that the first time through the lineup as he held batters to a hard contact rate of 24.7%, which translated into an impressive 0.6 HR/9. Now when he faced a lineup multiple times his HR/9 nearly tripled at 1.6.

Whether his performance going further into games ia due to the opposing teams pitch recognition or the fatigue on Foltnewicz’s arm, a move to the bullpen for the Braves’ right-hander may actually increase his fantasy value in 2018.


Which player do you think would have the most success moving to the bullpen?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Daniel Norris, LHP, Detroit Tigers
    (14 votes)
  • 2%
    Luis Perdomo, RHP, San Diego Padres
    (1 vote)
  • 18%
    A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals
    (9 votes)
  • 50%
    Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Atlanta Braves
    (24 votes)
48 votes total Vote Now