Almost three months of the MLB season have passed, and while many divisions are on course to be tense, thrilling affairs deep into the season, none can match the Webb-Albers Championship for excitement generated by so many otherwise-irrelevant pitching performances.
With close to half of a season completed, many hundreds of games have been finished without a save, generating thousands of points for the eleven owners involved in this prestigious competition. After several weeks of multiple lead-changes, one team has clearly distinguished itself as the front-runner: none other than Commissioner Darius Austin’s Proven Finishers. (Read the first post on the league for more details.)
Webb-Albers Championship Standings: 28 June
What has been fuelling the meteoric rise of Austin’s staff, or indeed the inability of many of the rival squads to perform in those low-pressure spots? Let’s take a look at the crucial numbers behind some of the best and worst performances since the draft.
Keeping the Webb-Albers Spirit
Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies: 16 games finished, 0 saves, 0 blown saves, 110 points since draft
While Austin was busy congratulating himself for what looks like an inspired first round pick, fellow executives were heard to mutter that it really wasn’t all that much of an achievement to identify that the Phillies were going to end up in a lot of low-leverage situations late in games. Nonetheless, Gomez has been a Webb-Albersian model of consistency, entering an excellent 22 games in low leverage situations (per Baseball-Reference, a Leverage Index of 0.7 or lower when entering the game), tied for second in the league. With just five of his 31 appearances coming in victories, Gomez is virtually a lock to get the ball when the Phillies are losing, and the Phillies are losing a lot.
Antonio Bastardo, Pittsburgh Pirates: 10 games finished, 0 saves, 1 blown save, 90 points since draft
Owner Nathan White put his faith in Bastardo’s track record of finishing games when he drafted the lefty in the second round, even though he had just one 2015 GF under his belt the time. Bastardo has rewarded that faith by notching nine more, including three in extra-innings affairs, two in walk-off Pittsburgh wins and the third when he took the loss in a Minnesota walk-off. These high-leverage spots aside, Bastardo has been there to mop up with his team trailing by as much as six and leading by eight. White holds second place largely thanks to Bastardo and another Philadelphia GFWAS superstar, Justin De Fratus, who has appeared in an incredible, league-leading 25 low-leverage situations already and racked up 60 points since the draft.
Carlos Villanueva, St. Louis Cardinals: 12 games finished, 1 saves, 0 blown saves, 70 points since draft
Troy Carter’s Pipe Fitters Union has been in the running the whole season and his third-place standing is actually largely due to two late-round value picks, the Angels’ Fernando Salas (60 points) in the fifth, and Villanueva in the sixth. Now with the Cardinals, Villanueva has found himself getting the ball in multiple St Louis romps, as well as several of their rare losses. His 1.17 ERA isn’t likely to be sustainable, but his opportunities to finish games that have already been decided many innings earlier certainly are. Carter is less happy with first round choice Danny “Lord” Farquhar, who is back in the minors after an awful start to the season; at least he can’t take Fernando Rodney’s job there.
Should have drafted…
J.R. Graham, Minnesota Twins: 13 games finished, 0 saves, 0 blown saves, 100 points since draft
Graham already had three games finished before the draft, but the 25-year-old rookie was too unheralded even for this competition, with his debut only coming on Opening Day. The Twins have won a surprising number of blowouts and Graham has finished off six of them, and 13 of his 20 appearances overall have been flawless conversions of GFWAS situations.
Closer Catastrophes and Leverage Letdowns
Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays and John Axford, Colorado Rockies: combined 42 games finished, 33 saves, 3 blown saves, -220 points since draft
There’s no need to prolong GM Martin Alonso Ratcliffe’s pain by going over these situations in detail, so suffice it to say that the pain from Matt Albers’ broken finger was nothing compared to the pain he feels upon seeing this combined line gracing a roster in his eponymous league.
Kevin Jepsen, Tampa Bay Rays: 6 games finished, 5 saves, 3 blown saves, -60 points since draft
The Rays have not been kind to owners this year. Jepsen isn’t being given the ball at the end of games very often, and he’s saved all but one of the games he’s finished, negating all the good work done by owner Pat Creighton’s first round pick, Joba Chamberlain. Kevin Cash loves Jepsen in high-leverage situations, sending the 30-year-old into a league-high 26 such situations, so this isn’t going to get any better.
Ryan Madson, Kansas City Royals: 5 games finished, 0 saves, 2 blown saves, -20 points since draft
Madson does have the benefit of being incredibly unlikely to actually record saves, being behind at least two of the league’s best relievers in the KC pecking order, but Ned Yost does not seem inclined to use the former closer at the end of games either, with Jason Frasor getting that chance more often. With Paul Lachowich’s first-rounder Marco Estrada now firmly lodged in the Blue Jays’ rotation – and making a decent job of it too – it’s all up to Webb and Albers to dig him out of trouble.
A final note to recognise those players who are letting owners down in a different way, as they are now pitching in the minor leagues, or in some cases not at all. They include the aforementioned Farquhar, Stolmy Pimentel (sorry Jon), Jeff Francis and Anthony Varvaro, who was surprisingly designated for assignment not once, but twice in less than a month after being drafted by Kazuto Yamazaki, before heading to the DL with a torn flexor tendon.
For those interested in the full teams and statistics, they can all be found here. Darius can be found on Twitter to talk about GFWAS specialists, and other obscure aspects of baseball stats, @DariusA64.Next post: 5-Tool Players and Their Merits
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