A Slightly Sabermetric (But Not Really) Look at the Best Relief Pitcher in the NL East

Right after young and talented position players, the biggest story in baseball these days is dominant bullpens; bullpens so dominant they affect their opponent’s performance before the starting pitcher has even broken a sweat. There are some bullpens in today’s major leagues that make opposing hitters press to get just one run on the board early because they know as soon as that outfield gate swings open, they aren’t getting anything else. Yeap, it is the era of bullpen domination… everywhere except the NL East it seems. While the best units may not reside in this division, there are still some promising individuals that will be trotting to the mound in 2017.

Like our debate over the starting pitcher you want most in 2017 within the division, I was torn once again between a National and a Metropolitan. If you read my previous blog on bold predictions, you know that I am big on Shawn Kelley. He hasn’t had an opportunity to serve in a full-time closer’s role just yet but since switching over to the National League in 2015 he has thrived and put himself in a good position to be tabbed as the next National’s closer.

Then there is the dominant, sometimes unhittable Met closer, Jeurys Familia. He has racked up 94 saves over the last two years with an ERA just over 2.00 in 155 innings. Pair that with his first career All-Star appearance in 2016 and there is no doubt he was the best closer within the division last year. 

Relief Pitcher: Shawn Kelley

The Slightly Sabermetric

Let’s take a look at the numbers both guys put up last year since it was the first season both of them were in the NL East.

2016 Jeurys Familia Shawn Kelley
WAR 2.3 1.1
ERA 2.55 2.64
AVG .218 .192
WHIP 1.21 0.90
FIP 2.39 2.97
BABIP .304 .258

Familia was a full win better than Kelley in 2016 and while the numbers are fairly close across the board, there is one stat that will always draw me in, plus  it is also another reason why SHAWN KELLEY SHOULD BE THE NATIONALS CLOSER. There are two things you want your ninth inning guy to do, miss bats and not walk anyone. Kelley has the ability to overpower hitters, control his stuff, keep the ball in the ballpark and strike guys out. His K% in 2016 was 35.7% which was third best among NL relievers. Combine the strike out rate with a 0.90 WHIP and you have yourself the best reliever in the NL East.

The Not Really Sabermetric

I did go back and forth on this one and I ultimately made my decision of who I thought would have the biggest impact on their team. I would be lying if I said that Familia’s looming suspension did not affect my choice. I imagine I will get some disagreement with this one since the numbers are not all there, but since his move over to the NL in 2015, Kelley has been one of the most reliable bullpen arms in the league.

Both guys have been solid for a couple of years and neither one of them show signs of slowing down. In the end, Kelley’s consistency, and the fact that he won’t miss a bunch of games to start the season, lead me to believe he will build off of a career year. If the Nationals decide to give him a shot at the ninth, I think he will have a much greater impact than last year’s 1.1 WAR

Let’s hear from you! Which relief pitcher would you want on your team in 2017? Also, be on the lookout for part three of the series when we finish out the battery and discuss which guy you want behind the plate for your team next season! Best catcher for 2017 in the NL East next Wednesday!

Photo Courtesy of: mlb.com

Stats Courtesy of: fangraphs.com

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