MLB All-Star rosters were unveiled on Sunday. The body of work needed for a reliever to make the cut — for those that aren’t closers — was revealed.
Joe Mantiply. Arizona Diamondbacks.
He has just two saves, well beneath the 11 of Arizona closer Mark Melancon.
General relievers lack the notoriety of a closer: if we assume the closer is the best reliever on a team (a big and sometimes ancient assumption), how can a non-closer prove worthy of the All-Star Game if they aren’t even regarded as the best on their own roster?
Bullpen roles have definitely shifted from a previous consensus — see Tampa Bay Rays or Andrew Miller — but modern understanding can take a while to catch up. Jim Leyland valued pitcher wins with the 2013 AL squad he managed, after all. Perhaps we’re entering a progressive era of statistical understanding, one with pitcher wins dethroned and saves nothing more than a construct of the 70’s when longer starts and limited bullpens were the norm.
All-Star voting christened Mantiply (1-2 record) as the best D-Backs reliever; the new perceived voting process might say just as much as Mantiply’s body of work. Either that, or the league just needed to award one player from Arizona and saves had to be disregarded.
Two NL relievers (minimum 20 IP) have a better ERA than Mantiply. One is the Cardinals’ Ryan Helsley, his 0.73 ERA (37 IP) also earning an All-Star ticket.
The other underwent elbow surgery and is likely done for the year.
Without injury, he was every shade of All-Star.
(Note: This article uses Mantiply’s stats at the time of All-Star roster unveiling. It does not include his Monday outing in San Francisco — 1⁄3 IP, 2 R/1 ER, 1 BB — as this did not factor in his All-Star placement.)
Tyler Kinley and Mantiply have a lot of similarities. Both are six-foot-four and 31 years old, pitching in their ninth year of pro ball and working in their respective bullpens with near-identical roles. Where they stand differently, however, is their pitch mix: Mantiply tosses a sinker/curveball selection and he works with 14th-percentile fastball velocity (90.9 MPH average). Kinley operates in the 77th percentile (95.4), mixing primarily heaters and sliders.
ERA does not tell everything; this is especially true of relievers. A sub-one ERA at Coors Field tells a little more than a 1.83 at Chase Field, however. Is the outfield expanse of Coors also enough to reason Kinley’s 1.13 WHIP in the same vicinity as Mantiply’s 0.87, and is it OK that Kinley walked six batters to Mantiply’s one?
How granular can you compare these two?
The ‘Other’ Side: Kinley vs. Bard
As noted by Kyle Newman and Patrick Saunders last week, the Rockies were anticipating an All-Star invite to either C.J. Cron or Daniel Bard. All 30 MLB teams will see at least one player named to the All-Star Game, so if any favors were done for Mantiply, one could argue similar favor could be done for Bard.
Here’s how Bard stacks up with Kinley:
Bard’s 18 saves carry more weight than Kinley’s zero, and a few extra appearances this summer by Bard makes his All-Star candidacy sufficient enough for consideration. Every other column on the above table (except bWAR) is either in Kinley’s favor or almost negligible, however.
If we don’t include saves, Mantiply outperformed Bard in a lot of categories:
It’s tough to hold a lack of saves against Mantiply, given that he really can’t do anything about receiving those situations. (In similar context: Can you really devalue a hitter for having low RBI totals if nobody gets on base in front of them?)
With a healthy arm, Kinley could very well be pitching in Los Angeles next Tuesday. All he would have needed was a healthy continuation of what he had been doing all season: a lofty ask, yes, but a justified placement from there alongside his NL West counterpart.
It’s tough to expect any reliever will be named an All-Star with fewer than five appearances in the combined months of June and July. It’s even tougher watching the All-Star Game as a physical therapy patient, knowing you were on your way to pitching on a global summer stage.
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Our friend Kevin Henry from Rox Pile gives us a full rundown on Antonio Senzatela’s injury front; the right-hander is scheduled to start for Triple-A Albuquerque this evening in Sacramento. Henry details the shoulder pain that has ailed Senzatela this summer, along with the hamstring issues he was suffering in spring training.
For a full dose of MLB draft prep, do these two things:
- Check out this preview from The Athletic staff, mapping out the Rockies’ selections and how they may look to allocate $13 million in bonus pool money.
- Check out the draft preview on the Pebble Report Podcast from Monday morning, along with Purple Row’s Draft 1.0 and Draft 2.0 previews published by Renee Dechert and Kenneth Weber.
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Injuries and related setbacks are not fun. Virtually all teams will encounter them in some form, and everybody has a story when it comes to facing them. Tyler Kinley is just the latest in the Rockies lineage, and several other pitchers should not be forgotten either.
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On the Farm
Monday, May 30: League-wide off day for all minor league affiliates
New series starting today:
Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes (COL) at Sacramento River Cats (SF)
Double-A: Harrisburg Senators (WSH) at Hartford Yard Goats (COL)
High-A: Spokane Indians (COL) at Eugene Emeralds (SF)
Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies (COL) at Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (LAD)
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