Atlanta’s bullpen is one of the few legitimate areas of concern for the first-place club as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. The Braves, cognizant they’re in need of upgrades, have been connected to Blue Jays closer Ken Giles, Orioles right-hander Mychal Givens and multiple White Sox relievers on the rumor mill in recent days, and there are likely more late-game arms on the team’s radar.
The Braves are in search of help because they haven’t gotten nearly enough from the majority of their current options. Of their healthy arms, only Luke Jackson, Anthony Swarzak and Sean Newcomb have posted high-quality numbers over at least 20 innings of work apiece. Right-hander Jacob Webb has also been eminently productive, having notched a tremendous 1.39 ERA through 32 1/3 frames, but the 25-year-old rookie hasn’t been a factor in recent weeks. Webb has totaled a mere three innings this month and hasn’t pitched since July 12 on account of an elbow impingement, and it doesn’t appear he’ll return to the Braves’ bullpen in the immediate future. Manager Brian Snitker indicated Wednesday that Webb’s set to miss “at least a couple more weeks,” Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes.
The latest news on Webb could further galvanize the Braves to bolster their bullpen in the next week. However, they’d have likely tried to do so even had he stayed healthy. The Braves are atop the NL East East at 60-43, meaning they don’t have to pick up anyone, but their lead has dwindled to 4 1/2 over the Nationals – whom they play 10 more times. Three of those games will take place next week, but the Braves won’t have Webb available for any of them.
Depending on the stats you look at, Webb may have been either supremely lucky or just flat-out excellent prior to landing on the IL. ERA indicators FIP (4.31), xFIP (5.14) and SIERA (4.54) suggest Webb has no business sporting such a pristine ERA, and his strikeout, walk and groundball rates (7.79 K/9, 3.34 BB/9, 38.2 GB%) also paint a somewhat gloomy picture.
On the other hand, the hard-throwing Webb has been a wiz at preventing meaningful contact this season. Among 168 relievers who have thrown at least 30 innings, Webb checks in at 17th in infield fly percentage (17.5). He also ranks near the top of the league in several Statcast categories, including expected weighted on-base average against. Hitters have mustered a weak .287 wOBA off Webb, which aligns with an even better .281 xwOBA. Webb’s first among Braves relievers in the former category, while only Jackson has outdone him in the latter.