2019 MLB Season: Six Relievers to Believe in

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - AUGUST 03: Nick Anderson #70 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches to the Miami Marlins during the eighth inning of a baseball game at Tropicana Field on August 03, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - AUGUST 03: Nick Anderson #70 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches to the Miami Marlins during the eighth inning of a baseball game at Tropicana Field on August 03, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

2019 MLB Season: Six Relievers to Believe in

Aaron Bummer, Chicago

If you want to discover relievers who might be flying under the radar, the American League Central is the first place to look. No, not because of the overflowing array of talent situated there. Quite the opposite.

Relievers don’t get volume opportunities to rack up aggregating stats like typical starters do. What they do have is a spotlight during the most high-leverage opportunities of the games that matter most. Without those opportunities, it’s tough to make your name as a reliever.

The Chicago White Sox haven’t had a ton of high-impact moments during the 2019 MLB season. They’re better than expected this season, hanging around .500 for much of the first half, but at 54-65, the Southsiders have settled in.

One area that’s been largely okay for the ChiSox is their bullpen. As a unit, they rank 13th in the majors with a 4.42 ERA, though that’s the most optimistic overall number you’ll find. They’re second to last by walk rate and dead last in strikeout rate. They’ve blown 10 saves and taken 15 losses, the third and fifth-fewest in the majors.

Feel free to attribute much of their back-end success to 25-year-old lefty Aaron Bummer. This season is Bummer’s third with at least 30 appearances, but the first where it really feels like he’s here to stay.

And while he may be good, can he make a 14-year veteran look silly? Yes, he can.

Across 40 games, the former 19th-round pick has a 1.72 ERA/3.18 FIP (1.0 fWAR, 2.2 bWAR).

If the higher FIP isn’t enough to give you pause, however, there are some other reasons to wonder how sustainable Bummer’s season has been thus far.

His strikeout totals are low, 7.85 K/9 – very low for a reliever – and his control has been good, but not otherworldly. A .248 BABIP may yet regress upwards, and he’s sure to eventually surrender some home runs. In 77 games between this year and last, only 3 balls have left the yard off Bummer. But it’s not entirely luck.

Bummer earns his money killing worms. Like T.J. McFarland of the Diamondbacks, Bummer survives unspectacular strikeout numbers by generating a tremendous amount of groundballs. His 70% GB% is second in the majors amongst relievers. Launch angles be damned, it’s tough to hit a groundball home run.

If Bummer can keep it up, the White Sox can entrust him with increasingly high-leverage situations in the 2019 MLB season’s final six weeks – should they have any.