Worst Relief Pitchers
A Great Year Sandwiched By Terrible Ones
Matt Albers‘ 2017 season with the Washington Nationals was the best of his career. In 61 innings, he posted a sparkling 1.62 ERA with a 27.0% strikeout rate and 7.3% walk rate, yet was only worth 0.9 fWAR. His 3.20 SIERA told us that regression was on the way, and it happened with the Milwaukee Brewers this past year.
He tossed just 34.1 innings for the Brew Crew and struggled to a 7.34 ERA (although his 3.90 SIERA tells us he ran into some tough luck). This performance was worth -0.8 fWAR, basically negating the prior year’s success in about half the workload. The year before that stellar 2017 campaign, Albers posted -0.9 fWAR in 51.1 innings. So, his career fWAR basically remained unchanged after a roller coaster of emotions throughout the past three years.
The outlier peripherals were in his batted-ball profile. With Washington, he limited hitters to a .203 BABIP thanks in part to a 30.9% soft-hit rate and 22.1% hard-hit rate. Those numbers regressed heavily in 2018 to .347, 20.7%, and 38.7%, respectively.
A Good Time to Bounce Back
Following a number of years with so-so results, southpaw reliever Tony Sipp experienced his breakout in 2015 with the Houston Astros (1.99 ERA, 28.7% strikeout rate, 2.76 SIERA, and 1.0 fWAR in 54.1 innings). He used that to score a three-year, $18 million contract to stay with Houston. It was worth it because he won championship, but things didn’t start going well on a personal level until the final year of his deal.
Sipp failed to post a single-season ERA below 4.95 in 2016 or 2017, and combined to be worth -1.0 fWAR over that time. Prior to hitting free agency again, he bounced back by posting a 1.86 ERA and 0.9 fWAR in 2018. He surrendered just 0.23 homers per innings, which is far below his 1.36 career average, as well.
He’ll eventually get picked up by someone because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t need a lefty reliever coming off a solid year? However, his trip into the open market will undoubtedly be different this time around because of the struggles he went through.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book and created an online class about how to get started as a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.