Charlie Furbush’s transition to reliever has certainly worked out well. After starting 12 games last season and throwing 59.1 innings, Furbush had a 6.83 ERA and a 2.67 K/BB ratio — with 12 home runs allowed. In a relief role, Furbush has a 2.19 ERA in 61.2 innings, a 3.10 K/BB ratio, and only seven home runs allowed.
Relievers often get a nice boost in their production when they make the transition, but Furbush’s boost has been even more significant. He went from an awful MLB starter to a great reliever, which is not completely uncommon but is somewhat irregular. And he isn’t just doing it against lefties, either. He has thrown 19.1 innings against righties and 17.1 innings against lefties, with a wOBA against below .210 while facing batters on either side of the plate.
What’s nice to see is that he has dominated lefties, to the tune of a 26/3 K/BB ratio and one run allowed. If righties start to hammer Furbush, he will likely still be effective in a relief role as a lefty specialist, which has added value in innings limit fantasy leagues that account for holds. He has just two holds on the season, but with Brandon League a potential trade target and Tom Wilhelmsen likely taking over the closer spot — if he isn’t traded as well — Furbush should see more opportunities to hold leads.
Having been a starter has proven beneficial for Furbush in his first 60 innings as a reliever, as his multitude of pitches has allowed him to get both righties and lefties out effectively. His two-seamer has been a quality pitch throughout the year, especially against right-handed batters. He throws the two-seamer, or sinker, roughly 17 percent of the time against lefties but ups the usage of the pitch up twice as much against righties, at 34 percent. The results have been impressive, as his whiff rate jumps up over 11 percent for his sinker against righties while his four-seamer sits below 4 percent, according to Brooks Baseball.
Furbush may not be the next Jonny Venters of the past two years, but he still can be a valuable reliever to speculate on in holds leagues. His numbers against righties will likely rise — but he still has just a 3.07 xFIP against righties despite a .133 BABIP. His dominance of left-handed relievers provides a bit of support in case he starts to struggle against righties. Although Oliver Perez has impressed, I expect Furbush to receive more hold opportunities and keep his rates down for the remainder of the year. In holds leagues, he seems like a good reliever to speculate on.
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