Tipping Pitches: Multi-Inning Relievers

The ravaging of the starting pitcher ranks has had many turning an eye to the reliever ranks for reinforcements, even in mixed leagues or leagues without Holds. We’ve seen Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller rise to prominence without being in a closer’s role. This year’s big standout middle reliever is Houston’s Chris Devenski. His 43 strikeouts are tied 33rd-most in the league.

He has more strikeouts than notable Corey Kluber, Marcus Stroman, and even Jered Weaver if you can believe that. Devenski is still available in 29% of Yahoo! leagues, 40% of CBS leagues, and 41% of ESPN leagues so you might still be able to snag him for your staff. He is no doubt rostered in the leagues where he’s most valuable, but there are other relievers out there putting up big numbers and logging multi-inning appearances with regularity. Here are some of my favorites beyond Devenski:

Adam Warren | Yankees

Warren’s been a swingman/long reliever for a few years now, but is doing some of his best work this year. His swinging strike rate is tied with his previous career-high at 11%, yielding a career-best 24% strikeout rate. His slider looks the best we’ve seen and he’s leaning on it more than ever at 36% usage.

Obviously, the .170 BABIP and 0.0 HR/9 will push toward his .278/0.89 career marks, but I wouldn’t rule out this year being his best season since the 2.97 ERA/1.11 WHIP of 2014. He’s gone more than an inning in 10 of his 12 appearances and could put up the first 100+ IP reliever season since 2006 (Scott Proctor, 102.3).

Archie Bradley | Diamondbacks

Bradley is the classic prospect arm who only has two pitches and/or can’t make it through the lineup a third time and then thrives in a relief role. He had a 5.18 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, and 1.8 K:BB ratio in 177.3 innings (34 starts) over the last two years, but then made the team out of the bullpen this year where he has a 1.45 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 6.3 K:BB ratio in 18.7 innings. He has seven multi-inning outings in 11 appearances, three of which have seen him going into or beyond a third inning of work.

His fastball is up to 96 mph and he’s commanding better than ever, including a 65% first-pitch strike rate (56% coming into ’17) that has been instrumental in cutting his walk rate. He could be shifted back into a starting role or given a shot at closing, which could obviously alter his value, but for now he’s one of the best long relievers going.

Mike Montgomery | Cubs

Montgomery is one of the most popular multi-inning relievers and many believe he could be an asset in the rotation, too, if he was given another chance to start. He leads the league with eight appearances of at least two innings and 10 of 13 has gone at least five outs, but his gaudy 1.08 ERA is a bit misleading against a paltry 5% K-BB rate. He’s got nasty stuff that is tough to square up – as Eno highlighted back in January – so he’s been able to work around a 15% walk rate, though I’m not sure it’s a sustainable method for success without a lot more swing-and-miss. I’m certainly hanging onto him in NL-only leagues and might even keep him reserved in super-deep mixed leagues in hopes that he gets a crack at starting.

Ross Stripling & Chris Hatcher | Dodgers

Stripling had a split role last season with 14 starts and eight relief appearances, but this year he’s exclusively relieved and become a key piece for the Dodgers. His velocity has spiked over 2 mph to 93.1 en route to a 30% strikeout rate. He has gone more than an inning in 10 of his 12 appearances. A .429 BABIP has his WHIP up at 1.40, but with 18 of his 24 hits going for singles, it seems primed to come down if he continues pitching like this. Perhaps most surprising about Stripling’s season is that he hasn’t made a start yet given how many injuries the Dodgers have had in their rotation.

Hatcher has only gone more than an inning in eight of 13 appearances, but his seven appearances of at least two innings are tied for the 2nd-most behind only Montgomery’s eight. He has cut his walk rate to a career-best 5%, but the control gains could be coming at the expense of some command with a 9.7 H/9 and 1.3 HR/9 so far. Stripling and Hatcher are both NL-only plays for now. They both have 26 strikeouts, the same as Matt Harvey and more than Jered Weaver, amazingly enough.

Anthony Swarzak | White Sox

I guess Swarzak is lit as hell now? He has added a tick of velo, focused more on his slider (45% FB/55% SL usage), and just taken off with the White Sox. Sure, his .105 BABIP and 100% LOB rates won’t hold, but make no mistake about it: his surge is skill supported. His 36% strikeout rate is 20th among relievers (min. 10 IP) while his insane 20% swinging strike rate is fifth! He’s walking a career-low 3% of batters and only four guys have gotten hits off of him. The key, as he told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, has been manipulating his slider:

I’m throwing a few different ones right now. I have the one for a strike that’s a little bigger. I have the two-strike one, and I’m shortening up a little bit on it.

Even in a small, just under 20-inning sample, it’s hard not believe in what Swarzak is doing because the magnitude of it is so overwhelming. This isn’t the pitcher who brought a 15% K rate and 4.52 ERA into the season.

Who are some non-closing relievers you’ve been extracting fantasy value from, whether they’re multi-inning guys or not?

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. He is the purveyor of the SP Guide (on hiatus for '17). Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer, on Snapchat at psporer, and on Twitch at psporer24.

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Kahnle, Rosenthal, Parker

Also Bush and Kneble, but they’re closers now


Also I like to think of Drew Pomeranz as a multi inning reliever who just happens to start games. It’s how I console myself for all the quick hooks :(