If you’ll look in your handy baseball dictionary and find the term ‘underrated reliever’, it’s likely the case that you’ll see Kevin Jepsen‘s face right below it.
One of the longest-tenured but arguably least appreciated member (which middle reliever isn’t, really?) of the Los Angeles Angels, all Jepsen has done for the Angels is provide value — 2.6 fWAR worth over 192 total big-league innings in his career, despite a rather pedestrian 4.22/1.41 ERA/WHIP.
Last year, though, things were starting look a little different for the unassuming reliever. He’d cranked his fastball up to a career-best 96.6 mph average, walked fewer batters than ever (career-low 2.42 BB/0), and put up some of his best counting numbers at a 3.02/1.14 ERA/WHIP and a .238 BAA.
So, understandably, you’d have to think that the Angels were looking forward to seeing what the 28-year-old would do for an encore in 2013, right?
The team did have to wait a little longer than expected for that to happen thanks to a tricep injury that put Jepsen out of action for 40 whole games, but he’s back in the show now … and something is a little different about this year’s version of the reliever too — namely, the fact that he’s now all but unhittable.
Being that we’re talking about single-season numbers for a reliever, the small sample size caveat definitely applies;but even so, the numbers since his return on May 26 are hard to ignore: nine appearances, all scoreless (well, earned runs, anyway), with four of them being flawless.
Even with a brutal four-run, 0.1 IP pre-injury outing that really messes up the counting numbers, he’s still sitting with a 2.92/1.05 ERA/WHIP. That’s going fluctuate a fair bit as the season goes on due to the SSS for now, but perhaps a more accurate representation of Jepsen is his currently career-best .191 BAA and 10.95 K/9.
Those aren’t numbers you wouldn’t normally associate with his name, and even though his 8.6 swinging strike rate suggests that the Ks will eventually come down to earth, the fact that he’s allowing line drives at a career-low 15.6 rate bodes relatively well for his rest-of-season outlook.
Will it be enough to finally get him some recognition from the middle relief spot? Well, even if it isn’t, his continued improvement won’t be lost on the Angels, I’m sure.