Over the past seven seasons, quite a large timeframe in baseball, the Atlanta Braves have had the lowest relief ERA in the major leagues. It’s clear to see that most of that success revolves around Craig Kimbrel and his ridiculous stats since he has been in the league. In 227.3 innings, Kimbrel has given up only 123 hits, while striking out 381 batters and holding a WHIP of 0.902.
However, if the team wants to continue having the best bullpen in the league, it’s going to take more than Kimbrel in 2014. The guys that come before him have to perform, and the starters need to go deep into ballgames.
The most important part of the bullpen in 2014 is going to be the eighth inning. The man that will most likely hold that spot down, if he continues his success from 2013, will be Luis Avilan. His importance to the bullpen and the team is paramount if they want to continue to be recognized as the premiere bullpen in the league.
The projections on Avilan are quite high, giving him an ERA of around 3.60. Also, most see his WHIP rising to 1.23, with his strikeout rate apparently going up to about 44 batters in 60 innings pitched. In his brief time with in the big leagues, Avilan has pitched in 106 games, tallying 101 total innings. Over that time, he has held an ERA of 1.69, struck out 71 batters and to this point has a career WHIP lower than that of Kimbrel at 0.980.
Comparing Kimbrel and Avilan is like comparing apples to oranges really. However, Kimbrel is only a shade better than Avilan when it comes to sabermetrics. Avilan was 15 runs above average, compared to Kimbrel’s 18, and he is only marginally behind Kimbrel’s 2.1 wins above average with 1.7.
When looked at through that lens, Avilan is the one guy in the bullpen (other than Kimbrel) that absolutely has to perform at his highest level for this bullpen to be successful. If their starting pitching can get them through six or seven innings, the last two of the game won’t be any problem.