The Tampa Bay Rays have played six games and their saves leader is not the guy people were expecting. We take a look at their bullpen usage thus far.
The Tampa Bay Rays showed a lot of confidence in their current crop of guys when they traded Emilio Pagan to the Padres this past offseason.
Entering the season the Rays brought three guys to the table that people thought would compete for saves. Nick Anderson, Jose Alvarado, and Diego Castillo.
At this moment, the team-leader in saves is not on the previous list. Oliver Drake currently leads the team with two saves. His deceptive splitter cuts to the right while he falls off to his left and creates a strange look at the plate.
Drake was the guy being called upon to finish games this season while Nick Anderson was used in crucial situations earlier in the games. In fact, in both of Anderson’s appearances this season he has put out a fire that allowed Drake to pick up both of his saves.
Tampa Bay Rays – Nick Anderson (break glass in case of emergency)
July 25 against Toronto, Anderson was called upon with two outs in the seventh innings of a tie ballgame with runners on first and second. Anderson would close out the seventh and pitch the entire eighth inning, earning the win.
July 28 against Atlanta, Anderson was asked to preserve a four-run lead that was in danger. He again entered the game in the seventh inning with two outs and runners on first and third. After Ryan Thompson walked Acuna, Ozzie Albies had a chance to make it a one-run game with one swing of the bat. That’s when Kevin Cash called upon Nick Andreson.
Albies is a dangerous hitter in his own right, but Freddie Freeman was due up next and he represented the tying run. The game hung in the balance and Cash turned to Nick Anderson once again. While Albies was able to knock home a run with a single, Anderson retired Freeman on three pitches, leaving one of the best hitters in the game looking visibly lost at the plate.
He got the Rays out of the jam and allowed Oliver Drake an opportunity to finish off the victory. As a fan, I love seeing the best arm being used in most difficult situations. How many games have been lost because the crucial matchups happened in the seventh and eighth innings and managers refused to bring their “closers” in because it wasn’t the ninth?
Tampa Bay Rays – Fantasy Impact on Nick Anderson
Kevin Cash has already shown that he’s not afraid to use Anderson past an inning’s worth of work. He may not rack up as many saves as other “closers,” but he’s going to be a very valuable piece. Last season, Anderson struck out 110 batters in 65.0 innings.
He’s going to make up for having fewer saves than traditional closers by offering better ratios and more wins. This past offseason we published an article comparing Anderson to Josh Hader, and for a long time, the Brewers used Hader in a similar role.
It makes it easier for teams like the Rays to decide to deploy their main-eventer in the bullpen in clutch spots when they have the comfort of knowing there are several capable arms to pitch a clean ninth.
If you drafted Nick Anderson in fantasy baseball then don’t panic. He’ll get saves, he’ll rack up strikeouts and he’ll add wins. There will be games in which the clutch moment comes down to the ninth inning.