A big reason for the Augusta GreenJackets’ second-half surge and top 5 ERA ranking in the South Atlantic League has been a bullpen that manager Mike Goff feels confident in.
The GreenJackets entered the week tied for fourth in ERA at 3.43, which is strong considering six teams have an ERA below 3.50. A big part of the low earned run average comes from the bullpen, and the numbers back this.
Seven of Augusta’s eight primary relievers this season have recorded an ERA below 4 during their time with the GreenJackets. The one with an ERA north of 4 is Mason McVay, a lefty specialist who has taken on the biggest workload with 66 ⅔ innings. He has fared much better against left-handed batters this season, recording 35 strikeouts in 26 ⅓ innings against them.
Six of those eight are still in the GreenJackets bullpen, which is a big boost for the playoffs. Tyler Mizenko is slowly returning to form after sitting out for additional rest in August, and Jorge Bucardo and Stephen Johnson have filled in well at the back of the bullpen in his absence.
That trio has helped give the GreenJackets the most saves in the league at 48. Mizenko leads the league with 25, while Johnson has eight and Bucardo has six. Bucardo leads the staff with a 1.84 ERA in 44 innings.
“We’ve been able to use different guys every night,” Goff said. “I don’t remember a team I’ve ever managed late in the season where the entire bullpen was throwing the ball as well as they are. Normally, you have two or three guys. These guys are stepping up, and that’s huge. When you look down there and have options, it makes my job a lot easier.”
Goff has given the bullpen steady praise throughout the season. The relievers were forced to take on additional innings early in the year when starting pitchers suffered injuries or the schedule called for several doubleheaders because of constant rain.
Now, the bullpen is at its most consistent when it matters most. Along with the back-end trio and lefties McVay and Steven Okert, Danny Sandbrink has emerged as a contributor, allowing two earned runs in his first 10 ⅓ innings with the team.
“Every one of them has been huge down the stretch,” Goff said.
HERRERA CLAIMS AWARDS: Asheville Tourists’ shortstop Rosell Herrera swept the SAL postseason awards announced Thursday.
Herrera was named league MVP and Most Outstanding MLB Prospect. The 20-year-old is hitting .343 with 33 doubles and 16 home runs along with 21 stolen bases.
Herrera’s batting average is 29 points higher than the second-best mark, which is held by teammate Francisco Sosa. Despite not making the Colorado Rockies prospect list by Baseball America before the season, he has emerged as one of the better prospects in the league as the season winds down.
Savannah Sand Gnats starter Gabriel Ynoa won Most Outstanding Pitcher for his 2.72 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 135 ⅔ innings. The 20-year-old Ynoa has shown solid control by walking just 16 in 22 starts.