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Rays Season Preview: Jeff Beliveau

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Let's continue with the bullpen outlook for 2015 with 28-year old lefty reliever Jeff Beliveau, who will probably enter his first "full" season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

With less than 42 innings pitched in three years of major league experience, Jeff Beliveau is what you can call a bullpen arm. At 28 years old, the Rhode Island-native will surely try to add more to the Rays organization this year, as there is still room in the bullpen and innings to be filled.

First of all, let's see how Beliveau did in the 2014 Rays bullpen among pitchers with more than 30 innings pitched:

Name IP K% BB% GB% HR/FB FIP xFIP WAR
71.1 32.9 % 5.8 % 38.0 % 2.9 % 1.73 2.58 2.6
64.2 42.1 % 8.1 % 41.2 % 18.8 % 2.84 1.95 0.9
63.1 27.9 % 5.7 % 32.9 % 11.3 % 3.4 3.11 0.6
Jeff Beliveau 24 28.0 % 7.0 % 40.3 % 4.5 % 2.47 3.06 0.5
52.1 20.4 % 10.0 % 47.7 % 7.7 % 3.67 3.9 0.1
36 26.9 % 9.6 % 32.3 % 9.3 % 3.74 3.78 0.1
62.1 21.1 % 15.2 % 43.8 % 5.1 % 3.95 4.49 0
31.2 18.6 % 11.4 % 33.3 % 5.8 % 4.52 5.32 -0.2
34 17.4 % 8.0 % 32.0 % 10.6 % 4.6 4.4 -0.3
30.1 14.1 % 3.7 % 42.7 % 17.5 % 5.47 4.1 -0.5

Certainly having only 24 IP to his record oblige us to take his statistics with a grain of salt, yet he does not stand out with any terrible metric on the table shown above, which is already nice. Beliveau is not either the strikeout machine Brad Boxberger or Jake McGee can be, but he does have decent control over his pitches which led him to have the second-lowest FIP in the bullpen last season. Although, his extremely low home run per fly ball ratio explains also his FIP, which is why we have to expect a slight spike in this statistic for 2015. Indeed, HR/FB ratios lower than 8% or higher than 12% are often expected to regress or improve considering the limited control a pitcher has over the number of dingers he allows every year.

Considering the fact that Beliveau shared his time between Triple-A baseball and the majors last season, as he was called up five different times, we should also take a look at his metrics with the Durham Bulls:

Season Team IP K% BB% ERA FIP
2014 Rays (AAA) 36 36.40% 10.00% 1.5 1.69

His 36% strikeout percentage, as well as his FIP aren't very surprising considering what he achieved in the MLB. However, his high walk percentage could be concerning, although he improved it compared to his 11.3% record with the Bulls in 2013.

Now that we assessed that he did quite well compared to the other Rays relief pitchers, and in the minors, let's look further into Jeff Beliveau and see what he offers when he is on the mound. According to PitchF/X data accessible on Fangraphs, here's how he mixed his pitches last season:

Pitch FA% FT% FC% CU% CH%
Usage % 20.6 % 35.2 % 20.8 % 20.8 % 2.1 %

Obviously Beliveau likes his fastballs, no matter if it's a four-seamed, a two-seamed or even a cutter, he will just go on and on with his heaters. According to the BrooksBaseball player card on him, his four-seamed fastball does a pretty good job at frustrating opposing batters:

"His fourseam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers and has essentially average velo."

Furthermore, Brooks Baseball categorizes his curveball as a real "worm killer that generates an extreme amount of groundballs [...] and is basically never swung at and missed". This comment really sparked my interest and I then wanted to know more about his curveball. Thanks to PitchF/X data, we can see that in 22 plate appearances where Beliveau threw a curveball at some point, hitters really didn't do well against his breaking pitch as they averaged .048, struck out 36.4% of the time and hit a groundball almost seven times out of ten. In these 22 occurrences, his curveball was only hit safely once and it resulted in a single. In case you're still a bit doubtful, here are his adjusted pitch values in 2014 which are expressed in runs above average.

wFA/C wFT/C wFC/C wCU/C wCH/C
-0.24 1.09 0.97 2.53 3.39

The lack of velocity on his four-seamer may explain the below-average value for his heater, although his two-seamed, cutter and curveball all compare well to the league average. If we take a look at the league rankings in terms of adjusted curveball value, Beliveau actually stands at the 11th place among relievers in 2014. Here's a little GIF to introduce you his curve in case you missed it.

Neat, right?

So clearly Jeff Beliveau has the kind of stuff needed to perform well as a middle or even late reliever, but after only 24 innings in 2014, can we expect more time from him in the majors this year? Everything leans toward it, at least for now. In a recent interview, Beliveau expressed his hopes for 2015, explaining that he was quite happy with his performance last season in the big leagues.

"In this game, you really never know," he said. "But I do feel comfortable with what I did last year. Hopefully I gained their confidence and they go with me and I get a spot. But I’ve been to a good amount of spring trainings, and I know something can always happen. You can’t really be too comfortable in this game."

Indeed, something can "always happen", but after being called five different times, the Rays organization should give him a regular spot right as the season begin, as nothing is going against Beliveau for now.