Despite an impressive bullpen, the Oakland A’s loss of J.B. Wendelken is a bigger blow to their hopes than one would think.
One of the Oakland A’s greatest strengths this season has been their bullpen. Closer Liam Hendriks has built off of his breakout 2019 campaign, producing yet another stellar season as the A’s closer. Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit, and Joakim Soria have been a strong trio to bridge the gap to the ninth inning. But it is J.B. Wendelken who may be the most important reliever in the bullpen aside from Hendriks.
Unfortunately, the A’s will be without Wendelken for some time. He was placed on the Injured List on Thursday, although the A’s did not provide a reason as to why.
This does not necessarily mean that Wendelken tested positive for COVID, nor that he was even exposed to someone with the virus. To this point, the A’s final four games are still scheduled to occur as planned.
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Nonetheless, the loss of Wendelken definitely hurts the A’s bullpen. He has been their third most valuable reliever this year, worth 0.7 bWAR in this abbreviated season. Over his 25 innings, he has posted a sterling 1.80 ERA and a 1.120 WHiP, striking out 31 batters with 11 walks. His 229 ERA+ ranks third on the team, illustrating his place as one of the A’s most valued relievers.
In theory, the A’s have the depth to cover for this loss. The aforementioned trio of Diekman, Soria, and Petit are a strong enough group to handle the latter part of any game. But with the postseason not having a day off until after the second round, and the A’s starters being somewhat shaky, they will need every reliever available.
That is where the loss of Wendelken will hurt the most. He had emerged as a key part of the A’s buzzsaw of a bullpen, someone that manager Bob Melvin had complete confidence in. With just four games left, there is not much time for someone to step up and take that role.
The Oakland A’s will be without J.B. Wendelken for some time. His absence will be a tough blow during the postseason.