After a solid 2018 season (60 games, 63 2⁄3 innings, 76 ERA-, 97 FIP-, 88 xFIP-, 0.3 fWAR, 1.10 WPA), Jesse Biddle came into the 2019 season looking like a key piece of Atlanta’s bullpen. An 11.7 percent walk rate was a warning sign, but at the very least, the Braves had reasons to believe that Biddle could again provide quality middle relief.
What went right in 2019?
Let’s see... he made the Opening Day roster? It’s really grim. In 15 appearances for the Braves this season, Biddle increased his team’s chance of winning in just five of them. His best inning was a scoreless outing against the Mets on April 14, where he preserved a four-run lead, struck out Pete Alonso, and didn’t walk anyone despite giving up a single.
What went wrong?
Biddle struggled from the outset, walking 10 over his first 11 2/3 innings while allowing seven earned runs. He made just 15 appearances for the Braves. Biddle went on the injured list on April 27 with a right groin strain. He returned to the majors on May 14 and allowed four hits and three runs in just a 1/3 of an inning. He was shipped to Seattle along with Arodys Vizcaino on May 20 in exchange for Anthony Swarzak.
This doesn’t quite do it justice, though. Biddle self-immolated five separate times in April alone. By the time the Braves sent him away, he had accumulated the fourth-worst WPA among relievers in baseball (though teammate A.J. Minter was somehow even worse with a -1.48 mark to top Biddle’s -1.14). In four of his 15 appearances, he failed to record an out. Two of those came back to back — at one point he allowed nine consecutive batters to reach across three appearances, which spelled the end of his stint in Atlanta. He retired just one of the last 13 batters he faced in a Braves uniform.
The worst of these outings, though, came on April 17, against the Diamondbacks. Biddle was asked to throw a scoreless 10th. Instead, he issued three walks in the frame, including back-to-back two-out walks to score the go-ahead run, and the Braves ended up losing as a result. In that entire inning, the Diamondbacks pushed across the winning run without a hit (error made by Biddle himself on a ball hit back to him), and two of Biddle’s three walks came to lefties (including David Peralta, who struggles mightily against southpaws). It was really, really bad.
Biddle made 11 appearances for the Mariners but his struggles persisted allowing 12 earned runs in just 11 innings to go along with seven more walks. He was later claimed off of waivers by the Rangers where he made four appearances allowing seven earned runs in 5 1/3 while issuing five walks and hitting three batters. He was placed on the injured list on July 16 with left shoulder fatigue and would not return.
What to expect in 2020?
Biddle will be arbitration-eligible this offseason if he sticks with the Rangers, but he looks like a DFA candidate. He will likely be looking for a minor league deal during the offseason with a chance to come to Spring Training in hopes of earning a job somewhere.