It didn’t take long for most Braves fans to turn on Jacob Webb. After being nearly unhittable in 2019 and 2020, the 25-year-old right-hander started this season miserably and was eventually demoted to AAA after 16 lackluster appearances in which he posted a 5.63 ERA. Many assumed his first couple of stints in the majors were just a flash in the pan; he wouldn’t be the first player to have immediate success before faltering. However, his comeback since returning to the majors once the rosters expanded in September has been sensational, and he might just be the Braves best right-handed relief option going down the stretch and into the postseason.
Atlanta’s Achilles heel all season long has been the bullpen, particularly from the right side. They parted ways with Darren O’Day, Mark Melancon, and Shane Greene and failed to replace their production. It also doesn’t help that Chris Martin has been a shell of his 2020 self this season, which could be caused by the ban on foreign substances that occurred in June. The only reliable option the Braves have consistently had from the right side this season is Luke Jackson, who has bounced back from a horrid 2020 and been indisputably Atlanta’s best reliever all season, but you need more than just one high-quality right-handed option out of the bullpen.
Alex Anthopoulos attempted to mediate the issue by trading for Richard Rodriguez at the deadline. But as I wrote yesterday, that trade hasn’t panned out. Despite some decent numbers on the surface, Rich Rod is in line for some severe regression, and we’ve seen it begin over his last 4.2 innings in which he has given up five home runs. Luckily, they have all been solo shots, but that’s a recipe for disaster from the bullpen. Until he develops a secondary offering that he trusts and learns to locate his fastball better, he can’t be relied on in high-leverage situations, and I don’t believe that will happen this season.
So, who does that leave? Well, Jesse Chavez and Edgar Santana are the only other right-handed relievers on the active roster. Touki Toussaint is another option, but he’s yet to really pitch in relief. Chavez and Santana have provided an unexpected boost, and they should be appreciated for what they’ve done. Still, they’re not Jacob Webb, who has put up some unbelievable numbers over 72.1 big-league innings.
For his career, Webb is boasting a minuscule 1.87 ERA, and that sample size should no longer be considered small. 73 appearances is more than an entire season’s worth of work. Webb hasn’t been AS productive in 2021, but his latest hot stretch of pitching — he hasn’t given up an earned run in his last 13 appearances (14 innings) — has his ERA all the way down to 3.00 on the season, which ranks third among all Braves relievers with at least 30 innings pitched.
Do I think Webb will finish his career with a sub-2.00 ERA? No, that’s just not sustainable. However, given the Braves current options, he should undoubtedly be the second-most used right-handed reliever out of the bullpen. He’s been that reliable of late and is deserving of more high-leverage opportunities moving forward.