Ryan Webb Should Be the Cleveland Indians’ New Setup Man

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The Cleveland Indians’ bullpen has been a weak link through two months of the season, but could the most capable set-up man be journeyman Ryan Webb?

Ryan Webb has had a tumultuous season. He was traded to the Dodgers by the Baltimore Orioles in early April, but he refused his outright assignment to the minors to come join the Cleveland Indians instead. Could this be the best pickup the Tribe will make all year? 

While the Tribe will probably make more notable moves before the trade deadline, Webb is certainly the best move to this point. He was considered a fairly average middle-inning reliever, but the Tribe has seen similar success stories in the past. Most recently, Bryan Shaw and Scott Atchison proved the hidden value in “average” relievers, and previously, Joe Smith made an impressive case for why any bullpen arm can make a significant impact.

And if a reliever is performing that well for nearly no money, that’s even better. The Dodgers are still paying most of Webb’s salary, which is over $2.6 million for this season. When they acquired him from the Orioles, Los Angeles was less interested in him and more focused on the compensation-round draft pick that they also picked up in the trade. The Dodgers told Webb he could either go to their Triple-A team or be granted his release to sign with another team. He felt that Cleveland was his quickest path to the majors, and so the Indians ended up the winners of a trade they had no part in.

Entering Tuesday’s game, Webb has made nine appearances for the Tribe, totaling 14 innings, to the tune of a 1.29 ERA. He’s given up just five hits and three walks, allowing two runs of his own and three inherited runs to score. While the rest of the bullpen has scuffled, Webb has remained a reliable option.

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So far this season, Webb has had seven outings in which he entered in what were considered “low” leverage situations, with only one “medium” leverage appearance, but historically, he’s pitched in both high- and low- intensity situations. A lot of components go into determining the leverage – some of which include the inning, the score and any runners. During the last three seasons in Baltimore and Miami, Webb was frequently used regardless of the pressure involved.

While Francona has yet to trust him in a high-leverage situation, it may be time to ramp up the intensity a bit and see how he does. Although Cody Allen has been performing better as of late, Shaw is still struggling. Could Webb be a viable replacement as the setup man?

He’s 29 years old and has spent most of his seven-year career as a seventh inning reliever. As a predominantly ground ball pitcher, Webb is a good late-inning arm because his capable of getting double plays and easy infield outs. In 88 career innings, he’s averaged a 2.15 ERA in the eighth inning. While that statistic doesn’t mean too much, it does say that Webb is not fazed by pitching late in the game. He’s also good in close situations – hitters have batted just .226 against him with two outs and runners in scoring position, while hitting .285 in “late and close” games.

Webb may not be the flashiest name in the bullpen, but it’s time for the Indians to give him more opportunities to prove himself. Shaw is struggling, and the Tribe’s bullpen needs a setup man they can trust.

Webb is the man for the job, if the team will only give him the chance.

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