What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.
Also, keep in mind that these lists are based on rosters as of last week, so weekend transactions are not reflected in the rosters below. In some cases, teams have allocated playing time to different reserves than these depth charts show, but because they’re almost always choosing between near-replacement level players, the differences won’t move the needle much if at all.
And now, for our final act:
Your best bullpens in the league, separated by millimeters and likely to look completely different by the end of the year. In reality, this is the hardest group to project, because bullpens are more fungible than any other position on a roster. Starters who fail to pitch well in the rotation will get moved to the bullpen unexpectedly. Guys who look like fringe prospects will start throwing sidearm, destroy the world, and come up in a few months to dominate. The guys who were great last year will be less great this year, and new great guys will come out of nowhere.
Don’t yell at the projections, they’re doing the best they can with 60-inning samples. And we did the best we could to get the forecasted roles correct, but then Neftali Feliz gets optioned to Triple-A and who knows how long he’ll be there? So, yeah, imperfect exercise. Interpret accordingly.
#16 White Sox
|Nate Jones||65.0||9.7||3.5||0.8||.309||75.1 %||3.44||3.38||1.2|
|Matt Lindstrom||65.0||7.2||3.0||0.8||.309||71.3 %||3.89||3.73||0.7|
|Ronald Belisario||55.0||7.1||3.9||0.8||.308||70.6 %||4.20||4.05||0.2|
|Scott Downs||55.0||7.1||3.6||0.7||.307||72.4 %||3.85||3.80||0.3|
|Daniel Webb||45.0||8.0||4.9||0.9||.306||71.6 %||4.43||4.40||0.0|
|Donnie Veal||40.0||8.6||5.1||1.0||.305||72.7 %||4.35||4.42||0.0|
|Deunte Heath||35.0||7.0||5.0||1.3||.305||70.2 %||5.16||5.18||-0.1|
|David Purcey||30.0||7.6||5.4||1.1||.302||72.0 %||4.76||4.98||-0.1|
|Santos Rodriguez||25.0||8.9||6.0||1.1||.300||72.2 %||4.64||4.71||0.0|
|Jake Petricka||20.0||7.2||5.2||0.9||.308||71.6 %||4.60||4.61||0.0|
|Frank De Los Santos||15.0||4.8||4.2||1.3||.304||68.7 %||5.36||5.40||-0.1|
|The Others||55.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||0.0|
The Chicago bullpen finished third among all major-league relief corps by WAR in 2013. Their forecast for 2014, however, skews decidedly more average. One is tempted to note that the difference between last year’s figure (5.8) and this season’s projection (2.0) is roughly equivalent to the collective WAR produced by the now departed tandem of Jesse Crain (1.9) and Addison Reed (1.7). While merely subtracting the WAR figures of two pitchers from last year’s totals isn’t methodologically sound, it is spiritually accurate in this case, as the Sox’ only notable bullpen addition (Scott Downs) is unlikely to compensate for the absence of Crain and Reed in high-leverage innings. As a result, the club more or less features just one high-end relief arm (Nate Jones) and then a collection of his merely serviceable colleagues.
One pitcher seemingly poised to outperform his projection is young right-hander Daniel Webb. Following a September promotion last year, he produced a 14.8% swinging-strike rate and 80 xFIP- in a handful of innings — largely on the strength, that, of a fastball that sat at ca. 96 mph and at least one serviceable breaking ball.
|John Axford||65.0||9.4||3.4||1.0||.313||74.1 %||3.74||3.59||0.5|
|Cody Allen||65.0||10.3||3.3||0.9||.312||77.3 %||3.26||3.27||0.9|
|Vinnie Pestano||55.0||9.5||3.6||1.0||.306||75.0 %||3.62||3.70||0.2|
|Bryan Shaw||55.0||8.4||3.2||0.8||.306||73.1 %||3.61||3.55||0.3|
|Marc Rzepczynski||45.0||7.1||3.5||0.8||.308||71.4 %||4.02||3.95||0.0|
|Josh Outman||40.0||8.9||3.5||0.9||.314||73.3 %||3.74||3.61||0.1|
|Blake Wood||35.0||8.7||4.4||0.8||.310||73.6 %||3.91||3.88||0.0|
|Nick Hagadone||30.0||9.1||4.6||1.0||.307||73.9 %||4.02||4.04||0.0|
|Josh Tomlin||25.0||5.4||1.6||1.3||.303||68.4 %||4.56||4.33||0.0|
|Matt Capps||20.0||6.1||2.1||1.3||.305||70.3 %||4.42||4.33||0.0|
|Frank Herrmann||15.0||6.9||2.9||1.3||.309||71.8 %||4.45||4.40||0.0|
|Scott Atchison||10.0||6.4||2.1||0.9||.306||70.4 %||3.99||3.69||0.0|
|The Others||40.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||-0.1|
It’s not ideal for a club when the pitcher to whom they’ve decided to allocate the highest-leverage innings proceeds then to prevent runs at merely an average rate or worse. Unfortunately for Cleveland, this was the case with Chris Perez for much of the recent past. Between 2011 and -13, major-league relievers as a whole recorded a collective 93 ERA-*. Over that same three-year interval, Perez produced a 96 ERA- — which is to say, slightly worse than his peers. Nor is this merely a product of luck or sequencing: Perez’s FIP and xFIP- were 108 and 103, respectively, in the relevant timeframe.
*The better-than-average figure a result of operating more frequently with the platoon advantage and having the opportunity to throw with greater effort in shorter appearances.
With Perez having departed, however, there’s little in the way of manifestly high-end talent to fill the void. Cody Allen certainly belongs at the back-end of a major-league bullpen. After that, however, there are uncertainties. John Axford, who has been excellent before, is a candidate to be excellent again. Much the same can be said of Vinnie Pestano. Young Blake Wood, who sat at 97 mph in brief exposure to major-league batters last year, is the sort of pitcher for whom one minor alteration can produce large effects.
Ultimately for Cleveland, there are a number of potential, if not necessarily likely, positive outcomes — which, that’s probably the correct way to assemble a competent bullpen at a discount. It’s just not the sort of virtue that a projection system is likely to detect.
|Trevor Rosenthal||65.0||11.2||2.8||0.6||.307||79.5 %||2.46||2.52||1.6|
|Carlos Martinez||65.0||7.5||3.3||0.7||.306||72.0 %||3.79||3.77||0.0|
|Kevin Siegrist||55.0||9.8||4.0||0.7||.298||76.7 %||3.15||3.34||0.3|
|Randy Choate||55.0||7.5||3.1||0.6||.302||72.2 %||3.44||3.48||0.1|
|Seth Maness||45.0||5.6||1.5||0.8||.305||71.8 %||3.55||3.54||0.0|
|Sam Freeman||40.0||7.1||4.1||0.8||.302||72.6 %||4.05||4.15||-0.2|
|Jason Motte||35.0||9.4||2.4||0.8||.296||78.1 %||2.87||3.13||0.1|
|Tyler Lyons||30.0||6.9||2.6||0.9||.304||71.4 %||3.94||3.88||-0.1|
|Joe Kelly||25.0||6.2||3.2||0.8||.306||71.2 %||4.03||3.97||0.0|
|Keith Butler||20.0||7.9||4.2||1.0||.299||73.2 %||4.10||4.29||0.0|
|Eric Fornataro||15.0||5.3||3.7||0.9||.303||70.1 %||4.60||4.65||-0.1|
|Angel Castro||10.0||6.0||3.5||0.9||.304||69.6 %||4.44||4.33||0.0|
|Pat Neshek||10.0||7.0||2.9||1.0||.299||74.0 %||3.89||4.05||0.0|
|The Others||18.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||-0.1|
For how menacing they seemed, with a seemingly unlimited supply of hard-throwers, the Cards’ bullpen was actually merely average on the whole in 2013, finishing just 18th in the majors by park-adjusted ERA — and not improving on that mark significantly in September. Part of the gap between perception and reality probably lies in the person of Trevor Rosenthal, who parlayed a 97 mph fastball and improving changeup into one of the great relief seasons of 2013, despite not actually recording a save until September 23rd. Regardless of Rosenthal’s precise role, manager Mike Matheny managed to utilize him in high-leverage situations, thus extracting reasonable value from his skills.
Based on his success in 2013, Rosenthal will resume where he left off in the World Series, as a menacing figure at the end of the Cardinals’ bullpen. Joining him, right before the end of that same bullpen, will be Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist. Having progressed through the Cardinal system almost exclusively in a starting capacity, Martinez and Siegrist have not recorded a total of 66 major-league appearances — only one of them (Martinez, on August 8th of last year) a start. While Martinez is the more celebrated talent, he hasn’t produced the sort of strikeout rates one is accustomed to seeing from a pitcher with his armspeed.
|Jonathan Papelbon||65.0||9.5||2.0||1.0||.304||77.3 %||3.09||3.13||1.1|
|Antonio Bastardo||65.0||10.8||3.9||1.0||.295||79.6 %||3.18||3.51||0.5|
|Mike Adams||55.0||8.1||2.8||0.9||.301||73.6 %||3.61||3.59||0.4|
|Brad Lincoln||55.0||8.2||3.1||1.1||.301||74.4 %||3.77||3.95||0.1|
|Justin De Fratus||45.0||8.0||3.6||0.8||.303||72.3 %||3.85||3.88||0.0|
|Jake Diekman||40.0||9.5||5.5||0.7||.309||73.5 %||3.93||3.93||0.0|
|B.J. Rosenberg||35.0||7.3||4.0||1.1||.304||71.7 %||4.49||4.54||-0.1|
|Ethan Martin||30.0||8.0||5.9||1.2||.305||70.9 %||5.13||5.15||-0.2|
|Phillippe Aumont||25.0||8.9||6.6||0.7||.309||71.5 %||4.55||4.53||-0.1|
|Mario Hollands||20.0||6.5||3.5||1.1||.301||70.1 %||4.56||4.50||-0.1|
|The Others||27.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||-0.1|
It is sometimes the case that two consenting heterosexual adults, upon finding that the lady one of them is accidentally “with child,” will decide at that point also to enter into holy matrimony, with the belief (it would seem) that two poor life choices, if made within close proximity, have the capability of negating each other. This is more or less the guiding philosophy behind many of the Phillies’ roster decisions in recent years. Among those decisions was the four-year, $50 million contract given to Jonathan Papelbon in November of 2011. This isn’t say that Papelbon wasn’t then or isn’t now a talented pitcher. He is. Nor is it to suggest that a club, considered a probable contender, oughtn’t pay considerable money for a marginal win. They probably should. The problem with the Papelbon deal was its sheer mass.
FanGraphs’ Jason Collette addressed said contract in late December:
The problem [is] Amaro gave a very large contract to a closer and has been the last GM to guarantee four years and that amount of money to a closer. Since Papelbon inked his deal, Rafael Soriano, Jason Grilli, Koji Uehara, Jose Veras (twice), Joe Nathan, Joaquin Benoit, Chad Qualls, and Jon Axford each has signed a free agent deal for two years or fewer and only Nathan and Soriano’s deals had an AAV of at least $10M. The only other reliever to receive three or more guaranteed years from a team to be the team’s closer is Brandon League. League’s deal over three years guarantees him less than Papelbon’s does over the next two.
After finishing third in the NL East in 2012, at 81-81, turned once again to free agency with a view to procuring a reliever — in this case, in the person of Mike Adams, to whom Philadelphia signed a two-year, $12 million contract. At his best, Adams has been excellent, producing an 80 xFIP- or lower in four different seasons. Unfortunately, Adams hasn’t been at his best since 2011 — and, in fact, only just recorded his first inning of the spring on Tuesday.
|Tommy Hunter||65.0||7.4||1.7||1.3||.298||73.7 %||3.80||3.92||0.5|
|Darren O’Day||65.0||8.7||2.3||1.2||.295||75.9 %||3.46||3.75||0.7|
|Brian Matusz||55.0||8.4||3.0||1.1||.301||74.9 %||3.69||3.83||0.5|
|Suk-Min Yoon||55.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||0.0|
|Ryan Webb||45.0||6.0||3.0||0.9||.302||70.8 %||4.22||4.21||0.1|
|T.J. McFarland||40.0||6.0||3.3||1.0||.308||70.1 %||4.46||4.34||0.0|
|Jairo Asencio||35.0||7.9||3.9||1.3||.307||71.7 %||4.64||4.62||-0.1|
|Troy Patton||30.0||7.1||2.5||1.1||.299||73.1 %||3.86||3.98||0.1|
|Steve Johnson||25.0||8.1||4.3||1.4||.300||73.0 %||4.65||4.84||0.0|
|Brad Brach||20.0||8.2||3.6||1.4||.301||73.4 %||4.42||4.59||0.0|
|Alfredo Aceves||15.0||6.9||3.7||1.5||.296||71.2 %||4.85||5.11||0.0|
|Michael Belfiore||10.0||7.4||4.4||1.3||.303||71.7 %||4.82||4.96||0.0|
|The Others||40.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||0.0|
The 2012 edition of the Orioles bullpen recorded a 13.86 WPA — a figure that was not only five wins better than that season’s second-place club (Texas) but which currently stands as the highest collective mark produced by single team’s relief corps since 1974, the earliest year for which the relevant data is available. Owing to the success of their predecessors, the members of Baltimore’s 2013 bullpen were always going to be relatively disappointing. While not poor, per se, Orioles relievers managed only average-ish figures in 2013 — by FIP, WAR, WPA, and whatever other measure.
Entering 2014, Baltimore must contend with the departure of closer Jim Johnson, sent to Oakland in a trade that was designed less to acquire Jemile Weeks and more to avoid paying Johnson the ca. $10 million he’d make via arbitration. Indeed, avoiding large commitments to relief arms is generally sound practice. The question remains, however, who will replace Johnson’s contributions from recent years — even if his defense-independent numbers were unremarkable relative to his late-inning peers
Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter all return and all are likely to assume high. After that triumvirate, however, there are only two pitchers, Troy Patton and Ryan Webb, projected to produce above and beyond replacement level — and the former of that pair (Patton) begins the season with a 25-game suspension for amphetamine use.
|Steve Cishek||65.0||9.1||3.2||0.6||.306||75.5 %||3.07||3.08||0.9|
|Mike Dunn||65.0||9.4||4.0||0.8||.306||76.0 %||3.38||3.48||0.6|
|A.J. Ramos||55.0||9.4||4.1||0.8||.302||74.8 %||3.53||3.59||0.2|
|Carlos Marmol||55.0||10.3||5.6||0.9||.301||74.9 %||3.84||4.06||0.0|
|Arquimedes Caminero||45.0||8.7||3.8||0.9||.306||73.4 %||3.75||3.81||0.1|
|Dan Jennings||40.0||7.6||4.0||0.7||.305||72.5 %||3.89||3.88||0.0|
|Brad Hand||35.0||7.7||4.9||1.1||.300||72.8 %||4.43||4.61||-0.1|
|Carter Capps||30.0||9.5||3.2||0.8||.313||74.6 %||3.45||3.32||0.1|
|Sam Dyson||25.0||4.8||3.3||0.7||.308||68.3 %||4.47||4.28||-0.1|
|Edgar Olmos||20.0||6.4||5.9||0.8||.305||70.9 %||4.85||4.97||-0.1|
|Grant Dayton||15.0||8.8||3.8||0.9||.308||74.1 %||3.71||3.79||0.0|
|Michael Brady||10.0||7.4||2.4||0.8||.309||71.8 %||3.68||3.57||0.0|
|Tom Koehler||10.0||6.4||4.1||1.0||.305||69.8 %||4.69||4.56||0.0|
|Kevin Slowey||10.0||6.6||1.9||1.2||.309||71.4 %||4.17||4.09||0.0|
|Chaz Roe||10.0||8.0||3.3||0.8||.299||75.0 %||3.47||3.63||0.0|
|The Others||17.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||0.0|
The Marlins are not unlike a Lars Von Trier film, insofar as after watching either (i.e. a Marlins game or Von Trier film) one is generally unable to avoid the feeling that life is little else but a carnival of miseries. Of course, it’s entirely possible that life is a carnival of miseries. Still, one needn’t be reminded of it all the time.
How the Miami front office dealt with entirely adequate reliever Ryan Webb is illustrative of their methods. Projected by Matt Swartz to earn just $1.5 million through arbitration, Webb was non-tendered by the club — this, despite having produced average numbers in relief and demonstrating no signs of injury, etc. Ultimately, the maneuver worked well for Webb, who signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with Baltimore just days after his departure. The point remains regarding Miami, however: they will cut costs anywhere that’s possible.
Despite their parsimony, the Marlins bullpen is considerably more well-off than other areas of the club (in that it’s nearly average, that is). Closer Steve Cishek (owed $3.8 million in 2014) recorded strikeouts, walks, and ground balls all at a better-than-average rate last year, and projections suggest he should repeat that accomplishment this next one. Mike Dunn and A.J. Ramos, who both produced strikeout rates north of 25%, also return. Finally, there’s very hard-throwing Carter Capps, acquired from Seattle for Logan Morrison. He’ll begin the season at Triple-A, but will probably be a part of the big-league club before too long.
|Jose Veras||65.0||9.4||3.8||0.8||.297||75.1 %||3.41||3.56||0.7|
|James Russell||65.0||6.8||2.7||1.2||.294||74.5 %||3.88||4.20||0.1|
|Kyuji Fujikawa||55.0||9.6||2.9||0.9||.301||75.0 %||3.25||3.32||0.6|
|Blake Parker||55.0||9.1||3.8||1.0||.300||75.1 %||3.71||3.92||0.1|
|Pedro Strop||45.0||9.2||3.9||0.6||.302||74.6 %||3.28||3.43||0.2|
|Hector Rondon||40.0||7.6||3.4||0.9||.298||72.0 %||3.93||3.97||0.0|
|Carlos Villanueva||35.0||7.5||3.0||1.1||.294||72.9 %||3.99||4.09||0.0|
|Justin Grimm||30.0||7.1||2.8||0.9||.308||72.1 %||3.84||3.74||0.0|
|Alberto Cabrera||25.0||7.7||3.8||1.1||.302||71.8 %||4.35||4.38||0.0|
|Arodys Vizcaino||20.0||7.9||3.6||1.1||.307||72.8 %||4.14||4.15||0.0|
|Brooks Raley||15.0||5.7||3.1||1.2||.306||69.7 %||4.75||4.73||0.0|
|Zac Rosscup||10.0||10.3||5.0||0.9||.301||76.9 %||3.53||3.86||0.0|
|Casey Coleman||10.0||6.3||4.0||1.2||.301||69.7 %||4.85||4.82||0.0|
|The Others||20.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||0.0|
There’s a certain level of mediocrity below which not only is it basically pointless for a club to assemble a mighty bullpen (because the marginal wins aren’t particularly important), but it’s also an offense to good taste. “Why are we wasting these resources on short relief when people are starving in Abyssinia?” one, having a poor knowledge of contemporary geography, might ask. The Cubs are more or less doing their part in this regard, insofar as (a) they’re unlikely to contend this season, but (b) have had the good sense not to allocate too much in the way of liquid funds to the relief corps. Were he not recovering from elbow reconstruction, foreign import Kyuji Fujikawa (owed $4.5 million in 2014) might be capable of providing some value for the club both as an actual pitcher and then, at midseason, possible trade candidate. Beyond him, only offseason signing/presumptive closer Jose Veras ($3.9 million) is scheduled to earn more than $2 million.
Of some note: while attending a Cubs spring-training contest in Mesa, AZ, a number of contributors to the present site witnessed injured-forever right-hander Arodys Vizcaino record actual innings in a game. He has excellent pedigree and apparently has touched 98 mph in camp. Expecting anything of substance from him, however, is probably a mistake.
|Rafael Soriano||65.0||7.5||2.7||1.1||.296||74.7 %||3.62||3.82||0.3|
|Tyler Clippard||65.0||9.8||3.0||1.2||.280||81.4 %||2.97||3.65||0.5|
|Drew Storen||55.0||8.5||2.5||1.0||.300||74.7 %||3.40||3.45||0.3|
|Craig Stammen||55.0||8.3||3.0||0.7||.304||74.0 %||3.36||3.32||0.3|
|Ross Detwiler||45.0||6.1||2.3||0.8||.304||71.8 %||3.77||3.79||0.0|
|Christian Garcia||40.0||8.6||3.3||0.8||.300||75.0 %||3.42||3.56||0.1|
|Ryan Mattheus||35.0||5.8||3.0||0.8||.305||69.8 %||4.25||4.10||-0.1|
|Jerry Blevins||30.0||8.0||2.8||1.0||.292||75.8 %||3.43||3.84||0.0|
|Michael Gonzalez||25.0||9.2||3.5||1.1||.311||75.2 %||3.89||3.89||0.0|
|Ross Ohlendorf||20.0||6.3||3.1||1.3||.301||71.3 %||4.58||4.71||-0.1|
|Xavier Cedeno||15.0||8.0||3.7||0.8||.304||73.1 %||3.75||3.87||0.0|
|Tanner Roark||10.0||6.1||2.8||1.0||.302||70.5 %||4.19||4.15||0.0|
|Erik Davis||10.0||7.5||3.1||0.9||.303||72.5 %||3.87||3.88||0.0|
|The Others||20.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||0.0|
Like a father constantly reminding his son that he could have been something a lot more important than an internet baseball weblogger “if he’d just applied himself a little,” the refrain from the sabermetric community that it’s foolish to commit large amounts of money to relief pitchers can begin to pall after a while — not from lack of accuracy, mind you, but just from sheer repetition. And yet, it’s deals like the two-year, $28 million one Washington gave to Rafael Soriano last offseason that continue to create a ready platform for such criticisms. Soriano wasn’t maddeningly terrible; he did, however, produce numbers that myriad other relievers could replicate — and which four or five of his more modestly compensated teammates actually did replicate in 2013.
Entering 2014, the Nationals are in an awkward situation with Soriano: the right-hander’s 2015 option for $14 million more is guaranteed should he record 120 games finished between 2013 and -14. Soriano finished 58 games in 2013, meaning he’s at the halfway point of that total, more or less. It would be best for the club not to further their commitment to Soriano. Ineffectiveness and/or injury for Soriano would have the ancillary benefit of giving manager Matt Williams the opportunity to install the club’s actual best reliever, Tyler Clippard, into the closer’s role.
|Ernesto Frieri||65.0||11.8||3.7||1.1||.295||82.0 %||2.86||3.42||1.0|
|Joe Smith||65.0||7.4||3.1||0.7||.298||73.6 %||3.47||3.63||0.4|
|Kevin Jepsen||55.0||8.1||3.2||1.0||.307||73.3 %||3.91||3.94||0.1|
|Michael Kohn||55.0||9.1||3.7||1.2||.295||76.5 %||3.80||4.20||0.0|
|Fernando Salas||45.0||7.8||2.7||1.1||.299||73.3 %||3.85||3.92||0.0|
|Sean Burnett||40.0||7.2||2.8||0.9||.303||72.4 %||3.85||3.86||0.0|
|Dane de la Rosa||35.0||8.3||3.7||0.8||.300||73.4 %||3.63||3.66||0.0|
|Hector Santiago||30.0||8.2||3.9||1.0||.296||74.5 %||3.87||4.25||0.0|
|Joe Blanton||25.0||6.9||1.9||1.3||.314||68.8 %||4.54||4.11||0.0|
|Brian Moran||20.0||8.0||3.0||1.0||.306||73.2 %||3.89||3.89||0.0|
|Nick Maronde||15.0||7.4||4.1||1.0||.302||71.6 %||4.37||4.42||0.0|
|Buddy Boshers||10.0||7.7||4.9||1.0||.303||71.5 %||4.52||4.58||0.0|
|Michael Roth||10.0||6.3||4.3||1.2||.308||68.7 %||5.09||4.95||0.0|
|Jose Alvarez||10.0||5.7||2.8||1.4||.307||68.2 %||5.12||4.95||0.0|
|Ryan Brasier||10.0||7.0||3.6||1.0||.302||72.0 %||4.24||4.31||0.0|
|Cory Rasmus||10.0||8.1||5.2||1.1||.302||72.8 %||4.62||4.79||0.0|
|Brandon Lyon||10.0||6.6||2.8||1.1||.304||71.1 %||4.26||4.13||0.0|
At the end of his song “99 Problems”, very famous rapper Jay-Z announces “You crazy for this one, Rick” — a comment directed presumably towards Rick Rubin, who produced the track. Were Jay-Z for some reason to announce “You crazy for this one, Ernesto,” the one in question probably wouldn’t refer to the relevant song, but rather to how Frieri has attempted to construct a major-league career on the strength almost exclusively of one pitch, his fastball. While baseball orthodoxy suggests that even a reliever should possess two useful offerings, the Angels closer threw a fastball of some sort (four- or two-seam) just under 90% of the time in 2013. Nor did it appear to hinder him: Frieri’s 15.8% swinging-strike rate was tied for fourth last year among all pitchers with 50-plus innings.
While the projections for Frieri’s 2014 season are generally encouraging, there aren’t a surfeit of reliably effective options after him. Dane de la Rosa returns, and he’s posted remarkably similar (and above-average) numbers each of the last three seasons. So that’s good. Mike Scioscia will also be glad to have use of Joe Smith, even if the latter’s three-year, $15.75 million deal seems curiously robust relative to Smith’s resume.
Following that triumvirate, however, there’s almost literally no projected value. A seemingly legitimate high-leverage reliever at one point, Kevin Jepsen is forecast to produce a tenth of a win in 55 innings. The remainder of the club’s relief unit, as it stands, appears unlikely to produce anything better than replacement level collectively — an observation anyone can make by means of the depth chart embedded above.
|Huston Street||65.0||8.4||2.3||1.1||.291||77.1 %||3.36||3.62||0.3|
|Joaquin Benoit||65.0||10.7||2.8||0.8||.295||79.8 %||2.63||2.81||1.2|
|Alex Torres||55.0||10.1||5.1||0.6||.297||75.4 %||3.38||3.62||0.1|
|Nick Vincent||55.0||8.5||3.0||0.9||.298||75.1 %||3.37||3.58||0.1|
|Dale Thayer||45.0||7.8||2.5||0.9||.301||72.7 %||3.64||3.57||0.0|
|Tim Stauffer||40.0||7.1||2.6||0.8||.300||73.4 %||3.52||3.64||0.0|
|Tom Layne||35.0||6.8||4.7||0.9||.305||70.7 %||4.63||4.70||-0.2|
|Burch Smith||30.0||8.9||2.9||1.1||.300||74.9 %||3.62||3.71||0.0|
|Donn Roach||25.0||5.0||3.2||0.9||.301||68.8 %||4.59||4.52||-0.1|
|Patrick Schuster||20.0||6.9||4.1||1.0||.300||71.7 %||4.28||4.42||-0.1|
|The Others||48.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||-0.2|
Under Kevin Towers, the Padres seemed capable — if not of assembling the best overall bullpens — then at least of assembling the best bullpens relative to the name recognition of the pitchers who populated them. Scott Linebrink, for example, only began providing returns once he arrived in San Diego from Houston. Side-arming Cla Meredith produced a cumulative 77 ERA- somehow over 130-plus inning between 2006 and -08. Mike Adams, meanwhile, recorded three consecutive excellent seasons with the Padres after belonging to no fewer than three other organizations before that.
While the spirit of those Towers Era bullpens lives on both in the person and in the splendid handlebar mustache of Dale Thayer, the surprising effectiveness doesn’t, really. San Diego relievers produced a -0.2 WAR collectively in 2013 and 3.1 wins using runs-allowed instead of FIP — figures that were 28th- and 18th-best in the majors, respectively. Perhaps somewhat encouragingly, the fielding-indepedent projections for the 2014 bullpen actually represent an improvement over last year — a product of regression, on the one hand, and the acquisition of Joaquin Benoit, probably, on the other. Following his return from surgery on a torn rotator cuff that forced him to miss all of 2009, Benoit has been wonderful, recording a 29.2% strikeout rate and 61 ERA- in about 260 innings over four seasons. He’ll work in setup of Huston Street, but will likely outperform the Padres closer on a per-inning basis.
|Josh Fields||65.0||9.0||4.0||1.2||.307||74.0 %||4.13||4.21||0.3|
|Jesse Crain||65.0||10.1||3.2||1.0||.305||78.5 %||3.22||3.40||1.1|
|Chad Qualls||55.0||6.4||2.7||0.9||.310||69.7 %||4.24||3.92||0.1|
|Matt Albers||55.0||7.0||3.5||0.9||.306||70.6 %||4.16||4.00||0.1|
|Kevin Chapman||45.0||8.3||5.7||1.0||.307||72.4 %||4.69||4.75||-0.2|
|Chia-Jen Lo||40.0||8.1||3.5||1.1||.309||72.4 %||4.21||4.10||0.1|
|Josh Zeid||35.0||8.3||4.6||1.1||.310||70.9 %||4.61||4.49||-0.1|
|Raul Valdes||30.0||7.6||2.5||1.4||.307||73.2 %||4.20||4.28||0.0|
|Paul Clemens||25.0||6.0||3.5||1.6||.308||68.2 %||5.53||5.31||-0.1|
|Jose Cisnero||20.0||8.7||4.5||1.2||.314||71.4 %||4.58||4.40||0.0|
|Anthony Bass||15.0||6.3||3.3||1.2||.311||68.7 %||4.95||4.62||0.0|
|Darin Downs||10.0||8.1||3.3||0.9||.312||72.3 %||3.97||3.85||0.0|
|David Martinez||10.0||5.5||2.6||1.3||.310||68.5 %||4.90||4.68||0.0|
|Collin McHugh||10.0||6.8||2.9||1.2||.312||70.1 %||4.60||4.40||0.0|
|Brett Oberholtzer||10.0||6.4||2.9||1.5||.304||69.4 %||5.02||4.92||0.0|
|Lucas Harrell||10.0||6.0||4.1||1.0||.310||67.9 %||4.96||4.59||0.0|
|Dallas Keuchel||10.0||6.0||3.0||1.0||.314||68.0 %||4.67||4.22||0.0|
|Rudy Owens||10.0||5.6||3.1||1.4||.309||68.7 %||5.19||5.09||0.0|
|Asher Wojciechowski||10.0||6.1||3.4||1.3||.310||68.3 %||5.10||4.83||0.0|
What’s disconcerting about the 2014 edition of the Houston bullpen is that the pitcher projected to produce literally 110% of the said bullpen’s value (i.e. Jesse Crain) appears likely to begin the season on the DL as he continues to rehab from offseason biceps surgery. What’s less disconcerting about that, however, is that, even were the Astros to finish atop the relief-pitching charts this season, they’d still almost certainly finish at the bottom of the more important “games won” charts.
Crain, for his part, really has become one of the majors’ better relievers when healthy — a product, that, of having progressively increased his strikeout-walk differential over each of the last four seasons. It will be interesting to monitor his performance upon his return, to see if he can continue that trend of improvement. Beyond that, however, one finds little else upon which to produce much electronic ink — except perhaps to note the reunion of Matt Albers and Chad Qualls in Houston, who both pitched for the club in 2006 and -07. Lots of tears and embracing and all that, one imagines.
|Sergio Romo||65.0||9.1||1.9||0.8||.298||77.8 %||2.71||2.84||1.2|
|Santiago Casilla||65.0||7.4||3.8||0.7||.297||73.5 %||3.67||3.82||-0.3|
|Jeremy Affeldt||55.0||7.2||3.5||0.6||.300||73.2 %||3.51||3.66||-0.1|
|Javier Lopez||55.0||7.4||3.2||0.5||.301||74.0 %||3.22||3.33||0.2|
|Heath Hembree||45.0||8.5||3.6||0.8||.301||74.3 %||3.48||3.61||0.0|
|Jean Machi||40.0||7.2||2.5||0.7||.302||72.3 %||3.39||3.32||0.1|
|George Kontos||35.0||7.5||2.5||0.9||.302||73.6 %||3.56||3.60||0.0|
|Yusmeiro Petit||30.0||7.4||2.0||1.0||.304||72.6 %||3.71||3.63||0.0|
|Erik Cordier||18.0||7.7||5.3||0.8||.304||72.2 %||4.33||4.46||-0.1|
|David Huff||20.0||6.1||2.7||1.0||.299||71.0 %||4.17||4.22||0.0|
|Jake Dunning||15.0||6.4||3.1||0.7||.300||71.3 %||3.80||3.83||0.0|
|The Others||5.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||0.0|
Because the Giants have won not just one, but two, World Series in recent years, one finds that any criticism of Brian Sabean’s roster-construction decisions naturally has a hollow ring to it. “The club is too old,” says one. “Maybe Brandon Belt should play first base instead of Aubrey Huff’s dead body,” intones another. Replies the Giants’ front office collectively: “Would you care to inspect our trophy case?” Assessing the quality of decisions merely on results — as opposed to the process by which those decisions were made — is generally unwise. That said, producing championship seasons is sort of the ultimate checkmate in any such analysis.
That point having been made, it’s difficult to find much about which to be optimistic with regard to the current iteration of the Giants’ bullpen. Sergio Romo is pretty excellent, yes — although the Giants were perhaps slow to acknowledge how excellent when it came time to find a replacement for Brian Wilson at the end of games. Otherwise, the club features a curiously high number of marginally productive pitchers with three-year commitments. To wit: Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Javier Lopez — the former two of whom produced peripherals last year, and the last of whom is compelled to intentionally walk nearly every right-handed batter he faces.
Of some interest is Yusmeiro Petit, who, after years of dominating minor-leaguer hitters and being dominated by major-league ones, recorded a 92 xFIP- over 48 innings last season — almost all of them as a starter. With Ryan Vogelsong appearing to have secured the fifth spot in the rotation, Petit might become a reliable font of outs from the bullpen.
|J.J. Hoover||65.0||9.6||3.5||1.1||.289||78.2 %||3.32||3.76||0.4|
|Manny Parra||65.0||9.4||3.3||0.8||.302||75.3 %||3.37||3.41||0.5|
|Sam LeCure||55.0||9.0||3.1||0.9||.295||76.7 %||3.31||3.52||0.3|
|Logan Ondrusek||55.0||7.6||3.4||1.1||.295||73.8 %||4.00||4.25||-0.3|
|Nick Christiani||45.0||5.9||3.7||1.3||.294||70.2 %||4.82||5.05||-0.4|
|Alfredo Simon||40.0||6.9||2.9||1.0||.295||72.8 %||3.87||4.14||-0.1|
|Brett Marshall||35.0||6.7||4.4||1.6||.297||69.7 %||5.34||5.46||-0.2|
|Aroldis Chapman||30.0||14.5||3.8||0.8||.297||85.4 %||2.07||2.33||0.3|
|Jonathan Broxton||25.0||7.8||3.0||0.9||.296||74.1 %||3.62||3.86||0.0|
|Sean Marshall||20.0||9.3||2.4||0.7||.301||77.2 %||2.77||2.93||0.1|
|Curtis Partch||15.0||7.6||4.3||1.4||.288||72.7 %||4.61||5.06||-0.1|
|Pedro Beato||10.0||6.6||4.1||1.4||.295||70.7 %||4.91||5.17||-0.1|
|The Others||38.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||-0.1|
The author didn’t have the foresight to do it, but one images that if he had taken a screenshot of all the relief-pitching depth charts here before Aroldis Chapman’s very frightening injury, that Cincinnati wouldn’t be ranked 28th on it. Insofar as he’s likely to record higher strikeout and strand rates than basically every other pitchers in the majors, he is by definition irreplaceable.
Indeed, unlike many clubs considered above, the Reds’ problem doesn’t appear to be a lack of high-end relief talent — they have that — but rather of depth. Like Chapman, all five of Jonathan Broxton, J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Sean Marshall, and Manny Parra are capable of producing above-average per-inning numbers. One is compelled to note, however, that three of those guys (Broxton, Chapman, and Marshall) are expected to begin the season on the DL. One is compelled to note, moreover, that literally every other pitcher included on the Reds relief depth chart is projected to produce a negative WAR figure.
Even when Chapman does return, Cincinnati must contend with the reality that the futures of Broxton and Marshall — to which pair the Reds still owe a combined $28 million — remain opaque. Not ideal, that.
|Jim Henderson||65.0||10.4||3.9||1.0||.301||76.9 %||3.44||3.64||0.3|
|Francisco Rodriguez||65.0||9.4||3.3||1.0||.306||74.6 %||3.62||3.58||0.4|
|Brandon Kintzler||55.0||6.9||2.7||0.8||.306||72.4 %||3.62||3.60||0.2|
|Rob Wooten||55.0||6.5||3.1||1.1||.304||71.1 %||4.37||4.35||-0.2|
|Will Smith||45.0||8.4||2.7||1.1||.306||73.2 %||3.81||3.76||0.1|
|Michael Blazek||40.0||8.3||5.6||1.1||.303||72.5 %||4.71||4.90||-0.3|
|Alfredo Figaro||35.0||7.0||2.2||1.2||.303||71.2 %||4.18||4.09||-0.1|
|Tom Gorzelanny||30.0||8.7||3.1||1.1||.302||75.0 %||3.73||3.89||0.0|
|Jimmy Nelson||25.0||7.6||4.9||1.1||.304||71.0 %||4.67||4.69||-0.1|
|Tyler Thornburg||20.0||7.8||3.9||1.3||.302||71.9 %||4.54||4.63||-0.1|
|Mike Fiers||15.0||7.8||3.0||1.4||.301||72.1 %||4.39||4.40||0.0|
|Hiram Burgos||10.0||6.5||3.3||1.4||.305||70.5 %||4.84||4.86||0.0|
|The Others||28.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||-0.1|
“Two Canadians enter, only one Canadian leaves” is not a way in which anyone has chosen to characterize the back end of the Milwaukee ca. 2013 — and yet, one finds that it’s not entirely inaccurate, either. Regard: Canadian right-hander John Axford and other Canadian right-hander Jim Henderson both begin the season pitching in relief for the Brewers, the latter setting up the former. Continue to regard: after early season troubles, Axford is demoted from the closer’s role, replaced by the aforementioned Henderson. Regard one more time: sensing that there’s room for only one right-handed Canadian in the bullpen, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin agrees to send Axford to St. Louis in exchange (eventually) for Michael Blazek, who’s from Las Vegas, which is totally in America.
That sequence of events brings us more or less to the present, a present in which Jim Henderson (a slightly above-average reliever) — along with Brandon Kintzler, Francisco Rodriguez, and Will Smith (all slightly above-average relievers, probably) — form the first line of Milwaukee’s bullpen defense. As is the case with Cincinnati (just above), it’s not a bad line of defense, at all. Not quite as good as Cincinnati’s, perhaps, but not bad. The problem, again, appears to concern the question of depth — and, specifically, the lack of it. One doesn’t mind asking Francisco Rodriguez to pitch the high-leverage inning. The difficulty is if and/or when Rodriguez finds his was to the DL and then Rob Wooten is compelled to pitch the high-leverage inning.
|Bobby Parnell||65.0||8.2||2.6||0.7||.302||74.6 %||3.16||3.12||0.7|
|Jeurys Familia||65.0||8.1||4.2||1.0||.304||73.0 %||4.10||4.16||-0.6|
|Josh Edgin||55.0||8.0||3.9||1.0||.304||72.3 %||4.12||4.14||-0.4|
|Vic Black||55.0||10.0||4.4||0.8||.304||74.9 %||3.56||3.64||0.1|
|Gonzalez Germen||45.0||7.9||3.0||1.0||.300||73.5 %||3.79||3.88||0.0|
|Scott Rice||40.0||6.9||4.0||0.7||.298||72.2 %||3.87||4.07||-0.1|
|Carlos Torres||35.0||7.4||2.9||1.1||.298||72.0 %||4.03||4.09||-0.1|
|John Lannan||30.0||5.0||3.6||0.9||.305||68.1 %||4.80||4.64||-0.2|
|Jenrry Mejia||25.0||6.9||3.3||0.8||.308||70.8 %||4.15||3.94||0.0|
|Rafael Montero||20.0||7.9||2.1||0.9||.301||73.7 %||3.41||3.41||0.0|
|Jeff Walters||15.0||7.2||3.0||0.9||.300||72.7 %||3.81||3.96||0.0|
|Jacob Degrom||10.0||6.3||2.6||1.0||.303||70.8 %||4.09||4.03||0.0|
|Steven Matz||10.0||7.7||4.4||1.0||.301||72.6 %||4.24||4.44||0.0|
|The Others||26.0||8.0||4.3||1.0||.318||71.1 %||4.53||4.37||-0.1|
One can’t see it here, but navigating to the actual page from which these relief depth charts are taken reveals that a small collection of notable free-agent relievers, when their projected WAR figures are totaled, actually place higher than the Mets’ own relief depth chart — rendering the Mets, in effect, the 31st-best bullpen in the majors.
Actually, so long as we’re all just sitting around, here’s the relevant screencap (which one can click to embiggen):
How much would it cost just to sign the top-five pitchers on that free-agent list? Not very much, probably, but probably more than the Mets are currently spending on their own relief corps. There’s a logic to the Mets economical bullpen construction, of course: the rest of the club isn’t particularly great. Investing heavily in relief would be unwise at this point.
Were one in the mood to take the over on one of the WAR projections here, one might benefit from doing so on right-hander Gonzalez Germen. As noted by Eno Sarris at RotoGraphs just a week-plus ago, Germen recorded swinging-strike rates greater than 25% with both his changeup and his slider last year, which is promising even if his defense-independent figures weren’t dominant across the board.
Here’s an animated GIF of Germen’s changeup, if that’s a thing that interests people:
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