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  1. Isn’t it fairly safe to say that nearly every team in baseball outside of the Yankees cobbles together a bullpen by targeting cheap, unwanted players?

    Comment by diegosanchez — August 14, 2012 @ 9:28 am

  2. The Red Sox did not cobble together a bullpen by targeting cheap unwanted players. The Red Sox targeted Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon to be their 8th and 9th inning guys, and in order to do so, they shelled out both money and young, cost controlled, and good MLB starters in Reddick and Lowrie. The Red Sox targeted, and overpaid, for bullpen pieces that so far have accumulated -0.4 WAR. I’d hardly call that a “smart” approach.

    Comment by Jerry — August 14, 2012 @ 9:39 am

  3. Derek Lowe
    Corey Wade
    Clay Rapada
    Codey Eppley
    Luis Ayala

    The yankees take this approach as well. Ownership overruled their GM and signed Soriano, but for the most part, Cashman has been fishing the waiver wire for bullpen parts for years.

    Comment by Steve — August 14, 2012 @ 10:02 am

  4. The article doesn’t really describe Mark Melancon’s season well. He had a horrible month and then reverted to the being roughly the same pitcher he was in 2011.

    MAR/APR: MLB, 49.50 ERA, 37.60 FIP
    APR/JUN: AAA, 0.83 ERA, 1.39 FIP
    JUN/AUG: MLB, 4.15 ERA, 3.10 FIP

    Perhaps a secondary lesson here is if one does buy an expensive reliever and he goes into a horrible slump, go ahead and banish him to mop-up duty or even AAA but don’t let him languish there for 7-8 weeks. Otherwise you may get to the end of the season and discover that he pitched his best ball in AAA.

    Comment by Detroit Michael — August 14, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  5. Miller could have been had by any team — he was non-tendered by the Sox shortly after they acquired him and signed to a minor league deal.

    Comment by Nick Smith — August 14, 2012 @ 10:28 am

  6. While the Red Sox are 9th in bullpen WAR I think we can all agree that WAR for relievers isn’t the best stat to be looking at. Scott Atchison pitched brilliantly this season but almost all of his work was done in very low leverage situations. His WPA is just 0.22 despite an excellent WAR.

    Boston’s bullpen in just 14th in WPA, 15th in FIP and 17th in xFIP. These are much more meaningful statistics to describe the quality of the bullpen than WAR is. Calling this a quality bullpen built on cheap, available pieces is disingenuous.

    Comment by Tom Chicago — August 14, 2012 @ 10:55 am

  7. or AAA hitters are significantly easier to get out than MLB hitters.

    we have no way of telling whether Melancon pitched his “best ball” in AAA or in MLB.

    plenty of pitchers dominate AAA just to get lit up in MLB.

    Comment by BX — August 14, 2012 @ 11:04 am

  8. The author isn’t praising the trades for Melancon and Bailey. You can read “The Red Sox approach this season really highlights why giving up good talent to acquire relievers is often a poor decision” as a criticism of giving up Reddick and Lowrie. What Cwik is pointing out is they did pretty well recovering from losing what they had planned on to be prime pieces, so well that they can pretty much “get by without their contributions.” Cwik also makes a decent point about what type of player can be useful to target if you go the “dumpster diving” approach.

    Comment by JCA — August 14, 2012 @ 11:05 am

  9. Replace “Yankees” with “Phillies” or “Marlins” and you’d probably be right.

    Heath Bell, trading Maybin for relievers, and Jonathan Papelbon say hi.

    Comment by BX — August 14, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  10. I thought the Sox had worked out some “under the table” deal with Miller and that they knew he was going to take a minor league deal before they non-tendered him. I remember a column here about it.

    Not that it was “against the rules” per se, but that the Sox were testing the limits of the roster rules.

    Comment by Steve — August 14, 2012 @ 11:17 am

  11. WAR is park adjusted. Those stats are not. Some of those stats with park adjustments:
    – 78 ERA- (8th)
    – 88 FIP- (8th)
    – 95 xFIP- (10th)

    Comment by williams .482 — August 14, 2012 @ 11:24 am

  12. I think Miller was a first round pick too. These guys haven’t been making highlights every night, but there is definitly something to be said for picking up former first rounders.

    I’d take it further and look for guys taken in first rounds and who turned teams down.

    Comment by Dale Sams — August 14, 2012 @ 11:31 am

  13. Also, Albers should be on that list

    Comment by Dale Sams — August 14, 2012 @ 11:34 am

  14. WPA is heavily influenced by managerial decisions.

    Atchison can’t choose whether he wants to pitch in high or low leverage situations; Bobby V picks the situations where he pitches in, and he goes and pitches in them.

    Comment by BX — August 14, 2012 @ 11:36 am

  15. As should Breslow.

    (Yes, they were traded for each other, but the point stands.)

    Comment by BX — August 14, 2012 @ 11:39 am

  16. Also another fun experiment: (for the fans of teams with terrifying pens)

    All the relievers combined in this wonderful Boston pen = 3.7 WAR (added in Albers and Breslow for good measure.)

    11 position players in the AL alone out WAR this pen.

    Bullpens are confusing. Important, but confusing.

    Comment by BX — August 14, 2012 @ 11:48 am

  17. I happen to think it’s more luck than anything else. Virtually every team tries to get cheap bullpen pieces that perform well. Out of 25-30 teams with this strategy, there are bound to be a few teams that have better-than-average bullpens (like Boston) and other teams that vastly underperform expectations (like the Mets).

    I don’t think you can learn much from Boston’s strategy except that sometimes you just need to close your eyes and wish for the best. This same group of pitchers could have easily been one of the absolute worst ‘pens in the league. Luckily for Boston, it didn’t work out that way though.

    Comment by vivalajeter — August 14, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  18. not to mention that dave robertson and joba chamberlain are homegrown and still pretty cheap.

    Comment by phoenix2042 — August 14, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

  19. You can add the Angels to the “vastly underperforming bullpens” list. Decent contracts to Hawkins, Downs, Isringhausen combined with farm fodder like Walden, Jepsen and Carpenter have just, what’s the word?, sucked. Because it’s Fangraphs I won’t mention they lead the league in Blown Saves.

    Comment by Brazen Reader — August 14, 2012 @ 12:54 pm


    Comment by Steve — August 14, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

  21. It’s true that AAA hitters are easier to get out than major league hitters, but I don’t remember seeing anyone with the kinds of numbers that Melancon had in AAA getting lit up in the majors. The Sox bullpen was doing quite well, so I’m not sure it made sense to bring him back up, but over 21 2/3 in AAA he struck out 27, walked 3, and gave up 2 runs (no homers).

    Who are some pitchers who dominated AAA like that and got lit up in MLB? I can’t think of any, but I’m not saying it’s not true.

    Comment by Ben Hall — August 14, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

  22. @Ben

    Dominating AAA and getting lit up in the majors is kinda Melancon’s MO, except for the one year he was in the NL.

    Comment by YanksFanInBeantown — August 14, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  23. I’d actually make the argument that WAR is a bad metric because the rotation has been so bad. Since WAR is basically a counting stat, your relievers getting more innings will increase your WAR just as much as your relievers pitching better. Basically, a bullpen with a FIP of 4 will look better than one with a FIP of 3 if they have 50% more innings…

    Comment by B N — August 14, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

  24. Yeah, Frieri’s been a real bust for Amarista. :)

    Comment by Wobatus — August 14, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

  25. I think Fangraphs needs to take a closer look at how they adjust FIP…. it is based on run evironment park factors (but I believe ignores HR park factors)

    Also xFIP- seems like a questionable stat when xFIP is already adjusting for HR/FB…. once again it is reliant on run environment

    Since Fenway has a heavy split (plus run environment, negative HR factor); the pitchers get the benefit of the run factor adjustment stats (- stats, WAR) and also get the benefit of pitching in a HR suppressing environment (which helps the pre-adjusted FIP)

    In short I think some of the “-” and WAR are kind of iffy when you have a park which doesn’t have similar run and HR factors.

    Comment by Tom — August 14, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

  26. This is the real everdiso checking in to compliment fangraphs on yet another in a long line of articles about fringe players on the bestest sub-.500 team in MLB history.

    Comment by everdiso — August 14, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

  27. and shouldn’t they get credit for pitching more innings?

    Comment by HPJoker — August 14, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

  28. So leaving your addiction to snark aside for a moment, which MLB bullpen this year better illustrates the point the writer is trying to get across — that spending significant money and resources on your bullpen is a fool’s game, given the poor returns of the expensive RPs compared with the cheap ones in Boston’s bullpen?

    Comment by Sam Samson — August 14, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

  29. I’m sure there are plenty of examples we can get from teams that are actually contending this year. TB and BAL’s ‘pens have been aces this year for peanuts, for example.

    And the Yanks’ pen is even better with only one guy making more than $1.9m….and you’re not going to find many fans crying that they’re paying Soriano $11m instead of Bailey $3.9m at the moment, I don’t think.

    Seems to me just to be another excuse to talk about the sub-.500 red sox again, to be honest.

    Comment by everdiso — August 14, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

  30. comment

    Comment by John — August 14, 2012 @ 9:43 pm

  31. Everdiso is so butthurt that even when the Red Sox hit rock bottom, the Blue Jays still can’t overtake them. Maybe next decade, dude.

    Comment by JF145 — August 15, 2012 @ 6:23 am

  32. Including Tazawa as a player any team could have signed as a FA, though technically true, is highly misleading. He was eligible for the Japanese draft and the Sox broke an industry-wide gentleman’s agreement to pursue him, and gave him the second-highest international bonus (after Iglesias) in team history. Right now it looks like a great move — there are a lot of folks who want to see him re-converted to the rotation for next year.

    Comment by Eric M. Van — August 15, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  33. OK, let’s play nice.

    Say this was a Red Sox site, and we wanted to analyze the Sox’ bullpen this year.

    I’d imagine the first question we’d want to look at was whether or not it was a good idea to decide NOT to pay Papelbon to close. (We don’t even have to look at the follow up move of trading Reddick for a $3.9m Bailey for now).

    I’d imagine most Sox fans aren’t convinced that their surface bullpen numbers really tell the whole story – and that they’d probably want to take a closer look at inherited runner numbers and leverage splits to get a better idea of how good they’ve been….not to mention specifically in the closer’s role and the issue of blown saves.

    If we really want to take a look at Boston’s bullpen (even though a general baseball site analyzing the middling bullpen of a non-contender heading into the final quarter of the year seems kind of strange), shouldn’t this issue be the one that we look at? Whether they should have paid up for Papelbon, with a rigorous analysis of WPA numbers?

    Are there any Sox fans that are happy they didn’t re-sign Papelbon at this point, and are happier with the cost-effectiveness of this middling bullpen?

    Comment by everdiso — August 15, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

  34. tldr

    Comment by everdiso — August 15, 2012 @ 4:09 pm

  35. Oh man, when everdiso gets serious and actually tries to make real arguments you get a glimpse of how legitimately dumb he is.

    Comment by JF145 — August 15, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

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