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  1. I wish I had something insightful to add to this but I don’t. This is just a great article and an excellent example of why Fangraphs stands out among sports sites generally and baseball sites specifically.

    Comment by Mel — August 21, 2012 @ 11:10 am

  2. at work so I can’t use most of the site; but can someone toss out just how good the Rays starters have been since the break? Seems like they are just downright wicked right now…

    Comment by Harjit — August 21, 2012 @ 11:14 am

  3. In the last 30 days, the Rays’ starters have been good for a 2.39 ERA, a 2.94 FIP, a 3.25 xFIP and 6.3 WAR with 8.1 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9.

    Comment by Aaron (UK) — August 21, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  4. getting his Katniss on

    Excellent phrase.

    Comment by Anon — August 21, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  5. The Rays pitching in general since the break has been some of the best I’ve seen. I watched Hellickson pitch last night. I don’t really care what his statistics say at this point, he makes batters look like complete idiots out there. Whether it’s a strike out or they make contact, it’s just embarrassing to watch the other team flail at pitches. He was painting that outside corner like he was Greg Maddux(that’s not hyperbole, he consistently hit the EXACT same spot).

    It’s pretty impressive to watch their pitching. Always has been but since the break, I don’t think they’ve been any better(that’s just a guess though).

    Comment by Roy J — August 21, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  6. thanks so much Aaron! Work computer doesn’t allow me to use the leaderboards properly, and the iphone app isn’t as robust as the site.

    Comment by Harjit — August 21, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  7. You could write the same story on the Pirates bullpen. Hanrahan, Grilli, Cruz, Resop, Hughes, Watson, and Lincoln (predominant group) cost $8.74 million. Huntington and Friedman have had this figured out for a few years now.

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — August 21, 2012 @ 11:28 am

  8. I’m now imagining Fernando Rodney’s changeup performing a song-and-dance number in Hindi as it romances a swinging Mark Reynolds. The use of “Bollywood” as a verb describing pitch movement really ought to take off. Thanks, Mister Woodrum.

    Comment by big league chyut — August 21, 2012 @ 11:31 am

  9. But not everyone can succeed this way, there is only so much talent to go around. Perhaps the Rays have unusually good talent evaluators.

    Comment by Cliff — August 21, 2012 @ 11:36 am

  10. No probs. For reference, the next best set of starters are the Dodgers (4.6 WAR) and Yankees (4.3 WAR); the median is 2.9 WAR and the laggards are the Astros (0.2 WAR) and the Angels(!) (0.1 WAR).

    Comment by Aaron (UK) — August 21, 2012 @ 11:39 am

  11. Well, it depends on how you look at it. There’s A LOT of talent but it’s making that talent work and succeed that’s the problem for a lot of teams. The Rays have consistently taken pitchers who are historically not so good and turn them into very good pitchers.

    Can everyone succeed like the Rays(and Pirates as Hurdles pointed out)? Sure. It’s not gaining the talent that’s a problem and it probably won’t ever be a problem. The problem is having them play at the level their talent is capable of. Some teams are better than others at this.

    Comment by Roy J — August 21, 2012 @ 11:41 am

  12. I like this. Well done, Bradley.

    Comment by Bobby A. — August 21, 2012 @ 11:49 am

  13. I’m not sure what I liked best about this article: the Papelbon comparison, the use of “Bollywood” as a verb to describe pitch movement, the reference to Atahualpa, the fact that I actually learned from the analysis, or the Jose Molina victory dance. Bravo.

    But it was probably the Jose Molina victory dance.

    Comment by Well-Beered Englishman — August 21, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  14. I think a lot of it, and I should have mentioned in the article (but we were tottering on 2000 words), has to do with bullpen management. Joe Maddon plays his guys in the best possible situations — using not only righty-lefty platoons, but GB/FB platoons as well.

    So, to a degree, smarter managers will create better bullpen results.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 21, 2012 @ 11:53 am

  15. This article should really have addressed 2011. What happened? Does a higher bullpen budget yield more consistency?

    Comment by Nivra — August 21, 2012 @ 11:54 am

  16. Oooh, or the spelling of “dum”.

    Comment by Well-Beered Englishman — August 21, 2012 @ 11:57 am

  17. I nominate Adam Dunn for the nickname Dum Dongers.

    Comment by Well-Beered Englishman — August 21, 2012 @ 11:58 am

  18. I don’t know what conclusion to draw from this, so here are Peralta’s last three years of BABIP presented without further comment:

    2010: 0.200
    2011: 0.218
    2012: 0.216

    Comment by ralph — August 21, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

  19. The Rays must be taking advantage of some market inefficiency in finding relievers. As implied in this article, perhaps they are concentrating on what Bradley calls “one-pitch wonders.”
    What a management this team has!

    Comment by Baltar — August 21, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

  20. Great read, Woody. It’s going to suck to lose JP, the other JP, and Farnsy after the year, but I have faith in the Rays front office (and on the farm) to find the next wave of elite relievers.

    Comment by Sandy Kazmir — August 21, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

  21. It’s easy to see how he beats his FIP. When he’s on you don’t see a single batter really square up a ball.

    Comment by Sandy Kazmir — August 21, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  22. It’s almost as if pitchers, especially relievers, have some control over their BABIP. Peralta will give up the occasional longball which doesn’t factor into BABIP, but it’s few and far between that he gives up a hit.

    Comment by Sandy Kazmir — August 21, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

  23. My theory is that, as a % of their total expenses, the Rays must be investing a heck of a lot in training. Good for them, it’s a heck of a return on their investment.

    Comment by Andre — August 21, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

  24. This is great insight by a writer who doesn’t know the team very well.
    #cubs #astros

    Comment by deadeye — August 21, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  25. AA of the Jays has tried the last few years as well but hasn’t had it work out for him…

    Comment by Infield Fly — August 21, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

  26. this is one of the best articles i’ve read. from the title to the papelbon comparison to the actual analysis of the pitchers, well done.

    also, on an unrelated note, can someone PLEASE teach the mets how to do this?

    Comment by timtebow — August 21, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

  27. Yeah, they built a decent ‘pen literally from scratch in 2011, still managed a 3.73 ERA — good for a 96 ERA-minus (not great, but okay considering).

    Having a three-man turnover (and I would not be shocked to see Howell return for two more years) while keeping Rodney, McGee and Badenhop is much more manageable this coming offseason.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 21, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

  28. So I suppose I’m the only one not drinking the kool-aid here

    How about the fact that Papelbon has been one of the most reliable closer of the last 10 yrs while many of these Ray pitchers are experiencing a career year ?

    Do you really think Rodney (career 4 era/fip) will repeat a season like that ?

    Comment by Slevin Kelevra — August 21, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  29. Brad, please forward this to Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro. Thanks in advance.

    Comment by DD — August 21, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

  30. I don’t think we can expect any reliever to repeat an under 1ERA season, but if the move on the rubber really has positively affected his command he should continue to be a lights-out reliever.

    Comment by Ozzie — August 21, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

  31. You missed the whole point of the article. the Rays can and have done this year after year. why spend that amount of $ on one guy when you can build a great pen for the same.

    Comment by deadeye — August 21, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

  32. I’d have to say the Braves are right up there with the Rays BP in terms of cost effectiveness and production. Their Fip is only .02 points higher and all of their peripherals match up well.

    It’s great when clubs like the Rays, Braves, Reds, and Royals really understand that the BP isn’t where you want (or should) spend your money.

    Comment by Wil — August 21, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  33. I’m really hoping the Royals will have some kind of Alexander-for-Smoltz type of deal in the works when its time to make a decision on Joakim Soria. Trading bullpen pieces has been a nice way to boost the farm system.

    Also, major kudos to the Rays for finding a proper use for Kyle Farnsworth.

    Comment by KCDaveInLA — August 21, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

  34. Further, how is Jonathan Papelbon “worth every penny” when it is quite possible to assemble an entire bullpen in the cost-effective manner that teams such as Tampa Bay are able to pull off on an annual basis?

    Even if a big name relief pitcher like Papelbon is able to produce sufficient WAR totals to seemingly justify his contract, isn’t the point here that a team can consistently exploit inefficiencies in the marketplace by letting other teams pay big money contracts to big names such as Papelbon and assemble a comparable (if not superior) bullpen for significantly less money?

    We rarely see a team pluck unappreciated position player after unappreciated position player off of the garbage heap, so there’s not much of an inefficiency to exploit there. But we see a handful of teams do this with relief pitchers every single year. In other words, if you want a 1B or a LF who is going to put up big numbers, or even solid numbers, you are generally going to have to pony up some serious cash. However, you clearly don’t need to pony up serious cash to assemble a good bullpen. So how can one even begin to justify the Papelbon contract?

    Comment by Robbie G. — August 21, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  35. Whoa, there! Who ever said he’s worth every penny? I said he “deserves” every penny. As in, he did something historic — 37 FIP-minus — and thereby it would have been somewhat tragic if he got just $1 million.

    He deserves it from the players’ perspective, but given the current market inefficiency the Rays (and Pirates) have been exploiting, it’s hard to suggest he’s worth the money from a GM’s perspective.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 21, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

  36. I love the focus on individual pitches.

    Comment by Matty Brown — August 21, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

  37. Every year, we see more and more evidence against giving out a lot of money to relievers. Every year, someone hands out a Brandon Lyon special. It just seems so weird.

    Brilliant article, by the way.

    Comment by Nolan — August 21, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

  38. 2011: 6th worst bullpen FIP in baseball
    2009: 7th worst bullpen FIP

    The Rays have done a tremendous job with their budget, but the narrative of a consistently good bullpen, seems to be just that, a narraitive. It’s almost like their pen also experience volatility too…

    Again when you consider the money they spend what they are doing is impressive, but I think folks need to ease off the consistently good bullpen narrative.

    Comment by Tom — August 21, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

  39. It was the Bollywood usage that did it for me. But I feel like Woodrum’s articles are just catering to me, with my love of the Cubs and the Rays (mainly because when I was young and the Devil Rays first existed, I was on a summer league team that was called the Devil Rays and had this sweet logo:

    Comment by Dr_Caligari — August 21, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

  40. RAJ did try to put together a pen on the relative cheap (with the glaring exception of papelbon, of course, and to a far lesser extent, contreras). qualls and dontrelle were going to be your scrap-heap pickups, and everything else was going to be trusted to the ‘kids’. sometimes this sort of strategy works out, sometimes it doesn’t.

    Comment by china_dave — August 21, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

  41. I don’t think “consistently” (which I never said, by the way) should not be confused with “success without fail.”

    Yes, the 2011 and 2009 offerings were not as strong (though they still had decent, if not good ERAs in those seasons), but having the fourth best bullpen ERA-minus since 2008 — despite massive personnel turnover — does mean the Rays have indeed hit more than missed.

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — August 21, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

  42. Don Cooper and the White Sox says Hi.

    Comment by Ruggiano's Pizza — August 21, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

  43. I think by now we all know that pretty much everyone can relieve as long as your last name isnt Farnsworth…. fuck Farnsworth

    i also kinda despise Kevin Gregg

    Comment by Uncle Remus — August 21, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

  44. This might make more sense if the Phillies pen were littered with high priced veteran busts. But apart from Pap, it’s a minimum wage pen.

    Comment by bflaff — August 21, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

  45. Everyone hates Kevin Gregg. Everyone.

    Comment by Ryan — August 22, 2012 @ 12:12 am

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