There Must Be 50 Ways to Build a Bullpen

One of the talking points buried in last weekend’s Rays/White Sox series is the difference in organizational philosophies. More specifically, pitching philosophies.

Over the years, the White Sox have established the cut-fastball as their “add-on” pitch of choice. John Danks , Mark Buerhle, and D.J. Carrasco amongst others throw the cutter thanks to the help of pitching coach Don Cooper. The Rays on the other hand are an organizational that preaches the way of the change-up. James Shields is notorious for helping teammates like Scott Kazmir, David Price, and even Troy Percival refine their grips on perhaps baseball’s most practical pitch.

Going beyond that “add-on” pitch, the two teams have a similar outlook on what makes for a good relief staff.

Dave covered the Rays bullpen a few days ago. Describing them as a unit that “throws feathers” due to the lack of hard throwers. The White Sox are perhaps the antithesis of that philosophy. This year, the Rays’ bullpen throws an average fastball of 87 miles per hour, easily the lowest group total in the league. The White Sox’ pen is closer to 92 miles per hour. Last year the Rays finished second to last in combined fastball velocity while the Sox lead the league.

With the exception of Grant Balfour, the rest of the Rays pen throws sub-90 heaters. On the flip side, the White Sox have three relievers who routinely hit 92-94, three who sit 89-91, and one who sits around 87-89. If Brian Shouse and Matt Thornton ever get into a paper ball throwing match, I know who I want on my side.

It’s pretty fascinating that two teams can entirely different approaches to assembling and teaching pitchers while experiencing success in such techniques.



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CajoleJuice
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7 years 2 months ago

And one of the ways is to overpay. See: New York Metropolitans.

MPC
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MPC
7 years 2 months ago

Nice contribution. Brilliant.

B
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B
7 years 2 months ago

Sorry this isn’t on point, but I was wondering if you could do another follow-up with Lincecum to see if he solved his mechanical issues – in other words was his release point in his last start back to where it was last season, meaning there’s nothing to worry about, or was it closer to where it was in his other starts this year?

brian recca
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brian recca
7 years 2 months ago

I thought by the title that this would be a completely different article. I think giving large amounts of money on top of the line relievers is a mistake. Relief pitching is more or less a crapshoot. There are very few relievers who consistently perform at a high level year in and year out (Not including closers). Off the top of my head I can only think of a handful of players who have been consistently good over the past 3-5 years. Scot Shields, Carlos Marmol, John Broxton the last few years, Chad Qualls, Rafeal Soriano when healthy, maybe Damaso Marte,

But after that you start seeing a lot of players who have had “hiccup seasons”. Rafeal Betancourt, Justin Speier, Dan Wheeler, and Kyle Farnsworth off the top of my head were pretty dominant and all of a sudden just couldn’t get it done.

The best way imo to build a bullpen is to collect as many high upside players you can find, and just keep shuffling them in until you find a core group of guys that can get outs.I think the padres this year have pretty much done that by acquiring turned away players like Eulogio De La Cruz, Luis Perdomo, Duaner Sanchez, Heath Bell, Edward Mujica, Luke Gregerson, Chad Gaudin, Mark Worrell, Mike Adams, Josh Banks, Chris Britton, Josh Banks, and Scott Paterson. Throw in players from your own organization like Edwin Moreno, Josh Geer, Cesar Ramos, and Joe Thatcher.

Are they all going to be effective this year? No, but can you find 5, maybe 6, reliable pitchers out of this group of throw aways plus the players from your own organization. Probably. It’s hard to do, but for a small market club it’s an excellent cost benefit strategy.

mark
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mark
7 years 2 months ago

Damaso Marte really isn’t that good. His WHIP is atrocious for a reliever.

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