The Mets New Bullpen

On Tuesday, the Mets added right-handers Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco and Ramon Ramirez via trade or free agency to their bullpen. Francisco looks to be the default closer out of the 3. The following is a quick look at how the bullpen probably will shake out.

First, here are the career stats for each pitcher:

Francisco: 9.9 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9, 3.72 ERA
Ramirez: 7.7, K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9, 3.16 ERA
Rauch: 7.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9, 3.82 ERA

Reports out of New York peg Francisco as the Mets closer and I can see why. I like any reliever in fantasy baseball to have a K/BB rate of 3 and Francisco almost fits the bill. He has just about reached that level in each the past 4 seasons (3.2, 3.8, 3.3, and 2.9). Both his K/9 (10.4 to 9.4) and BB/9 (2.7 to 3.2) have gotten worse though over the past 3 years. Even with the decline, he is still a decent reliever.

One huge red flag for Francisco is that he has problems staying on the mound. Here is a look at the time he has missed over the last few years.

2011: Missed 18 games with 1 trip to the DL
2010: Missed 37 games with 1 trip to the DL
2009: Missed 39 games with 2 trips to the DL

If he is given the closer role, his backup has a good chance of accumulating a few saves.

Ramirez looks, for now, to be Francisco’s set up man. He is a capable replacement. He has allowed a half an earned run less than Francisco over their careers. Also, he walks less batters and keeps the ball in the park more. He will fill in as the closer nicely if Francisco can’t get the job done or has to go on the DL.

Rauch has been able to get a few saves over the last 4 seasons (18, 2, 21, 11). Some how he has been able to convince managers that he can close, even though he is not close to being the ideal closer candidate. Of the 3, he gives up the most HRs and strikeouts the least number of batters. He has middle reliever written all over him and should battle with Bobby Parnell for the 7th inning guy.

The big question for 2012 is which of these players are own-able? The designated closer for any team should be owned in all leagues. Saves are saves. In deeper leagues, both Francisco and Ramirez should be owned no matter which is closing. Francisco will head to the DL at some point and Ramirez will get some Saves. If Ramirez is closing, Francisco should be able to help a team’s K and rate stats enough while waiting for the closer role to possibly open up. There is little if any reason to own Rauch, or Parnell for that matter, unless both Francisco and Ramirez are struggling and/or hurt.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


2 Responses to “The Mets New Bullpen”

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  1. MH says:

    A few thoughts:

    a) Considering Rauch has “experience” at CL and Ramirez doesn’t, I wouldn’t entirely write him off, even if he’s really about the 5th best pitcher in the bullpen now (FrankFrank, Ramirez, Parnell, Acosta were all quite a bit better last year). Technically Parnell does too, but I’m not sure that left a very positive taste in Terry Collins’ mouth anyway.

    b) Ramirez has really only had one outstanding year, though it was last year. Otherwise his strikeout rate has been pedestrian and he may have benefited from AT&T parks HR/FB depressing ways.

    c) Parnell probably has the most room for growth and more strikeout upside than anyone but Francisco. I wouldn’t entirely lump him in with Rauch if Ramirez is in fact second in line. He got some mileage out of his slider for the first time last year and command was really his only bugaboo, so perhaps there’s still some improvement to be had here.

    c) Despite the lack of a mention, the guy I’d want to own after Francisco might be Manny Acosta. His FIP wasn’t as good as the other guys because he’s so FB and thus HR prone, but he has improved his command and if we’re to believe SIERA theory he’s basically in the same class as Ramirez (vis-a-vis 2011) and Parnell (but not Rauch). He’s had SIERAs of 3.21 and 3.15 in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and those marks are closer to the ERAs he produced over that period than his FIP/xFIP. His ERA was a touch higher than his SIERA in 2011 (but still lower than his FIP/xFIP), but that’s also despite a .326 BABIP, considerably higher than his .291 career mark (and contrary to what SIERA theory would predict for a high-K, flyball pitcher). He was also the closer last year after Bobby Parnell lost the gig and fared reasonably well, so he probably has some manager’s confidence.

    Basically, it looks to me as if Francisco has a leg up on the rest, and then the trio of Ramirez, Parnell, and Acosta all project similarly enough, and Rauch is then behind them. But considering Rauch also has the second most closer experience, predicting second banana here is a bit of a nightmare. Ramirez probably has the most bottom out potential of the three second-bananas if his K% drops and his HR/FB increases, while Parnell has the most upside, and Acosta is probably the safest and in the best standing with Terry Collins.

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  2. acerimusdux says:

    Rauch is maybe getting a tic under-rated. He had a problem with his right knee last season, which hurt his ability to push off, which was hopefully corrected with minor off-season surgery. I believe he also had the left knee done after the 2010 season, so there obviously is some risk there in those 33-year old knees.

    But when healthy, Rauch is a little better pitcher than he is being given credit for. Rauch has one of the highest career IFF% of active pitchers in baseball right now. That means he’s going to be undervalued by FIP, WAR, or SO/BB rates. For the 5 years prior to last season, he averaged a 121 ERA+, which would have translated to about a 3.15 ERA on last year’s Mets. He also has gotten somewhat effective in recent years at closing games, converting 74% of save opportunities since 2008.

    Not that he should really be a closer, but for a low cost gamble, he looks like a decent 7th/8th inning arm if healthy. And not a bad guy to help groom Parnell, Ramirez, and Accosta for more significant roles in the future.

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