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How Are the Stars Being Acquired? Relief Pitching

Earlier we looked at where the best starting pitchers came from this year, this time let’s focus on their relieving counterparts. For the rankings I used plain ol’ FIP since relievers home run rates don’t regress to a central mean like starters and instead of the top 30, I used the top 15. Here are those players and how they were acquired by their current teams:

Phil Hughes – draft
Jonathan Broxton – draft
Chan Ho Park – free agent
Mike Wuertz – trade
Kiko Calero – free agent
Matt Thornton – trade
Brian Wilson – draft
Trevor Hoffman – free agent
Heath Bell – trade
Luke Gregerson – trade
Andrew Bailey — draft
Rafael Soriano – trade
Huston Street – trade
Joakim Soria – Rule 5
Joe Nathan – trade

The count:
7 traded
4 drafted
3 free agents
1 Rule 5

This is a similar pattern to the one established for starters. Of those acquired in trades, only Soriano and Street were truly established as top of the line relievers – although I suppose you could make the case that Wuertz was quite solid in the past as well.

Let’s take a closer look at the four drafted relievers.

Hughes was a former top-flight starting prospect for the Yankees. You have to figure he’ll make the transition back to starting at some point but Joba Chamberlain hasn’t flipped from Mariano Rivera’s Robin to the next Josh Beckett quite yet, so maybe the Yankees are hesitant to make the switch once more; no matter how easy of a long-term decision it seems to be.

Broxton too started games in the minors for the Dodgers. 50 of his 87 games came as a starter, and his numbers weren’t too poor in either capacity. The Dodgers let him make the switch full-time beginning in 2006.

Wilson is the only true reliever of the quartet. He started three games in low-A during his debut season and that was that.

Bailey started for the A’s throughout his minor league career. In fact, 47 of his 73 games came as a starter. He made the jump from Double-A to the majors this year in a full reliever capacity and hasn’t looked back.

The old adage is that anyone who can throw strikes can make it as a reliever. At the same time, a lot of failed starters are transitioned to the pen. Beyond the top 15 guys like Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, J.P. Howell, and even Trevor Hoffman were starters at some point in their career before making the transition.