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


Nice contribution. Brilliant.