Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How to Fix a Bullpen, Part 6

Following the pattern, we'll now take a look at different ways to replicate the 2006 Twins model for a bullpen. Aside from Eyre, there were a ton of common threads between the players. Most had very good peripherals coming into the season, which made them less dependent on their defense. Nathan and Rincon were starters before moving to the pen. The same is true of Guerrier, who was a AAA starter before being claimed off waivers. Just as we spent much of the post-Indians post on finding the next Bobby Howry, how about the next Joe Nathan? Specifically, are there any players in their first year of relieving putting up very good strikeout and walk numbers? These would be players who are currently not in the closers role for their team, as they could still come at a discount. Also, because the Twins were able to take advantage of the Giants panicking, I'll list any 2009 weaknesses for the teams these guys are playing for.

J.P. Howell, 25, Tampa Bay
I don't think Howell would be available, as he has gotten some high leverage innings. Throw in the fact that he's cheap, and that the Rays seem to be run by bright people, Howell would probably cost a pretty penny. The Rays really don't have any weaknesses for next year's team. Any holes they have can be filled internally. This team will be on top for a while, folks.

Edwar Ramirez, 27, New York Yankees
Okay, not a starter before this year, but his strikeout and walk numbers are out of this world. For 2009, the Yankees could use a catcher, firstbaseman, centerfielder, or starting pitcher. I would have rather gotten Ramirez for Rodriguez. Unfortunately, the Tigers don't appear to be capable of looking past velocity, a flaw that may be the root cause of these bullpen problems

Robinson Tejeda, 26, Kansas City
It's easy to put up horrible numbers with the Rangers. Since joining Kansas City's bullpen, Tejeda has been pretty solid with 24 K's, 8 BB in 22 innings. The Royals have a potential hole at 2B, 1B, and could use another starting pitcher or two.

Jose Arredondo, 24, Los Angeles Angels
K-Rod's heir apparent. Can't be had.

Chad Durbin, 30, Philadelphia
We've been down this path, and probably won't go back down it.

Doug Waechter, 27, Florida
Always low on both strikeouts and walks, Waechter needed a good defense behind him as a starter. Now as a reliever, the K rate is more respectable and could be a sleeper next year. That said, he was placed on the disabled list with shoulder problems today. The Marlins will want cheap players. Their needs will be dependant on where they decide to cut costs. Frankly, Jeremy Hermida is my target on the Marlins' roster.

Buddy Carlyle, 30, Atlanta
A journeyman who moved to the bullpen this year, Carlyle now has 40 K's in 39 innings, but the walks (16) are a bit high for my taste. He's probably a bit old to be the next Nathan, but could be worth a shot as a sleeper. The Braves could use help in left field and in the rotation.

Joel Hanrahan, 26, Washington
A starter until this year and a top Dodgers prospect in the early part of this decade, Hanrahan has 75 K's in 65 innings this year, enough to earn some Nathan comparisons. He has been closing since the trade of Jon Rauch, and could stay in that role in the future. In short, I'm doubting he can be had at a discount. The Nats seem to be young and injured all over the place, and their specific needs will be a function of injury recoveries.

Hong-Chih Kuo, 27, Los Angeles Dodgers
In his first full season in relief, Kuo has finally stayed healthy. The lefty has been a huge cog in the Dodgers bullpen that I almost wrote about the other day. In 66.7 IP, he's only walked 15 guys while striking out a whopping 78 with only two players taking him out of the park. No wonder he's had a 1.76 ERA so far. I doubt he can be had as a throw in, and the Dodgers may be due for another overpaid outfielder in a few months. Sheffield for Kuo and Kershaw, here we go.

Taylor Buchholz, 26, Colorado Rockies
Struggled for years as a back of the rotation guy, Buchholz has come into his own as a reliever the past two years with the Rockies. Like the other guys, the K's are up and the BB's are down. The Rockies' most glaring hole appears to be at second base.

There are some guys who fit the Joe Nathan 2003 mold. A struggling starting pitcher having a breakout season in reliever with lots of strikeouts and few walks. What about Tigers who fit the A.J. Pierzynski mold? That is, who are some players due for a decline with a hot prospect right on their tail?


Oh well. No studs banging down the door, and a lot of the players due for decline have already done so.

The Twins also did a lot of promoting from within. Who are some players in the Tigers' minor league system with low walk rates and high strikeout rates within range of the Big Leagues (Lakeland and above)?

Casey Fien
Chris Lambert
Guillermo Moscoso
Robert Weinhardt

Without going into individual profiles on those guys, they all are striking out a lot of players, walking few, and generally keeping home runs off the board. If you want to look within the systems for possibilities in next year's bullpen, look at those four guys.

As far as this year's draft is concerned, I'm not convinced we will see dramatic results from the guys taken this year. I know Weinhardt is listed above, but it may take until 2010-11 to see a massive influx of players taken this year in the bullpen. Note how the two Twins relievers in 2006 were taken in the 2002 draft, a four year's difference. It took Crain two years and Neshek four.

One more thing to note about the two bullpens covered so far: they weren't built in a day. The 2005 Indians were mostly accumulated before the 2004 season. All of the players in the Twins' bullpen, sans Dennys Reyes, were in the system more than two years prior to the start of the 2006 season. As we look at more bullpens, we'll find out if a quick fix is possible.


Anonymous said...

I still really like the idea of moving Nate Robertson to the bullpen. I think he could be much more effective out there and could even close which would go a long way in earning his ridiculous contract.

I have no faith in him as a starter, might as well try something new with him.

Eddie B said...

I can't believe I didn't think to include Robertson in as a revived reliever.

Lee Panas said...

This is great stuff Eddie. I'm looking forward to reading about all 20 top bullpens. I haven't seen a bullpen analysis in so much detail before.


Anonymous said...

Bullpens are tricky to build. If you're missing one piece a good bullpen can fall apart. Reliever each have specific roles they are good at and if used in that role, can be part of a really effective bullpen unit. However when somebody key goes down, and the rest of the bullpen is asked to pitch outside of their specific roles, everything falls apart.

The Tigs have been missing a fireman/stopper ever since '06 when Zumaya filled that role. Not every releiver is cracked up for such a high pressure role, and said role needs to be a strike out pitcher. Asking a long reliever, innings eater, specialist or fodder to pitch in game-on-the-line situation is a recipe for disaster.

If I was calling the shots, I'd put Robertson in the bullpen for the rest of the year to see if he can handle it. If he could, he'd be a contender for the closer role next season. I'd also look to fast track some of our '08 draftees, as we drafted relievers specifically to address our big club need and relievers are usually ready rather quickly.

I'd get rid of everybody in our bullpen, clean out the stench, fumigate it and start completely anew. I'd probably keep Zumaya around even though I think the kid is another Mark Fidrych.

Anonymous said...

Like all the Tiger kids..add Marte..unfortunatley Moscoso debunked the HR theory last night.

Aside form Ramirez nobody that really intriguesme..all retreads with journeyman the Angels next closer.