Bullpen Updates

12/02/2009

Braves sign Billy Wagner

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kris N. @ 5:27 PM

The Atlanta Braves certainly made a splash in the free agent pool, breaking seemingly endless hours of consecutive boredom.

Photobucket

“The team reached preliminary agreement Tuesday with free-agent
left-hander Billy Wagner on a one-year, $7 million contract with a
vesting option for a second season, according to a major-league source.” – Ken Rosenthal

The $6.5 million vesting option is guaranteed if Wagner “finishes 50 games next season.”

Wagner will be coming off Tommy John surgery, which is no uncharted waters for the Braves, who have had pitchers Tim Hudson, Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano, John Smoltz, Mike Gonzalez and others come off major surgery and still post very successful seasons.

Wagner had an amazingly incredible 2009 campaign. Although it was significantly shortened season, its was incredible; 1.02 WHIP, 1.72 ERA, and nearly 15 K’s for every 9 innings. Think about that, 15 K’s per 9 innings.

Bill James predicts Wagner’s 2010 line to be: 6 – 1, 2.18 ERA, 62 IP, and 75Ks

Which would be tremendous for the Braves.

The Braves lose their 20th round pick which will go to the Boston RedSox assuming the physical, to be executed on Wednesday, goes through.

If you ask me, this is a good deal. Wagner becomes the closer, Moylan takes Gonzo’s job. and perhaps O’Flarity moves into the 7th inning role. 7 million is a lot, I’d have thought somewhere around 5 with incentives would be
better… Wren must have a lot of confidence in him, and if Wren does,
then so do I!

Wagner is 15 saves short of of 400 saves and 40 saves away from becoming the all time leader among left handed pitchers in saves, passing Franco.

Also:

This mysterious Wren that works in mysterious ways is a good color on him.

GO BRAVES!
 
That’s All For Me, Folks!
 

08/18/2009

Bullpen Overview: Chicago Cubs

Having finished the NL East overviews, we’ll now shift to the NL Central and start with Chicago’s North Siders.

Chicago Cubs Depth Chart – mlb.com

Kevin Gregg – RH (Closer)

Carlos Marmol – RH (Set-up)

Sean Marshall – LH (Set-up)

Angel Guzman – RH (Set-up)

Aaron Heilman – RH (Mid-relief)

John Grabow – LH (Lefty specialist)

Esmailin Caridad – RH (Long-relief)

Justin Berg – RH (Long-relief)

Manager: Lou Piniella

Pitching Coach: Larry Rothschild

Bullpen Coach: Lester Strode

Overview:

The Cubs have put together a very solid and deep bullpen that lacks a blue-chip closer.  If they had one of those (and I imagine they’ll get one this off-season), they’d probably have close to the best bullpen in MLB.  Gregg, as I mentioned, is not the kind of pitcher you want to hand the ball to in the 9th during a stretch run and in the playoffs.  He’s got a 3.88 ERA and a 58-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55 and 2/3 innings this season.  He’s certainly no Mike MacDougal, but the Cubs could do much better than Gregg.  He’s blown 5 saves in 28 opportunities to do so.  He’s pitched very badly in August, allowing 4 (!) Home Runs and posting a 7.36 ERA in 7 and 1/3 innings.  He’s blown 2 saves in that span.

Carlos Marmol looked like and pitched like the closer of the future last season, but has been super-wild this season, walking 52 batters in 55 and 2/3 innings.  He’s also hit 11 batters.  That figure leads the league (and this includes starting pitchers).  To his credit, he’s struck out 66 batters and has a 3.56 ERA, so the stuff is obviously still there.  I wonder if it’s something mechanical, because 52 walks in 55 and 2/3 is killing him.  He could be one of the best relievers in the league if his walk rate weren’t twice what it was last year.

Sean Marshall has been a fixture in the Cubs bullpen/rotation for 4 years now.  He’s only 26 years old and the Cubs probably like him as a starter better than a reliever, but he’s posted a 4.86 ERA as a starter and a 2.91 ERA as a reliever in his career.  The splits this season have been eerily similar: 5.24 ERA as a starter, 2.77 ERA as a reliever.  He’s been a late-innings lefty when he’s in the bullpen.

Aaron Heilman had been coveted by the Cubs for his entire career before they finally landed him from the Mariners (a team he never threw a single pitch for) for Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olsen.  For the past three years, Heilman’s K/BB has been trending downward.  After posting a 3.15 K/BB in 2007, he posted a 1.74 K/BB in 2008 and the trend has continued this season, as his 48-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio has contributed to his pedestrian 95 ERA+.  The Cubs have to be concerned with his 2-year running 5+ walk/9 rate.  He’s 30 years old and a bad season away from being relegated to journeyman land.

Angel Guzman has been good, albeit lucky, this season.  He’s posted a 2.47 ERA and a 39-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 52 innings.  His ERA is largely a product of his .210 BABIP.  Smoke in mirrors works sometimes.  Still, he’s a serviceable low-leverage reliever.

John Grabow came over to the Cubs from the Pirates in that trade with some other guy for a guy and two other guys.  Seriously, he figures to be a big part of the Cubs bullpen down the stretch and gives them one of the best lefty specialists in the game.  Overall this season, he’s posted a 45-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 3.06 ERA.  He’s stranded over 80% of the baserunners he’s allowed.  Specialists tend to out-pitch their peripherals.

Esmailin Caridad has experience playing in NPB, but I don’t really know anything about him.  He’s only pitched 6 and 1/3 MLB innings this season.  I’ll refer to this piece:

Last offseason the Cubs’ biggest foreign signing was Dominican-born Esmailin Caridad. Yet he wasn’t your typical teenager drafted for an insane bounty (see the A’s 2008 signing of 16 year old Michael Iona 4.25M), instead he was a 24 year old who came via the Japanese circuit. As a 18 year old, Esmailin signed on to play in Japan and worked his way through their academy system and industrial leagues (a comparable close mesh to low level minor leagues and independent baseball). In 2007, he even played briefly (2 G, 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 BB) in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), our MLB, with the Hiroshima Carp before a loophole allowed him to sign with a MLB club. It just so happens Hendry and VP of player personnel Fleita were in the Dominican at the time of Caridad’s return and had him pitch against Cubs’ players in the Dominican Instructional League. After that Caridad signed for 175K in December and started the 2008 season for High A Daytona.

He has a career 3.92 ERA and a 193-to-83 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 277 and 2/3 minor-league innings.

Justin Berg is 25 years old and has only pitched 2 MLB innings.  He put up rather mediocre numbers throughout the minors until this year, when he posted a 2.33 ERA in 46 and 1/3 innings.  His strikeout-to-walk ratio was only 27-to-24, so there’s not much to be excited about there.  His MiLB career K/BB ratio is 321-to-246, so there’s not a load of potential there anyway.

Usage:

Gregg generally finishes games and Marmol generally pitches the 8th.  Marshall serves as a late-innings lefty specialist, though Grabow figures to take a great deal of those appearances.  Guzman is generally used in the 7th.  Heilman pitches in low-leverage situations and the final 2 members of the bullpen will most likely be used exclusively for meaningless situations.

Inactive Notables:

Carlos Zambrano – 15 day DL.  Back.  ETA August 25.

Jeff Samardzija – AAA.

Neal Cotts – AAA.

08/17/2009

Bullpen Overview: Washington Nationals

So you think your team’s bullpen is a mess?  Let me introduce you to the Washington Nationals.

Washington Nationals Depth Chart – mlb.com

Mike MacDougal – RH (Closer)

Ron Villone – LH (Set-up)

Tyler Clippard – RH (Set-up)

Sean Burnett – LH (Lefty specialist)

Jay Bergman – RH (Mid-relief)

Jorge Sosa – RH (Mid-relief)

Saul Rivera – RH (Mid-relief)

Manager: Jim Riggleman

Pitching Coach: Steve McCatty

Bullpen Coach: Randy Knorr

Overview:

Just how much of a wreck is this bullpen?  The Nationals made a roster move while I was writing this, forcing me to go back and edit.  They just can’t get it right.  Not only is the bullpen primarily comprised of wash-outs that nobody else wanted, I can’t see a single quality future reliever apart from Villone (who profiles as a lefty specialist in a good bullpen).  They’re using Mike MacDougal as their closer.  Mike MacDougal has a 15-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31 and 2/3 innings.  His 2.27 ERA is smoke in mirrors and won’t last any longer than the movie “Gili” did in the box office.

As I mentioned, Ron Villone represents the only useful pitcher in a good bullpen.  Of course, in Washington, he’s the go-to 8th inning guy.  Not good.  His 21-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio is only worsted by MacDougal among active Nationals’ relievers.  He’s 39 years old.  Rebuilding teams aren’t supposed to have 39-year-olds on their team.

Tyler Clippard, who will probably start next season, has been good.  He’s posted a 2.51 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, and a 33-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28 and 2/3 innings.

Sean Burnett was acquired from Pittsburgh in the Milledge-Morgan deal.  Fun fact: he had a 3.06 ERA with the Pirates before coming over.  He has a 3.06 ERA with the Nationals this season.  He’s combined to strike out 36 batters and walk 22 this season.  His future has “LOOGY” written all over it.

Jason Bergman (apparently he’s going by Jay now) has been able to limit his hits allowed this year (luck) which has pushed his ERA down from 5.04 between 2005 and 2008 to 4.55.  Still, not a lot to be excited about.  He’s in his peak years and his performance doesn’t warrant much discussion.

The Nationals round out their bullpen with Saul Rivera and Jorge Sosa, because what would a bad bullpen be like without any 30-something journeymen.  They’re both there, but not noteworthy.

Usage:

Does it really matter?  They’ve been so irrelevant and their bullpen has been in such a state of flux this season, there’s not many patterns to pick up.  MacDougal pitches the 9th in wins (rare).  Clippard and Villone usually pitch the 7th and 8th, I guess.  Most of these relievers shouldn’t be relievers in major league baseball.  Or shouldn’t be in the role they’re in.  Everything’s a downgrade here.  The Nationals have made it known they’ll pursue bullpen help this off-season, they need to.

Inactive Notables:

Scott Olsen – 15 day DL.  Shoulder surgery.  ETA ~ March 2010.

Jordan Zimmermann – 15 day DL.  Tommy John surgery.  ETA ~ August 1, 2010.

Shairon Martis – AAA.

Horatio Ramirez – AAA.

Ross Detwiler – AAA.

(Yes, I know most of the ones I mentioned are starters, but they could have some sort of bullpen impact)

Bullpen Overview: New York Mets

Well, this thing is a mess. Not nearly as much of one as the next team I’ll preview, though.

New York Mets Depth Chart – mlb.com

Francisco Rodriguez – RH (Closer)

Pedro Feliciano – LH (Set-up)

Brian Stokes – RH (Set-up)

Sean Green – RH (Mid-relief)

Tim Redding – RH (Long-relief)

Nelson Figueroa – RH (Long-relief)

Elmer Dessens – RH (Mid-relief)

Manager: Jerry Manuel

Pitching Coach: Dan Warthen

Bullpen Coach: Randy Niemann

Overview:

In order to attempt to correct the scapegoat of the Mets’ 2008 season, the bullpen, Omar Minaya signed Francisco Rodriguez to a 3-year, $36 million deal and traded a great deal of the farm for J.J. Putz. Putz–an incredibly injury-prone reliever–pitched 29 and 1/3 innings of 5+ ERA before going down with season-ending surgery. So basically, the Mets are now where they were in 2008 minus Billy Wagner plus Francisco Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been about as good as I expected him to be. Other people expected him to be amazing. I certainly didn’t. He’s pitched 54 innings with a 3.33 ERA, 53 K’s, 30 walks, a 1.30 WHIP, and has converted 26 of 31 saves. He’s tailed off recently, posting a 13.50 ERA in his last 6 appearances. Batters have touched him up for a 1.085 OPS in that span. Keep in mind he plays in probably the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in baseball. If I’m a Mets fan, I’m worried. If I’m the Mets FO, I’m probably looking at shutting him down soon. This season is meaningless and it looks like he may be developing an injury.

Pedro Feliciano was the sort of default closer last year after Wagner went down with Tommy John surgery. The Mets learned that they never want Pedro Feliciano to regularly pitch the 9th again. He started the 2008 season as a lefty specialist but his role was elevated throughout the season due to injuries and incompetence by his fellow relievers–eventually becoming the closer. He got his first save opportunity on August 12th–having already amassed 62 appearances with a 3.77 ERA. He proceeded to fade down the stretch retiring only 31 of the 49 batters he faced and posted a 5.23 ERA. People understandably attribute his struggles to his new role, though I wonder if something else is at play here. He led the league in appearances last year and I wonder if he was tired. He’s been good this year, posting a 2.87 ERA with a 42-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 47 innings. He currently leads the league in appearances, so I’m very interested to see if he fades down the stretch like he did last year. To this point, the usage pattern has been remarkably similar and this is about the point during last season that he started fading.

The bullpen is incredibly uninteresting after the first two members now that Parnell is in the rotation.

Brian Stokes is 29 years old and has totaled 170 and 1/3 MLB innings. When I see that, I just assume they aren’t good or they’re Cuban or Japanese. Stokes isn’t Cuban or Japanese, but he’s been fairly good this season, posting a 3.02 ERA in 50 and 2/3 innings. The rather pedestrian 32-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests he’s rather lucky and his actual ability is a lot closer to his pre-2009 career ERA of 5.66. The delusion of Citi Field: a bad pitcher can post good numbers.

Sean Green, not much unlike Brian Stokes, is 30 years old and has totaled 203 and 2/3 MLB innings. Unlike Brian Stokes, he’s put up a horrible ERA this season–5.05 in 51 and 2/3 innings.  His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 42-to-20, so he’s sort of the anti-Stokes.  Decent K/BB, crappy ERA.  He’s a low-leverage type.

Tim Redding was awful as a starter, posting a 6.99 ERA in 9 starts, but has posted a 4.05 ERA in 11 appearances post-demotion to the bullpen.  His 12-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests that despite his decent ERA, he is in fact in the correct role–mop up man.

Nelson Figueroa.  I really don’t know why the Mets keep him around.  You might as well let one of your kids, someone who will learn something and actually improve and figures to be part of your organization in the future, take his innings.  He’s got a 5.93 ERA in 13 and 2/3 innings.  Wasn’t any better last year.  Meaningless innings pitcher.

When you have a 7-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and that doesn’t figure to improve all that much, you’re not a MLB pitcher.  Elmer Dessens is another one of the scrap heap types who the Mets should simply release.  It isn’t like he’s giving them quality innings.

Usage:

Who knows?  Francisco Rodriguez pitches the 9th.  Feliciano the 8th.  The rest of the relievers are pretty bad and the Mets just use them in set-up roles when they have nobody else to go to.  Because there isn’t much quality in this bullpen.  It started with K-Rod, Feliciano, Parnell, and Putz as a fairly potent back-end of the bullpen, but with Putz predictably out for the year and Parnell accommodating one of the rotation vacancies, there’s just a shell of a back-end of a bullpen there.  And when your front-end guys assume back-end roles and AAAA organizational filler pieces assume front-end roles, your bullpen starts to suck pretty fast.

Inactive Notables:

Billy Wagner – 60 day DL.  Tommy John.

J.J. Putz – 60 day DL.  Bone spur surgery.

08/16/2009

Bullpen Overview: Florida Marlins

Cranking these out in rapid succession at this point.  Florida Marlins, now.

Florida Marlins Depth Chart – mlb.com

Leo Nunez – RH (Closer)

Matt Lindstrom – RH (Set-up)

Dan Meyer – LH (Set-up)

Kiko Calero – RH (Set-up)

Renyel Pinto – LH (Lefty specialist)

Brian Sanches – RH (Mid-relief)

Cristhian Martinez – RH (Long-relief)

Brendan Donnelly – RH (Mid-relief)

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez

Pitching Coach: Mark Wiley

Bullpen Coach: Steve Foster

Overview:

After winning the closer job from Kevin Gregg last season, Matt Lindstrom has turned around and lost it again.  Just another example of the instability of the bullpens of small market teams.  After posting a 6.52 ERA in his first 29 innings and allowing batters to post an OPS of .847 against him, Lindstrom was placed on the DL and hasn’t re-assumed the closer role since Leo Nunez picked up the slack and hasn’t disappointed in that role.  Since Lindstrom’s return from the DL he’s posted a 4.15 ERA in 5 appearances.  Perhaps the injury or something mechanical was wrong with Lindstrom, because his future looked bright after the 2008 season.

As I mentioned, Leo Nunez has not disappointed in the closer role, successfully converting 11 of 12 save opportunities since Lindstrom was placed on the DL.  The 4.12 ERA isn’t beautiful, but he’s not functionally miserable.  Nunez has posted a 19-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19 and 2/3 innings since assuming the closer role.

Dan Meyer was traded from Atlanta to Oakland in the Tim Hudson deal.  He struggled to find himself in Oakland, posting a 7.98 ERA in 44 big league innings between 2007 and 2008.  The A’s placed him on waivers and the Marlins claimed him this past off-season.  He’s been a very pleasant surprise for the Marlins, posting a 2.47 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and a 41-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 43 and 2/3 innings this season.  My opinion: sooner or later, teams always realize that players are waiver claims for a reason.  Though I’ve been wrong before.

Kiko Calero has been another pleasant surprise this season.  He’s posted a 1.94 ERA and a 52-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 and 2/3 innings this season.  Calero signed as a free agent with the Marlins this past off-season.  Most people had never heard of him.  Most people still haven’t heard of him.  He’s 34 years old and has totaled 284 and 1/3 innings in 7 seasons for 3 teams.  He has a career 3.32 ERA.  He’s also a former Oakland A.

Renyel Pinto was traded to the Marlins in the Juan Pierre deal (the one that netted them Ricky Nolasco as well).  He’s shaping up to be a quality major-league reliever.  This season he’s been very good, posting a 2.47 ERA in 43 and 2/3 innings.  He has walked 32 batters and struck out 42.  Seems like he’s pitching a great deal over his head, but you can do that when you’re a specialist.

Sanches is a piece of organizational filler.  He’s been a pleasant surprise for the Marlins this season, posting a 1.01 ERA and a 34-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 and 2/3 innings.  I don’t believe for one second that’s sustainable.  He’s a serviceable low-leverage reliever, though.

Brendan Donnelly is 37 years old and was picked up by the Marlins when the Rangers released him late in the off-season.  He’s posted a 1.65 ERA and a 14-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 and 1/3 innings this season.  Despite his impressive numbers, he’s nothing more than organizational filler pitching meaningless innings.

Cristhian Martinez is a 27-year-old who has posted unimpressive numbers in his short stint with the big club.  He’s posted a 7-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 7 and 2/3 innings, but he’s given up 12 hits and has an 8.22 ERA.  As a result, he was optioned to the minors but was recalled again on Friday.  He’s yet to pitch since his re-promotion.

Usage:

It’s difficult to put a finger on exactly what Fredi Gonzalez and Mark Wiley like to do in games other than the classic save situation due to instability.  In save situations, they go with some combination of Meyer, Lindstrom, Calero, and Pinto to pitch innings 7 and 8 and let Nunez close it out.  Sanches, Martinez, and Donnelly are used in mop-up situations or when they have to use them.

Inactive Notables:

Burke Badenhop – 15 day DL. Strained trapezius muscle.  ETA unknown.

Scott Proctor – 60 day DL.  Elbow surgery.  ETA 2010.

Anibal Sanchez – 60 day DL.  Right shoulder sprain.  ETA ~ late August, 2009.

Luis Ayala – AAA.

Bullpen Overview: Philadelphia Phillies

We’ll continue with the NL East and go with the division leading, defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Philadelphia Phillies Depth Chart – mlb.com

Brad Lidge – RH (Closer)

Ryan Madson – RH (Set-up)

Chad Durbin – RH (Set-up)

Scott Eyre – LH (Lefty specialist)

Jamie Moyer – LH (Long-relief)

Chan Ho Park – RH (Mid-relief)

Tyler Walker – RH (Mid-relief)

Manager: Charlie Manuel

Pitching Coach: Rich Dubee

Bullpen Coach: Mick Billmeyer

Overview:

Despite his pedestrian 73% save conversion rate, his ugly 7.27 ERA, and his other-worldly 5.8 BB/9, Charlie Manuel insists that Brad Lidge is still the closer.  Lidge has spent time on the DL this year.  He’s clearly not his old self.  Whether it’s mental or he’s still hurt or he’s just lost it, I don’t know.  But he isn’t the same pitcher that posted a 1.95 ERA and successfully converted all 41 of his save opportunities in 69 and 1/3 innings last year.  Lidge’s struggles have largely been responsible for turning a league-best bullpen in 2008 into a merely average one.

During Lidge’s DL stint, Ryan Madson pitched the 9th inning.  Despite putting up good all-around numbers (2.97 ERA, 58-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57 and 2/3 innings over 59 appearances (team high)), Madson struggled in the closer role, blowing 3 saves in 6 appearances at one point (June 16-30).  Since returning to his set-up role, he’s been a much more effective reliever.  Doesn’t really matter when your closer has a 7.27 ERA, though.

Chad Durbin inherited the other set-up role when J.C. Romero and Clay Condrey went on the DL.  He was a scrap-heap acquisition for the Phillies pre-2008 (having pitched 8 seasons with 4 teams and already at the age of 30 and sporting a career ERA of 5.75) and pitched very well for them last year (2.87 ERA, which is somewhat of a delusion considering his peripherals), but has shown more of why he was a scrap-heap acquisition this year, posting a 4.41 ERA and a 49-to-34 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 51 innings (45 games).

Scott Eyre is another journeyman who has become the primary left-hander in the bullpen now that Jack Taschner pitched poorly enough to warrant a trip to AAA and J.C. Romero was placed on the disabled list.  Eyre is 37 years old and has played 13 seasons with 5 teams.  He’s sporting a stellar 1.75 ERA but a not-so stellar 19-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season in 25 and 2/3 innings.

Jamie Moyer was controversially and against his wishes removed from the rotation and placed in the bullpen in order to accommodate Pedro Martinez in the rotation.  I’m not entirely sure Pedro Martinez is an upgrade over Jamie Moyer, but Moyer certainly didn’t do anything to deserve that rotation spot, posting a 5.47 ERA in his 22 starts.  He’s yet to make a relief appearance this season.  Fun fact: he’s only made 1 relief appearance in his career, pitching 3 innings in an extra-innings game walking 4 and allowing 2 runs and 3 hits.  He was charged with the loss.  I imagine he’ll be used in a long-relief/mop-up role.

Chan Ho Park won the 5th starter job out of spring training but failed to keep it beyond his first 7 starts.  He’s been quite good in the bullpen, posting a 2.63 ERA since the demotion to go along with his 47-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 innings.  Using him as a starter, I believe, was a mistake, and he’s currently providing some stability in the state of flux that is the Phillies bullpen.

Tyler Walker is another of the scrap-heap type relievers.  He’s 33 years old and owned a career 4.52 ERA in 229 innings having pitched in 6 seasons with 3 teams pre-2009.  He’s been mostly organizational filler, but with injuries and demotions, Walker has notched 18 and 2/3 innings with the big club this season.  He’s pitched moderately well this season, with a 2.41 ERA and an 11-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the 2 HR in 18 and 2/3 innings are worrisome.

Usage:

The typical game to Manuel’s liking ends with Madson in the 8th and Lidge in the 9th, provided it’s a close game.  Eyre and Durbin usually combine to pitch the 7th.  It isn’t entirely clear how Moyer will be used, but I’ll make a fairly educated guess and say he’ll be a long reliever.  Park has been used primarily in low-leverage situations, but he’s pitched well as of late, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shifted to a higher-leverage role.  Tyler Walker is simply the 12th pitcher on the staff and they don’t use him unless the innings are meaningless of they absolutely have to.

Inactive Notables:

Brett Myers – 60 day DL.  Hip surgery.  ETA ~ September 2009.

Jack Taschner – AAA.

J.C. Romero – 15 day DL.  Strained forearm.  ETA ~ Early September 2009.

Kyle Kendrick – AAA.

Clay Condrey – 15 day DL.  Strained oblique.  ETA unknown.

Bullpen Overview: Atlanta Braves

I figure I’ll get comfortable writing bullpen overviews by easing into them, writing the ones I know the best first.  Naturally, we’ll start with the Atlanta Braves.

Atlanta Braves Depth Chart – mlb.com

Rafael Soriano – RH (Closer)

Mike Gonzalez – LH (Set-up)

Peter Moylan – RH (Set-up)

Eric O’Flaherty – LH (Lefty specialist)

Manny Acosta – RH (Mid-relief)

Kris Medlen – RH (Long-relief)

Boone Logan – LH (Mid-relief)

Manager: Bobby Cox

Pitching Coach: Roger McDowell

Bullpen Coach: Eddie Perez

Overview:

The Braves broke camp with Mike Gonzalez as their closer yet content to play the match-ups with Soriano (i.e. if 3 leftys are due up in the 8th Gonzalez gets used there).  After a decent, albeit shaky, start for Gonzalez, Bobby Cox moved Rafael Soriano into the full-time closer role.  Not without reason.  Through June 30th, Soriano had a 1.23 ERA and a 49-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 36 and 2/3 innings.  Mike Gonzalez now almost exclusively pitches the 8th inning, though I wonder whether or not Bobby Cox and Roger McDowell will revert back to their match-ups game on account of Soriano’s recent struggles (9.95 ERA and two blown saves in his last 8 outings covering 6 and 1/3 innings).

Peter Moylan struggled through the first half, but has found his groove and returned to his 2007 form in the 2nd half, tossing 15 and 1/3 scoreless innings with a 16-to-4 strikeout-to-walk and a 0.91 WHIP.  His role of right-handed set-up man most likely won’t change.  Eric O’Flaherty rounds out the big 4 in the Braves’ bullpen.  O’Flaherty, a lefty waiver claim this past off-season, has put together a solid season, posting a 3.46 ERA and a 28-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 innings.  He’s been utilized as a lefty-specialist and his 58 appearances is only 1 behind Gonzalez and 6 behind Moylan whereas he’s 5th among relievers in innings.  This year, righties have posted a .647 OPS against O’Flaherty but he’s been dominant against the lefties, holding them to a .509 OPS.  His career numbers–though not as impressive as this seasons’–tell much the same story.  Bobby Cox frequently gets a bit too excited when specialists do well and becomes tempted to move them into full-inning roles.  Doing so for O’Flaherty would most likely be a mistake.

The front end of the bullpen is comprised of 3 players that did not break camp with the team.  This isn’t uncommon by any stretch.  Actually, the fact that the big 4 have spent the entire season with the team is an unusual amount of bullpen stability.  The volatility of bullpens will most undoubtedly be a theme for this project.  Kris Medlen was originally called up to make a few starts for Jo-Jo Reyes after the team decided he wasn’t good enough/DL’ed him.  After making 3 starts, he was placed in the bullpen in favor of Tommy Hanson, though he would get a spot start right before the all-star break.  Since the all-star break, he’s been a valuable piece of the bullpen, pitching 13 and 2/3 innings with a 1.32 ERA and a 15-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  He’s only appeared in 9 games–none of them pitching less than one inning–so he’s being utilized as a sort of mop-up/swingman type.  Though his performance will most likely net him an elevated role in the near future.

Manny Acosta is also putting together a nice season as a low-leverage reliever.  In his career, he’s been inexplicably bad in high-leverage situations.  Whether that’s just random variation or something else is at play, I don’t know.  I hardly think 106 innings is a sufficient enough sample size to entirely dismiss the thought that Acosta could one day pitch in a high-leverage role.  The current situation is working in his favor, though, as he’s posted a 3.68 ERA in 29 and 1/3 innings this season.  He has nasty stuff, but has intermittent control issues.

Boone Logan was recalled from AAA to replace Jeff Bennett after he broke his hand.  I see him as the obvious candidate to get optioned to AAA when/if the Braves decide to activate Buddy Carlyle, who went on the DL and discovered he has Diabetes.  Logan hasn’t been miserable, posting a 4.09 ERA in 11 innings.  He has a very good arm, but he’s only 24 years old and isn’t quite polished enough to provide value as anything more than a mop-up man in MLB.  He had posted a 3.28 ERA with 39 K’s in 35 and 2/3 innings at Gwinnett before he got the call.  He’s walked 7 and struck out only 4 in his first 11 MLB innings.

Usage:

As I previously mentioned, Soriano is used in the 9th during save situations (and even when the lead is greater, which I’ll get to) and Gonzalez is used in the 8th.  Moylan is usually used for an out or three at some point in the late-innings as is O’Flaherty.  If the starter goes 6 and the Braves have a lead, Bobby will usually use some combination of Moylan, O’Flaherty, and Gonzalez to pitch innings 7-8 and get the ball to Soriano.

Medlen is used in longer appearances and usually only in low-leverage and extra-innings situations.  Acosta is used in low-leverage situations or when a back-end reliever isn’t available.  And Boone Logan is quite simply the 12th pitcher on the staff and only used when the innings are meaningless or the team absolutely has to use him.

Despite returning from Tommy John surgery ahead of schedule, Moylan leads the league in appearances at 65.  Gonzalez is 5th with 59, O’Flaherty is 7th with 58, and Soriano is 19th with 53.  Every one of these relievers sustained or recovered from injuries or surgeries last year.  It isn’t hard to see that something in this bullpen is destined to break down at some point.  As a Braves fan, I worry greatly about the abuse the bullpen has endured.  The eminent return of Tim Hudson should provide another arm for the bullpen and the fact that Carlyle awaits in AAA makes the notion of a late-innings arm breaking down a bit easier to stomach.  All of the late-innings arms have fewer innings than games except for Soriano (who has exactly the same amount, 53).

Inactive Notables:

Tim Hudson – 60 day DL.  Tommy John surgery.  ETA ~ September 2009.

Buddy Carlyle – AAA.  Diabetes.  ETA ~ September 2009.

Jorge Campillo – 60 day DL.  Shoulder surgery.  ETA ~ March 2010.

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