Could Jose Contreras Be An Option For The Rays Bullpen?

Even though the Rays ended up losing the race for Kelvim Escobar, it is still likely at another reliever (or two) will be added before pitchers and catchers report. With that, I glanced at the current list of available free agent options in the relief market. R.J. already mentioned Octavio Dotel as well as other targets we've mentioned; for whatever reason, the name Jose Contreras caught my eye.

Like the Dotel post, this is simply a figment of my imagination. The Rays haven't been linked to Contreras in any way; nor has the pitcher expressed interest in pitching for Tampa Bay. Nonetheless, if the two sides crossed paths, I think the results could be favorable based on a few things.

Kelvim Escobar he is not, but when healthy, Contreras has been for the most part an average starter. Reports are his preference is to start, but if he were to follow the Escobar route to the bullpen, he would likely get a little more mileage out of his arm (and possibly better results too). He pitched briefly in relief for Colorado last season and has not ruled out accepting a relief role in 2010.

In an extremely small sample size Contreras seemed to benefit by moving from the rotation in the bullpen. The sample size is so small that I won't get into the specific numbers; however, I'll note that his velocity increased and his contract rate decreased. This in turn led to more strikeouts. We can not make any assumptions off of this data, but all of these would not surprising outcomes for a pitcher moving from starter to reliever (See Park, Chan Ho). It's not out of the realm of possibility that he could consistently throw in the mid 90's and strikeout a batter per nine should he make a permanent switch. His multiple arm slots could also be effective in shorter doses as it would keep hitters off balance.

Another thing I observed was Contreras' stamina. The more pitches he throws, the less effective he becomes; this not uncommon for most pitchers, but still an interesting trend for a one who is considering a move to the pen. He is very effective out of the gate, but loses steam especially in the middle of his outings. Not surprisingly, when a lineup turns over, the batters have more success.

These are career numbers which means the sample size is large enough to warrant some credence.

Pitches

BAA

OBP

SLG

K/BB

1-25

0.25

0.315

0.373

2.57

26-50

0.272

0.343

0.42

1.82

51-75

0.266

0.335

0.429

1.84

76-100

0.251

0.323

0.411

2.04

As you can see when firing his first 25 bullets, Contreras is very effective. However, that effectiveness quickly declines as he goes through what equates to the middle part of most starts, pitches 26-75. Strangely enough, he regains some momentum from 76-100, but the damage is most likely done at that point. Again, not shockingly, the same can be said for number of times through a lineup. He does well the first time through, but struggles in the next turn.

BAA

OBP

SLG

K/BB

1st PA

0.252

0.323

0.369

2.38

2nd PA

0.265

0.336

0.437

1.71

3rd PA+

0.258

0.325

0.415

2.05

I honestly have no idea what the market is for Contreras at this point. There are rumors that the Cubs may hold interest in him as a starter. He certainly could make more money that way in the short-term, but could add a year or two (and maybe a contract or two) by shifting roles. Much like R.J.'s ending on Dotel, there is nothing brewing as far as we know, but I wouldn't mind if his name is tossed around the longer he sits on the market.

Data courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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