Lance Cormier Thrives As Rays Low Leverage Ace

 Earlier, R.J. praised Joe Maddon for using J.P. Howell correctly. Far too often we point out a manager's flaws when he mismanages a game or a bullpen, so it's only fitting to give him credit when he uses his assets correctly. I want to take this time to point out how well Joe Maddon has used Lance Cormier. It's no secret that Cormier is a personal favorite of mine. I pegged him back in December as a bullpen sleeper and so far he has turned out to be even better than I imagined.

Over the Rays first 35 games, Cormier appeared in over 1/3 of them (13) and pitched 26 innings. I joked with many that Cormier was the Rays defacto sixth starter as he had almost as many innings pitch as Jeff Niemann (33.2) and Andy Sonnanstine (34.2) at the time. Since May 13th, Niemann and Sonnanstine have pitched deeper into games and the rest of the bullpen has picked up the pace.

In the past month, Cormier has appeared in just seven games and thrown 13.1 innings. Despite the long layoffs in between appearances, Cormier has maintained his effectiveness. Over those seven appearances opponents are hitting just .130/.216/.196/.411. He has also picked up his strikeout numbers averaging 7.55 K's per nine, while walking 3.43 per nine, a full walk lower than his career total. Overall, he's walking 2.50 per nine; well below his career norm of 4.41.

Even though his appearances have become more sporadic as of late, the heavy use of his right arm early on has in the top six of innings pitched amongst relief pitchers.

 

G

IP

Brian Bass

21

43.2

RamonTroncoso

30

43

Andrew Bailey

31

42

D.J. Carrasco

22

41.2

RonaldBelisario

35

40.1

Lance Cormier

20

39.2

Chris Sampson

31

39

Seth McClung

26

39

Chad Durban

33

37

Danys Baez

23

35.2

Jason Jennings

21

35

Not only has he thrown a bunch of innings, but he's thrown a bunch of effective ones. Sure, most of them have come in mop-up roles, but as we saw with Jason Hammel last year, that role is still important. Amongst relievers with 35+ innings, Cormier has the lowest ERA.

 

G

ERA

Lance Cormier

20

2.04

Ronald Belisario

35

2.23

RamonTroncoso

30

2.3

Chris Sampson

31

2.31

Andrew Bailey

31

2.36

Seth McClung

26

3

D.J. Carrasco

22

3.02

Danys Baez

23

3.03

JasonJennings

21

3.34

Chad Durban

33

3.89

Brian Bass

21

3.92

By now you should know ERA is basically useless when evaluating an individual pitchers performance so let's see where Cormier ranks by FIP.

 

G

FIP

D.J. Carrasco

22

2.83

Andrew Bailey

31

2.85

Lance Cormier

20

3.22

Chris Sampson

31

3.32

Ronald Belisario

35

3.37

RamonTroncoso

30

3.51

Danys Baez

23

4.22

JasonJennings

21

4.53

Seth McClung

26

4.86

Brian Bass

21

5.29

Chad Durban

33

5.45

As you can see while Cormier hasn't been 2.04 ERA good, he's still in the top three of all relief pitchers with 35+ innings. Cormier's pLI is just 0.53 which makes him, not Dan Wheeler, the king of low leverage situations. Once again, Joe Maddon knows what type of pitcher he has in Cormier, and like J.P. Howell, he is using him in the situations that he'll thrive in. Does Joe Maddon manage the bullpen perfectly? No, but neither does any major league manager. However, in these two cases he has shown the ability to use guys in the situations in which they should be most effective and that's all you can ask.

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