Lance Cormier Graduates From Mop-Up Man To Valuable Rays Reliever

It's no secret that before the season I was self-appointed as the chairman of the Lance Cormier fan club. Since calling for the Rays to sign him in December of last year to arguing for him to be included on the roster out of spring, Lance Cormier has been to me what Gregg Zaun is to R.J. Cormier started the season as the Rays long man and got plenty of work early on thanks to ineffectiveness from Andy Sonnanstine and Jeff Niemann.

In April and May, Cormier made 18 appearances and racked up 37 innings. The Rays finally started getting good outings from their starting pitching and the need for a long man became less and less as the summer rolled on. In June and July, Cormier made just 13 appearances for a total of 18.1 innings. Cormier went through long stretches of inactivity including seeing no game action from 5/28-6/10 (12 days). From June 23rd through July 19th he made just four appearances. To his credit, Cormier has remained solid throughout the long patches of live game action.

 

G

IP

April

9

18

May

9

19

June

5

7

July

8

11.1

August

3

3.1

Not only has Cormier's workload seen its ups and downs, but so has the situations he's been used. Take a look at the month to month pLI (Average Leverage Index) and gmLI (Average Leverage Index when he enters a game) for him this year.

 

pLI

gmLI

April

0.22

0.26

May

0.81

0.93

June

0.7

0.61

July

0.27

0.29

August

1.75

1.93

In April, he was pretty much Mr. Mop-Up. One way or the other, Cormier saw a lot of innings in one sided games. In May, the Rays gave him a little bit more rope, but slowly took back some of that rope in June. By July he was back to being low-leverage king. However, with the injury to Chad Bradford as well as the game of roster shuffle being played by Andrew Friedman, Cormier has once again seen his role change.

Over the past two weeks, Cormier's name has been called from the pen as many times as J.P. Howell and Dan Wheeler. You'll also notice that he has earned the trust of his coaches and is now being used in big boy situations. SSS Alert, but in the month of August, his pLI is second highest only to J.P. Howell and his gmLI is the highest of any including Howell. Maybe we should start calling him Mr. Freeze.

Way back when signing Cormier was only a figment of my imagination, I compared him to Chad Bradford. No, he's not quite the extreme ground baller that Bradford is, but he is a predominately ground ball pitcher, who does not get many strikeouts and benefits from an above average defense. I was pretty surprised to see how true that comparison has played out. Over the last 10 seasons, only seven relief pitchers have pitched at least 50 innings with a sub 2.80 ERA and a K/9 of less than the 4.6 Cormier has right now. The Rays had one of those relievers on their team last year. His name is Chad Bradford. However, despite the fact that 2008 Bradford and 2009 Cormier had identical HR/9 rates, Cormier's 3.38 FIP is 0.70 lower that Bradford's 4.08.

With the addition of Russ Springer and the ineffectiveness of Jeff Bennett is Cormier's old role, there is a chance that Cormier could return to his low-level throne. Nonetheless, given the recent success he's had in mid-high leverage situations that might not happen. Cormier is arbitration eligible after the season and should see a nice raise of a little over a million dollars, but given the fact the he is about to put up back to back above average seasons he will once again be a bullpen bargain for the Rays.

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