I was out for the weekend and unfortunately missed the series with the Orioles - Brandon Guyer! - so when looking over the news Monday morning, I did a double take. Wait, Brandon Guyer has been sent back down to Triple-A in favor of Rob Delaney? What's that about?
Don't get me wrong - I like Rob Delaney. He was a low risk, decent upside signing this off season, and he's put up impressive numbers the last few years in the minors. He struck out over 10 batters per nine last season in Triple-A, and so far this year he's been striking out 9.5 per nine while only walking 2.5 per nine. Not only that, but he's been getting in lots of work out the bullpen, pitching 18 innings in only 12 outings while posting a tidy 1.50 ERA / 2.64 FIP. He has a chance to be a solid arm for the Rays out of the bullpen, and it's fun to finally get a look at him.
The reason this move baffles me, though, is that I don't understand why the Rays need another reliever on their roster right now. Yes, Andy Sonnanstine is moving into the rotation and pitching tonight, so the Rays will be down to a six-man bullpen. We all know how much Joe Maddon likes to play bullpen matchups late in the game, so it somewhat makes sense that he'd want as many arms as possible out in the 'pen. But at the same time, there are these two points to consider:
- The Rays currently have the least used bullpen in the majors. They've pitched 87 innings, which is second lowest total behind the White Sox at 85 IP, and also faced the least amount of batters (342, with the next closest team at 368) and thrown the fewest pitches (h/t Collette). With J.P. Howell set to return potentially as early as Sunday, do the Rays really need to carry seven relievers right now? Couldn't they get by with only six for a few days?
- B.J. Upton has said he plans to serve his two-game suspension during this week's series against the Indians. With Upton out for two of these games, it means the Rays will have a short bench with three players on it: Elliot Johnson, Casey Kotchman or Dan Johnson, and John Jaso or Kelly Shoppach. Maddon doesn't just love to play pitching matchups; he also loves to mess around with his bench late in games. Doesn't this seem unnecessarily limiting?
Seeing as how Joe Maddon has insisted that Guyer was demoted simply because they were a bit thin in the bullpen, I'm left with one conclusion: the Rays don't have much faith in their current bullpen. And you know, I'm not entirely sure I blame them.
While the Rays have had a good bullpen ERA so far this year - 2.69, third best in the majors - the success hasn't necessarily been sustainable. Check this out:
Of the five regulars that are still in the bullpen (Brandon Gomes and Rob Delaney obviously just arrived), three of them don't look all that impressive. Juan Cruz and Adam Russell have both posted good ERAs so far, but their strikeout and walk numbers are very uninspiring. They are mainly succeeded by limited hits (unsustainably low BABIPs) and by keeping the ball in the park. And the same can be said about Cesar Ramos, except his ERA has more closely matched his FIP and xFIP so far this season.
Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta are really the two arms in the bullpen that are putting up good, sustainable results; the rest look like they're holding things together with a bit of glue and duct tape. While I've got no problem with this for the time being - I still think Adam Russell, Juan Cruz, and Cesar Ramos have enough talent and upside that they'll improve - this does make me wonder if Maddon is hesitant to rely too much on any of these relievers at the moment. The Rays' current roster moves certainly seem to suggest that's the case; otherwise, I have no idea why Rob Delaney would be up instead of Brandon Guyer.