The 2012 Rays bullpen led the American League in ERA (2.88) and FIP (3.19) and were 2nd in fWAR (6.1) For the first time in several off-seasons the Rays front office was not reconstructing a bullpen over the winter. The bullpen was thought to be a strength for the team heading into 2013 but through the first month and a half of the season the Rays bullpen struggled.
If it wasn't Jake McGee struggling it was Fernando Rodney or both. Kyle Farnsworth was seldom used and when he entered a game negative results usually followed. Jamey Wright started well and then he struggled. Brandon Gomes was given an opportunity but wasn't effective before heading to the disabled list with a right lat strain and Josh Lueke couldn't command the strike zone. The only member of the bullpen to avoid a prolonged stretch of poor performances has been Joel Peralta.
Early in the season there were some who felt Fernando Rodney and Cesar Ramos may have been feeling the effects of the World Baseball Classic. Others felt that Joe Maddon didn't give the relievers enough quality work in spring training. Most of the what's wrong with the bullpen discussion has quieted as over the last several weeks the Rays bullpen has seemed to come together and are beginning to deliver results. The table below from Fangraphs represents the last 14 days:
Fernando Rodney got off to a slow start in April and many felt it was a lack of consistent work that was plaguing him but that proved not to be the case as once he began to receive consistent work he began to consistently give up leads. From May 3 to May 25 he blew 4 save opportunities. He worked 11 innings and walked 11 hitters and gave up 2 home runs while giving up 9 earned runs. Since blowing a save against the Yankees on May 25th he has worked in 8 games (8 innings) walked only 4 while striking out 10. He has only given up 2 earned runs and has converted all 4 save opportunities.
Jake McGee could do no right through his first 15 appearances covering 12 innings of work. He allowed 19 hits, 15 earned runs, surrendered 4 home runs, and had issued 8 walks. In his next 14 appearances covering 13 innings of work he has only allowed 1 earned run on 4 hits while striking out 16 and walking only 2.
Jamey Wright was one of the few bright spots in the bullpen to open the season. Through his first 15 appearances covering 14 innings he had only allowed 2 earned runs on 9 hits striking out 12 and only walking 4. Over his next 9 games (May 8 though June 4) he saw his numbers do a 180-degree turn. Over 13 innings of work he allowed 11 earned runs on 14 hits and issuing 7 walks. Over his last 5 outings Wright has worked 4.1 scoreless innings allowing only 1 hit striking out 6 and walking 2.
Cesar Ramos got off to a bumpy start of the season. He made 10 appearances in April working 6.1 innings allowing 5 earned runs on 9 hits walking 3 striking out 3 and allowing a home run. Since the beginning of May he has worked in 13 games delivering an impressive 24 innings. He has allowed 9 earned runs on 22 hits while striking out 19 and walking only 8.
Kyle Farnsworth was seldom used early in the season and when he did make an appearance he was giving up hits and the lack of strikeouts was alarming. From opening day through May 20th he only appeared in 15 games working 10.2 innings. He allowed 10 earned runs on 20 hits while walking 4 with only 5 strikeouts and giving up 3 home runs. Over his last 8 games he has worked 7 innings allowed only 2 earned runs on 5 hits striking out 4 while walking none.
Maybe the biggest addition to the bullpen has been left handed pitcher Alex Torres who has delivered an impressive 14.1 scoreless innings of work allowing only 3 hits while striking out 19 and walking only 3. Torres performance has elevated him from the long man in the bullpen to a reliever that will be tested in some higher leverage situations.
If the Rays starting pitching can get to consistently giving a minimum of 6 innings and the offense can continue to perform to go along with the solid relief effort the Rays should be able to string together victories and make up some ground in the AL East. The good news is that David Price and Wil Myers should be added to the roster soon to help with the starting staff and boost the offense.