clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Looking At The Pen

Jeff Sackmann has produced a rather interesting look at bullpens other at The Hardball Times where he examines the Brewers' pen as an example and the points he makes can easily be applied to the Rays or any other baseball team and their bullpen management.

He begins by dissecting the weekly workload of the Brewers' relievers; in his estimate around 26-29 innings a week, we may as well apply this to the Rays, and so I compared the two teams' rotations, or at least innings per start for each member of the rotation while rounding anything at or above two-thirds of an inning up, and everything below down.

Chris Capuano: 6
Ben Sheets: 7
Jeff Suppan: 7
Dave Bush: 7
Claudio Vargas: 5
Total = 32

Kazmir: 6
Seo: 5
Shields: 7
Fossum: 5
Jackson: 5
Total = 28

My first reaction was something to the extent of, "Boy I wish Dave Bush would've signed with the Rays." Next I was interested that the figures really weren't that far apart, then of course I realized that the difference between four more innings of relief work for you're non closer can be death to a weaker bullpen. Of course that's just going by innings, and not at all by starter performances as far as runs and such, considering three of the Rays starters have ERAs over 7, and the highest ERA on the Brewers' staff is 5.56 by Bush, who would still be the third best pitcher on the Rays ERA wise, as I would've previously assumed.

Now let's apply those numbers to a six game per week schedule, meaning 54 regulation innings, the Brewers give or take would be within that 26-29 innings scale assuming not all of their pitchers go their average innings, the Rays would be around 30-34, since we know that Seo, Fossum, and Jackson aren't the most dependable, and Kazmir has yet to manage a pitch count effectively.

Sackmann then took the Brewers' pen and assigned estimated innings workloads through their roles, let us do the same by taking the teams amount of wins and close games into account as well:

Brewers (Sackmann)
Francisco Cordero (closer), 3-4
Derrick Turnbow (set-up No. 1), 3-4
Matt Wise (set-up No. 2), 3-4
Brian Shouse (LOOGY), 3
Chris Spurling, 3-4
Elmer Dessens (mop-up), 4
Carlos Villanueva (long man), 6
Total, 26-29

Al Reyes (closer), 3-4
Brian Stokes (set-up No. 1) 3-4
Shawn Camp (set-up No. 2) 3-4
Chad Orvella, 4-5
Tim Corcoran (long man) 5-6
Jae Kuk Ryu (long man) 4-5
Gary Glover (mop-up) 4-5
Total, 27-33

Now that doesn't seem like a whole lot (other than the Rays long relievers going more than a few starters likely would), but check out the ERAs put next to the relievers:

Brewers (Sackmann)
Francisco Cordero (closer), 3-4 0.47
Derrick Turnbow (set-up No. 1), 3-4 4.19
Matt Wise (set-up No. 2), 3-4 3.26
Brian Shouse (LOOGY), 3 3.97
Chris Spurling, 3-4 1.98
Elmer Dessens (mop-up), 4 6.60
Carlos Villanueva (long man), 6 2.61
Total, 26-29 3.80

Al Reyes (closer), 3-4 2.08
Brian Stokes (set-up No. 1) 3-4 7.17
Shawn Camp (set-up No. 2) 3-4 4.91
Chad Orvella, 4-5 5.40
Tim Corcoran (long man) 5-6 4.76
Jae Kuk Ryu (long man) 4-5 4.43
Gary Glover (mop-up) 4-5 5.64
Total, 27-33 4.92

Obviously having Brian Stokes instead of say, Juan Salas as the team's set-up man hurts without doubt, if you were to replace Stokes with Salas' the team ERA would drop to 4.34, still not great, but much better than the pre-existing total.
So what does all of this accomplish? Well nothing really, there's no solution to the bullpen, although having three long relievers, and one with a large ERA, really doesn't help matters. The simple fact is there aren't enough good relievers for any given team to stock their shelves, or at least through free agency, the Twins are the example everyone hopes to take part in, and even they've gotten lucky a few times. The real solution would be to replace the lacking starters with pitchers who could go 6-7 on average, taking pressure, and chances, away from the bullpen.        

I found this paragraph from Sackmann the most suitable:

In any given situation, there's a "best move" that they could make. We might not know what it is at the time, but it exists. Because we have the tools to analyze these situations in real time, it's fair to say that managers can't "win" games, they can only "not lose" games. (This is why most fans think their team's manager is the worst. Pushing buttons and having those moves work out doesn't reflect on his genius, while doing something risky and having it not work out reflects on his stupidity. Exceptions are rare.)

Perhaps it's not Joe who should go after all.