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What A Difference Five Years Makes

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Five years is a long time, especially in baseball terms.  Just think, the top grossing movie of 2006 was the second installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, songs with titles such as "Laffy Taffy" and "Grillz" hit number one on the charts, and the Rays were giving players like Tomas Perez, Travis Lee, and Greg Norton 240+ABs and allowing Chad Harville, Brian Meadows, and Dan Miceli to toe the rubber for 30+ IP.  It was a crazy time, indeed. 

2010 marks the fifth full year that this current Front Office group has been in charge of baseball operations.  It's amazing to look back at that 2006 roster and all of its shortcomings and compare it to last year's.  It's like comparing apples that leave a bitter taste in your mouth to really, really, super-delicious, gigantic oranges. Nowhere is that more evident than in the bullpen (min. 30IP).

2006:

Name IP xFIP
Ruddy Lugo 85.0 5.23
Shawn Camp 32.0 3.87
Travis Harper 42.0 4.48
Chad Harville 41.0 4.46
Brian Meadows 69.2 5.00
Dan "Meatball" Miceli 32.0 5.87
Jon Switzer 33.2 5.60

2009:

Name IP xFIP
J.P Howell 66.2 3.47
Grant Balfour 67.1 4.21
Randy Choate 36.1 3.40
Lance Cormier 77.1 4.59
Dan Wheeler 57.2 4.13
Joe Nelson 40.1 5.36

 

The difference in those numbers is staggering.  Obviously, the bullpen isn't the soul reason the 2006 team lost 97 or why the 2009 team won 84 games in a "down" year.  I'm not saying that.  What I am saying is that a good bullpen is not hard to assemble, and it's tough to be a very good team without one.  Look at how the core pieces of the 2009 bullpen were acquired: Howell was traded for basically nothing, Balfour was picked off the scrap heap, Cormier and Choate werent highly courted free agent signings, and Dan Wheeler was traded for a very expendable part in Ty Wigginton.  Joe Nelson was a pricy and overall disappointing signing and did not pitch after July 21st.. 

The offense has been given an enormous facelift over those same five years, but nothing as radical as the bullpen.  This Front Office seems to have taken great pride in finding diamonds in the proverbial rough. With this looking like Dan Wheeler's last season in Tampa Bay, and Rafael Soriano signed to a one year deal, they're going to need to mine a few more diamonds out if they wish to stay competitive in the coming years.