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The Tolling for Heath Bell Should Not Have Been

Some thoughts on the decision.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Thoughts and tidbits regarding the decision to keep Josh Lueke over Heath Bell.

  • While he was no longer missing bats and featured diminished velocity, Heath Bell was inducing ground balls at a rate of 66.7% and had an ISO against of .120.

  • Bell was a victim of BABIP, allowing three infield and one bunt hit year-to-date.

  • For his career Bell averaged 18.6 pitches per appearance. With the Rays Bell averaged 27.7 pitches per appearance.

  • When Bell’s work was limited to an inning, he allowed three earned runs in 8 innings pitched with nine strikeouts and 15 of 23 batted balls on the ground.

  • Despite the popular meme mocking "the closer mentality," the Friday game against the Yankees was a great example of an experienced reliever knowing how to pitch in the moment. Bell overcame tough breaks on infield hits, broken run downs and an error by continuing to induce weak contact.

  • I believe Bell won’t have any trouble finding a new job in the majors. Hopefully the Rays can figure out a trade where they can pass on a small portion of his salary and maybe pick up another low level fledgling prospect for their troubles.

  • Josh Lueke is being treated like a Rule 5 pitcher by Joe Maddon, being hidden for low leverage situations unless absolutely necessary. This is a not a luxury the Rays can afford down three starters. A lack of trust in Lueke is a big reason that Bell and the other relievers have been overused.

  • Josh Lueke is 29 years old and already has two full seasons under his belt in the organization. He came to the Rays with over 30 innings of major league experience.

  • Lueke has a career slash line against of .298/.362/.456 in 76 innings of work. This season his line is .313/.349/.463, and eight of his eleven inherited runners have scored.

  • Lueke was acquired for 4 years of a cost-controlled John Jaso. Jaso has hit .273/.390/.417 since leaving the Rays, an OPS that would be second to only Evan Longoria on the team for the period of 2012-14. Throwing in the towel on this deal and admitting defeat must be killing the front office. It's okay, consider it forgiven….if you cut bait.

  • I don't believe Lueke would clear waivers. A non-contending team could hide him in their system. The Public Relations angle is overblown. This is an acceptable outcome given the need to compete today.

  • With every passing outing it becomes less likely Lueke reaches his potential, which is that of a good reliever. The Rays have made an art form of finding success with scrap heap relievers. I cannot see how the benefits of his potential possibly outweigh the wear and tear on the rest of the pen, and not maximizing the 25-man roster in a year when its absolutely necessary to do so.