Custom Search

Friday, April 3, 2009

Breaking Down the NL East: Relief Pitching

Thirty years ago the use of relief pitchers was normally reserved for the eighth and ninth innings and even then those guys were hardly considered specialists as they could pitch 5 or 6 innings themselves. There weren’t the 7th inning setup guys to the 8th inning setup guys. There were relief pitchers and closers, and even then I can’t recall the term closer being used. But that was back when starters would pitch twenty complete games a year. Now, through a crack in the game’s evolution, starting pitchers are accustomed to believing that five innings means a quality start; the back four being left to the relief. And guys now make a good living pitching one inning, and sometimes one batter, every other game, making their roles on the team vital to its success. For my evaluation of the relief pitchers I took into consideration wins and saves versus ERA, WHIP, and Losses. I didn’t go into blown saves or holds since if a closer blows a save, they probably may have gotten a loss and that’s worse, plus blown saves in the seventh or eighth innings is plain stupid. Holds, on the other hand are a decent enough stat, ERA and WHIP will indicate just how they do well enough.
First (Score 3.55): The Philadelphia Phillies historically have had iffy relief pitching at best. Sure they’ve had bright spots here and there like Steve Bedrock Bedrosian, but generally guys like Roberto Horrendous Hernandez come to mind. Last year was a different story though, Brad Lidge was lights out, J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson at the end of the year was nearly as good. The role players of Scott Eyre, Clay Condrey, and Chad Durbin each played a major part in the team’s success. Right off the bat in 2009 Romero is on a fifty game suspension however his absence will hopefully be minimized with the addition of Jack Tascher, a replacement lefty if you will. No one expect Lidge to go perfect again this year, but he should be far off. The Phillies have a good group and if there aren’t any injuries, they shouldn’t lose more than a dozen games for the team.
Second (2.37): If I were going on last year alone I would have put the New York Mets relief staff at the bottom of the list and I don’t think there would be many complaints. Their relievers, especially loud-mouthed Billy Wagner is a big reason they’ve missed the post season. The addition of K-Rod is not a big as the addition of J.J. Putz who, in my opinion is a better closer, but who will be relegated to the setup role unless Rodriguez melts down. Keep in mind that K-Rod did blow nine saves (not calculated into the score), so Putz might be the closer at season’s end. The rest of the riff raff including Pedro Feliciano and guys named Sean Green, Brian Stokes, and Carlos Muniz will have to hold down the fort until the late innings when the real players can come in to pitch. Hopefully for the Mets they can get into the eighth with a lead.
Third (0.76): As a complete shock to me, the Washington Nationals ranks third in relief pitching. This is due to young pitchers last year doing a good job, unnoticed by nearly everyone in baseball, plus the addition of a solid vet Joe Beimel. Joel Hanrahan, who had nine saves last year, gets the closers job it would appear, by default. Saul Rivera, Steven Shell, Garrett Mock, and Julian Tavarez round out the rest of the core relievers on this Nationals’ team. Shell and Mock were rookies last year, looking to make a living in the major leagues. In order to do that, they will have to ensure that any lead (however rare) they have when the come into pitch, stays that way when they hand the ball over to Hanrahan. Washington won’t win many games on merit, so the relief pitching has to be adequate enough not to lose any leads they get.
Fourth (0.66): It has been my contention for years that Mike Gonzalez is an underrated closer. He has been stuck on win anemic teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates where save opportunities were not real forthcoming. Last year on the Braves, no one could lock down that closer role, and much like Hanrahan in D.C., Gonzalez will have the closer’s job by lack of competition. Manny Acosta, Blaine Boyer, Jeff Bennett, Buddy Carlyle, and Boone Logan make up the bulk of the rest of the squad, none of whom had an ERA under 3.50 last year. If they can keep the runs from scoring, then Gonzalez should have a career year in 2009. If the Braves are lucky, their pitching staff might get them a sniff of a possible postseason run.
Fifth (0.43) The Florida Marlins have found a way to remain somewhat competitive despite having guys with names you’ve never heard of, who have nothing real special to mention about them, and who may not make a roster elsewhere. Matt Lindstrom had five saves in 2008 and is the Fish’s closer. Kiko Calero, not to be confused with Kiki Vandeweghe was picked up from Oakland, and will provide some nice experience in the bullpen. The combination of Leo Nunez, Logan Kensing, Renyel Pinto, and Rick VandenHurk, who were a combined 10-8 with 0 saves, will be responsible for maintaining whatever leads the starting staff drops in their laps. Regardless, I can imagine them helping the Marlins to anything better than third place in the division.
Well, that’s it for this series. Thanks everyone for view, reading, and for the one or two comments I got from them. I hope I wrote without too much bias, even though I know some was blatant. It should be a great season, particularly if you are a Phillies fan like me, so it goes without saying….

Let’s look alive out there!

No comments:

Post a Comment