2015 Positional Power Rankings: Relief Pitchers (#16-30)

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data below is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems, with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.

Yes, we know WAR is imperfect and there is more to player value than is wrapped up in that single projection, but for the purposes of talking about a team’s strengths and weaknesses, it is a useful tool. Also, the author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

The rankings of power being conducted by this site have almost concluded. Today, we turn our attention to relief pitchers. We begin by turning our attention, specifically, to this graph:

RP Graph, Teams 16 to 30

Included here are the bullpens which feature the 16th to 30th most power in the major leagues. Jeff Sullivan will consider Nos. 1-15 later in the morning. Or, he probably will, at least. One oughtn’t get in the habit of assuming that everything will work out nicely. As Werner Herzog has almost certainly said at some point, disaster is inevitable.

Now, relief pitchers!

#16 Orioles


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Zach Britton 65.0 7.7 3.2 0.7 .293 74.5 % 3.24 3.54 0.5
Darren O’Day   65.0 9.1 2.5 1.0 .286 77.3 % 3.18 3.66 0.5
Tommy Hunter 55.0 7.5 1.9 1.0 .293 74.3 % 3.41 3.63 0.3
Brian Matusz 55.0 8.6 3.0 1.1 .296 75.4 % 3.61 3.85 0.3
Brad Brach 45.0 9.1 3.5 1.2 .291 75.6 % 3.75 4.06 0.0
Wesley Wright 40.0 7.7 3.3 0.9 .303 73.0 % 3.81 3.93 0.0
T.J. McFarland 35.0 6.1 2.8 0.7 .306 71.1 % 3.88 3.91 0.0
Ubaldo Jimenez 30.0 8.4 4.3 1.1 .297 72.5 % 4.21 4.32 -0.1
Oliver Drake 25.0 8.9 3.5 0.9 .301 74.6 % 3.61 3.81 0.0
Ryan Webb 20.0 6.5 2.8 0.9 .301 71.3 % 3.93 3.97 0.0
Dylan Bundy 15.0 6.8 3.6 1.1 .298 71.3 % 4.43 4.60 0.0
Evan Meek 10.0 6.0 3.6 1.0 .298 69.6 % 4.47 4.59 0.0
The Others 43.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 503.0 8.0 3.1 1.0 .298 73.6 % 3.72 3.91 1.5

It was originally the author’s intent to suggest that the current iteration of the Orioles’ bullpen differed substantially from that one which, in 2012, produced the highest Win Probability Added (WPA) figure in the recorded history of bullpens, contributing in no small part to the club’s first postseason berth since 1997. Playing off a theme originally established, it seems, by the now defunct auto manufacturer that this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile, I was going to submit that this isn’t your slightly older brother’s Orioles bullpen. Mild amusement, is what would have ensued.

Except that amusement would have been founded in some combination both of lies and perfidy. Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, and Darren O’Day are expected to record the most relief innings for the Orioles this year: all four of them played roles of varying importance on that 2012 team, as well. Jim Johnson and Troy Patton and Pedro Strop have all departed, but it’s not as if there’s absolutely no continuity between the two groups.

Of some interest is Ubaldo Jimenez, who appears likely to assume a role in long relief. His next relief appearance will be only the fifth of his entire 10-year career. His ability to prevent runs has been tied pretty strongly to his velocity and he recorded the highest average fastball last year (by kinda a lot) in one of his three relief appearances. That’s somewhat promising.

Less promising were Oldsmobile’s sales after experimenting with this ad campaign:

#17 Indians


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Cody Allen 65.0 10.9 3.4 0.9 .308 77.3 % 3.14 3.19 0.9
Bryan Shaw 65.0 8.1 3.1 0.8 .305 72.1 % 3.71 3.64 0.2
Scott Atchison 55.0 6.6 2.2 0.8 .306 70.8 % 3.79 3.65 0.2
Marc Rzepczynski 55.0 7.8 3.5 0.8 .312 71.5 % 3.93 3.84 0.0
Nick Hagadone 45.0 10.0 4.1 1.0 .309 74.1 % 3.75 3.74 0.2
Josh Tomlin 40.0 7.2 1.7 1.2 .313 69.4 % 4.26 3.94 0.0
Kyle Crockett 35.0 8.3 2.7 0.8 .310 73.1 % 3.56 3.52 0.0
Anthony Swarzak 30.0 6.3 2.6 0.9 .311 70.0 % 4.13 3.89 0.0
Zach McAllister 25.0 7.3 2.6 0.9 .313 70.0 % 4.11 3.79 0.0
C.C. Lee 20.0 8.6 3.3 0.9 .311 71.8 % 3.88 3.77 0.0
Austin Adams 15.0 8.5 3.3 0.9 .312 71.4 % 3.97 3.74 0.0
Shawn Armstrong 10.0 9.5 4.1 1.0 .314 71.8 % 4.10 3.93 0.0
Charles Brewer 10.0 7.1 2.4 1.1 .313 69.9 % 4.30 4.09 0.0
The Others 26.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 496.0 8.3 3.0 0.9 .310 72.1 % 3.84 3.71 1.4

Cleveland’s pitching staff recorded the second-highest collective WAR in the league last year. That’s excellent, but it was also mostly a function of the team’s rotation — which produced whole months of Cy Young-level quality — and less because of the bullpen, which finished 16th overall by WAR.

More of the same, appears to be a reasonable expectation for the 2015 edition of the club. The rotation, addressed yesterday by Miles Wray, profiles as one of the league’s five best. The bullpen, meanwhile, is no great shakes — but not particularly bad shakes, either.

Key to its success is right-hander Cody Allen. Signed for $125,000 after having been selected in just the 23rd round of the 2011 draft, Allen became the second player of his draft year — after only current teammate Trevor Bauer — to debut in the majors. He’s been excellent since then, striking out nearly 30% of the 700 batters he’s faced since his promotion in 2012.

Right-hander Austin Adams continues to bear watching, as well. He recorded the highest average fastball velocity among all Cleveland pitchers in 2014 and has benefited, it would appear, from a full-time move to the bullpen at the beginning of 2013.

#18 Angels


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Huston Street 65.0 8.4 2.5 1.1 .290 76.2 % 3.40 3.68 0.3
Joe Smith 65.0 7.9 2.7 0.7 .295 74.8 % 3.17 3.43 0.5
Fernando Salas 55.0 8.2 2.6 1.0 .301 73.3 % 3.63 3.66 0.2
Vinnie Pestano 55.0 9.2 3.4 0.9 .300 76.2 % 3.43 3.65 0.3
Mike Morin 45.0 7.9 2.6 0.8 .302 72.5 % 3.54 3.55 0.2
Cory Rasmus   40.0 8.5 4.3 1.0 .298 73.9 % 3.97 4.17 -0.1
Cam Bedrosian 35.0 9.9 4.3 0.8 .305 74.0 % 3.62 3.63 0.0
Hector Santiago 30.0 7.5 3.6 1.0 .295 73.1 % 4.02 4.29 0.0
Nicholas Tropeano 25.0 7.6 2.8 0.9 .302 70.8 % 3.98 3.87 0.0
Cesar Ramos 20.0 7.3 3.3 1.0 .298 71.8 % 4.05 4.10 0.0
Drew Rucinski 15.0 7.1 2.5 0.9 .304 71.5 % 3.84 3.83 0.0
Jeremy Mcbryde 10.0 8.3 3.5 1.0 .302 73.1 % 3.86 4.01 0.0
Matt Lindstrom 10.0 6.3 2.9 0.7 .308 70.8 % 3.90 3.79 0.0
The Others 11.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 0.0
Total 481.0 8.2 3.1 0.9 .299 73.8 % 3.64 3.76 1.4

Much like a divorced father who’s always forgetting when it’s his day to pick up the kids from school, Angels reliever Huston Street has become accustomed to stranding people. In the case of Street, however, it’s not children suffering the baleful effects of their parents’ legal separation who he’s stranding, but rather major-league baseball runners. Between 2013 and -14, Street produced a left-on-base rate (LOB%) of 96.1% — the highest such mark among the nearly 500 pitchers to compile at least 50 innings during that interval.

Depending on how one looks at it, Street’s accomplishment is either good news or not-so-good news. It’s good in the sense that it has allowed Street to produce one of the top-20 park-adjusted ERAs over the last two seasons. It’s not so good in the sense that LOB% from one season is barely predictive of LOB% in the next — and rates above 80% are rarely (if ever) sustained. It won’t be surprising, in other words, if Street’s ERA skews decidedly closer to his FIP in 2015.

Unlike many modern bullpens, the Angels’ actually features a pretty even distribution of talent among its top-four or -five members. Vinnie Pestano, Fernando Salas, and Joe Smith are all roughly Street’s equal — in terms of product, if not necessarily process.

Of some interest towards the back of the pen is right-hander Drew Rucinski. Undrafted out of college, he was eventually signed out of the independent Frontier League in 2013. He averaged nearly a strikeout per inning as a starter with Double-A Arkansas last year and acquitted himself quite well in a brief September audition. He not not a candidate to start for the Angels, even.

#19 Red Sox


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Koji Uehara   65.0 10.5 1.6 1.0 .292 81.3 % 2.57 2.86 1.5
Junichi Tazawa 65.0 9.0 2.5 0.8 .307 74.5 % 3.28 3.23 0.7
Edward Mujica 55.0 6.5 2.1 1.1 .303 71.3 % 3.97 3.96 0.0
Craig Breslow 55.0 6.4 3.8 1.0 .303 71.2 % 4.42 4.55 -0.4
Anthony Varvaro 45.0 7.0 3.4 0.8 .303 71.7 % 3.98 4.01 -0.1
Alexi Ogando 40.0 7.8 3.4 1.0 .300 73.2 % 3.93 4.06 -0.1
Tom Layne 35.0 7.7 4.2 0.8 .302 72.4 % 3.95 4.10 -0.1
Robbie Ross 30.0 6.9 2.9 0.8 .308 73.0 % 3.68 3.81 0.0
Matt Barnes 25.0 7.6 3.1 0.9 .306 72.0 % 3.98 3.98 0.0
Brandon Workman 20.0 7.7 2.8 1.1 .304 72.1 % 4.07 4.08 0.0
The Others 66.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.2
Total 501.0 7.9 3.0 0.9 .305 72.8 % 3.83 3.86 1.3

One finds in the depth-chart image above that the Red Sox bullpen is projected to produce about 1.3 wins as a group in 2015 while Koji Uehara is projected to produce 1.5 (i.e. more) wins all by himself. Uehara, one is able to conclude while asking no more questions, is better than all the rest of Boston’s relief corps combined.

It’d be ideal for Boston if Uehara could throw roughly all their relief innings this year. At this point, unfortunately, it appears as though he’ll begin the season by throwing much closer to none of them. A strained hamstring suffered in mid-March has left Uehera unable to throw yet at 100%, and now it appears inevitable that he’ll begin the season on the disabled list.

The advantage of a top-heavy bullpen such as Boston’s is that it allows the manager to reserve his best relievers for the highest-leverage moments. If those best relievers are unable to pitch, however, the result is a vulnerable bullpen. In Uehara’s absence, Edward Mujica appears likely to fill the closer role. Given the projections, however, allowing Junichi Tazawa to pitch in high-leverage situations would also appear to have some benefits.

#20 Mets


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Jenrry Mejia 65.0 9.1 3.3 0.8 .312 73.8 % 3.55 3.47 0.4
Bobby Parnell   65.0 7.9 2.7 0.7 .306 72.8 % 3.41 3.33 0.6
Jeurys Familia 55.0 8.9 3.8 0.7 .302 74.4 % 3.37 3.50 0.3
Vic Black   55.0 9.6 4.8 0.8 .304 74.2 % 3.75 3.91 0.1
Jerry Blevins 45.0 9.1 3.2 0.8 .294 75.5 % 3.34 3.56 0.1
Alex Torres 40.0 9.4 5.0 0.7 .298 73.7 % 3.66 3.86 0.0
Carlos Torres 35.0 8.3 3.0 1.0 .301 73.7 % 3.71 3.83 0.0
Scott Rice 30.0 7.6 4.7 0.7 .305 72.0 % 4.09 4.18 -0.1
Rafael Montero 25.0 8.7 3.0 0.9 .301 73.8 % 3.62 3.68 0.0
Josh Edgin   20.0 8.8 3.8 0.8 .302 73.4 % 3.73 3.76 0.0
Steven Matz 15.0 7.9 2.9 0.8 .306 72.1 % 3.72 3.67 0.0
The Others 23.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 473.0 8.7 3.7 0.8 .304 73.5 % 3.64 3.69 1.2

If the current post were published last week and not this one, the Mets entry would look substantively different. Consider: left-handers Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres are currently projected to post the fifth- and sixth-highest innings totals, respectively, among Mets relievers. As recently as Monday morning, they were employed by other clubs.

The costs weren’t negligble. Outfielder Matt den Dekker, sent to Washington for Blevins, produced about a win last season in under 200 plate appearances. That performance probably overestimates his true-talent level, but he’s almost certainly a capable fourth outfielder. Right-hander Cory Mazzoni, meanwhile — traded to San Diego for Torres — was one of the Mets’ most major-league-ready prospects. He could be of some use to the Padres bullpen starting now.

Those moves by Sandy Alderson et al. suggest that the club regards itself as occupying some place on the win curve where the acquisition of one or another bullpen piece might separate them from the playoffs. Broadly speaking, the projected standings support this supposition. If they can dispatch with the Miami, the Mets will be contending with the Cubs, Giants, Padres and Pirates to qualify for the play-in game.

#21 Giants


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Santiago Casilla 65.0 7.6 3.2 0.7 .293 74.5 % 3.31 3.60 0.2
Sergio Romo 65.0 8.8 2.2 0.8 .295 76.1 % 3.02 3.24 0.7
Jeremy Affeldt 55.0 7.0 3.1 0.5 .301 72.6 % 3.31 3.42 0.2
Javier Lopez 55.0 6.7 3.5 0.6 .299 71.7 % 3.65 3.75 -0.1
Yusmeiro Petit 45.0 8.2 2.0 1.0 .300 73.2 % 3.47 3.45 0.2
Jean Machi 40.0 7.2 2.7 0.7 .294 72.8 % 3.38 3.55 0.0
George Kontos 35.0 8.3 2.7 0.8 .298 74.7 % 3.22 3.36 0.0
Erik Cordier   30.0 10.3 4.8 0.6 .302 74.3 % 3.39 3.54 0.0
Hunter Strickland 25.0 9.3 2.4 0.7 .303 75.9 % 2.89 2.95 0.1
Tim Lincecum 20.0 8.0 3.5 0.9 .305 70.7 % 4.14 3.96 0.0
Brett Bochy 15.0 7.8 3.7 0.9 .297 72.8 % 3.81 4.02 0.0
Ryan Vogelsong 10.0 6.9 2.9 0.9 .300 71.0 % 4.04 4.05 0.0
The Others 4.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 0.0
Total 464.0 7.9 3.0 0.7 .298 73.5 % 3.39 3.52 1.2

Sabermetric orthodoxy suggests that signing aging left-handed relievers to three-year contracts — such as the Giants have done in recent offseasons with both Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez — isn’t a particularly great use of resources. Regarding the wisdom of those decisions, however, San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean might take it upon himself to direct one’s attention to the nearest scoreboard.

Sabean’s Giants have claimed three of the last five World Series and, insofar as winning championships is mostly the point of competing in the majors leagues, these San Francisco teams have almost by definition been designed well.

The relief corps that helped San Francisco win its most recent Series returns almost wholly unchanged. In fact, all six of the club’s relievers who recorded positive WAR figures last year are expected to figure prominently in 2015, as well. The top reliever by that measure, Yusmeiro Petit, remains a mystery — but a mystery that’s really good at preventing runs out of the bullpen.

#22 Diamondbacks


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Addison Reed   65.0 9.3 2.6 1.0 .302 74.2 % 3.48 3.46 0.7
Brad Ziegler 65.0 6.6 3.1 0.6 .300 73.5 % 3.42 3.72 0.2
Oliver Perez 55.0 10.4 3.8 0.9 .307 75.9 % 3.37 3.55 0.4
Randall Delgado 55.0 8.4 3.3 1.1 .303 72.7 % 4.03 4.07 0.0
Evan Marshall 45.0 8.9 3.4 0.7 .309 73.5 % 3.43 3.41 0.2
Daniel Hudson 40.0 7.9 2.6 0.9 .306 69.9 % 3.88 3.62 0.1
Vidal Nuno 35.0 7.4 2.4 1.2 .298 72.2 % 4.04 4.15 0.0
Enrique Burgos 30.0 9.9 5.7 0.9 .308 71.9 % 4.31 4.26 -0.1
Andrew Chafin 25.0 7.2 3.6 0.9 .305 71.6 % 4.13 4.19 0.0
Matt Stites   20.0 7.9 3.1 1.1 .301 72.0 % 4.10 4.17 0.0
Robbie Ray 15.0 7.4 3.8 1.1 .305 70.7 % 4.53 4.54 0.0
Matt Reynolds   10.0 7.7 2.6 0.9 .304 73.0 % 3.61 3.60 0.0
David Hernandez   10.0 10.2 3.3 1.0 .297 77.3 % 3.26 3.53 0.0
A.J. Schugel 10.0 6.7 3.5 1.0 .306 70.1 % 4.37 4.33 0.0
The Others 41.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 521.0 8.4 3.3 0.9 .305 72.7 % 3.83 3.85 1.1

Right-hander Evan Marshall produced the best FIP mark among Arizona’s regular relievers in 2014. He’s projected to do the same thing in 2015, as well.

His resume is worthy of comment. Consider, for example, Marshall’s strikeout rates over three recent and consecutive seasons in the minors:

2012: 12.6%
2013: 21.6%
2014: 30.7%

Those numbers are from Double-A, Triple-A, and then Triple-A again — in that order. One notes that the trend is decidedly upward. “What happened?” is a question one is compelled to ask. It’s the literal question I was compelled to ask of the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro — and one Piecoro asked of Marshall himself last September.

Marshall’s success with the changeup appears to be key. Indeed, in terms of changeup usage, Marshall finished among the top-10% of all relievers last year. Despite throwing the pitch with some frequency, Marshall still produced a swinging-strike rate of about 19% with the changeup — about four points above league average.

#23 White Sox


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
David Robertson 65.0 11.7 3.1 0.8 .314 77.0 % 2.99 2.82 1.4
Zach Duke 65.0 9.0 2.9 0.9 .313 73.3 % 3.64 3.52 0.5
Zach Putnam 55.0 7.9 3.7 0.8 .304 71.9 % 3.94 3.92 0.0
Javy Guerra 55.0 7.1 4.0 1.0 .309 69.6 % 4.66 4.51 -0.3
Dan Jennings 45.0 8.5 3.8 0.9 .313 72.6 % 4.05 3.95 0.0
Jake Petricka   40.0 6.9 4.3 0.8 .307 71.7 % 4.16 4.19 -0.1
Matt Albers 35.0 6.7 3.5 0.9 .303 71.3 % 4.19 4.23 0.0
Daniel Webb 30.0 7.9 5.2 0.9 .307 70.8 % 4.57 4.47 -0.1
Eric Surkamp 25.0 7.8 3.1 1.3 .309 70.9 % 4.44 4.40 -0.1
Maikel Cleto 20.0 9.4 6.0 1.2 .309 71.0 % 5.06 5.03 -0.1
Onelki Garcia 15.0 8.5 6.1 1.0 .311 70.9 % 5.00 4.96 -0.1
Erik Johnson   10.0 6.1 4.2 1.3 .309 67.7 % 5.37 5.16 0.0
Michael Ynoa 10.0 7.5 5.5 1.2 .309 69.1 % 5.34 5.17 0.0
Kyle Drabek 10.0 6.5 3.3 1.4 .305 69.0 % 4.94 4.90 0.0
Raul Fernandez 10.0 6.8 6.0 1.3 .307 68.6 % 5.78 5.74 -0.1
Total 463.0 8.3 3.9 1.0 .308 72.0 % 4.12 4.06 1.0

The White Sox were one of three clubs in 2014 to produce a negative bullpen WAR. That’s not great, obviously. On the other hand, it’s almost a badge of honor for a team with little hope of contending for the playoffs. Relief pitchers are really the last area into which a team ought to be investing resources, and the White Sox invested hardly any of their resources in relievers last year, instead assembling a group of pitchers who either remained under team control or who were committed to just one-year deals.

After the acquisitions this offseason of Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, and Jeff Samardzija, however, the White Sox appear to regard themselves as contenders within the AL Central. Accordingly, they’ve upgraded their bullpen, committing seven years and $61 million to Zach Duke and David Robertson. Those two have immediately become the club’s strongest relief options, accounting for roughly 200% of Chicago’s projected bullpen WAR. If they remain healthy, the bullpen will be almost nearly average; if they don’t, it could very well transform into a carnival of miseries.

#24 Twins


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Glen Perkins 65.0 9.7 2.3 0.9 .310 74.7 % 3.22 3.12 1.2
Casey Fien 65.0 8.3 2.3 1.1 .307 73.1 % 3.76 3.68 0.5
Brian Duensing 55.0 6.9 3.1 0.9 .314 70.4 % 4.18 3.94 0.1
Tim Stauffer 55.0 7.3 3.2 0.9 .319 69.8 % 4.29 3.94 -0.1
Mike Pelfrey 45.0 5.6 3.2 1.1 .316 67.5 % 4.99 4.63 -0.3
J.R. Graham 40.0 6.2 3.1 0.9 .315 69.2 % 4.47 4.21 -0.1
Blaine Boyer 35.0 7.1 2.5 1.0 .310 70.3 % 4.13 3.91 0.0
Caleb Thielbar 30.0 7.2 3.3 0.9 .307 71.2 % 4.14 4.04 0.0
Alex Meyer 25.0 8.8 4.1 0.9 .315 71.5 % 4.16 3.97 0.0
Michael Tonkin 20.0 8.0 3.0 0.8 .316 71.0 % 3.97 3.71 0.0
Stephen Pryor 15.0 7.7 5.4 1.1 .311 69.6 % 5.09 4.93 -0.1
Ryan Pressly 10.0 6.7 3.1 0.8 .310 69.9 % 4.19 3.96 0.0
Logan Darnell 10.0 6.3 3.2 1.2 .315 68.1 % 4.98 4.68 0.0
A.J. Achter 10.0 7.4 3.4 1.0 .310 70.6 % 4.33 4.18 0.0
The Others 12.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 0.0
Total 492.0 7.6 3.0 1.0 .313 70.7 % 4.15 3.94 1.0

Too frequently, internet webloggers say of this or that player that he “sucks.” It’s an instinct, that, lacking seriously in generosity. Whatever the shortcomings of the player in question, he’s still revealed himself as an excellent ballplayer merely by virtue of finding his way to the majors. That alone renders him one of the thousand or so best in the world.

If we take for granted that no major leaguer really sucks, it’s also essential to note that some of them are better than others in a pretty conspicuous way. With regard to the Twins bullpen, for example, it’s manifestly correct to say that none of them suck. It’s also probably right to say that, outside of Perkins and (maybe) Fien, that none of them are particularly great, either.

On the plus side, the team is projected to win just 70 games, meaning that the bullpen is structured in proportion to the rest of the club.

#25 Tigers


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Joe Nathan 65.0 8.5 3.5 0.8 .306 73.0 % 3.80 3.71 0.3
Joakim Soria 65.0 8.8 2.6 0.8 .311 73.4 % 3.43 3.33 0.9
Al Alburquerque 55.0 10.4 3.9 0.9 .311 74.4 % 3.69 3.61 0.2
Joba Chamberlain 55.0 8.0 3.6 0.9 .312 70.1 % 4.17 3.91 0.0
Bruce Rondon   45.0 9.5 4.1 0.8 .311 73.0 % 3.82 3.65 0.1
Tom Gorzelanny 40.0 7.9 3.2 1.0 .311 72.2 % 4.01 3.96 0.0
Kyle Ryan 35.0 4.7 2.7 1.3 .308 66.8 % 5.20 5.00 -0.2
Angel Nesbitt 30.0 7.1 3.9 1.1 .308 69.4 % 4.74 4.65 -0.1
Blaine Hardy 25.0 7.9 3.3 0.9 .307 73.0 % 3.82 3.87 0.0
Ian Krol   20.0 8.0 3.0 1.1 .309 71.1 % 4.21 4.10 0.0
Buck Farmer 15.0 6.8 3.2 1.4 .310 68.2 % 5.06 4.85 -0.1
Kyle Lobstein 10.0 6.3 3.2 1.1 .312 68.4 % 4.76 4.47 0.0
Alex Wilson 10.0 6.7 3.6 1.0 .302 71.2 % 4.35 4.43 0.0
Josh Zeid 10.0 7.7 4.1 1.2 .312 70.1 % 4.77 4.62 0.0
Total 459.0 8.2 3.4 1.0 .309 71.7 % 4.04 3.93 1.0

It’s difficult to tell the story of the 2014 Tigers without citing the club’s bullpen woes. Both the hitters and starting pitchers finished among the majors’ top-10 clubs by WAR; the relievers, 30th. Unfortunately, their weakness was strongest in the postseason: in three ALDS games against Baltimore, the Detroit bullpen conceded 11 runs over just 4.2 innings — and, notably, two of those were scoreless innings recorded by usual starter Anibal Sanchez. Bleak, is the word for which you’re searching.

For all that unpleasantness, however, it wasn’t obvious that Detroit’s relief corps would so fabulously implode. Last year, in this same exercise, the bullpen was ranked 15th overall in the league. Which, that’s not ideal for a club very intent on winning the World Series, but it’s also not an invitation to disaster. Furthermore, Dombrowski et al. theoretically improved the bullpen at midseason by acquiring Joakim Soria.

The effects of regression alone render it unlikely that the Tigers bullpen will plumb last year’s awful depths. It’s probably unsettling for fans of the club, however, that most of last year’s key pieces are returning. A possible exception to that is Bruce Rondon, although some neck and shoulder problems this spring are marring his comeback, as well.

#26 Marlins


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Steve Cishek 65.0 10.1 3.1 0.6 .310 76.0 % 2.91 2.86 1.1
Bryan Morris 65.0 7.2 3.4 0.8 .304 72.3 % 3.81 3.92 -0.2
Mike Dunn 55.0 9.9 3.7 0.7 .307 75.2 % 3.23 3.27 0.6
A.J. Ramos 55.0 9.5 4.8 0.6 .299 73.9 % 3.56 3.66 0.0
Sam Dyson 45.0 6.9 3.3 0.6 .308 72.1 % 3.63 3.69 0.0
Brad Hand 40.0 7.3 3.8 0.9 .302 71.7 % 4.11 4.16 -0.2
Andre Rienzo 35.0 6.9 3.9 0.9 .309 69.9 % 4.45 4.30 -0.1
David Phelps 30.0 7.8 3.3 0.8 .303 72.1 % 3.77 3.80 0.0
Carter Capps 25.0 10.2 3.2 0.7 .314 75.1 % 3.27 3.16 0.0
Andrew Mckirahan 20.0 8.1 3.4 0.9 .303 72.6 % 3.76 3.83 0.0
The Others 59.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.2
Total 494.0 8.4 3.7 0.8 .308 72.8 % 3.73 3.71 1.0

Last year, only 11 relievers reached the two-win threshold. In part, that’s an illustration of the sort of value they provide (or don’t provide). Two wins — i.e. the production of an average hitter — is an elite level for a reliever (with certain obvious caveats about leverage, etc.) It’s also to note, however, that Marlins right-hander Steve Cishek was one of those 11 relievers.

Selected in the fifth round of the 2007 draft out of Carson-Newman College, Cishek’s signing was obscure enough that a French Wikipedia entry is one of the few sources that contains information about the bonus he received. Over the last three years, however, he’s been among the top relievers in the majors, ranking within the top-10 both by Shutdowns and Win Probability Added. It’s probable that, if he remains healthy in 2015, he’ll continue to perform like one of the league’s top relievers.

After Cishek and teammate Mike Dunn, unfortunately, there’s little substantive help. Which isn’t to say that there’s no possibility of help. (Right-hander Carter Capps, for example, throws quite hard and has produced excellent fielding-independent numbers.) It’s just that the source of that theoretically help isn’t immediately apparent.

#27 Brewers


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Francisco Rodriguez 65.0 9.6 3.1 1.2 .299 74.9 % 3.67 3.79 0.2
Jonathan Broxton 65.0 7.9 3.0 0.9 .297 74.0 % 3.64 3.83 0.3
Will Smith 55.0 10.7 3.2 0.9 .312 76.3 % 3.23 3.22 0.5
Brandon Kintzler 55.0 6.0 2.9 0.9 .305 71.3 % 4.02 4.06 -0.1
Jeremy Jeffress 45.0 8.6 4.1 0.7 .310 72.8 % 3.75 3.74 0.1
Jim Henderson 40.0 10.1 3.7 1.0 .307 74.3 % 3.74 3.67 0.2
Tyler Thornburg 35.0 8.5 4.0 1.0 .302 72.7 % 3.98 4.06 0.0
Rob Wooten 30.0 7.0 2.8 0.9 .308 70.7 % 4.05 3.93 0.0
Neal Cotts 25.0 9.3 3.3 0.8 .302 75.6 % 3.36 3.48 0.0
Corey Knebel 20.0 10.5 4.0 0.9 .305 75.4 % 3.46 3.54 0.0
Michael Blazek 15.0 7.9 4.3 1.1 .303 72.1 % 4.35 4.49 0.0
David Goforth 10.0 6.5 4.3 1.0 .304 70.5 % 4.59 4.65 0.0
Mike Strong 10.0 8.7 4.7 1.2 .304 71.6 % 4.52 4.59 0.0
The Others 28.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 498.0 8.6 3.4 0.9 .305 73.3 % 3.81 3.84 1.0

Right-hander Jim Henderson has been surprisingly effective for a player who made his major-league debut at the age of 29. One assumes that, given his extensive experience in the game — and his obvious desire to remain within it despite adversity — that he’s also considered how he’ll pass the time when he’s no longer able to play. This spring, he’s shown early signs that he might have some interest in management, having taken the initiative to decide the Mariners shortstop competition all by himself.

#28 Rockies


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
LaTroy Hawkins 65.0 6.3 2.2 1.0 .312 70.8 % 4.03 3.89 0.4
Rex Brothers 65.0 9.5 4.8 0.9 .316 73.2 % 4.15 4.05 0.1
Adam Ottavino 55.0 9.5 3.1 0.9 .316 74.1 % 3.57 3.44 0.6
John Axford   55.0 9.3 4.4 1.0 .315 71.8 % 4.24 4.02 0.0
David Hale   45.0 5.2 4.0 1.1 .314 68.7 % 5.13 5.02 -0.3
Boone Logan 40.0 9.7 3.6 1.0 .315 73.0 % 3.98 3.77 0.1
Chad Bettis 35.0 7.2 3.3 1.1 .318 69.7 % 4.63 4.34 -0.1
Gus Schlosser 30.0 5.9 3.4 1.1 .313 68.9 % 4.88 4.72 -0.1
Jairo Diaz 25.0 7.9 3.8 1.1 .314 70.3 % 4.51 4.34 0.0
Tommy Kahnle 20.0 8.8 4.7 1.0 .308 71.4 % 4.39 4.25 0.0
Brooks Brown 15.0 7.4 2.9 1.1 .309 71.5 % 4.20 4.17 0.0
Greg Burke 10.0 8.0 3.6 1.2 .312 71.1 % 4.47 4.35 0.0
Rafael Betancourt   10.0 7.0 3.3 1.3 .306 69.9 % 4.69 4.64 0.0
The Others 46.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 516.0 8.0 3.7 1.0 .315 71.2 % 4.33 4.16 0.5

As this site has gained a larger readership among the general public and in front offices, it’s also gained one within clubhouses. Which, that’s not to say — not at all — that the average major-league locker room is now occupied exclusively by giant and talented players buried in their laptops and exporting custom leaderboards to Excel so that they might better work with the data. What it does mean, however, is that more players read the words we write.

It’s always wise to be respectful in one’s analysis — there’s really no excuse for being flippant or dismissive or rude — but one feels an even greater responsibility when he’s aware that the player about whom he’s writing might be on the other side of the words he’s typing.

Right-hander Adam Ottavino is the sort of player who’s occassionally on the other side. Last season, he initiated a discussion with Eno Sarris — something even Sarris’s friends are loath to do — and wanted to talk about Steve Cishek’s success. More recently, he provided enough material for David Laurila to craft two posts about it.

The point of this entry, then, isn’t to dissect the Rockies bullpen. It’s to make this awkward statement about how Adam Ottavino is maybe right now reading about Adam Ottavino.

#29 Blue Jays


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Brett Cecil 65.0 10.4 3.5 0.8 .311 75.1 % 3.29 3.26 0.8
Aaron Loup 65.0 7.5 3.0 0.8 .300 73.4 % 3.57 3.82 0.4
Marco Estrada   55.0 8.0 2.3 1.5 .293 73.1 % 4.18 4.31 -0.1
Todd Redmond 55.0 7.8 2.9 1.0 .304 73.2 % 3.90 3.95 0.1
Miguel Castro 45.0 7.3 5.0 1.1 .302 70.0 % 4.85 4.83 -0.4
Roberto Osuna 40.0 7.8 4.8 1.0 .303 70.6 % 4.61 4.59 -0.2
Colt Hynes 35.0 7.5 2.1 1.1 .307 71.8 % 3.92 3.86 0.0
Liam Hendriks 30.0 7.0 1.6 1.2 .308 70.5 % 4.08 3.94 0.0
Steve Delabar 25.0 10.1 4.6 1.1 .304 73.5 % 4.12 4.18 0.0
Aaron Sanchez 20.0 7.3 4.7 1.0 .298 70.6 % 4.54 4.62 -0.1
The Others 52.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 -0.1
Total 487.0 8.1 3.4 1.0 .305 72.1 % 4.09 4.10 0.4

In the middle of last month, Dave Cameron wrote about the Reds and, specifically, about manager Bryan Price’s suggestion that he was inclined to install veterans Paul Maholm and Jason Marquis in the rotation instead of Tony Cingrani or Anthony DeSclafani or Raisel Iglesias. Maholm and Marquis have merit insofar as their likely performances are easier to project than those of their younger, less experienced teammates. The problem, of course, is that those performances will almost certainly be mediocre. The Reds, meanwhile, will likely require something better than mediocre from the back of their rotation in order to qualify for the postseason. The greater uncertainty provided by Cingrani and DeScalfani and Iglesias is actually a benefit in this case, while Maholm and Marquis are essentially human white flags.

This is perhaps somewhere at the root of Toronto’s decision to enter the season with both Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna on the 25-man roster. Neither has been treated with particular warmth by the projections here — but, then again, neither has the Blue Jays bullpen as a whole. Remove Castro and Osuna, and the club’s relief ranking ascends up only to the 22-27 range. So, not much more excellent.

The Blue Jays are a team hoping to contend, though, and they’ll probably need something better than mediocre from their bullpen. While the most likely outcome from both Castro and Osuna is something slightly below replacement level, those two — like Cingrani and DeScalfani and Iglesias — also offer a greater range of possible outcomes than other possible options for the Jays’ pen. Some of those outcomes would render Toronto’s relief corps a more effective group overall.

#30 Rangers


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Neftali Feliz 65.0 8.1 3.6 1.0 .298 74.1 % 3.91 4.14 0.2
Shawn Tolleson   65.0 8.8 3.6 1.1 .299 74.0 % 3.93 4.09 0.0
Tanner Scheppers   55.0 7.4 2.9 1.0 .305 71.9 % 4.01 4.16 0.1
Roman Mendez 55.0 7.2 4.0 1.1 .300 70.8 % 4.44 4.54 -0.2
Alex Claudio 45.0 7.1 2.6 0.9 .309 71.2 % 3.93 3.86 0.0
Phil Klein 40.0 9.6 4.4 0.9 .300 73.9 % 3.85 4.04 0.0
Anthony Ranaudo 35.0 6.3 3.5 1.3 .299 71.0 % 4.74 4.92 -0.1
Kyuji Fujikawa   30.0 8.7 3.3 1.1 .313 71.8 % 4.11 4.04 0.0
Joe Beimel 25.0 5.9 3.6 1.0 .301 71.0 % 4.47 4.60 -0.1
Jonathan Edwards 20.0 8.4 6.3 1.0 .307 71.1 % 4.92 4.95 -0.1
Lisalverto Bonilla 15.0 9.3 3.9 1.0 .305 72.5 % 4.00 3.97 0.0
Juan Oviedo 10.0 7.8 3.7 1.0 .302 70.6 % 4.27 4.29 0.0
Jamey Wright 10.0 6.9 3.4 0.8 .311 70.4 % 4.15 4.06 0.0
Spencer Patton 10.0 8.9 3.7 1.2 .305 71.6 % 4.24 4.23 0.0
Matt Harrison   10.0 6.0 3.1 1.0 .304 70.7 % 4.37 4.35 0.0
Nick Tepesch 10.0 5.4 2.8 1.2 .304 69.0 % 4.71 4.70 0.0
The Others 5.0 7.9 4.0 1.0 .324 69.7 % 4.73 4.40 0.0
Total 505.0 7.8 3.6 1.1 .303 72.1 % 4.17 4.26 -0.3

At one point in the not very distant past, the discussion regarding Neftali Feliz was whether he would develop into a dominant starter or a dominant reliever, such was the quality of his arm speed and the ease with which he produced it. Entering the 2015 season, the expectations concerning Feliz are different. After working as a starter in 2012, Feliz tore his UCL and was compelled to undergo Tommy John surgery. Returning at the beginning of last July, he featured something less than his characteristic fastball velocity and his career-low strikeout rate of 17.2% was indicative of that.

If there’s a bright spot, it’s that Feliz threw harder in September (94.6 mph over 9.0 innings) than in July (92.0 mph over 13.1 innings) — and the reports from spring appear to skew closer to the latter number than the former. Still, it’s little consolation when one must resort to this sort of logical breakdancing in order to make positive comments about this team’s best reliever. The club’s other top two relievers, meanwhile — Tanner Scheppers and Shawn Tolleson — are dealing with non-negligible injury concerns.

Of some considerable interest in this bullpen — both for his aesthetic virtues and his ability, it would appear, to prevent runs — is left-hander Alex Claudio. Sitting at roughly 84 mph with his fastball, he throws a changeup roughly 20 mph slower than that. He was excellent, nonetheless, in a 12-inning audition with the parent club last September.





Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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grant

“Much like a divorced father who’s always forgetting when it’s his day to pick up the kids from school, Angels reliever Huston Street has become accustomed to stranding people. In the case of Street, however, it’s not children suffering the baleful effects of their parents’ legal separation who he’s stranding, but rather major-league baseball runners.”

Wow. Borderline offensive, hilarious, and an effective analogy all at the same time.