A Little Bullpen Work Never Hurt

In Sunday’s 18-inning marathon between the Reds and Padres, pitchers Aaron Harang and Edinson Volquez made uncharacteristic appearances out of the bullpen. After ruffling through eight different pitchers in twelve innings, the Reds found themselves out of traditional relief resources. Harang came in for the 13th-16th innings while Volquez pitched the 17th before surrendering a walkoff home run with two outs in the 18th. Though odd that they pitched out of the bullpen, period, the actual ingredients comprising these appearances are even more interesting.

Harang had pitched just three days earlier, against the same Padres, experiencing his worst start of the season. In it he went just 5.1 innings, giving up 10 hits and 5 runs; he also walked two and struck out seven. This start had been one of just two stains on an otherwise very solid albeit unlucky season for the Reds ace. In his career, Harang had never pitched on just two days rest. Based on his performance against the Padres, perhaps he should more often!

Okay, I’m kidding, and would never base a statement like that off of just one game but Harang might have pitched his best on Sunday. In four innings of relief work he gave up just two hits and struck out nine batters. His nine strikeouts happened to be his season high. Harang was clearly aided by imposing shadows, causing some feeble and futile swings from Padres hitters; for a guy as unlucky as he throughout this season this goes down as positive karma in my book.

Volquez, on the other hand, had pitched two days prior, striking out 12 Padres hitters in six innings of two-hit, one-run work. Volquez has been so good this season that his ERA actually went up after that outing. On Sunday, though, Volquez went 1.2 innings, walking one and striking out two. He also gave up one hit which proved to be the game-winner. With two on and two out in the bottom of the 18th, he gave up a walkoff three-run home run to Adrian Gonzalez.

Despite garnering the loss, the three runs were all unearned because, a few plays earlier, Joey Votto botched a routine play to first base. Volquez pitched six tremendous innings on Friday, giving up one run, and yet he raised his ERA; on Sunday he gave up a three-run home run and his ERA went down.

Based on the WPA results, Volquez’s -.216 deemed this his worst appearance of the season while Harang’s +.568 was far and away his best.

We hoped you liked reading A Little Bullpen Work Never Hurt by Eric Seidman!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

newest oldest most voted

I was thinking about the Padres 2 very long games this year (18 innings and 22 innings) and was wishing the Cardinals were involved in a few games like that. I would love to see Larussa burn through his bullpen in 15 innings. Everyone would slowing start glancing furtively at Rick Ankiel during Cardinal at-bats, wondering whether he would volunteer to pitch or whether they would really have to try Glaus on the mound.

I can’t imagine anyone would actually have the courage to ask Ankiel to pitch in that situation, so it would be curious to see his response if Larussa asked whether any position players felt comfortable throwing an inning after the bullpen (and maybe a few starters) had already pitched.