Compare & Contrast: A superficial glance at Relief Pitcher

Position: Relief Pitcher

2010 Innings breakdown: Nick Masset - 16%

                                            Francisco Cordero - 15%

                                            Logan Ondrusek - 12%

                                            Arthur Rhodes - 11%

                                            Jordan Smith - 9%

                                            Bill Bray - 6%

                                           Danny Herrera - 5%

                                           Sam LeCure - 3%

                                          Aroldis Chapman - 3%

                                         Matt Maloney - 2%

                                         Enerio Del Rosario - 2%

                                         Jared Burton - 1%

                                        Mike Leake - 1%                       

2010 Composite pitching line (over 72 appearances):

W

L

ERA

G

SV

Holds

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

5

4

3.97

72

6

11

70.0

65

32

31

7

29

61

2

3

WHIP

BABIP

Opp BA

Opp OBP

Strand Rate

xERA

1.346

.288

.243

.321

72.3%

3.80

2010 Composite NL average relief pitcher pitcing line (over 72 appearances):

W

L

ERA

GS

SV

Holds

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

4

3

3.97

72

6

11

71.7

68

34

32

7

30

66

3

4

WHIP

BABIP

Opp BA

Opp OBP

Strand Rate

xERA

1.363

.294

.244

.325

72.8%

3.89

2011 Contract status:

Masset - signed through 2011

Cordero - signed through 2011

Ondrusek - not yet arbitration eligible

Rhodes - free agent

Smith - not yet arbitration eligible

Bray - arbitration eligible? (1st arb year?)

Herrera - not yet arbitration eligible

LeCure - not yet arbitration eligible

Chapman - not yet arbitration eligible; has ML contract through 2014

Maloney - not yet arbitration eligible

Del Rosario - not yet arbitration eligible

Burton - arbitration eligible (2nd arb year)

Leake - not yet arbitration eligible

Advanced minor league depth:

Carlos Fisher - age 27, 2.23 ERA at AAA

Philippe Valiquette - age 23, 4.15 ERA at AA, AAA

Ruben Medina - age 23, 3.18 ERA at High A, AA

Joseph Krebs - age 25, 3.53 ERA at AA, AAA

Jerry Gil - age 27, 4.81 ERA at AA, AAA

Jon Adkins - age 32, 4.92 ERA at AAA

Relative win increase, 2010 vs. 2009: -1

Brief summary of 2010: The bullpen certainly took a turn for the worse in 2010, even through most of the principal players remained the same.  Both seasons saw Masset and Cordero leading the way in terms of innings pitched out of the pen, and both pitchers saw their ERAs rise by more than a run.  And although it's true that ERA can be wildly deceiving for relief pitchers, the component based metrics saw a similar decline.  78-year-old left-hander Arthur Rhodes continued his quest to be baddest man on the planet, and the overall depth of the pen seemed to improve, although at some point, one throws his hands up trying to split hairs over a situational pitcher and his twenty innings of tossing.

Way too early knee-jerk outlook for 2011: You may notice that the best bullpen pitcher over the last two years is the only one not signed.  As with the starters, the relievers combined overall to be an average unit, compared to the rest of the league, but for a lower-payroll team fighting to become an October regular, an average bullpen probably won't cut it, especially since it's a place where gains can be made on the fringes, on the cheap.  That said, who exactly do you absolutely trust in the list of 2010 pitchers?  Not to say there aren't quality arms, but no one yet jumps out as a potential featured fireman.

Bottom line: During their best seasons in the mid-2000's, Uncle Walt's Rasslin' Redbirds stocked their bullpen with experienced pitchers, generally over the age of 30.  And they were really good bullpens.  Now it's entirely possible that Jocketty is unaware that 5 years or so have elapsed since those days (witness the semi-desperate attempt to resurrect Jason Isringhausen's career), but chances are he grasps the space-time continuum concept, especially vis-à-vis the player aging construct.  I do expect improvements to come, even if they aren't splashy.  The possible wrench in the works is that CoCo's contract might be preventing the acquisition of, say, three regular-priced relievers who are better.  That roadblock, combined with the starting pitching depth, combined with the wonderful new playoff team smell that's circulating around the Queen City, combined with the relative youth and inexperience of the current bullpen, combined with the free agent status of Sir Arthur the Valiant, leads me to believe that the spring will see: A) a whole mess of non-roster-invites with uniform numbers in the 80's; and B) either Homer Bailey or Aroldis Chapman or both spend most or all of the season coming out of the pen.  Hold, but keep your eye on the underlying numbers and trends.  This will be a Buy in the future, but there are better short-term plays.

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