For the past couple of seasons the Texas Rangers have payed quite a bit of money in payroll to the bullpen, in return it was one of the best in the league. Sorry I lied, it was actually middle of the pack. All of those big names made me think the pen was better than it actually was. The front office had to spend more than 20 million dollars on last year’s bullpen for being ranked 18th in the MLB in bullpen ERA. I think a new strategy may have been born after seeing General Manager Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay bullpen’s success this past season. Tampa Bay was ranked third in the MLB in ERA, second in the bigs in bullpen WAR and first in batting average against.
Here is a quote from David Hill of RaysColoredGlasses.com on how the Rays do it:
“The Rays have done an excellent job over the past few years in locating pitchers that struggled elsewhere and turning them into serviceable, and often time much more than that, pieces of the bullpen. Pitchers such as Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney may have been on their last chances at a major league job, yet produced far beyond their expectations…”
Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, Burke Badenhop, J.P. Howell, Cesar Ramos, Wade Davis, and Kyle Farnsworth were the leaders of Joe Maddon‘s bullpen. Doesn’t seem very good on paper. You can probably only picture a couple of them actually playing, but all of them pitched quite a bit for the Rays last year.
Rodney had one of the best seasons for a reliever I have ever witnessed. Where did he come from? Where was he hiding? Well, friends, he was hiding behind his alarmingly high walk rate. In 2011 Rodney walked nearly eight batters per nine innings. Last year Rodney walked less than two per nine. All it took was some insight and instruction.
When it comes to the Rangers, there is no shortage of pitching coaches or “advisers” that know how to coach. I’m fairly confident Fernando would’ve had close to the same success in Arlington as he did in St. Petersburgh. So… what’s the point? Okay when looking at the Rays’ pen nearly every single pitcher had a career year. In other words, Andrew Friedman pulled the veterans from where they were to resurrect them in Florida. Even the youngsters had mid-4 to low-5 ERA’s and after a season in the “Trop” all was better.
The stat that seemed to trend was walks per nine innings. Rodney’s BB/9 in 2011 was 7.9, last year’s was 1.8. Jake McGee‘s BB/9 in 2011 was 3.9, last year’s was 1.8. Burke Badenhop‘s was 3.4 in 2011 compared to 1.7 in 2012. J.P. Howell‘s was 5.3 in 2011 compared to 3.9 in 2012. In 2011 Cesar Ramos‘ BB/9 was 5.2 and in 2012 his BB/9 dropped to 3.0. Wade Davis just learned how to flat out pitch.
Tanner Scheppers, Michael Kirkman, Joe Nathan, and Robbie Ross or Martin Perez will be back…. Mark Lowe, Scott Feldman, Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Roy Oswalt are gone. They will be replaced with guys like Jason Frasor, Josh Lindblom, Joakim Soria, Jeff Beliveau, Collin Balester and Cory Burns. This year’s bullpen payroll should be about 5-8 million dollars cheaper than last year’s.
The Rangers are hoping their strategy will work out exactly the same for them as it did for the Rays. With names like Frasor, Soria, Balester, Lindblom, Burns and Beliveau… the game plan has officially shifted in Arlington. Granted, Soria and Frasor have been good pros for most of their careers, they now undeniably enter RBiA with chips on their shoulders (or elbows). There is no doubt the Maddux brothers can piece together a good bullpen with the talent they will be working with in Arizona this spring.