Thursday, September 15, 2011
How to build a bullpen
I have often lamented that many relievers are overpaid, such as Rivera, Soriano, etc. One could also look at someone like Joaquin Benoit of the Tigers, who had a couple of really nice years and then got a big contract, as he has a WASP of 4583. It seems that big contracts with relievers rarely work and are almost never efficient. There are a few exceptions, the biggest one that comes to mind is Scott Downs, who was given a pretty big contract by the LA Angels. Downs is making 5 million this year, giving him a WASP of 2272 (under the Halladay standard of 3000, see previous posts for explanations of the Halladay standard and WASP). Downs numbers are just sick, a 1.29 ERA, with a WHIP .958 (meaning he lets less than 1 runner on an inning!). He has given up just 7 earned runs all year! However, the best course of action in a bullpen seems to be to bring up players from the minors (as it pretty much is at every position). For example, as the Texas Rangers' closer, Neftali Feliz eats up only .5% of the teams salary. His WASP is a microscopic 304. As great as Scott Downs is, you can have a bullpen full of Neftalis for the same price. The trick is of course, finding people in your minors that can throw hard with command. Joe Smith (along with winning the most generic name contest) of the Cleveland Indians is another good example, he makes just $870,000 but has a WAR of 1.8, giving him a WASP of 483. Even the extremely inefficient Yankees have used this route as well, with David Robertson posting a stunning 135 WASP. There is another option for teams that struggle with development, the Jamey Wright option. Jamey Wright was a long time journey-man back of the rotation starter-turned reliever whose career looked over last year when he was released by the Indians. The Mariners quickly gobbled him up however, and have used him as a reliever. They are paying him less than a million dollars, and he is pitching quite well, posting an WAR of .8. This gives him a very nice WASP of 1125. This usually takes time though, and doesn't always work out (they must have good stuff, not great command won't hurt them as much), but its usually very low risk. Another success story is Kameron Loe of the Brewers. A failed starter for the Texas Rangers, Loe went to Japan for a couple of years and returned as a reliever, and he is turning in a solid 1562 WASP this season. Other ones, like Kerry Wood, have been less successful. I expect a similar move to the bullpen will happen to Dontrelle Willis in whatever team he ends up with next year (unless he decides to become an outfielder, since he is an excellent hitter).