Where does your team rank in our preseason rankings of every bullpen in Major League Baseball.
Off and on, the past few weeks, we looked at statistics of over 320 relief pitchers, focusing on last 3-season stats such as FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), HR/9, and K:BB ratio, plus Marcel 2011 WHIP projections. Below are our stories:
The Elite, Best of the Best
San Diego Padres
In a few years, we might look back and see a few closers come out of the 2010 and 2011 San Diego bullpens. Heath Bell is already one of the best closers in baseball, and Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson, and Ernesto Frieri are serious firemen. Tim Stauffer has transitioned from fringe starter to very good reliever over the past couple of years, and Joe Thatcher is a valuable weapon, as his 2.96 FIP over the past three seasons suggests. This team even signed Chad Qualls to potentially be their weakest link.
|Billy Beane is all smiles after adding|
Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour.
New York Yankees
Mariano Rivera, statistically speaking, lead all Relief Pitchers over the past three seasons with a 6.7 K:BB ratio. His 2.56 FIP, 0.59 HR/9, and 1.06 Marcel WHIP for next season aren't too shabby either. The Yankees may have the best bullpen in the Majors. Rafael Soriano has the highest expectations of any 8th inning pitcher in the world. David Robertson was excellent last season. Pedro Feliciano, Boone Logan, and Damaso Marte are good lefthanders, and Joba Chamberlain is a pretty fantastic X-factor.
Lights Out, Usually
Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger fans may think they have the best bullpen, and they may end 2011 with such status. I think they have elite relievers with Broxton and Kuo, strong arms with Guerrier, Troncoso, Belisario, and Jansen, but they lack the depth of the three teams above. John Ely may be an excellent swingman, but Broxton and Kuo need to stay healthy and they've had their moments in pain.
San Francisco Giants
|Romo looks scarier|
than Brian Wilson.
Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels know what they're doing. Neftali Feliz may be the best closer in baseball this season, and there is still talk of making him another starter. While losing Cliff Lee hurt their rotation for the next couple of years, we'll see who takes that spot. Derek Holland will probably get a long look. Alexi Ogando is a pretty serious fireman, too.
Playoff Caliber 'Pens
Chicago White Sox
|That's Ozzie, eating Jello, and|
watching Super Bowl XLV
|Lindstrom's bringing his 100 mph|
fastball to the Mile High City.
|Jose Valverde loves dogs!|
Boston Red Sox
We began with the Red Sox bullpen ranked much higher, by reputation alone, but the statistics that came out of the ol' computer kept knocking them down or promoting other teams ahead of them. Still, you're ranked in the Top 10. Settle down, New England.
NL Central Meets in the Middle
St. Louis Cardinals
John Axford had a 2.13 FIP last season, for crying out loud. He throws very hard and is becoming a legitimate force. The reason the Brewers bullpen isn't ranked any higher is because of legitimate doubts in Latroy Hawkins and the less experienced kids they're counting on.
I've been a pessimistic Cubs fan lately, with reason. I feel it's safe to say that at least the Reds and Brewers will finish with a better record than the Cubs. The Cardinals will likely be better, and even Pittsburgh could be much improved, placing the Cubbies in the basement, once again the floormats of the National League. If the team pleasantly surprises me the way the 2010 Bears did, it's probably because Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, and Andrew Cashner lock down the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. The Cubs bullpen will hopefully be a silver lining to what looks like a bleak season.
Love Aroldis Chapman!!!!!
NL East Coin Tosses
The Marlins are turning the corner. They have a fantastic balance of good starting pitching, exciting young hitters, and a dependable and deep bullpen that should be able to perform very well even if/when one or two players gets hurt. Edward Mujica is a big X-factor. He comes over with expectations to pitch well, but he gave up 1.51 HR/9 over the past three years, pitching for San Diego (163 ip) and Cleveland (39 ip).
|Ryan Madson is ready|
to close somewhere.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are in transition, after losing team leaders Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Matt Garza for financial reasons. They rebuilt their lineup with clearance rack purchases of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, but the bullpen has been the offseasons work in progress that deserves the most attention. J.P. Howell is their best pitcher, and he needs to come back healthy for this team to thrive. The rest of the names don't jump out off the page, but Joel Peralta, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, and Jake McGee should be solid to go with Kyle Farnsworth and maybe Andy Sonnanstine, and former cubs Chris Archer and Juan Cruz.
The Braves are also a team in transition as they move on from Bobby Cox to the Fredi Gonzalez Regime. Fredi has always been a Bobby Cox guy, so things aren't going to change very much. They have a lot of good young arms in this bullpen, but the lack of an extensive track record has them ranked 18th out of 30. It wouldn't be surprising to see them finish in the Top 10.
Won't be Bad
Los Angeles Angels
|Jordan Walden is awesome.|
Drew Storen should become a reliable closer for years to come. Tyler Clippard has been outstanding. The Nationals process seems sound, even when probably overpaying for Jason Werth. The Nationals may have felt like they had to overpay for someone the way the Tigers had to overpay for Ivan Rodriguez to let their fans and other players know that they were serious about competing and playing big bucks for future free agents. They traded their left fielder for Henry Rodriguez, and he throws gas.
Kansas City Royals
It seems like every year the Twins have few players to boast about on paper, then Gardy and his staff finish with a division championship and one of the best bullpens in the league. There's been chatter that Joe Nathan may be ready for Opening Day. That would raise them in the rankings, but if Nathan needs a year to recover, his bounceback may not occur until 2012.
Toronto Blue Jays
The month of January was incredible for Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. He pulled off the impossible Vernon Wells trade, and many Jays fans elevated AA to demigod status. The bullpen is getting better, and they were ranked a bit higher for much of this process. In the end, their expectations are lowered because Octavio Dotel hasn't really been all that in a while.
Hope is a Good Thing
|Sam Demel should bring some Value.|
New York Mets
No-one knows what to expect out of K-Rod, and losing Pedro Feliciano to the crosstown Yankees was terrible for them. We feel they needed to bring him back and will regret the loss, even after adding a lefty we liked as a free agent: Chris Capuano. Bobby Parnell and Taylor Buchholz are solid, and the bullpen probably won't embarrass themselves the way they did in '07 and '08.
|Meek would be our pick for closer.|
Sammy Gervacio is probably the relief pitcher we are rooting for more than anyone besides Wood and Marmol. He's coming back from arm surgery, and I don't think the Astros are really counting on him too much going into camp. Unfortunately, they still have Brandon Lyon. Wilton Lopez could take the closer's job away from him. Lopez has an outstanding 6.22 K:BB ratio over the past three years. They have some depth with Marc Melancon and Fernando Abad, some decent swignmen who could relieve or start, such as Nelson Figuero and Hyphen (Ryan Rowland-Smith). If Alberto Arias keeps throwing hard and improving, he could become a 7th inning nasty boy.
Future Performance Should Improve
Indians relievers have been hurting my fantasy baseball team ever since Joe Borowski left. I have faith in guys like Chris Perez, Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez, and even Joe Smith. The bit of research that went into this exercise kindly reminded me that although these guys "look" like good pitchers on TV, they've had some struggles. Instead of giving into the numbers, though, I still think they'll improve. Rafael Perez is awesome. Maybe they just need to get out of Cleveland, can't blame 'em.
Bullpen Cellar Dwellers
Current Orioles chatter is either praising their offensive lineup, after adding Vladdy Daddy, but some of us feel like it's a great lineup for 2004. We're sitting somewhere in the middle. It's actually a pretty good looking lineup: Roberts/Markakis/Reynolds/Scott/Vlad/DLee/Weiters/Jones/Hardy. Will they score enough runs to finish any better than last place in the AL East? The main issue I have with adding Vladdy Daddy is that it kills the Felix Pie/Nolan Reimold platoon. Will a good team trade for Felix Pie?
|Let Pie Play!!!|
David Aardsma is the closer, but he won't be ready for the first couple of months at least. Brandon League is pretty good, but it's too much to ask him to turn into Goose Gossage. Jack Zduriencik has invited a bunch of people to camp. There are new faces everywhere. Garrett Olson wants to start, but maybe he can blossom in the bullpen like Sean Marshall did for the Cubs. The team is expecting quality from Dan Cortes and Cesar Jimenez. Josh Lueke is a top prospect that may get used in the Major League bullpen. That strategy worked for Phil Hughes, but not Jenrry Mejia. That's why they play the games.
In summation, it brings us no joy to have the White Sox looking so strong. Bullpens are always evolving, as most teams will turnover more than 50% of their relief arms through attrition and reactions to performance. However, with Complete Games going the way of the dodo, bullpens have become more important keys to the game than they have ever been.