Think about who you think is the worst (or least valuable) member of the Blue Jays bullpen. If you have trouble with recent promotions and demotions, just think back a few weeks and see who you would have thought then. Weíre not looking for a Matt Whiteside here. Which relatively consistent member do you think? Get that name in mind.
What percentage of you said Brian Tallet? I would guess a
So, here goes an ode to an (until recently at least) underappreciated member of the bullpen.
Although the tune has changed recently amongst some posters, for a long time Tallet has been an afterthought in the bullpen. Iíd have looked more intelligent if I posted this article a few weeks ago, but Iíve thought for a while that Tallet will likely be back with the team next year. And, Dave Tillís recent comment, ďTallet will take Schoeneweis's role next yearĒ has a good chance of being correct. That comment echoed earlier sentiments by Magpie a few days before when he spoke of Speier and Schoeneweisís imminent departure.
However, the tune wasnít always so rosy with regards to
Tallet. Without singling the authors out with links, here's just a quick sampling of what people have said about Tallet in the past:
- In an admittedly very speculative article, he was the one of only two players to pitch for Toronto this year mentioned as a potential candidate for removal from the 40-man roster. The other was Pete Walker who has likely pitched his last game in the majors.
- ďHe looks hit-lucky, but heís a perfectly fine 7th man in the bullpen.Ē And he was subsequently left off the authorís proposed 7-man bullpen for the rest of the year.
- One author nicknamed him Brian "Free Jason Frasor" Tallet and tried, half-heartedly, to introduce a stat known as Frasor's ERA Divided By Brian Tallet's ERA (ERADBBTERA).
- Talletís name was also numerous times in connection with bullpen moves, not only with posters questioning why he was in the majors ahead of pitchers like Frasor and Chulk, but with others suggesting he should have been sent down instead of Rosario, McGowan and Taubenheim at times.
- ďScott Downs. He has quite obviously been one of the team's three best relief
pitchers this season. Thereís really very little to choose from between Downs and SpeierÖĒ
- His stats have been called ďlovely swingman numbers.Ē
- Other articles and posts have rarely questioned his presence in the bullpen and many have already assigned him a spot in the 2007 bullpen.
So, how much better than Brian Tallet is Scott Downs? Or conversely, how much worse than Scott Downs has Brian Tallet been?
Now, letís take a look at the Toronto southpaws in the bullpen. Weíll obviously exclude B.J. Ryan. It is important to note playing time, as Downs and Scott Schoeneweis have been with the Blue Jays for the whole season, while Tallet has been up and down, but has been a consistent presence in the pen since early June.
First, how do these three pitchers do against left-handed hitters?
- Downs: .231/.302/.397
- Schoeneweis: .257/.329/.311
- Tallet: .209/.333/.326
And against right-handers?
- Downs: .248/.335/.409
- Schoeneweis: .290/.364/.478
- Tallet: .227/.367/.381
You can draw your own conclusions from these numbers.
Obviously, caveats about relief statistics apply, such as a small amount of
innings and inherit unreliability apply. I wonít really talk about Schoeneweis,
as heís almost certainly gone at the end of the year. What I will say is that he has often been
ineffective this year and his struggles against right-handers really limit how
long he should be left in the game. He has literally become a LOOGY.
Itís also interesting how similar the numbers are between Downs and Tallet. Talletís opponentís OBP is about 30 points higher, due to some control issues. While lefties are definitely slugging Downs harder than Tallet, the difference against righties can basically be explained by the difference in batting average.
One of the most important jobs of a reliever is to prevent inherited runners from scoring. One reason relieverís ERAs can often be so misleading is because a sizable percentage of the runners who score (or donít score) do so off of somebody elseís pitching. So how do Downs and Tallet compare with regards to inherited runners? Downs has allowed 10 of 31 inherited runners to score. Schoeneweis has allowed 9 of his 39 inherited runners to come around and score. Tallet has only allowed 4 of 27 inherited runners to count, which is a ratio of 14.8% compared to 32.3% for Downs. Aside from BJ Ryan, there is not a lower percentage in the Jays bullpen this year. Frasor has allowed 42.8%, Speier allowed 51.6% and Ryan has allowed 4%. While I canít break these down in any more detail without sifting through game logs to see exactly what types of inherited runners they were, thereís little reason to think Talletís would be any easier to prevent than those inherited by setup men.
A look at some of the advanced pitching statistics also demonstrates how little there is to choose between the two of them. According to Baseball Prospectus Talletís defense-adjusted ERA is 4.08, while Downsís is 4.06. Tallet has 2 pitching runs above average, while Downs has 3. Tallet has prevented 10.2 adjusted runs, which is 37th best in the AL. Downs has prevented 8.4, which is 56th best in the AL. I believe the reason why Tallet rates so highly despite raw statistics that arenít quite that good (surrounding pitchers include Rheal Cormier, Francisco Rodriguez and Mike Timlin) is partially because he has been very good at preventing inherited runners scored. Tallet has an inherited runners prevented score of 2.4, while Downs is at -2.4.
Talletís ERA is hurt by the fact that he has a -2.4 score of his bequeathed runners, while Downs is only at -0.1. Another similarity can be found in the quality of opponents faced, as Downs has faced batters with an average OPS of .785 compared to Talletís .783. However, Hardball Times has Downs with an xFIP of 4.03, while Talletís is 5.44, which is a noticeable difference.
They are not the same type of pitcher though. Tallet gets groundballs and fly outs with the same frequency, as he has a 0.96 GB/FB ratio. Downs has an astronomical 2.79 ratio. His ratio in 2005 was 1.97 and in 2004 it was 1.72. Heís always been a groundball pitcher, but heís made a huge jump over his career numbers this year. I donít know if this something that might be permanent, but it bears watching.
Looking towards next year, would you take this pitcher as your LOOGY?
34.1 IP, 24 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 3 HR, 22 BB, 26 K, 3.40 ERA
The walks are high and itís not a terribly dominant line. However, this pitcher could certainly be used against tough left-handed batters, particularly in combination with League and Accardo as the primary set-up men.
So whose line is this?
Itís Brian Talletís with a few adjustments made. Like others, Iíve noticed that Tallet often seems to be hit harder the longer he stays in a game. So, I made some rather unscientific adjustments. I took any appearance by Tallet and let him finish the inning in which he came into the game. I also counted his stats of his second inning, which was in some cases his first full inning. But, I discounted any innings he pitched beyond that (i.e. his third full or partial inning). Itís not a huge improvement, but it shows that there might be something to the theory that the longer Tallet stays in a game the less effective he tends to be.
Would I rather the Jays acquire Jamie Walker from Detroit? Sign Ron Villone as a free agent? Trade for Neal Cotts? Those all would be nice names to have in the bullpen next year as a primary left-handed short reliever. But Villone is the only one who will be on the market and he might command a multi-year multi-million dollar deal based on his season this year. And, as Schoeneweis has shown this year, most relievers are unpredictable and seven figure contracts do not guarantee effectiveness.
Rather than paying millions to an established veteran who is likely to be equally risky next year, at this point I think the Jays should go with Tallet as their LOOGY next year. Obviously this viewpoint might change based on exactly who is a free agent and what contracts are being offered. However, I would likely go after a couple of minor league free agents to see what they have to offer with Tallet having a headstart rather than go after a "name" player. It looks likely that next year's budget will be a lot tighter than we thought 30 days ago and with the team having several holes to fill, I'd prioritise other parts of the roster. I'd be fine next year with those Downs as the swingman and Tallet as the short relief complimenting Ryan from the left side.
It'd be foolish for JP to spend any significant amount of money on left-handed short relief with a viable and cheap in-house option available and with other needs being far more pressing. Tallet's $400,000 salary will save us a couple of million compared to
Schoeneweis and probably won't be a substantial drop in performance. And if Tallet doesn't succeed next year, there's no guarantee bringing in JC Romero on a one-year $900,000 deal would have yielded any better results. Sure he needs to work on his control and more strikeouts wouldn't hurt, but he's also been very effective at crucial moments and is stranding runners like nobody else. And there's a lot less between him and Downs than many would think.