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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 large number.

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.
And meanwhile, Scott Downs has received the following accolades:

  • 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.

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Pistol - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 08:37 AM EDT (#152972) #

I agree that the Jays don't need to go outside the organization for this role, unless it's a NRI.  Between Downs and Tallet you should be able to cover it, and Davis Romero seems like he'd be an effective short man with strong splits against LHs in both NH and Syracuse.

Mike Green - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 10:13 AM EDT (#152986) #
Here's Tallet's career record.  Downs and Davis Romero are significantly better pitchers.   Over the last 2 years, Downs has thrown 150 innings with ERA, FIP and xFIP between 3.9 and 4.35.  Despite his struggles this year, Schoeneweis is actually a better pitcher too. 
Wildrose - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#153000) #
In fairness, Tallet had T.J. surgery in August of 2003. In my opinion it takes 2 years to recover from this, so basically trying to analyze him via statistics over that time period ( and maybe even a little before, since most prospects try to pitch through pain ) may give you a false conclusion.

Tallet seems to be a guy scouts like ( second round choice),  given an opportunity he's run with it. I'm honestly not sure how good he is, we'll just have to wait and see. ( Nice web sight link by the way MG...  I think baseball Cube will have to be ditched)
Mike Green - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 12:23 PM EDT (#153003) #
Fair enough.  I am not saying that Tallet does not deserve a job somewhere in 2007, but rather that I'd much rather have Ryan, League, Frasor, Accardo, Downs, Davis Romero, and Janssen out there, without even thinking about McGowan and Rosario.

With firstinning.com and minorleaguesplits.com, we now have a wealth of information about minor leaguers.  The possibility of first-rate research on prospect paths, particularly for pitchers, is nearer than ever.  The Baseball Cube remains an invaluable resource, particularly for the draft and for historical players.  Partial minor league records are available there for players like Dwight Evans. 

Ryan Day - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 12:32 PM EDT (#153006) #

  Tallet makes me nervous, but he's also impressed me. The big question, as with many pitchers, is whether he can improve his control and take a step up. He's reminding me of Roy Halladay c.1999, which makes me fear that Roy Halladay c.2000 can't be far behind. He's got good stuff, but I can't see him surviving if he keeps walking as many batters as he strikes out.

  But still: I've been skeptical of the Jays keeping him around despite some lacklustre numbers and a few relievers who might be better, but he's certainly validated Ricciardi's faith.

Thomas - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 12:38 PM EDT (#153008) #
These comments raised two points that I thought about as I wrote the piece but forgot to mention: Romero and the TJ surgery. Tallet was a 2nd round pick and there is a strong possibility he'll get better as the surgery is further and further in the distance. Similarly, Romero is an in-house option and could be brought in to compete with Tallet and any minor league FAs we sign. However, Tallet has been effective in shorter stints and seems more suited to the short relief role than Downs is.

Although there are differences between the contract situations of the two, sometimes I look at this situation and think back to Trever Miller. He had a league average year as a LOOGY and the Jays let him go because of a difference of, I believe, $100,000 between what he wanted and what they were offering. Miller is now working on his fourth (and counting) year as an average or better reliever since he returned to the major leagues. Meanwhile, Toronto went though Valerio de los Santos, Doug Creek, Jason Kershner, Scott Schoeneweis (the good) and Scott Schoeneweis (the bad) in the time since Miller. They paid them all but Kershner more than Miller was asking (I believe) and only Scott Schoeneweis in 2005 was better.

Maldoff - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 01:18 PM EDT (#153014) #
Hey Mike Green, maybe you can help me with this. I noticed on Firstinning.com that BABIP is listed as a hitters statistic. I had previously thought of BABIP only from the pitchers point of view (ie the higher it is, the "un-luckier" the pitcher is). What is the relevance of this statistic for the hitter? Does it show much about the development of a hitter over time?
Ryan Day - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 01:55 PM EDT (#153017) #
  And before Trever Miller there was Scott Eyre, a good, cheap LOOGY who was let go on waivers. 
Mike Green - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 02:14 PM EDT (#153020) #
My understanding of BABIP for a hitter is this.  It is a function of the batter's line drive rate, GB/FB tendencies, isolated power, and speed, as well as luck.  So, for instance, Barry Bonds had a BABIP of .314 in 2004 and has a BABIP of .237 this year.  While some of this may be due to bad luck, some is undoubtedly due to a loss of power and speed. 

In the case of pitchers, luck plays a more important rule at least over the short run (say 200-300 innings).  There are rarely great differences in the isolated power and speed of the batters that different pitchers face.  Pitchers do have an impact on line drive rate. An example might be Mariano Rivera.

Maldoff - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 03:02 PM EDT (#153023) #
So Mike, BABIP doesn't really sound like much of a tool to use to analyze a player?
Mike Green - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 03:44 PM EDT (#153027) #
Well, it's a (fairly minor) piece of evidence.  Let's imagine that you have a young hitting prospect.  Some scouts say he has above average speed; some describe it as average.  In a couple of minor league seasons, he steals 15-20 bases and is caught 5-7 times.  His line drive rate is average, and he has league average pop.  If his BABIP is 50 points higher than league in 2 different leagues, you might infer that he got a bit lucky and that the scouts who said that he had above average speed.  If it's 20 points lower than league average, you might believe the other scouts.

Analysts sometimes say that high batting averages with high K rates and moderate homer rates, like Cameron Maybin is posting this year, Lastings Milledge did in double A last year and Alex Rios did in New Haven in 2003, may not be sustainable.  That's when the Isolated power and speed elements enter the discussion. 

Pistol - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 04:06 PM EDT (#153028) #

According to Shandler Baseball Forecaster, a player's BABIP is fairly constant over his career, and swings in that is largely luck (barring significant changes in GB/FB, injuries, etc.).

 Here's what Bobby Abreu looks like:

Year Age Team Level G AB BABIP
1991 17 GCL Rookie 56 183 35%
1992 18 Ash A 135 480 34%
1993 19 Osc A 129 474 34%
1994 20 Jac AA 118 400 35%
1995 21 Tuc AAA 114 415 41%
1996 22 Tuc AAA 132 484 34%
1997 23 New AAA 47 194 35%
 
1997 23 Hou MLB 59 188 32%
1998 24 Phi MLB 151 497 40%
1999 25 Phi MLB 152 546 40%
2000 26 Phi MLB 154 576 36%
2001 27 Phi MLB 162 588 33%
2002 28 Phi MLB 157 572 36%
2003 29 Phi MLB 158 577 36%
2004 30 Phi MLB 159 574 33%
2005 31 Phi MLB 162 588 34%
2006 32 Phi MLB 91 311 35%

Abreu in the minors was consistently in the 35% range, with a spike of 41% one year.  In the majors he's been around 36% - some years higher, some years lower (and those first two were unreal).  He's been a little bit lower each of the last few years which would be a sign that he's slowing down (which makes sense with normal aging patterns).

One more for fun - Reggie Sanders:

Year Age Team Level G AB BABIP
1989 21 Gre A 81 315 34%
1990 22 Ced A 127 466 33%
1991 23 Cha AA 86 302 38%
             
1992 24 Cin MLB 116 385 34%
1993 25 Cin MLB 138 496 32%
1994 26 Cin MLB 107 400 33%
1995 27 Cin MLB 133 484 36%
1996 28 Cin MLB 81 287 31%
1997 29 Cin MLB 86 312 30%
1999 31 Sd MLB 133 478 32%
2000 32 Atl MLB 103 340 27%
2001 33 Ari MLB 126 441 29%
2002 32 Sf MLB 140 505 29%
2003 33 Pit MLB 130 453 31%
2004 34 Stl MLB 135 446 31%
2005 35 Stl MLB 93 295 30%

Early on Sanders was around 34%.  Then he dipped to the 30% range starting around age 28, although has been better the past three years than the three before that.

Mike Green - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 04:18 PM EDT (#153032) #
That certainly makes sense through maybe age 30.  Gains in isolated power by a player offsetting his loss of speed.  I would expect that for players who spend 15 years in the majors from say age 23 to age 38, the average BABIP at age 32 is somewhat lower than it was at age 25 (as in the Sanders and Abreu cases) and much lower at age 37.
VBF - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 06:02 PM EDT (#153039) #

When pitchers recover from Tommy John Surgery, it's not uncommon for their velocity to soon follow--sometimes even better than before. Is there a similiar correlation with control and Tommy John Surgery?

Tallet's walk rate is worrisome that he could become a harder throwing version of Scott Downs--not necessarily a bad thing, but it's nice to have a LOOGY that doesn't walk so many batters.

Would it be a sin for your LOOGY to be a right handed pitcher? Jeremy Accardo in 44 AB (sample size beware) has been downright nasty to lefties with a .427 OPS against.

 

Thomas - Monday, August 14 2006 @ 07:53 PM EDT (#153042) #
Would it be a sin for your LOOGY to be a right handed pitcher? Jeremy Accardo in 44 AB (sample size beware) has been downright nasty to lefties with a .427 OPS against.

It's no sin. As you know left-handed batters hit noticably worse against left-handed pitchers. David Ortiz has an OPS difference of 100 points between right-handed pitchers and left-handed pitchers over his career. Jason Giambi's is about 130 points, Justin Morneau's is nearly 180. Eric Chavez is about 190. Jim Thome's is 293 points.

Accardo has been much tougher on lefties than righties over the course of his career. This doesn't look to be a one-year thing. So Accardo is an ideal pitcher to go through a stretch of the lineup where right-handed batters and left-handed batters are interspersed. Some managers will tend to go to a LOOGY in almost any situation, regardless of the quality of the pitchers involved or the batter. That is a mistake, as a good right-handed reliever is better than a poor left-handed one against most batters. If the Jays start next year with Accardo and Tallet/Romero/Pitcher X, it would make sense to use Tallet/Romero against lefties with huge splits, like Thome or Chavez or against a streak of lefties in a row. Meanwhile, Accardo could pitch to those with less extreme splits and when it doesn't make sense to burn too many arms in a row.
Rob - Tuesday, August 15 2006 @ 06:46 PM EDT (#153089) #
Regarding this series, there were four game recaps posted at MLB.com from Toronto's point of view:

Lilly, Jays blank Twins at Dome
Jays topple Twins rookie
Downs, Jays win third at Dome
Jays' sweep dreams end at Dome

One of these things is not like the others. (Does anyone know if Minnesota plays in a dome?)
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