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Much angst has been in evidence regarding the Blue Jays' bullpen, which collectively has not had a good outing in some time.

By searching through the game logs, I've compiled some data on Toronto relief pitchers for 2003:

Name ..... App BF K W (IW) HBP HR K/opp BipAvg +/-
Tam........ 6 34 2 5 (1) 0 0 ...2 for 33 (.061) .. 9 for 27 (.333) -0.9
Politte.... 6 30 7 3 (2) 0 1 ...7 for 28 (.250) .. 9 for 19 (.474) -3.3
Walker ..... 4 26 0 3 (1) 0 1 ...0 for 25 (.000) .. 2 for 22 (.091) +4.6
Escobar .... 4 21 4 2 (0) 0 0 ...4 for 21 (.190) .. 9 for 15 (.600) -4.5
Linton ..... 4 21 5 1 (0) 0 1 ...5 for 21 (.238) .. 3 for 14 (.214) +1.2
T.Miller ... 6 19 3 1 (0) 2 1 ...3 for 19 (.159) .. 7 for 12 (.583) -3.4
Creek ...... 7 15 1 2 (1) 0 2 ...1 for 14 (.071) .. 0 for 10 (.000) +3.0
Lopez ...... 4 11 4 0 (0) 0 0 ...4 for 11 (.364) .. 2 for 7 (.286) +0.1
total ......41 177 26 17 (5) 2 6 26 for 172(.151) 41 for 126 (.325) -3.2

The sample is far too small to draw any firm conclusions, so let's look at big league performance, 2000-2002 from the veteran pitchers. The last column is the difference between actual and expected hits given up by the pitcher on balls in play. Note that Pete Walker and Doug Creek have so far been "lucky" in this department, and Cliff Politte, Kelvim Escobar and Trever Miller have been unlucky. The bullpen has struck out only 15% of batters faced, which is a concern.

Name (Years)        G   GS  IP    BF  H  ER HR  W  IW  K  Krate Wrate HRrate BIPavg +/-
Escobar....(01-02) 135 11 204.0 872 168 86 18 96 11 206 .239 .100 .023 .276 +14.1
Tam .......(00-02) 182 0 200.7 849 210 73 8 65 22 104 .126 .052 .010 .303 - 8.9
Creek .....(00-02) 163 0 179.0 806 157 97 27 123 10 195 .245 .144 .040 .290 + 2.4
Politte....(00-02) 103 8 158.7 664 136 61 15 63 6 145 .220 .087 .025 .276 + 6.3
Walker.....(00-02) 43 20 151.7 651 161 79 19 55 5 86 .133 .078 .032 .291 + 1.6

Escobar was primarily a starter in 2000, so I excluded his numbers from that year; most of Pete Walker's numbers are from last year's stint with the Jays.

Doug Creek is a power pitcher who has only struck out 1 batter in 14 opportunities so far this year. That is worrisome because he gives up tons of homeruns and walks. Here is his year-by-year breakdown:

Year Team      G GS  IP  BF  H  ER HR W IW  K Krate Wrate HRrate BIPavg +/-
2000 TampaBay 45 0 60.7 265 49 31 10 39 3 73 .279 .138 .045 .277 +3.2
2001 TampaBay 66 0 62.7 279 51 30 7 49 5 66 .241 .163 .031 .288 +1.3
2002 TB/SEA... 52 0 55.7 262 57 36 10 35 2 56 .215 .130 .045 .305 -2.1

The rate at which a pitcher strikes out batters, and by that I mean strikeouts per batters faced (subtracting intentional walks), is the most important single stat that can be applied to a pitcher. This is especially true of minor league pitchers, since they are going to lose a certain percentage of their strikeouts when they make the transition to the major leagues. If you can't strikeout a lot of minor league hitters you're going to be in real trouble in the majors.

Doug Creek's strikeout rate has been in alarming decline over the last three years. Striking out nearly 28% of batters in 2000, success is still possible despite high walk and homerun rates. Those days appear to be long gone for Creek.

Jeff Tam, despite his low strikeout rate, can survive because he hardly ever gives up homeruns or walks. He induces many groundballs and therefore has to rely on good interior defence (to turn them into outs). In 2000 and 2001, Tam allowed hits on balls in play at almost exactly the rate of his team overall (+0.9 combined). But in 2002, he was a -9.8, which means that he gave up almost 10 more hits than could have been expected given the defensive support the Oakland pitchers received.

Taking those 10 hits and turning them into outs (ignoring the possibility that some of those could have been worth 2 outs), 40.3 IP/56 hits becomes 43.7 IP/46 hits, a much more respectable hits to IP ratio. I wouldn't bring him on too many times with 2 out and men in scoring position, but if you need a double play, he's your man.

Games 1 through 12: The Bullpen | 14 comments | Create New Account
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_benum - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 03:31 AM EDT (#90654) #
Unofficial Scouting Report:
Doug Creek

"...features a wicked slider that he can miss the plate with against both lefties and righties. Has pinpoint control of his 89-90MPH 'down the middle' fastball that he can spot at any time."
Gitz - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 03:39 AM EDT (#90655) #
Tam's problems last year were not a result of giving up "almost 10 more hits than could have reasonably been expected given the defensive support the Oakland pitchers received." They were a result of him getting his sinker ball up in the zone on a (very) consistent basis. It's difficult fot the A's defense to "be expected" to make plays when the balls are whistling over their heads and shooting down the lines and up the middle on absolute frozen ropes. Tam was terrible last year, and luck had very little, if anything, to do with it.

If he's keeping his sinker down this year, he'll be fine; if not, he'll be out of baseball.
Coach - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 09:03 AM EDT (#90656) #
Greymatter continues to baffle me; the tables used to work fine when you did them in Courier 10 using Notepad or a similar text editor, then pasted them here between [pre] tags. Lately, I've had to add [font type="courier" size="+0"] nested inside [pre] to get the desired effect. So I took that liberty, Robert.

Tam's 2002 was an aberration, for reasons that aren't 100% clear, but I agree with Gitz -- for most of the first half, his sinker didn't sink, and Oakland had no choice -- they stopped using him, then sent him to Sacramento, where he wasn't any more effective. Something clicked for Tam in August; he was marginally better when he returned to the A's, but then he regressed in September and Beane decided to pull the plug. Given another chance this spring, Jeff seems almost back to 2000-2001 form, but as I've pointed out before, he needs almost daily work to have his best pitch working properly.

I will not attept to defend "Cripple" Creek; he's a rare Ricciardi mistake we have to live with until it's rectified. Let Aquilino face a few lefties, just to see what happens, and free Jason Kershner!
robertdudek - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 09:31 AM EDT (#90657) #
So far, opposing batters have not hit the ball hard off of Tam, which suggests that he's throwing closer to his 2000/2001 form. It's important to note that even during his disastrous campaign last year, Tam allowed only 2 homeruns. I like pitchers who keep the ball in the park, so I'd be willing to stick with Tam until he proves he can't get batters out.


I'm convinced that those line drives you witnessed were not only the result of Tam making bad pitches, but also the responsibility of the hitters. There have been many many pitchers who have been at -10 hits in a given year and have bounced back to positive territory. About 95% of major league pitchers regress towards the team bip average team.
Dave Till - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 09:53 AM EDT (#90658) #
The moral of this story: mothers, don't let your children grow up to be sinkerballers.

Jeff Tam is like Dennis Lamp is like Jim Acker is like Mike Timlin: when the sinker sinks, he's great. When the sinker doesn't sink, it's batting practice time for everybody.

This means that Tam should not be trusted with late-game situations. Every now and again, his sinker will flatten out, and he'll get stomped. If he's used in the middle innings, the team has a chance to come back when Tam has had an off day.
_Spicol - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 09:57 AM EDT (#90659) #
I will not attept to defend "Cripple" Creek; he's a rare Ricciardi mistake we have to live with until it's rectified.

A little early for that, isn't it? He's only given up 2 hits, they just both happen to be HR. Also, bear in mind that one of the HR was given up to a RH hitter and he's got no business pitching in that situation.

I'm not a fan of Creek, or LOOGYs in general, but I'll give Ricciardi the benefit of the doubt on this one for a little while. Having seen Creek's slider, I know it's a good one and it's on this year...he and the team just have to utilize it correctly.
Pistol - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 10:03 AM EDT (#90660) #
It sounds like the Cubs will have an extra arm in the bullpen once Alfonseca comes back. It'd be nice to see if the Jays could pry Juan Cruz or Farnsworth from them.
robertdudek - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 10:47 AM EDT (#90661) #
There's nothing in Creek's resume that suggests he can avoid giving up lots of walks and homeruns. Combine that with a declining strikeout rate and there is little cause for optimism.
robertdudek - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 10:59 AM EDT (#90662) #

Creek hasn't been used as a LOOGY in the past, and with his control, I don't think he's the type of pitcher to flourish in that role.

Batters Faced per Relief Appearance:

2000 = 5.89, 2001 = 4.23, 2002 = 5.04, 2003 = 2.14
_Spicol - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 11:13 AM EDT (#90663) #
Creek hasn't been used as a LOOGY in the past, and with his control, I don't think he's the type of pitcher to flourish in that role.

Considering his splits though, it's really the role that he'd be best at. I don't expect him to flourish at all, in any role, but he'd be most serviceable as a strict LOOGY.
Coach - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 03:26 PM EDT (#90664) #
I admit that it's not just Creek; LOOGYs are a pet peeve. A RH starter is having a good day, until the manager replaces him with a guy who is on the team only to get one lefty hitter. The "specialist" walks that hitter, which the RH starter could easily have done himself, and now here comes a RH reliever (who isn't nearly as good as the starter) to make matters worse. In other words, I wasn't a big fan of Borbon, Eyre or Heredia either. Unless your bullpen lefties are as good as Minnesota's, it's not automatically an advantage to use them by the book. Creek throws as hard as he can, but doesn't have much of an idea where it's going. Trever Miller has better control, but his stuff isn't fooling anyone. I hope one or both improves soon, as they are going to keep getting the ball in key situations. Might be better to hope there aren't too many of those situations.
_R Billie - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 04:12 PM EDT (#90665) #
I will never understand the desire to have inferior lefthanded pitching over average to good righthanded pitching. It leads to ridiculous trades like Brian Giles for Ricardo Rincon. It leads to using Doug Creek over Aquilino Lopez or Cliff Politte.

It leads to giving Doug Creek a guaranteed contract despite the fact that he has no control, gives up tons of homeruns, and has no discernable role of value other than a guy you can say is a veteran lefty. When I think of I guy I'd want pitching in a tight situation, I'd want a guy with control and with little chance of being taken deep. Then he at least has a chance to get you out if it. Doug Creek's abilities and statistical histories shows he's the exact opposite of what you'd want. Didn't understand the move at the time it was made and I don't think there's much chance of it working out.

I guess the hope was that Creek would go Embree on the league and have an amazing season which could then be turned into something good. I expect Sturtze to stumble and he may yet but at least he has a history of semi-competent pitching.
_Dr B - Monday, April 14 2003 @ 06:22 PM EDT (#90666) #
In fairness to Doug Creek, in the last three years vs. left handers he had an OPS of 643. That's really is quite good. He got tagged by righties to the tune of OPS 874 over the same period. His K to walk ratio vs. lefties was 81/43 which is again, quite reasonable, if not fantastic.

His 2002 numbers, however, are not so encouraging: a 762 OPS vs. lefties.

I think we'd have to say that Doug Creek is merely mediocre, and will probably continue in that vein. He isn't awful though. Whether you would want to waste a roster spot and $700K on him is another matter.

Trever Miller I am considerably more excited about because of his high K/BB ratios in the last couple of years in the minors. He's worth giving at least the time to succeed (or fail).
_R Billie - Wednesday, April 16 2003 @ 11:56 AM EDT (#90667) #
In my view, a low OPS is negated when the pitcher is very likely to issue a walk. If you bring in a LOOGY, it's to get a guy out, via strikeout, groundball, popup, whatever the situation calls for...the last thing you want to do is walk the guy.

For instance, let's say Creek didn't give up that homer to Mienkiewicz in that series and walked him instead...that still puts the team into a jam at a key point in the game. That situation is compounded if there's already runners on base. And if you can't reasonably rely on him in those situations then I'm not sure what purpose he serves other than very mediocore mop-up man.
Games 1 through 12: The Bullpen | 14 comments | Create New Account
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