Another Exhibit for Murphy's Law. My Game Reports focus on the Jay bullpen, and Roy Halladay throws a complete game gem. But, hey, I'll take the win over a good story any day.
The first two weeks of the Jay season has brought mixed news for the Jay bullpen. The starting rotation has been superb, with the consequence that the bullpen has not been asked to shoulder a disproportionate share of the pitching load. This is unusual for the beginning of the season, particularly in a year with only two April off-days.
But, the performance of the bullpen has been so-so. There have been a few problems in finding appropriate usage, both over and under, for a couple of the relievers that may have played a role in their sub-par performance. Solutions for the problems do seem to be at hand though.
Assessment of the Jay bullpen personnel prior to the season
The bullpen has seven pitchers, six right-handed pitchers and Scott Schoeneweis. All of the pitchers, are, in my view of roughly the same quality. There are no Eric Gagnes at one end of the spectrum and no Doug Creeks at the other. The effect of this rough equality is that it really matters little which pitchers throw in high vs. low leverage situations. Instead the focus should be on placing relievers in roles and with usage that allows them to perform their best.
For instance, while it is, normally, a poor use of your best reliever in the ninth to protect a 3 run lead, in the Jays' situation, it really makes little difference. One does not need to "conserve" the closer when the closer's pitching ability is not really significantly different from the rest of the bullpen. And if the closer finds additional motivation by the possiblity of getting a save, so much the better.
The bullpen's first 10 days- April 4-14
A summary of bullpen use April 4-14 follows. The format is entrance inning/batters faced on the first line and opposition GPA (gross production average-(1.8 X OBP + SLUG divided by 4) on the second line. Gross production average runs on a scale similar to batting averages. For a pitcher, an opposition GPA under .200 is a very good outing, between .250 and .275 is average, and over .300 is poor. Here is the summary:
date Batista Speier Frasor League Schoen Chulk Walker Ap 4 7.2/5 7.0/2 .140 .000 Ap 5 8.0/3 7.1/3 5.0/8 6.2/3 .000 .233 .347 .237 Ap 6 7.0/5 6.0/5 7.0/4 .430 .395 .783 Ap 7 ------------------- day-off--------------------------- Ap 8 5.0/11 6.1/8 .396 .056 Ap 9 8.0/3 6.2/4 6.0/4 .000 .000 .308 Ap 10 7.2/8 7.1/1 5.0/8 .319 .000 .056 Ap 11 8.0/5 6.0/6 .305 .056 Ap 12 8.0/4 6.2/3 7.1/3 .113 .233 .150 Ap 13 7.2/2 7.0/4 7.1/4 .225 .466 .350 Ap 14 --------------------complete game----------------------
Box readers contributed their comments on bullpen use during the first 10 days here. Many of those comments are reflected in my thoughts on this summary. We will start with comments on a few members of the pen.
Schoeneweis was used often, 7 times during the first 10 games. When facing one or two left-handed batters, and no more than three batters total, he was generally effective. When he stayed in longer and faced righties or when he pitched on 3 consecutive days, he was not. His usage will need to be attenuated, or he will not be successful.
Finding the right use for Schoeneweis is particularly important because he is the only lefty in the pen. Here is what I would suggest for him, by way of guideline:
1. he should not be used more than 2 days in a row,
2. he should not be used to face more than 3 batters, except as in point 4,
3. with a left-right-left combination coming up, he should not be brought on to face all three batters in low leverage situations unless he needs the work, and
4. if he needs the work, there is nothing wrong with bringing him for 2 innings or so (the 5th and 6th say) against a lefty leaning lineup.
Vinnie Chulk and Pete Walker
Both of these guys have pitched very well and very little. It is hard to find enough use for two long men when your starters are pitching so well. Whether this will be a long-term problem will depend on how successful the starters are in the long-term.
We will leave the rest of the relief staff for the next report. Instead, how about a look at paces. The Jays have played 10 games, and each of the starters have thrown 2 games, except that Halladay has started 3 and Lilly 1. If we give Lilly 6 of Halladay's 22 innings, we can derive a fair approximation of paces by multiplying by 16:
Halladay- 256 innings Lilly- 176 innings Chacin- 176 innings Bush- 192 innings Towers- 202.2 innings
Walker- 37.1 innings Chulk- 74.2 innings Speier- 64 innings Frasor- 42.2 innings League- 58.2 innings Schoeneweis- 53.1 innings Batista- 74.2 innings
If the starters continue to perform at similar levels, a couple of the bullpen members will be underworked by the end of the season. We will see if this continues.
A final thought
The decision to continue with Halladay last night after the walk to Teixeira in the 9th inning must have given Gibbons pause. Halladay had thrown almost 110 pitches, and did seem to be tiring. It was only his 3rd start of the season, and he is coming off a year spoiled by arm troubles. On the one hand, a manager wants to show confidence in his ace. On the other, the manager wants to be sensitive to the need to modestly ramp up workload after an injury. No one said that being a manager was easy.
Links of the Day
John Brattain in THT on Steve Kline and 'free' agency
TBG's light-hearted baseball glossary