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Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz laid waste to the recently lights-out bullpen. But, hey, they're in a pennant race, and there's no shame in losing this way.



My moment of the game occurred in the top of the 5th inning. After Catalanotto hit a 2 run homer to give the Jays a 4-1 lead, the Jays loaded the bases. Matt Clement made a great flip play on a slow grounder by Rios to get the force at the plate, and brought Gross to the plate with 2 outs. Zaun was the runner on 2nd. Gross had earlier in the season taken Clement deep, and had flown out to deep center in his first at-bat of the game. Clement pitched him cautiously. Varitek went out to talk to Clement, and I imagined that their conversation turned on pitches and signs, and the runner on second. Clement was tired, and threw fastballs. Varitek went out 2 other times. Did Varitek just say to Clement: "Look. Throw heat. I'll give you location for the next 2 pitches. Up and in, then low and away." Whatever he said, it worked. Gross grounded out to first, and the threat was over.

I had been doing bullpen reports every 2nd week until August. In lieu of completing the bullpen reports for the season, I decided that a summary of the bullpen performance and usage this year was in order now.

There are a number of ways of evaluating the performance of relievers. ERA or ERA+ is of less value for relievers than for starters because of the run attribution rules and the importance of the performance of the pitchers who precede and follow. Over the small number of innings pitched by a reliever, gross distortions can occur. More promising are fielding independent pitching (FIP) measures and win expectancy added measures. With the help of Baseball Prospectus and the Hardball Times, 2 different FIP measures (dERA and FIP) are easily accessible, and I will use those extensively. Baseball Prospectus give us also useful career numbers, and the Hardball Times provides helpful ball in play information, such as pop-up rate and defensive efficiency ratio (DER) behind the pitcher. All statistics are current as of September 29, 2005.

Miguel Batista, 4.00 ERA, 4.32 FIP, 4.39dERA

Baseball Prospectus DT card
Hardball Times card

Miguel Batista was anointed the closer in spring training after 3 consecutive years of starting. He was used as a conventional modern closer, coming in routinely in save situations regardless whether the lead was 1 run or 3 entering the ninth inning. Occasionally, John Gibbons called on him in the eighth for the long save.

Miguel's performance this year as reflected by his stats was completely consistent with his career. His career ERA and dERA are 4.43 and 4.46 respectively. There is no evidence that he is particularly more suited for the closer role than a long relief/swingman role. He does not seem to perform better under pressure than he does otherwise, and he has shown that he can throw 150 innings per season without losing effectiveness.

Jason Frasor, 3.27 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 3.64 dERA

Baseball Prospectus DT card
Hardball Times card

Jason Frasor in his 2nd year was used as a set-up man most of the 2005 season, except for a brief period in the middle of the season when he struggled and John Gibbons used him in lower leverage situations. He ended the season on a high note.

I did not start the season as a Jason Frasor booster, but he's sold me. His across-the-board numbers are solid. He now has 140 career innings, with an ERA of 3.59 and a dERA of 3.66. There are no oddities at all in his stat line. He gives up relatively few home runs, but that is a natural result of his good strikeout rate and his 1.51 G/F rate. His .11 Hr/fly rate is completely normal. The defence behind him this year was average, as reflected in the .704 DER.

In truth, he is now arguably the Jays' best reliever and a fine pitcher. Whether he is used as a closer or set-up man in 2006 really does not matter much. What does matter is that he be used consistently in a high leverage role.

Justin Speier, 2.56 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 2.70 dERA

Baseball Prospectus DT card
Hardball Times card

Speier was originally pencilled in as a closer for 2005, but was replaced by Batista. He struggled mightily in April, and found himself used mostly in low-leverage situations for the first half of the season. He recovered well, and by the end of the season was regularly appearing in a set-up role.

What gives with the 2 fielding independent pitching measures? Speier is an extreme flyball pitcher, with a G/F ratio of .7. He secured a high number of pop-ups, but the defence behind him was very good (or he was lucky) as reflected in the .789 DER. Speier's career ERA is 4.14 and his career dERA is 3.80. He was perhaps somewhat better than that this year, but a fair representation of his performance is probably an average of the two FIP measures.

Speier would make a fine closer or set-up man for 2006.

Vinny Chulk, 3.80 ERA, 4.56 FIP, 3.91 dERA

Baseball Prospectus DT card
Hardball Times card

Chulk's inning in 2005 was the seventh. He sometimes came on in the sixth, sometimes pitched into the eighth, but usually when he appeared, he threw in the seventh.

Chulk's K/W ratio was uninspired at 1.5/1, and his DER was .740, but he did get more than his share of pop-ups. His career ERA is 4.22, and his career dERA is 4.06. Again, his career numbers are probably a more accurate reflection of his performance this year than either of the 2 FIP measures. He is perfectly suited for his 2005 role.

Scott Schoeneweis, 3.37 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 3.53 dERA

Baseball Prospectus DT card
Hardball Times card

Schoeneweis was signed as a free agent to be a situational lefty. It took John Gibbons a couple of weeks to learn how to use him, without overusing him, but he did and Schoeneweis responded with the best season of his career.

The only oddity in Schoeneweis' line this year is his low home run rate. Part of this results naturally from his high G/F rate of 2.45. However, some of it results from an unusual HR/fly rate of .06. Intuitively, it would seem possible that a situational lefty might get more defensive swings from lefties at the plate, which might result in fewer home runs than normal. I would be inclined to view Schoeneweis' performance in this role as sustainable over the next few years. He will be back out there in 2006 doing the same thing.

Pete Walker, 3.32 ERA, 4.84 FIP, 3.28 dERA

Baseball Prospectus DT card
Hardball Times card

Pete Walker was used consistently as a longman in 2005, and continued to pitch effectively.

But, how effectively? He walked 33, struck out 43 and gave up 10 homers in 84 innings. His G/F rate of 1.31, pop-up rates and HR/fly rates were entirely average. The defence behind him was good, as reflected in a .740 DER. With respect, I cannot understand the dERA number at all. The FIP number appears to me to be consistent with his at best average fielding independent pitching.

Walker is well-cast as a long-man, but he'll have plenty of competition from young prospects for the job, should he be in camp in 2006. Chad Gaudin, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum and Brandon League, and even Francisco Rosario may make cases.

Scott Downs, 4.35 ERA, 4.45 FIP, 4.51 dERA

Baseball Prospectus DT card
Hardball Times card

Scott Downs was used as a lefty longman in the pen until Roy Halladay's injury. Inserted into the rotation, he thrived and, like Schoeneweis, had the best year of his career.

The oddity in Downs' record this year is his high home run rate. He's given up 12 homers in 89 innings, despite a G/F rate of 2.21 and a high K rate of 7.1/9 innings. This is encapsulated in a .19 HR/fly rate, that is almost double the league average. There is reason to believe from this that Downs can be even a little better than he has been this year. as HR/fly rates tend to congregate around the .11 mark. He certainly would make a fine lefty at the back of end of the 2006 bullpen, at least.

John Gibbons' bullpen management

It is probably fairest to describe Gibbons' management as conventional. He mostly kept Batista in the modern closer role and Schoeneweis in the modern situational lefty role. His greatest strength was his willingness to tailor the workload of the other relievers to their performance at the time. This flexibilty was a significant asset in 2005. In my view, Gibbons did not display any significant weaknesses in his bullpen management over the season.

2006 bullpen

I cannot remember a season in recent memory when I felt that all the pieces for the following year's bullpen were in place in September. I feel that way about 2006. I would be perfectly happy in 2006 if Batista was the 5th starter/longman, Speier was the ace reliever/closer, Frasor was the set-up man, Chulk and Schoeneweis were middle men and Downs and one or two of Walker or the younger pitchers filled out the back end of the bullpen.

Boston 5 Toronto 4 - 2005 Jay Bullpen Summary | 20 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Pistol - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 08:58 AM EDT (#129260) #
Nice job Mike. I think Gibbons has gone against the conventional bullpen more than you give him credit for. At a quick look Batista had 10 saves that were more than one inning. Gibbons was also flexible enough, as you pointed out, to not keep a pitcher in a particular role if he was struggling.

The only issue that I had with Gibbons' bullpen use was that I don't think he trusted Speier enough when he was pitching well.

--
Are FIP and dERA supposed to be comparable to ERA? I would think so, but it seems odd that just about every pitcher is higher than actual ERA.

Mike Green - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 09:19 AM EDT (#129261) #
On a league-wide basis, FIP and ERA are essentially the same, but there are variations among teams depending on the team defence. On the 2005 Jays, the team defence was substantially above average, so the team ERA (4.08) is better than the FIP (4.46) (see the link). This is also true for the other teams with good team defence (the White Sox and the A's). Conversely, teams with poor team defence (the Royals) have higher ERAs than FIP. Zack Greinke and JP Howell are excellent bets to improve significantly in 06 if the team deals with its defensive issues up the middle.
Flex - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 09:32 AM EDT (#129263) #
If you want to get your juices flowing for next year, read Jeff Blair's piece in the Globe today, in which he actively challenges Ricciardi to add Manny Ramirez to the Jays lineup, and suggests that JPR is warming to the idea.

Bottom line, it contradicts the general perception that JPR would stear clear of big-money bats in favour of fair-to-middling sluggers. I have to admit I'm somewhat confused now as to what Ricciardi's plan is, but intrigued nay, excited.
Gwyn - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 09:43 AM EDT (#129264) #
it contradicts the general perception that JPR would stear clear of big-money bats

Where has the perception arisen from anyway ? A couple of sentences on WWJP ?

Maldoff - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 09:45 AM EDT (#129265) #
Don't hate me, as I still am an avid Blue Jays fan, but I'm actually sort of glad that Boston won last night. Better them making the playoffs than the Yankees.
Flex - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 09:46 AM EDT (#129266) #
Actually, from repeated statements since he was hired.
Mike Green - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 09:46 AM EDT (#129267) #
Well, maybe the Sox were impressed enough with Hinske's performances of the last couple of nights, and in particular his abilty to take advantage of the Green Monster yesterday, to take on his contract in exchange for Manny's. That'd leave the Jays perhaps $8-$10 million short on the deal, over the life of Manny's contract.
Craig B - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 10:09 AM EDT (#129268) #
Fun tidbit on the pitching :

The Jays have allowed 14 more home runs this season than the Colorado Rockies.
Craig B - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 10:13 AM EDT (#129269) #
Also, one thing I noticed above is

The oddity in Downs' record this year is his high home run rate. He's given up 12 homers in 89 innings, despite a G/F rate of 2.21 and a high K rate of 7.1/9 innings. This is encapsulated in a .19 HR/fly rate, that is almost double the league average. There is reason to believe from this that Downs can be even a little better than he has been this year. as HR/fly rates tend to congregate around the .11 mark.

There's a simple explanation for Downs's high HR/Fly rate:

Hanging Curveballs.

Downs relies heavily on Uncle Charlie. Much more than most pitchers. When that big-breaking sweeping curve doesn't break, it's going to get hit very, very far in the air.

Dave Bush has the same reliance and the same problem, and I belive that he also has a high HR/Fly rate.

That's just the way it's going to be for these two guys. They're still good pitchers despite it.

Pistol - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 10:29 AM EDT (#129270) #
We're in the homestretch...here's the roster's pre-season predictions from low to high. The number of wins in the end will range somewhere between 78-81 so there's still 5 of us in the hunt to correctly predict the Jay's record:
Dave Till:    75-87
------
Gerry:        78-84 
Magpie:       79-83
Mike Green:   79-83
Jordan:       80-82
Pistol:       81-81 
------
Jonny German: 81-80 (predicting a rain out)
Rob:          86-76
Leigh:        88-74
NFH:          90-72 
Mike Green - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 10:31 AM EDT (#129271) #
Actually, Bush's HR/fly rate over his major league career is within the normal range. It's been .14 this year, just above, but was at the low end of normal last year.

The leaders in the majors in HR/fly among pitchers with significant numbers of innings pitched are:
.19- Brandon Webb, Horacio Ramirez
.18- Javier Vazquez, Jake Westbrook
.17- Tim Hudson, Brett Myers, Nate Robertson

The ball really seems to have been flying out of BOB this year, judging by the pitcher's HR/fly rates.
Cristian - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 02:15 PM EDT (#129294) #
I'm reading Blair's piece in the Globe and he writes that the following was the impetus for the last winter's payroll infusion:

The story is that Rogers was on his yacht when a fellow high roller in the media business said to him, "Ted, why is your team so bad?"

Quick, does anyone know a media mogul we can convince to call Ted Rogers and complain about the Jays? Can any bauxite do a passable Rupert Murdoch impression at least?

Ducey - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 03:18 PM EDT (#129305) #
Any merit to switching Bush to the closer spot next year?

He was a closer in college and might add a few MPH on his fastball in a bullpen role. He has historically had good control.

The Jays then could try Batista as a starter again provided he used a set number of kinds of pitches.

With the number of potential bullpenners coming up I would be tempted to trade Frasor or Speier. Frasor would be my pick. He has done well this year but he is very dependent on location because his fastball is so straight.

Justin Miller have any future in Toronto? He had decent year in AAA.
VBF - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 03:25 PM EDT (#129306) #
Mike Green - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 03:34 PM EDT (#129310) #
The Jays do not necessarily have to convert Bush in order to make room for Batista. Right now, in the rotation they have Halladay under contract, Bush and Chacin in their pre-arb years, Towers in his first year of eligibility and Lilly in late arb. Trade and non-tender are also viable options.

Personally, I wouldn't convert Bush back to relief. He's shown that he can pitch late into games without significant loss of effectiveness. He's a fine pitcher, and needs to be left to do his thing.
MatO - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 03:50 PM EDT (#129313) #
Looks like Gordon and Maybin have signed leaving Upton and Pelfrey as the only unsigned 1st rounders from the draft and Hochevar from the 1st supplementary is also unsigned.
Mike Green - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 03:55 PM EDT (#129319) #
Alex Gordon's signing is, I suppose, expected, but still the bells should be ringing in Kansas City. I am quite sure that he'll be with the big club out of spring training in 2007, and there are other pieces that should be falling into place by then.
MatO - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 04:17 PM EDT (#129326) #
It's Friday afternoon so let's do some draft browsing.

- after the 1st round it's not until the 3rd that we get some unsigned picks - 3 HS pitchers
- nevertheless, teams seem to do a good job in signing their picks with only a few unsigned per round in the first ten rounds
-probably due to the picking of mostly college players
-Oakland seems to have signed all of those surprise HS pitcher picks
-Milwaukee picked an unsigned Jemile Weeks in the 8th round out of a HS in Florida (Rickie's brother?) just before Houston picked Koby Clemens in the same round
-Milwaukee also picked and signed a picher in the 10th round named Steve Garrison who is listed as having attended "The Hun School" in NJ
- please feel free to insert your own puchline
Magpie - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 05:10 PM EDT (#129337) #
Any merit to switching Bush to the closer spot next year?

I'm with Mike on this one. Bush has four or five pitches, all of them usable and none of them outstanding. I like my closers to have at least one awesome pitch!

Bush doesn't win with his raw stuff, he wins by pitching. He doesn't have everything together yet, and he hasn't quite figured out how to get by while he gets things working - but I have a ridiculously serene faith that he will figure all this this out.

I have to admit, I think it's a positive for him and for Chacin to have guys who are ferociously competitive as Halladay and Towers in the rotation with him. (I think this has been a boon to Ted Lilly, of all people, as well.) I think ultimately Bush is going to be a Towers-type pitcher, but decidedly better because he does have better stuff than Towers. And I think he'll have the benefit of learning from Towers things that Josh has had to figure out for himself....

Mike Green - Friday, September 30 2005 @ 05:26 PM EDT (#129340) #
Well said, Magpie. The other thing that Bush has is a lack of fear, and perhaps a little mean streak. That is perhaps why he was originally put in the pen, but his repertoire and physique is suited to starting.
Boston 5 Toronto 4 - 2005 Jay Bullpen Summary | 20 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.