How Is The Pen Used

Monday, July 05 2021 @ 10:18 PM EDT

Contributed by: John Northey

The pen has been used a lot this year and has a lot of guys in it.  9 at all times it seems.  The 1983 team which many compare this team to (young, on edge of greatness but nightmare pen) had a total of 11 relievers all year.  Times have changed a lot.

The pen is interesting...25 guys used so far.
<5 G: 9 guys - 3 active: Cimber, Stripling, Kay, Barnes (Stripling now in rotation of course)
5-10 G: 7 guys -  1 active: Saucedo
11-22 G: 5 guys - 2 active: ThorntonCastro
23-34 G: 4 guys - 3 active: RomanoMayza, Dolis.

Pretty clear certain guys get more chances. 
High Leverage...
  4 guys with 10+ chances: Romano, Mayza, Dolis, and Chatwood (ugh)
  8 guys with zero chances: Barnes, Kay, Cimber, Stripling plus no longer on roster - Milone, Tice, Roark, Allgeyer

Low Leverage....
  5 guys with 10+ chances: Romano, Mayza, Thornton, plus Chatwood & Payamps (15 chances, the most).
  4 guys with 10+ chances: Romano, Chatwood, Mayza, Dolis (13+ each)
  6 guys with 5-7 chances: Castro, Payamps Borucki, Bergen Phelps, Thornton
  9 guys with 1-3 chances: Saucedo, Barnes, and a lot of 'meh' guys.
  6 guys never given a chance in a game with a lead: Cimber, Kay, Roark, Zeuch, Tice, Stripling.

  Most used: Romano, Dolis, Castro, Mayza in that order. 

  10+ chances: Thornton, Payamps, Mayza.

Runners on...
  Mayza (17 chances), Chatwood (10 chances), Castro (9),  Borucki (8)

>3 outs (ie: like the olden days)
  Thornton (14 times), Payamps (13), Chatwood (he got 3+ out? Yep, 7 times), Castro (5 times)

0 days rest
  Mayza (7), Romano (5), Chatwood (4)

Pitches per game in relief...
  Kay the only one still in the pen with over 30 pitches per game in relief, other actives over 20 are Thornton and Barnes.
  Saucedo is the lowest at 11 pitches per game, Mayza 2nd lowest at 13.

So basically we can see that some guys are used only in certain situations.  Mayza to deal with guys on but only gets a couple of outs then gets to rest until the next day.  The manager likes to learn about a guy before trusting him with a lead (Cimber now for example, but I expect that to change quickly).  Kay is clearly the long man, with Thornton being a long one too (nice L/R combo) with both being low leverage guys.  Payamps was a longish guy but is back to the minors.  

Last 14 days usage...
Mayza: 6 times, 8 to 21 pitches, has had 2 days off so is rested
Romano: 6 times, 2 days off his maximum.  Worried a bit about burnout.
Saucedo: 6 times, 3 days in a row at one point, Montoyo's favorite new toy.
Cimber: 6 times, twice with no rest, 7 to 25 pitches each time.
Barnes: 4 times, just 1 or 2 days between games, so due to pitch tomorrow after 4 days off.
Castro: 3 times, 15 or 16 pitches each time
Dolis: used yesterday.  Ugh. But his first ML game in awhile so I guess rust was to be expected
Kay: might as well be a starter with just 2 games the past 14 days, 5 days off.
Thornton: 2 times, again might as well be a starter.

Looking at that 14 day usage I'd say going to 8 with one of Thornton or Kay sent to AAA to start might be a good idea as do you really need 2 long men when the starting 5 are all going strong?  Mayza/Romano/Saucedo/Cimber are the current trusted core with Barnes and Castro getting lots of chances and Dolis now about to get lots of chances.  Maybe Dolis will get a sore neck too ala Chatwood.

So who does Borucki replace when healthy?  Who gets dumped when a trade happens?  Those are the next questions.  It is up to the main 7 to answer that - if they all pitch well it becomes a tough question, but any who suck will make it easier.  I hope it is a hard choice.  Same with what to do when Chatwood's neck is feeling better (and he has a rehab stint where you see if he can find the strike zone).  I suspect one of the long men, Saucedo, and Castro are the guys on the short list to be sent down.  Whoever is doing the worst goes first.

Current Pen Options Left: 0: Dolis & Barnes, rest have 2 or 3.  One used this year already: Kay, Castro, Thornton - so no hesitation on sending any of those 3 to the minors as the option is already active.  Borucki has an option left, as does Merryweather so both can be demoted once healthy if needed.

So if anyone is demoted, who do you call up?  Assuming you are trying to cut the pen back - the current bench is Espinal, Davis and whoever isn't catching.  So I'd think Kirk or Tellez are the only real options.  Both good pinch hitters but are limited to DH/CA or DH/1B respectively.  They'd be used to hit for Davis or Espinal if they started a game, but if they started then whoever they filled in for would then be needed to go into the field so not much point in Tellez/Kirk on the bench.  Especially given how poorly Tellez has hit this year (although over 1000 OPS in AAA over 55 PA).  Really, as set right now there isn't much point in going down to an 8 man pen and having a 4th on the bench.  Weird as that may seem.  A 4th bench guy would just be sitting around cheerleading 90% of the time which isn't good for development or having them ready in case of an injury.

My bet is a 9 man pen until a trade happens that involves an everyday player (an outfielder most likely) thus freeing up DH for Kirk or Tellez.  When rosters expand a tiny bit in September (to 28) they might both get called up - 3rd catcher and a DH.  But I really have trouble seeing a significant role for Tellez.