Ranking the bullpens: 2014 edition

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We tried this with the rotations the other day. Once again, I’ll be dipping into my 2014 projections here to rank the bullpens. To come up with the following bullpen ERAs, I simply combined each team’s seven highest-IP relievers, according to my projections.

AL
Royals – 2.93
Red Sox – 3.14
Athletics – 3.16
Rangers – 3.31
Tigers – 3.35
Rays – 3.36
Blue Jays – 3.39
Twins – 3.40
Mariners – 3.42
Indians – 3.49
Orioles – 3.55
White Sox – 3.58
Angels – 3.58
Yankees – 3.77
Astros – 3.97

– That’s a weaker showing for the Rays than I would have guessed, but they still have excellent depth and a couple of the lesser knowns will surely surprise, as they always do. My projections call for essentially the same ERAs from their 6th-12th relievers.

– The Blue Jays would have come in fourth here had I used both Dustin McGowan and Jeremy Jeffress instead of adding in Esmil Rogers. Rogers, though, seems like the best bet to have a spot.

– Boston comes in second even though it’s big addition, Edward Mujica, has the worst projected ERA of its seven relievers. However, Ryan Dempster is still projected as a starter for these purposes and would bring the group down a bit if he starts off in the pen.

– I assume the Yankees will add a veteran reliever prior to Opening Day. Even so, that ranking isn’t going up at all with such a big gap to the White Sox and Angels.

NL
Dodgers – 3.07
Braves – 3.16
Cardinals – 3.19
Giants – 3.24
Reds – 3.29
Diamondbacks – 3.29
Nationals – 3.31
Padres – 3.31
Marlins – 3.38
Pirates – 3.42
Brewers – 3.50
Mets – 3.59
Cubs – 3.59
Phillies – 3.61
Rockies – 3.79

– The Pirates’ ranking here is getting dragged down by Jeanmar Gomez and Vin Mazzaro, who are both projected to throw more innings than the top guys in their pen. They’ll be higher in the subjective rankings.

– The Cardinals are kind of an odd case, given that I have both Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez projected to open up in the pen but also spend some time in the rotation. The only three pitchers I have on the team in that typical 60-, 70-inning range are Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness. So, the depth is in question. On the other hand, a Jason Motte-Martinez-Rosenthal combo has the potential to be the best in the majors in the late innings, depending on how things shake out.

Here’s my ranking, 1-30, along with the top three ERAs from each team:

1. Royals (Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar)
2. Athletics (Sean Doolittle, Danny Otero, Ryan Cook)
3. Dodgers (Kenley Jansen, Paco Rodriguez, J.P. Howell)
4. Braves (Craig Kimbrel, Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden)
5. Red Sox (Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller)
6. Cardinals (Trevor Rosenthal, Randy Choate, Kevin Siegrist)
7. Rays (Jake McGee, Grant Balfour, Joel Peralta)
8. Pirates (Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Tony Watson)
9. Diamondbacks (Brad Ziegler, J.J. Putz, David Hernandez)
10. Reds (Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Sam LeCure)
11. Rangers (Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers, Neftali Feliz)
12. Blue Jays (Aaron Loup, Sergio Santos, Casey Janssen)
13. Nationals (Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano)
14. Giants (Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jean Machi)
15. Tigers (Al Alburquerque, Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon)
16. Twins (Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Casey Fein)
17. Padres (Joaquin Benoit, Alex Torres, Nick Vincent)
18. Indians (Cody Allen, Josh Outman, Marc Rzepczynski)
19. Mariners (Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina, Fernando Rodney)
20. Marlins (Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos)
21. Rockies (Rex Brothers, Boone Logan, Wilton Lopez)
22. Orioles (Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter)
23. Brewers (Brandon Kintzler, Will Smith, Jim Henderson)
24. Angels (Ernesto Frieri, Joe Smith, Dane De La Rosa)
25. White Sox (Nate Jones, Scott Downs, Daniel Webb)
26. Cubs (Pedro Strop, Wesley Wright, Blake Parker)
27. Mets (Bobby Parnell, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin)
28. Yankees (David Robertson, Preston Claiborne, Shawn Kelley)
29. Phillies (Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo)
30. Astros (Jesse Crain, Chia-Jen Lo, Josh Fields)

– The Royals are an easy No. 1 in my mind. Not only do they have the elite closer in Greg Holland, but all seven of their relievers have ERAs under 3.40 in my projections. Even if they take away from the group by sticking either Wade Davis or Luke Hochevar back in the rotation, they’d still take the top spot, though that would narrow the gap considerably.

– Even though they seemed to be in pretty good shape anyway, the A’s added $15 million in relievers in the form of Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson. I still have the incumbents (Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Danny Otero) with the best ERAs of the group.

– The Mariners were set to be ranked 21st before the Fernando Rodney signing.

Nationals activate Stephen Strasburg off the disabled list

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The Nationals officially activated Stephen Strasburg off the 10-day disabled list, the team announced Saturday. They’ll pencil him into the starting lineup for their second set against the Padres on Saturday night. Strasburg is expected to assume Max Scherzer‘s roster spot after Scherzer landed on the disabled list with neck inflammation prior to Friday’s series opener. No other roster moves appear to be necessary for the time being.

Strasburg, 28, is finally looking stable after serving a 26-day stint on the DL with a right elbow nerve impingement. It’s the first serious injury he’s sustained since last August, when he missed 20 days with inflammation in his right elbow, and one the Nationals are taking seriously as they juggle multiple stints for their elite starters. He’ll enter Saturday’s competition with a 10-3 record in 20 starts, supplemented by a 3.25 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 through 121 2/3 innings.

Elbow issues are nothing to be played around with, but Strasburg’s performance in his lone rehab outing relieved any residual apprehension the Nats might have had about his activation this weekend. He tossed 66 pitches for High-A Potomac, hitting 95 MPH with his heater and logging three hits, one run, one walk and five strikeouts over five innings. Club manager Dusty Baker is hoping for a similarly dominant start against the Padres, and told reporters that he’ll hold Strasburg to a performance count as the righty works his way back to a full-time gig.

MLB umpires will wear white wristbands to protest “escalating verbal attacks”

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The World Umpires Association is dissatisfied with the punishment meted out to Tigers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler following his lengthy criticism of MLB umpire Angel Hernandez on Tuesday. Kinsler’s comments were sparked by a confrontation on Monday night, when the infielder was ejected after arguing balls and strikes with Hernandez in the fifth inning.

“It has to do with changing the game. He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job, he really does,” Kinsler told reporters. “Candidly, leave the game. No one wants you behind the plate anymore. No one in this game wants you behind the plate any more, none of the players.”

Kinsler was fined an undisclosed amount for the remarks, but did not receive a suspension. Hernandez, meanwhile, returned to cover second base the next day and appeared to resolve the conflict with a brief conversation and a handshake.

Whether or not the comments speak to underlying truths about Major League Baseball’s flawed umpiring system, they clearly got under the skin of the World Umpires Association. The union released a statement Saturday condemning Major League Baseball for choosing to overlook the “escalating attacks” on the men in blue:

This week, a player publicly and harshly impugned the character and integrity of Angel Hernandez – a veteran umpire who has dedicated his career to baseball and the community. The verbal attack on Angel denigrated the entire MLB umpiring staff and is unacceptable.

The Office of the Commissioner has failed to address this and other escalating attacks on umpires. The player who denigrated Hernandez publicly said he thought he would be suspended. Instead got far more lenient treatment – a fine. He shrugged that off and told reporters he has ‘no regrets’ about his offensive statements calling for an end to Hernandez’s career.

The Office of the Commissioner’s lenient treatment to abusive player behavior sends the wrong message to players and managers. It’s ‘open season’ on umpires, and that’s bad for the game.

We are held accountable for our performance at every game. Our most important duty is to protect the integrity of the game, and we will continue to do that job every day. But the Office of the Commissioner must protect our integrity when we are unfairly attacked simply for doing our jobs.

Starting Saturday, umpires will don white wristbands in protest of the Commissioner’s lack of support, and will continue to do so until their concerns are addressed.

Kinsler’s comments may have been in poor taste, but given the established in-game ramifications for challenging an umpire’s decisions, it’s difficult to tell where the union wants MLB to start drawing the line. If players already face ejections for questioning the parameters of a strike zone (often immediate ones, without any room for a productive or non-confrontational discussion), it seems unfair to hit them with suspensions for venting their frustrations after the game. Until Major League Baseball finds a way to start automating calls, however, the “human element” of the game will continue to pose problems for players and umpires alike.