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View Full Version : What does a good/great bullpen look like?



RedsManRick
04-11-2008, 03:41 PM
I've seen numerous comments recently that the bullpen is still going to be a problem, that they aren't convinced, etc. My question, what does a good, or even great, bullpen look like?

How many above average relievers does it have? What sort of arms comprise it? Is there a difference between a good bullpen and a bullpen that simply pitched well for a year?

I don't have the answer, but I think people are setting the bar a bit high. They are underestimating the value of adding an like Cordero, the value of adding Burton, of eliminating Stanton.

To go another route, without looking it up, name 2 or 3 really good, solid bullpens (not historically great). How deep did they go with quality? How many true great arms did they have -- as opposed to getting great seasons from mediocre guys? Did they have any scrubs? Young arms or veterans -- what was the mix? Power or crafty? How specialized?

Again, I don't know the answer, but I do wonder -- perhaps we aren't as far off as some suggest.

klw
04-11-2008, 03:45 PM
I think facial hair is a large component of being a good reliever but I would be comfortable with these 7 in my pen. I would even be fine with 6 but none of them have options left.
http://webzoom.freewebs.com/hofautographmaster/Hrabosky.jpg http://www.freewebs.com/diamondpages/Eck.jpghttp://sports.blogue.canoe.com/mediam/SPO-RollieFingers%5B2%5D.jpghttp://www.scc.net/~heather/quiz1.jpg
http://www.nydailynews.com/img/2007/11/20/alg_marianorivera.jpghttp://www.kpug1170.com/imageuploads/thumbNews-Photo-297.jpg
[IMG]http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/pics/john_franco_autograph.jpg

I think you want a long man who is effective but you don't care about abusing him, two good lefties, some power arms who can come in and strike guys out with runners on, and someone who when they come into the game on the road in the ninth the home crowd starts to walk out because they have no shot.

RedsManRick
04-11-2008, 03:47 PM
So you're saying Todd Coffey needs to go with just the mustache'?

bucksfan2
04-11-2008, 03:56 PM
I've seen numerous comments recently that the bullpen is still going to be a problem, that they aren't convinced, etc. My question, what does a good, or even great, bullpen look like?

How many above average relievers does it have? What sort of arms comprise it? Is there a difference between a good bullpen and a bullpen that simply pitched well for a year?

I don't have the answer, but I think people are setting the bar a bit high. They are underestimating the value of adding an like Cordero, the value of adding Burton, of eliminating Stanton.

To go another route, without looking it up, name 2 or 3 really good, solid bullpens (not historically great). How deep did they go with quality? How many true great arms did they have -- as opposed to getting great seasons from mediocre guys? Did they have any scrubs? Young arms or veterans -- what was the mix? Power or crafty? How specialized?

Again, I don't know the answer, but I do wonder -- perhaps we aren't as far off as some suggest.

I really think a pen needs a good mixture of relievers in the pen. You need atleast one lefty specalist and one righty specalist. IMO the most important thing are guys who can bring the heat. I think the Tigers a few years ago had a pretty good pen with Rodney and Zumaya and even though they weren't the closer they could bring the heat and get you out of precarious situations.

Chip R
04-11-2008, 03:57 PM
Burton has some nice facial hair.

blumj
04-11-2008, 04:05 PM
IMO, it takes 3 true quality relievers, a rotation that eats up innings, and playing solid defense. If you don't have the last 2, you almost can't collect or maintain enough quality relievers to make up the difference.

RedlegJake
04-11-2008, 04:09 PM
I think the Reds are there. I'm going out on a limb but with Cordero closing, Burton and Lincoln throwing heat, Merck as a LOOGY and Bray ready if he falters, and Weathers, Coffey and Affeldt as the weakest of the bunch that is a pretty darn good pen. Cordero and Burton are dominating, and I think Lincoln may, too.

Take the 3 best relievers off any team and compare them to the Reds. The Reds, imo, are now in the top ten. Now take the 3 best relievers off any team and look at what's left. The Reds more than match up there, too.

The pen's been so awful for so long now that no one is willing to trust what is happening right in front of them. What's also important is that the rotation is covering more innings letting Dusty keep fresh arms rotating out there AND there are more arms he can trust so the same guy doesn't have to get burned up.

Matt700wlw
04-11-2008, 04:12 PM
This one looked pretty good...

http://www.simonsnet.net/si/a767.JPG

IslandRed
04-11-2008, 04:15 PM
I really think a pen needs a good mixture of relievers in the pen. You need atleast one lefty specalist and one righty specalist. IMO the most important thing are guys who can bring the heat. I think the Tigers a few years ago had a pretty good pen with Rodney and Zumaya and even though they weren't the closer they could bring the heat and get you out of precarious situations.

Which brings up another issue: Relievers are volatile.

The Tigers in 2006, and the White Sox the year before, had terrific bullpens. Good young power arms. People pointed to those clubs and said "see, that's how you build a bullpen." Last season, the White Sox and Tigers' bullpens were terrible. And it couldn't all be blamed on injuries or turnover.

Bullpen construction is as much art as science and, because relievers are volatile, depth is key. I think, if a team has a reliable closer and at least one good setup guy and enough depth that it can afford to shuffle the "this is my year to carry the gas can" guys off to the side, that's about what it takes.

BRM
04-11-2008, 04:18 PM
A bullpen without Majewski and Stanton is a step in the right direction.

RedsManRick
04-11-2008, 04:23 PM
IMO, it takes 3 true quality relievers, a rotation that eats up innings, and playing solid defense. If you don't have the last 2, you almost can't collect or maintain enough quality relievers to make up the difference.

This is precisely one of points I was considering. How much of a good bullpen is not asking too much of it versus actual talent? The last 5 or 6 years, the Reds have been asking their bullpens to pitch a lot of innings in front of a poor defense. While the talent hasn't exactly been superb, they were starting behind the 8 ball.

The only thing worse than having mediocre talent is asking that mediocre talent to do more than they're capable of. A pitch to contact pen in front of a poor defense is a recipe for disaster.

BCubb2003
04-11-2008, 04:29 PM
The Nasty Boys were lights out about four deep, and better than average beyond that. The best Reds bullpens since then were better than average about three deep. That's in the days of Graves or Williamson, Gabe White and Scott Sullivan. In those days though, they didn't have a 30-straight-saves guy and managed to blow a game about once a week. And they had to shuffle a little from year to year between Graves, Williamson and White.

A great bullpen would have a 30-straight-saves guy as a closer, and a set-up man who's getting to be nearly as good while he waits his chance, then a Scott Sullivan rubber arm to reliably take care of all those key sixth and seventh innings. (It helps to have a starting staff that doesn't need much help in the sixth and seventh.) Then you need some extra guys who are reliable enough to spell your main relievers without doing much damage.

RedsManRick
04-11-2008, 04:32 PM
So the core roster seems to be:

Closer (dominant, misses bats)
Closer-in-waiting (high leverage setup)
Reliable innings eater
LOOGY

The other 2-3 are less important. I would argue that the first 4 guys help you wins the games you should. The last 2-3 help you win the games you shouldn't.

Highlifeman21
04-11-2008, 04:44 PM
So the core roster seems to be:

Closer (dominant, misses bats)
Closer-in-waiting (high leverage setup)
Reliable innings eater
LOOGY

The other 2-3 are less important. I would argue that the first 4 guys help you wins the games you should. The last 2-3 help you win the games you shouldn't.

That seems to be a good core for a bullpen that's taking steps in the right direction.

I'd also add in the often forgotten ROOGY. It seems dominant pens in the last decade have had that righty specialist that will come in for a batter or two, much like a LOOGY. The only problem with the ROOGY is that more often than not, they get hammered vs. LHP, similiarly to how LOOGY can often get hammered vs. RHP.

At minimum, you need 3 dominant arms, since teams can reasonably assume 6 IP on a given night out of the SP.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any successful/reliable bullpen arms that either don't throw gas, or have electric stuff. Or both. I can't think of any Barry Zito or Tom Glavine types that are good bullpen arms now, or in the recent past. From the right side of the mound, I can't think of any of the same types either.

Tony Cloninger
04-11-2008, 05:13 PM
The 1969-1970 Wayne Granger.....1973-74 Mike Marshall...the 1967-68 Ted Abernathy.......You basically would only need a 9 man pitching staff with those 3 arms......more room for that weak bench.

Manny Sarmiento was a pretty decent 5th starter...long reliever for the Pirates in 1982-83....he could be the 5th starter....or Clay Carroll.

medford
04-11-2008, 05:17 PM
I look at it this way and how it relates to the Reds Pen.

Dominant closer that can miss bats and provides confidence to the team that when he comes in, game over. While Cordero is not on the level of Riveria, or Hoffman of season's past, he can bring the heat, miss bats, and compared to relievers of the past, I think he gives the team that emotional edge that if they have the lead in the 9th, ball game over.

Experienced Vet that has been there/done that can provide multiple innings or close in a pinch. I think Weathers fills that role to a tee. He's certainly not a power arm and he definently doesn't miss bats or even install a ton of confidence (even though he gets the job done on a regular basis), but I think he provides a level a knowledge and experience to the pen. If Dusty has him as the regular 8th inning guy, then I think that's a mistake, but if Dusty has him as a guy that could enter the game in the 6th, or the 7th or th 8th or the 9th to close in a pinch, basically using him in a bunch of different spots to take advantage of matchups while using his experience as a steadying experience.

Dominate set up man that can face the heart of the order and get men out. While inexperienced, Burton looks to fill this role. He can miss bats, the only draw back is his inexperience. The question I have is what happens when/if he struggles. Will he pull out of it, or will he go into a funk? He definently struggled this spring, so perhaps we found the answer now that he's pitching well again.

Dominate left hander. This is a role I don't think the current bullpen has filled. I'd like to think a healthy Bill bray could fill this role to a tee. Hopefully once the weather warms up, and april showers have sprung may flowers, we'll see Bray in the Pen to compliment the role that Burton plays as a power left that can miss bats.

Where this team really shines, is that in Lincoln & Coffee, they have to potential power arms that can miss bats. If/when Bray is brought up, coffee appears to be the most logical choice to go back down, but I'd like to see them all up here.

That leaves them w/ Affeldt & Mercker. Both seem to be similar pitchers at this point. Affeldt a little younger, Mercker more experienced, both with similar arms. I kind of expect Mercker to wear down eventually and spend some time on the DL, perhaps this creates the opportunity for both Coffee & Bray.

In the end, I think this bullpen has makeup to be very solid, and the potential to be lights out. Lots of power arms that can miss bats and install fear in the opponent that if they don't have the lead by the 7th inning, the game is over. However there are still many questions marks to large to have complete confident in this. Can Burton hold up over the coarse of a season?Will Coffee revert to last season's form? Will bray ever get healthy? Will Coco struggle at times like he's done in the past or not that he's the big money closer will he perform like it every night? Are Weathers & Mercker wiley vets that can still get people out when needed as long as they're not taxed too much, or are they ageing guns about to be set out to pasture.

Not having the magic man or stanton are big pluses for this bullpen. Having either in the game had to install a sense of "we can get this done" for the other team. I look at what Milwaukee threw at the Reds this week, and believe this will be their downfall this year. Gagne inspired no confidence in me watching him, and Turnbow inspired something much less if I'm a Brewer's fan.

In conclusion, a good pen is one that gets the job done. A great pen is one that installs a sense of fear or panic in the opposing team. The nasty boys definently made the other team think they had to have the game in hand by the 6th or 7th inning, or they had no chance. The Danny Graves/Scott Sullivan bullpen was a good pen in terms of results, but I doubt they inspired any fear in opponents. You know opponents had to watch them and think "we can get this done". While they got the job done for the most part, they often blew saves or let games get tied up, extending innings, and wearing down the bull pen further leading to the late season collapses we always saw.

This season's pen has the potential to lock a game down and send it home in an nice tidy 9 inning package. Combine it with a staff that looks to have the makings of a regular 6-7 inning diet, and you've got a staff that should stay strong all season long and not fade away in the August heat.

redsmetz
04-11-2008, 05:30 PM
Medford, very nice analysis - very level headed review of our present situation.

Vada Pinson Fan
04-11-2008, 08:19 PM
From the 70's a great bullpen definitely was Clay Carroll, Wayne Granger, Pedro Borbon and later Tom "The Blade" Hall was pretty good.

George Anderson
04-11-2008, 11:22 PM
From the 70's a great bullpen definitely was Clay Carroll, Wayne Granger, Pedro Borbon and later Tom "The Blade" Hall was pretty good.

Rawley, Will and Pedro weren't to bad either

mth123
04-12-2008, 06:30 AM
I think its different in the NL than the AL. Without the pitcher hitting there isn't the need to use as many relievers since they aren't being used up by PH. Also, since there aren't as many PH in the AL, you don't see the moves and counter-moves as often. The result is the NL pens need to be deeper because pitchers change more often and get up and warm up more frequently on days that they don't pitch. It isn't as simple as having three good guys to pitch the 7th, 8th and 9th, because they can't really pitch every day. That works well in a short series like in the post season, but over a 162 game schedule, a "3 man pen" will be used up by the All-Star break.

In the NL, IMO a good pen has:

1. A closer. A dominant closer is icing on the cake and not an absolute necessity, but a clear 9th inning choice to help dictate roles throughout the pen is needed IMO.

2. Three guys who could reasonably be considered the 7th or 8th inning guy. These are pitchers who could be brought in during the 8th inning when ahead and not make you flinch. Three are needed. That gives you the ability to use two each day and let the other rest for tomorrow. Ideally at least one of these guys is left handed, one can go more than an inning at a time and they all should be able to pitch on back to back days without a loss of effectiveness.

3. A LOOGY. In the NL especially, the moves and countermoves are important in game situations. The effective LOOGY not only provides the guy to pitch against the tough LH Hitter, but his presence also effects the hitting choices of the opposing manager. The threat of the switch is important IMO.

4. A Long reliever. This is a guy who serves as 6th starter and can come on in the 3rd inning and get you to the 6th or 7th without burning through the entire pen. He also serves as a starter on days when the scheduled starter comes up lame and can't go. Sometimes this guy will "mop-up" when needed to save the pen.

5. The 7th guy is a wildcard/developmental spot. Its a guy that is coming back from injury that you don't want to count on or a young kid with a big arm who is getting his feet wet prior to moving into a different role (possibly as one of the 8th inning types or into the rotation). This guy usually helps with the mop-up innings and gets his work in lower leverage situations until he is established.

Few teams reach this ideal state with most coming up short on the 8th inning types. Having two of these with enough depth to ride the hot hand as a supplement is more likely what occurs in good pens. As was mentioned earlier, it helps to have good starters that can take the team deep into games frequently.

blumj
04-12-2008, 09:02 AM
3. A LOOGY. In the NL especially, the moves and countermoves are important in game situations. The effective LOOGY not only provides the guy to pitch against the tough LH Hitter, but his presence also effects the hitting choices of the opposing manager. The threat of the switch is important IMO.

Right now, I think loogies are a total waste of a roster spot in the AL. I don't even think I can come up with 5 LHHs who you can trust won't be PH for in a key loogy-type situation.

And, obviously 4 high quality relievers are better than 3, but almost no one ever has 4 true high quality relievers. Even the best pens tend to have 3 real ones, the 4th guy is almost always a borderline guy. And you can't have any really bad pitchers, who make more messes for the others to clean up, those will kill a pen as quickly as starters who can't get past the 5th inning.

bucksfan2
04-12-2008, 09:31 AM
I dont think a good pen has to have a dominant closer who misses bats. They just need a closer who gets the job done. The Tigers pen of a few years ago had Todd Jones as its closer. Zumaya and Rodney were much more dominant arms who missed bats but Jones had the mantra to be the closer.

I think in todays pens you need the closer who can get the job done. He is the ninth inning pitcher who knows how to closer games. He doesn't necessarily have to be the best arm in the pen but the most reliable one. The other addition is another very good reliever who can be brought in for the most needing spot. Look at the Yankees and Chamberlin and Rivera. Chamberlin has the better arm and probably better stuff right now but Rivera is the closer. This allows Chamberlin to pitch in the most important situations prior to the 8th inning.

Depth is another important key. You are not going to have your entier pen for the entire season. You also can have a fast riser who comes up in the middle of the season to throw a wrinkle in opposing teams who have yet to see him. Bobby Jenks came of no where to lead the White Sox to the series. Could a guy like Ronieke (sp?) come out of no where to add depth to the reds pen is a key question.

mth123
04-12-2008, 09:55 AM
Right now, I think loogies are a total waste of a roster spot in the AL. I don't even think I can come up with 5 LHHs who you can trust won't be PH for in a key loogy-type situation.

And, obviously 4 high quality relievers are better than 3, but almost no one ever has 4 true high quality relievers. Even the best pens tend to have 3 real ones, the 4th guy is almost always a borderline guy. And you can't have any really bad pitchers, who make more messes for the others to clean up, those will kill a pen as quickly as starters who can't get past the 5th inning.

Agree. But even the good "three man pens" usually have other reasonably reliable guys to pitch the 7th a lot of times. Even the 1990 nasty boys had Tim Layana and Tim Birtsas providing 131 Innings with ERAs of 3.49 and 3.86 repsectively (with Birtsas as the long reliever IIRC). If they had not been capable Dibble, Charlton and Myers would have been worn out and inneffective. I don't think over the course of the long season that too many games had Dibble, Charlton and Myers going 7th, 8th and 9th every time the team had a lead in a close game. The big series with division rivals and in the play-offs sure, but not against a second division opponent in June, not really. Might be a poor example because Charlton made 16 starts that year and was not in the pen for much of the season.

The point about not having bad pitchers is right on. I'm very skeptical of Weathers, Burton etc in front of Cordero and suspect it may be this team's undoing, but I still think this pen is much improved from last year simply because I don't see the 4 Horseman of the Apocolypse named Stanton, Majewski, Santos and Saarloos down there.