Tuesday, 2 September 2008

State of the bullpen

Now that I'm back, I want to take a look at the future of the Jays' major league squad. Will did a great job showing off the minor leagues, starting with the 1B prospects. While he takes a look at the present and future of the minor leagues, I'm going to take a look at next year's team, starting with the bullpen.

I was gonna write up a long blog about why Wolfe deserved to be in the majors, but thankfully JP called him up for the expanded rosters period. He's one of the better right handed relievers we have, and it's pretty clear to this point that keeping him in AAA was more about service time than about trying to win.

During his time in AAA, Wolfe showed that he was much better suited to the bullpen role. He struggled against lefties significantly, allowing 22 hits and 7 walks in 15 2/3 IP for a 1.85 WHIP. He struggled against lefties in 2007 at the major league level.

Why am I mentioning his struggles against lefties? Well, some people, including both management and fans, believed that Wolfe could be successful as a starter. As a starter, Wolfe will be exposed to left handed hitters more often, and odds are will get knocked around a lot more. Which is pretty much what happened in AAA. Wolfe had a 4.84 ERA as a starter (22 1/3 IP), and a 1.26 ERA as a reliever (14 1/3 IP). Small sample sizes, but when taken into account his struggles vs lefties it's not that surprising.

From this point forward, I think Wolfe should only be used as a reliever. And make no mistake, he should be one of the 7 members of next year's pen.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Frasor, Tallet, and Camp all need to be traded in the offseason. Frasor makes for a decent mop up pitcher, but he's starting to get expensive and there are a ton of better, younger and cheaper pitchers waiting for their chance. He does have some value - a 3.89 ERA, 109 ERA+, and a 1.31 WHIP. Those aren't great numbers, but some team could give up a decent prospect for him. Tallet has been pretty solid this year too, with a 3.27 ERA, 130 ERA+, but an ugly 1.37 WHIP. Again, he's another guy who's going to get expensive, and we have the depth to cover him when he's gone. Camp is the least valuable of the 3, but he really doesn't have a spot going forward. Might as well get what we can for him.

So with those 3 gone, you're looking at a bullpen that includes these names: Ryan, Downs, League, Carlson. I'm not going to bother talking about them much, since it's pretty obvious if they're healthy and on the team that they're locks for the pen. That pen is looking a little light on right handed relief, so Wolfe should easily get a place in the pen. So who would be a good fit for the remaining spots?

If Casey Janssen is ready to go, he could always be a good option. Some would like to see him as a starter - count me down as one of them. But if McGowan is healthy, I don't see a spot available without kicking out Litsch or Purcey. And that's only if/when AJ leaves, and assuming the Jays don't pick anybody up in free agency (for those that hadn't heard yet, JP plans on "staying pat"). So Janssen is most likely headed to the bullpen.

Davis Romero is a favourite of mine - he would be outstanding vs lefties, and this year he has shown the ability to get out right handed bats. He could probably take over Tallet's role.

A lot of fans want to see Brett Cecil pitch - and while I want him to be up here ASAP, he just isn't ready yet. In 6 AAA starts, he has a 4.11 ERA, and is slightly under 2:1 for his K:BB rate. He needs a bit more seasoning before he's ready. And he's too valueable to be wasted as a relief pitcher at this point in his young career.

Scott Richmond is another option who could be used in the pen. I've been a bit unfair to him in the past, but he did pretty well for himself in the majors. Strictly looking at the stats, he struck out 13 and walked 1 in 16 innings - that's pretty damn good. His FIP was 2.84, which is remarkable. He did allow 23 hits in 16 innings, but his 407 BAPIP just isn't sustainable. Yes, his LD rate was high at 23.6, but if I did my math right that only means his BAPIP should be around 350, not 407. Another thing to keep in mind, is that while he allows a ton of hits, he isn't walking anybody. So he might be able to succeed because he's not giving up many free passes. Over a full season his WHIP might be around 1.30, similar to Litsch. But that's just a guess on my part.

I think I let my hate on for the Olympic bullshit get in the way of looking at Richmond fairly. I think he deserves another chance, and that if given that chance he could do a really good job. In my opinion, he should be competing for a spot in next years rotation, and if that fails, he should be the first guy chosen to replace a starter if someone gets injured. If McGowan isn't ready next year, I'd be all for Richmond starting in his place.

I almost forgot to add him to the list, but assuming there's no long-term injury problems Jeremy Accardo should be a lock for the pen. He struggled this year, but I think he can rebound a bit. He won't be as good as the 07 season, but he isn't this bad.

Alright, so with all of the above options to choose from, this is how I see it going down when the dust settles. Ladies and gentlemen, Twitchy's picks for the 2009 bullpen are:

BJ Ryan, Scott Downs, Brandon League, Jesse Carlson, Jeremy Accardo, Brian Wolfe, and Casey Janssen.

Wow. If everybody's healthy that's just unfair. I mean, Davis Romero and Scott Richmond are still in AAA waiting as depth, both for starters and relievers, so it's not like the Jays really cripple their depth by trading away Frasor, Tallet and Camp. It probably won't happen, but I'd be all for BJ Ryan being traded. Don't get me wrong, he's a phenomenal closer, but look at that bullpen and tell me that BJ is needed at 10 million bucks. Assuming BJ is gone, Downs closes, League, Carlson, Wolfe, Accardo, and a recovering Janssen are more than enough depth, and have more than enough experience to handle the loss of Ryan. Davis Romero could join the bullpen as a loogy, and I don't think the team would suffer too much.

Heck, with the 10 million saved by trading BJ, you could afford to go after a big name bat (Burrell, for example) to slot in as the DH.

I realize trading Ryan isn't a popular idea, as our friends at Tao argued, but considering the strength of our bullpen and the options we have available I think trading BJ Ryan in the offseason would be a clever move. It would be a sign that the Jays trust the depth of their bullpen, and want to take advantage of it. The 10 million dollars could be better spent elsewhere - the bullpen won't see a huge drop in effectiveness, but there's a huge difference between putting Matt Stairs or a not so ready Travis Snider at DH compared to a slugging behemoth like Burrell.

While it's difficult to predict how a reliever will pitch year to year, it's looking like the pen will remain a strength heading into next year. It's up to JP (or whoever is the GM in the offseason...I'm available in case you're wondering Mr. Rogers) to take advantage of this.



The Southpaw said...

Nice work on the bully.

About that article, if it's only $15 million to play with in the off-season I think it would be pretty irresponsible NOT to trade BJ given the cheaper talent ready to replace him. He's been a great soldier, but the regiment must live on...

I can sort of accept the logic of not entering the waters for a FA starter, but the 2009 is DH going to have to be bought and will chew up most of the $15 mil our GM has to play with. Having Snider up in April at 21 after only a brief stint at AAA is pretty well beyond ridiculous.
And then where's the SS to come from? Kind of sounds like JP's sure all of the guys he wants to make it are going to pound on the door soon, not really expecting him to move prospects.

Holy shit, I should probably wait for this season to be over before I start getting bummed about 2009.


The Southpaw said...

Yeah, BJ needs to go. Especially now that he's sorta proven he's past the TJ surgery and can pitch at a high level. We've argued over who should DH (altho we agree Snider shouldn't yet), but like you said they need the money.

I don't understand how he can build internally with what he has. Nobody is near ready outside of the bullpen guys or the starters. 2010 I could see him doing that, with maybe Snider, Cecil, Jeroloman, and Arencibia having full years at AAA (hopefully). Maybe add Cooper to that.

But to expect 5-6 minor leaguers to all pan out at the same time is just crazy. Especially with as little experience as ours have as of now.


The Southpaw said...

I don't buy the calculation that there's only $15 million in play. That's not how the math comes out for me.
Even with the acquisition of Bautista, I make the total projected payroll at about $80 million, and it's an open secret that Frasor won't be part of that if the budget doesn't rise - which I think it will - and most likely Tallet as well. The twom of them will surely combine for at least $3 million.

So There's $20 mil available for sure, and the team is making money for Rogers on every front so it's not unreasonable to think a modest increase would be denied if the need was there.


The Southpaw said...

I dunno.

Attendance is down this year and I would not be surprised to see Rogers grandees order a payroll freeze, much less instructions not to buy too much this offseason so they can bank some for 2010 salary hikes to key players. They're not so stupid and I'd reckon they know that the nostalgia push they tried this year will not work on its own in 2009.

Up here we have a better sense of how Rogers Corp works b/c of its omnipresence in the phone/internet/cable market. I really don't think there are too many people up here who think it would deliberately choose to offer a better quality product if it didn't affect the bottom line in a very tangible way and fast. Certain bean counters will say that the status quo is good enough...


The Southpaw said...

I'm sure I've seen reported that attendance was UP. And that with some series left hosting the two most popular (attendance wise) opponents.

Still, I'm certainly not in a position to know the Mind of Rogers, Inc. ;)


The Southpaw said...

Average attendances are marginally down this year so far; as for the remaining games, boosts from the Yankees and Bosox (one series each) will be offset by games with Minny, TB and BAL.

2007: 29,143
2008: 29,025

William Houston at the Globe will have TV numbers, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were steady.

The casual fan is going to need alot more than a "stand pat" offseason if the club isn't to bleed dollars in 2009.


halejon said...

Attendance is up from where it was at this point last year.

Which yeah, points out that it's really about who we play, but with more home games with NY and BOS, I think it's safe to say it will end marginally up.

I can see Frasor, but they're going to non-tender Tallet next year to save a little over a mil? Why?!?

The Southpaw said...

They won't non-tender Tallet, but I expect they will trade him. they will try hard to get someone to take Frasor in a trade too, I expect.

But yeah, prob non-tender if they don't succeed.