Friday, May 05, 2006

The State of the Bullpen

I may start to rant due to frustration, but bear with me, there's some good stuff in here.

The state of the Sox bullpen is the biggest problem we have right now. It's clear we don't have enough horses to carry us through the season. The real scary thing is the fact that we haven't really had a game where we needed the 'pen to carry us. We haven't had a game where the starter was chased early, we caught up, and then needed the 'pen to finish off the game. Thank the lord for that. The relievers can barely bridge the gap from the 7th to the 9th. Actually let me rephrase, the gap from when the starters go out to the 8th. Bobby Jenks is solid as our closer. I have complete trust in him. He seems to be over his weight and control problems from the spring. The rest of the bullpen isn't nearly as solid. I'm going to break everyone down real quickly.

Neal Cotts - After Jenks I have the most faith in Cotts. He isn't up to last season's form, but he has been relatively good. He has a 3.29 ERA, and in the last 10 games it's been 2.79. If I was Oz, I would set Neal aside as my setup guy. I would make that a defined role for him a la Scott Shields for K-Rod.

Boone Logan - At first, I wanted him back in the minors, and then I looked at his ERA. 1.86 ERA in 9 games. It seems good. It really does, but then I noticed he's let 6 of 8 inherited runners score. That's real bad. He's a ticking time bomb; he has 7BB vs 8K's. He's pitched well recently, but in meaningless situations and against inferior competition. He entered the game today in a high pressure situation, but still against inferior competition and didn't record an out.

Brandon McCarthy - He started out great. I actually had a great amount of faith in him, but ever since the last road trip, he's been in a funk. His ERA has jumped up to 5.93. I think his mechanics are off. He always looks jerky when he pitches, but he looked especially out of whack when he pitched on the road trip. There's good news about this, if it's truly his mechanics. He suffered from the same problem last year, and he was able to fix things in the minors and come back better than ever. We all know how great Coop is, so it's very possible he can fix McCarthy. If it's not mechanics, then I don't know what to make of it.

Cliff Politte - It's looking more and more like last year was an anomoly. The seasons before last year he had a 5.66 ERA in 03 and a 4.38 ERA in 04. Right now he's at 8.00 and he's blown two saves. At this point, I'd even be up for trading Politte for another reliever and getting as much value for him as possible. I may be hasty in this thought. I could be overreacting after the Sox poor performance against the Royals, just keep that in mind.

Matt Thornton - He has two problems. 1.) He is wild. He's not as wild as he was, but he's still throwing a lot of balls. Hey Matt! Throw some strikes, it's a novel concept I know, but if they hit it to a fielder, they can still record an out. Right now he's walking or striking out most people. 2.) He has one pitch. Sorry, one good pitch. He has a good fastball, and a so-so slider. All batters have to do is sit on that fastball and they have him pegged. If Thornton could learn to change speed on his FB or learn a change, he'd be much more effective.

Dustin Hermanson - Don't count on him pitching this year.

Solutions - Unfortunately I'm not all that familiar with the minor league players, but after perusing some stats here are some notworthy pitchers.
SP Charles Haegar .68 ERA in 40 innings (AAA Charlotte)
RP Javier Lopez .64 ERA in 14 innings with 5 saves (AAA)
RP Jeff Farnsworth 1.98 ERA in 13.2 innings with 5 saves (AAA)
RP Ehren Wasserman .90 ERA in 11 games with 5 saves (AA Birmingham)
SP Lance Broadway 2.02 ERA in 35.2 innings (AA)

I don't know how viable those guys would be as options to shore up our bullpen, but their numbers look good.

We could always go the trade route, but help won't arrive until much closer to the trade deadline. I know Kenny will be aggressive trying to put together the best team possible, I just hope he doesn't overpay and bankrupt our minor league system. If we have a barren farm system, Kenny will lose his ability in the future to be flexible and work out trades.

The bullpen was a strength for us last year, but now it's a liability. As things stand the 'pen is the only thing between us and another WS title. I know that may sound dramatic, but the Sox probably won't have a streak of complete games again in the playoffs, we will need high quality performances in the playoffs. Part of the reason they were so successful was the fact that every single pitcher knew his role. Jenks was the closer and Cotts and Politte were the primary set up guys. This year other than Jenks, no one has a defined role, especially when looking at the lefties. We have three lefties, but who's our lefty specialist? Do we have a long reliever other than McCarthy?

I trust Ozzie, I trust Kenny, and I trust Coop. This should get straightened out.


Anonymous Jim said...

I don't see Haegar as a feasible option -- at Spring Training, he didn't miss any bats with his knuckler. Batters just fouled off pitches until they ripped something straight.

Javier Lopez > Boone Logan, though we still don't know if he can get major league hitters out. I have a Rockies fan friend who lauuuuuughed when he heard we picked him up. That's probably the first step I'd make.

Farnsworth seems like a AAAA pitcher, but you never know when one of those guys will be lightning in a bottle.

Broadway's future is a starter, and this is his first year in AA, so he won't be leaving Birmingham anytime soon.

5/06/2006 6:40 PM  
Blogger Jeeves said...

Thanks Jim.

I forgot that Haegar was our knuckleballer down there. If he did get called up, I would cry.

5/06/2006 6:42 PM  

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