Breaking Down the Bullpen

Who is the worst pitcher in our bullpen? Who is the best? Who is the most frustrating? What have they really been doing? Who's been good? Who's been poor? Who doesn't deserve their ERA? Who should probably have a higher ERA?

Interestingly enough, the answer to all of these questions is Matt Daley.

But seriously, the bullpen has been cause for a lot of talk. They're either lockdown or completely hittable. They're constantly used in the wrong spots. They're all terrible. They're all awesome. They're all simultaneously consistent, undependable, clutch, chokers, and Libertarians.

There's really no winning if you're the Colorado Bullpen right now.

Based on some of the concepts and numbers we've looked at in past CR columns, we're gonna break down the bullpen.

So let's answer all the questions above.

Who are the best/worst pitchers in the bullpen, according to:

ERA?

Best: Matt Daley, 1.29

Worst: Matt Belisle, 9.00

Now, you could easily argue that Daley is a benefactor of sample size in this case, but there's not much arguing with Belisle at this point.

FIP (ie, the worst if you were to take out the hits/balls in play)?

Best: Matt Daley, 3.18

Worst: Matt Belisle, 6.02

Well, Daley thus far has put his money where his mouth is. Again, short time up, but I'm enjoying it. Is anyone surprised by Belisle?

K/BB?

Best: Huston Street, 7.00

Worst: Ryan Speier, 0.67

Worst active: Alan Embree, 1.33

Sometimes, strikeouts and walks are all you care about with a reliever, and if you can just look at that, Street has been magnificent. Embree? Not so much. But we should be getting better out of him sooner, as he's performing about 3 K's/9 lower than his career norms.

Most hittable (excluding homers)?

Best: Matt Daley, .127 BABIP

Worst: Manny Corpas, .376 BABIP

League Average: about .306

I'll go ahead and put sample size to rest, or else we'd just be throwing this article away anyhow. Daley's been virtually unhittable thus far, but he's due to start giving up some pokes pretty quick here. Corpas has been downright hittable, and while he's hardly walked anyone, he hasn't needed to. But we know this.

Most hittable in terms of solid contact (most line drives)?

Now this one was really interesting, so I'll mix it up a bit.

Worst: Alan Embree, 32.1% LD

Best: Matt Daley has yet to give up a well-struck hit, so let's go with the next guy

2nd Best: Matt Belisle, 15.9%

League Average: 19.15% (just for reference)

This is somewhat baffling. How is Belisle this bad, and yet nobody's even making real solid contact off of him? How is Embree getting away with giving up this much good contact? Well, as the adage goes, hit 'em where they ain't.

Stranding Runners?

Best: Jason Grilli, 95.6% LOB

Worst: (here's a shock) Matt Belisle, 50.6% LOB

Grilli's 11+ K/9 probably helps that 95.6 LOB%.

Playing to our strengths best? (GB%)

Best: Manny Corpas, 51% GB

Worst: Glendon Rusch, 32.1% GB

But then again, we knew this as well.

So who is the best? Who is the worst?

Well, I'd say our weakest pitcher is still Matt Belisle, and while I wish we had a starting spot for him (he's pitched out of a rotation his entire career, so this is a big transition for him - not meant as an excuse, just an explanation - and I think he'd be doing better if he wasn't looking at 3 outs an outing, etc), he really just hasn't been getting the job done in about any aspect of the game. Except for the weak contact part, I guess. Best? Well, Daley's looking nice thus far, but both Corpas and Street have been plagued by high BABIP while sporting excellent K/BB (Corpas at 3.50).

Now, there's one last thing to look at. ERA-FIP is a good indicator of who is getting good defensive help/benefitting the most/least from balls in play.

Who deserves their ERA?

The least: Matt Belisle, 2.98 E-F

Matt has been awful, but not 9.00 ERA awful. More like 6.02 awful.

Which is totally less awful.

The Next Least (leaving Daley out of this again): Jason Grilli, -1.78 E-F

Grilli's still been good, but not 1.69 ERA good. He's right around 3.47 FIP, which is still very good, just not "Holy Crap is that Mo Rivera?!"

The most: Huston Street, 0.27 E-F (actually it's Speier at 0.17 E-F, but I can't make as many points about Spy at this point)

Street may be putting up all the K's and none of the BBs, but his HR rate is over 2.00/9, and that's really unacceptable from any pitcher. It's really killing his FIP, his ERA, and his role as the solidifying factor in the bullpen. It should be noted, though, that over Street's past 11 games (the split baseball-reference gave me was 28 days), Street's given up a bomb, struck out 12, and walked 1, good for a 2.45 FIP and a 2.53 ERA.

Join me after the jump for the data, and a certain someone we may be forgetting...

Just so you can see what I've been blathering about, here's a table of relief pitcher stats:

 

Name

K/9

BB/9

K/BB

HR/9

AVG

WHIP

BABIP

LOB%

ERA

FIP

E-F

Alan Embree

4.00

3.00

1.33

1.00

0.216

1.11

.219

58.1%

4.00

4.74

-0.74

Glendon Rusch

6.19

1.69

3.67

1.69

0.338

1.63

.370

78.0%

4.50

4.81

-0.31

Huston Street

9.45

1.35

7.00

2.03

0.299

1.35

.355

79.7%

4.73

4.46

0.27

Jason Grilli

11.81

5.06

2.33

0.84

0.23

1.41

.332

95.6%

1.69

3.47

-1.78

Manny Corpas

4.61

1.32

3.50

0.66

0.342

1.61

.376

68.0%

5.27

3.55

1.72

Matt Belisle

5.25

2.25

2.33

2.25

0.334

1.67

.343

50.6%

9.00

6.02

2.98

Matt Daley

7.71

3.86

2.00

0.00

0.092

0.71

.127

83.3%

1.29

3.18

-1.90

Ryan Speier

3.18

4.76

0.67

0.00

0.273

1.59

.300

70.0%

4.76

4.60

0.17

Name

GB/FB

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

HR/FB

Alan Embree

1.38

32.1%

39.3%

28.6%

12.5%

12.5%

Glendon Rusch

0.72

23.2%

32.1%

44.6%

8.0%

12.0%

Huston Street

0.94

19.5%

39.0%

41.5%

11.8%

17.6%

Jason Grilli

0.91

19.2%

38.5%

42.3%

0.0%

9.1%

Manny Corpas

2.08

24.5%

51.0%

24.5%

0.0%

8.3%

Matt Belisle

0.95

15.9%

40.9%

43.2%

21.1%

15.8%

Matt Daley

0.60

0.0%

37.5%

62.5%

40.0%

0.0%

Ryan Speier

4.00

16.7%

66.7%

16.7%

33.3%

0.0%


There is still one X-Factor to be considered, however.

Taylor Buchholz

There's been a lot of talk about Buchholz' return, specifically during games where Belisle blows it up or something along those lines. Because we all love Taylor, let's all take a look at his 2008 and see what we can glean from that:

Buchholz has always been a high-control-good-strikeout pitcher. Nothing mindblowing in the strikeout department, but he seriously bumped his rate into solid range that compares to Matt Cain, Kevin Gregg, and Roy Halladay. His BB rate took a slight jump from 2007, but nothing that would classify him as "wild".

Projections were relatively high on him as well. They more or less consolidated to suggest a K9 of 7.17, BB9 of 2.70, and a HR9 of 0.92, all leading to a suggested FIP of 3.84. Pretty solid numbers there in general.

I don't think anyone was honestly expecting a repeat of the 2.17 ERA he posted in 2008, as a .234 BABIP is hardly sustainable. Curiously though, his LD% actually jumped about 3% and his GB% dropped around 9%, yet he still managed that ERA. If he were posting those rate stats mentioned above today, he'd be 4th in K9, 5th in BB9, 3rd in HR9, and 4th in FIP. If you remove Matt Daley from the equation you could bump Buchholz up a ranking for each of those.

But I hereby want to caution everyone regarding Buchholz' eventual return: He's coming off of injury problems, he's probably not going to be in 2008 form. While the projections are all favorable, they obviously aren't taking into account the effects of injury/rehab. Don't get me wrong, I want to see him come in and start blowing guys away again. But while we've all had patience rammed down our throats this season, with Buchholz, I'm sure it will be a bit easier to swallow.

---

To conclude, we can kind of see where the problems are in the pen just from watching. Belisle and Corpas are hittable. Grilli is wild, but dangerous. Embree's been unimpressive. Matt Daley may just be the new [elite relief pitcher here]. Ok maybe not the last one. We need to find some sort of coherence in the pen, and I still don't think establishing roles is going to do that. Play matchups, play splits, play the numbers.

Close with Street if we have to say "Closer is our best guy!" but don't fear bringing him in in the 8th.

Grilli and Rusch are good guys to bring in to clean up a jam.

Belisle and Embree probably need to start their own innings.

Corpas is stil our best groundball guy.

It may be frustrating sometimes, but this isn't an awful bullpen. It may just be that it's utilized incorrectly.


 

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