Season Preview

2014 Preview: The Bullpen

Hoo-boy. Am I really supposed to talk about the bullpen? I guess I am. Um. It’s ugly. Or not. It depends. Yeah, yeah. It depends. I don’t know, let’s go ahead and do this…

The Bullpen
2013: 470.1 IP, 9.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 3.29 ERA

2013 WAR: 2.0 (FanGraphs), 5.5 (BBRef)
2013 RA-9: 5.6
2014 Best Guesses: 2.0, 5.0, 5.0

If your asking me, these are my guesses: Broxton is mostly fine and pitches a fair bit. Chapman is back in early June. Marshall pitches pretty much not at all. It’s not perfect, but it’s not terrible, either. Certainly, you’d like to get more out of your top relievers, but it could be much worse given what we’ve seen lately.

One of the things about the bullpen is that it figures to pitch a lot of innings. Given the 470 IP last season, the 5.5 bWAR is pretty much average. The fWAR for the Reds puts them in the bottom tier, while the RA-9 puts them a bit above average. Overall, it was a solid bullpen last year, aided greatly by Aroldis Chapman.

While the Reds will greatly miss Chapman for a few months, the big hope of all Reds fans this year is that the bullpen management will be something approaching sane. I was never as big a Dusty detractor as some, but his handling of the bullpen was almost as bad as it gets.

In the end, I have no idea what will happen with the pen, and neither do you. This is exactly why it is a mistake to spend a bunch of money on relief pitchers. They are, frankly, a plentiful commodity and tend to burn out quickly. Sure, there are some Mariano Riveras out there, but you aren’t going to win very often, betting on that to happen. The bullpen will probably be fine, but that is a lot of money to end up at fine.

17 thoughts on “2014 Preview: The Bullpen

  1. First line of demarcation between Price and Dusty regarding the bullpen: Will Hoover become “everyday JJ again” and get worn out, or used judiciously. Seems like Hoover and LeCure are going to be the bullpen horses to ride. Not bad rides. Manny Para, against any odds I would have laid a year ago, is also going to be pretty important for awhile.

  2. As teams pare down to the 25-man roster limit, I would imagine that the Reds are carefully looking for a LH reliever to pick up before Opening Day. Is Zack Duke still on a minor league contract with the Brewers?

    • If he is, and he’s doing well at all, I would think he’d make the Brewers roster. Their bullpen is likely worse than the Reds.

    • Adam McCalvy via Twitter…”#Brewers advised LHP Zach Duke he will make the team. RHP Rob Wooten optioned to Triple-A. Bullpen is set.”

  3. Couldn’t have said it better myself. With the amount of payroll being spent on the bullpen, it should be the best in the majors. It won’t be, even in the best case scenario. The next few years will determine if the Reds can contend for the long haul. We aren’t the Cardinals, meaning we don’t seemingly have a AA and AAA team full of Major League ready players. When the Reds spend money on things such as relievers and bench players, it means less money that can be spent on keeping the stars. And if the Fraizers, Mesoracos, Cingranis, and Hamiltons of the world produce to their potential… forget about keeping them around.

    Gotta prioritize!

    • The bullpen as a whole will typically pitch nearly a third of the innings each season, so I it’s obviously important–more important by that measure than any one starter (heresy, I know). Because it consists of a number of pitchers, I will concede the difficulty in knowing how best to spend money on it, but will not concede that a)any pitcher can be ok there or, b), that significant money shouldn’t be allocated to it, when appropriate (aye, there’s the rub). As for bench players, you need them to have a chance of winning. Winning will probably increase attendance, which will increase revenue, which will enhance the Reds’ chances of keeping their emerging stars around (see Votto, Joey; Bruce, Jay and Bailey, Homer).

      • The studies I’ve seen all basically show that most marginal starters can be converted to good relievers (see LeCure, Sam), which makes them fairly plentiful, but the real reason you don’t throw a bunch of money at them is that, with very few exceptions, they are very, very inconsistent and unpredictable. You never know what you’re actually paying for.

      • Going of of Jason Linden’s comment….
        Another reason you don’t throw money at them is because if you have a good rotation (as the Reds obviously should), you shouldn’t need an incredible relief staff. Even if you have one, its not like you need one. Its like signing a receiver to a huge contract if you have an MVP caliber running back… you simply don’t need ’em. Nice to have, but not worth unnecessary funds.

  4. Our bullpen should be really good in 2014, despite the injuries. If we can get anything out of Marshall and Broxton, then its a win.

  5. I don’t know Jason… The bullpen was a bit above average last year but certainly not exceptional. Having Broxton will help some but losing Chapman for 2 months is going to outweigh that. We also can’t be anywhere near certain that Chapman will be the same pitcher that he used to be. I think he should be but stuff like he’s gone through changes a guy. Dusty’s bullpen management left a lot to be desired but it wasn’t much different than many other managers. A lot of managers are hard and fast with roles. I don’t know how much Price will make a difference here but I fear it won’t be enough to elevate this bullpen to even “fine” status.

    Unfortunately, I’m expecting very little out of our Reds this year. I’ll cheer from the first pitch to the last but if they are better than an 82-86 win team, I’ll be very, very shocked.

    • It’s mostly the same group as last year minus Chapman for two months. That’s not enough to cost them more than half a win or so.

  6. On another note Jason… Thank you for the hard work you put into your previews and projections every year. They are a great read and bullpens are next to impossible to project.

  7. Do we know who has gone north with the team? I don’t mean to be uninformed here, but with soreness and outright injuries, I’m wondering exactly who is in the bullpen and active.

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