How to manage the bullpen without really trying

Justifying my position: Melky Cabrera
BP writers, Banter bloggers NYC book reading

I too would like to keep Brian Bruney an arm’s length away from pitching ever again for the Yanks. (Photo courtesy of Bombers Beat)

On the one hand, it’s hard to get too worked up over last night’s loss. On a night when the Yanks’ pitching staff hands out 11 walks and Kei Igawa throws the ugliest five shut-out innings you’ll ever see, it’s tough to expect a loss.

Furthermore, the Yanks, in need of just one win to clinch a postseason berth, will record that victory before the season is out. And seeing Alex Rodriguez crush a grand slam is a comforting thought for those of us a bit worried by his recent dearth of power.

But on the other hand, haven’t we seen this before? A Yanks starter struggles through five innings with the lead, and Joe Torre cannot once again put together a good combination of relievers to hold a five-run lead for four innings.

This game hinged on the decision to bring in Brian Bruney to pitch out of a jam. Now, a few months ago, Mariano Rivera called out Bruney, and the Yanks responded in turn by sending Bruney to work on his pitching at AAA. Bruney whined about the demotion, struggled in AAA, didn’t improve and somehow landed back in the Bronx as a supposedly vital cog in the Yanks’ pen.

Has Joe Torre forgotten that Bruney, the model of inconsistency earlier this year, hasn’t gotten better? In fact, Bruney has now cost the Yankees two of their last three losses. The story gets worse though. In his last 8 appearances since returning the Bronx in late August, Bruney has thrown 7.2 innings, giving up 10 runs on 8 hits (3 HR) and 7 walks. With Chris Britton, Ross Ohlendorf and even Ron Villone in the pen, calling upon Bruney to pitch out of a jam when he can’t buy a strike is a fairly egregious lack of judgment on Torre’s part.

But of course, we can’t place all of the blame on the arm of Brian Bruney. Edwar Ramirez has hardly been stellar lately, and I’m beginning to think that this one-trick pony can’t cut quite cut it in the Bigs. There is, after all, a reason why Ramirez was dropped not once but twice by the Angels.

Ramirez, over his last 10 appearances spanning over three weeks and 8.0 innings pitched, has given up 13 hits and 11 ER while walking just 4 and striking out 12. Just one of those strikes out have come over his last 4 appearances. Supposedly, Ramirez has a mechanical flaw in his delivery, and after throwing 75 innings this year, he could just be out of gas.

In the end, this all boils down, once again, to bullpen management choices. Ramirez is out of gas and struggling; Bruney hasn’t put it together at all. At some point, Joe Torre simply has to turn to guys who can get out. These two aren’t the ones for that role, and it cost the Yankees the game last night and any lingering chances they had to win the division. But, hey, at least we won’t have to see Bruney pitch in the postseason.

Justifying my position: Melky Cabrera
BP writers, Banter bloggers NYC book reading
  • Joseph P.

    “There is, after all, a reason why Ramirez was dropped not once but twice by the Angels.”

    Yes, but he didn’t develop his current changeup until after the Angels released him. He worked on it last year in indy ball before being picked up by the Yanks.

    And he topped out at about 64 innings in 2005, so yes, he’s clearly over his innings totals this year. And they’ve clearly been higher-leverage innings than in the past. I have faith in him for next year. This year, though, we can leave him out of the plans.

  • marc

    I’m getting really tired of this “we already won the wild card” thing… can we cool it until we actually do, please? I know it looks likely but didn’t the tigers have the same lead over the twins in the final week last season and then got swept by the lowly royals, and didn’t the yanks have a similar advantage against the sox in 04, “only” needing one win to move on… seriously last night after the “gift” from igawa for 5 innings.. you go to viz or farns for the sixth.. joba and mo for the 7th, 8th and 9th.. lock it up and have a week to fuckin rest

  • Mike A.

    The Edwar that’s running out there now isn’t the real Edwar, he’s better than what he’s shown of late. Maybe he’s tired, maybe it’s a mechanical flaw, who knows. Now, I’m not saying he’s going to be a shut-out closer or anything like that, but he’ll be a nice middle man because he can rack up K’s like nobodies business.

    I think part of the bullpen usage last night was Torre seeing what he has. He wasrunning guys out there just to evaluate and decide who’s the best option for the postseason. They only need 9 or 10 pitchers in the ALDS, but you know they’re going to take 12, so it might as well be the best 12 they have.

    • Relaunch

      Yup, thats not the real Edwar. Then who is? The one that got released twice? He has no track record in the majors for you to say this is or isn’t the real one.

      • Joseph P.

        Once again, his releases were prior to his developing the change. Give him the winter and next spring to show you something.

        • Relaunch

          And once again, his new pitch still hasn’t given great results. No one knows if this is the real Edwar or not. But from his performance and track record so far, it could be.

  • The Scout

    What you saw last night is why Joba will remain in the bullpen in 2008, perhaps longer. Until the Yankees develop viable relief pitchers, all the manager can count on down there is Rivera, Vizcaino, and Chamberlain. That isn’t enough, and the problems becomes more acute if Joba goes back to starting.

    • Ben K.

      Viz’s last 10 appearances: 9 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 8 BB, 11 K.

      That ain’t exactly the definition of dependable right now.

    • Joseph P.

      Still disagree. Yeah, we need bullpen guys now, but we also need top-flight starters who can throw gas. Joba is far more valuable in the long-term as a starter, and to keep him in the pen will only make people — inside and outside the organization — more attached to him in that role. The best message Cashman can send is “bullpen be damned, Joba will be a starter.”

      • Barry

        I agree, I’d rather have Joba get more outs less often, with a guy like joba he has the potential to one day throw 7 or 8 shutout innings almost everytime out there. The bullpen needs another answer, Joba isnt the answer.

  • Dude

    relaunch, like Joe said, Edwar didn’t have his bugs bunny changeup until AFTER the angels released him. that one pitch is why he’s in the Bronx. he has to refine his command though, which is a common problem for rookies.

    i think cash $ has enough clout now to make (or give a shot) joba a starter in 08. 200+ innings are far more valuable than 70+. plus, Torre would destroy his arm in one season (proctor, vizcaino, etc.). and if he somehow fails as a starter, he can always fall back to the pen. much harder to go the other way. a guy that can throw 96 through 6 is too valuable to ‘waste’ in 1-2 inning stints.

    maybe ohlendorf and edwar become reliable, perhaps a FA/trade in the offseason, or the emergence of JB cox, patterson, whelan, white etc. but whatever happens to fill his void next year, joba’s got to be given a shot at starting.

  • zack

    Its amazing how many people out there think that 60 innings is more important than 200 simply because they might be in “high leverage” situations. an inning is an inning, and just because its in the first doesn’t make it less important if you give up a run. Take that stupid article by Verducci on Papelboner in SI-the whole piece is based around that very argument, that Papelbon as a closer is more important than as a starter because the innings are more important. Poppycock. Papelbon as a closer is more important than as a starter because he mostly can throw one pitch. Joba has three good ones. With thee crop of BP arms in the minors, and the problems the Yanks have had with finding starters (lets not forget that as much as their problems have been BP, they have had as many problems filling out the rotation and in the PS with quality starts). Joba is the rotation in 2008 or bust…

    • mehmattski

      Yeah, imagine how awesome Johan Santana would be as a closer! And Jake Peavy! There’s a reason why Mo and Gagne were tried as starters first, and made relievers only after failure at that task.

  • Dan

    The “will the real Edwar please stand up” question is irrelevant as far as his previous successes in the league go. At times this year he’s been downright unhittable. He *has* good stuff, and most of his problems this year have been because of his control and not being able to get ahead of the hitter. That being said, he *has* shown that he can throw strikes be very effective throughout a large percentage of his outings (which cannot be said for Bruney/Henn/Villone, neither of which have an out pitch half as effective as Edwar’s).

    For whatever reason, Edwar is having problems right now (being over his innings limit is probably the reason, along with having a flaw in his mechanics). But he’s shown that if he’s hitting the strike zone he can be unhittable. Why give up on the guy?

  • UKYankee

    I think Edwar is exhausted…..not necessarily from the number of I.P (which is probably his career high), just that everytime you look at the bullpen….Torre has him up and throwing…..I’ve seen him throw for almost 2 innings before being sat down…and its pretty much everyday. I think Cashmoney needs to keep a tighter cantrol of totalt pitches thrown….until we finally get rid of ol’Clueless

  • Tommy

    I loved the finger wag Posada gave Edwar.

    • Tommy

      er, Bruney.

      • mehmattski

        According to Kay and Leiter, Posada was wagging his finger at Johnny Gomes, who Posada felt was relaying location of the pitch to the batter. Leiter eventually pointed out that why would anyone want to know the location of a pitch thrown by someone as out of control as Bruney. But anyway I don’t think the finger wag was intended for the pitcher.

        • Tommy

          yep, you’re right. it wasn’t clear to me from just the video.

  • DKA

    The chances of us losing the next five and Detroit winning the next five are ridiculously low. With our ace on the mound tonight, I think that worrying about last night is a bit ridiculous.

    What this does show is who isn’t going to be on the team next year. See ya, one-trick Edwar and no-control Bruney. Make sure you take fly-ball Karstens with you.

  • trevor

    does anyone think ohlendorf will make the postseason roster? He definatley should.

  • kunaldo

    i agree that it’s unlikely we’ll blow this….but can’t we show some urgency to just close it out and allow everyone to rest for the remainder of the season? i think edwar can be good, bruney is just an attitude w/ an arm, and karstens is the scary-fly-ball-pitcher….

    oh, and i feel dirty thinking that i’d actually take farnsworth over those three

  • JT

    My hope is that this year is a repeat of ’96: six innings from the starter, two by Mo and a shaky, heart-attack 9th by Wetland. Joba and Rivera this year are better than Mo and Wetland were in ’96. It can work, right? Especially, if they end up in the longer divisional series and Joba can get his rest. I’m actually a little more worried about the starters getting through those six innings.

  • kunaldo

    yeah, i can see wang and pettitte going 7+….but the other two(clemens, moose), well, let’s just say we’ll be seeing more of Viz and Farny than we would want…

    clemens starting after like 2+ weeks rest is making me nervous as well….i know they’re being cautious now, but it would have been nice to see him go out there one more time to take his temperature…oh boy…