Fun with Bill James’ projections: The Bullpen

The unwanted Manny Ramirez
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Joe Girardi‘s bullpen was the team’s strength last year, as unheralded arms like Brian Bruney, Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez stepped up and exceeded expectations. Kyle Farnsworth was surprisingly effective before being jettisoned off to Detroit, while Damaso Marte finished strong after coming over in a trade of his own. Mo, of course, was Mo.

However, given the natural volatility of relief pitchers, it’s not a given that the Yanks’ pen will repeat it’s 2008 performance in ’09. Mo is a given, and Marte’s track record is long enough that you have a good enough idea of what he’ll give you, but the rest of the guys are all wildcards. Bruney’s command could desert him again, the league could adjust to Edwar’s change, and/or Jose Veras could just suck. It’s the nature of the beast.

I’ve already taken a look at the rotation and the lineup, so let’s jump right in and see what Bill James’ projects for the Yanks’ bullpen. Fun starts after the jump.

Brian Bruney, RHP
: 3-3, 4.50 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 49 G, 52 IP, 45 H, 36 BB, 52 K, 5 HR
Dominant when not on the DL last season, James sees Bruney reverting to his pre-2008 form, with walks again serving as his Achilles heel. Even when he was at his best last season, there was still a bit of uneasiness about seeing Bruney march out of the pen to face a hitter in a big spot, and I suspect it will always be that way.

Damaso Marte, LHP
Projection: 4-2, 3.40 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 67 G, 56 IP, 46 H, 25 BB, 60 K, 4 HR
That oh so important, must have or else the World Series is unattainable lefty reliever, Marte projects to have a solid, representative season. Better than your typical lefty bullpener because he can face righty batters without embarassing himself, Marte is the clear number two in the pen behind Mo going into the season.

Edwar Ramirez, RHP
Projection: 4-2, 3.38 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 56 G, 53 IP, 39 H, 24 BB, 74 K, 6 HR
Ah good ol’ Edwar. The one trick pony projects to have a very good season thanks to an absurd strikeout rate (that’s 12.57 Kper9 right there) and a damn fine WHIP. As always though, you don’t know if you’re going to get Good Edwar or Bad Edwar on a given day until he gets out on the bump. There’s just no middle ground with this guy, it’s either flat-out dominance or unbearable ugliness.

Mariano Rivera, RHP
: 5-2, 2.07 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 61 G, 70 IP, 56 H, 12 BB, 66 K, 3 HR
We are all witnesses. Praise be to Mo.

David Robertson, RHP
: 3-2, 4.39 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 40 IP, 39 H, 16 BB, 35 K, 4 HR
D-Rob was having a fine start to his big league career last year, but after a while it seemed like everytime Girardi brought him into a game, it was with two or three runners on and no one out. Situations like that are tough for any pitcher, let alone a young one to succeed in, so it’s no wonder Robertson struggled and was eventually shipped back to Triple-A. It looks like Robertson will be a servicable middle relief option next year, but not a guy you’d expect to see out there with the game on the line. He’s only 23 though, so there’s plenty of time for him to grow into that role.

Jose Veras, RHP
: 4-3, 3.96 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 65 G, 62 IP, 57 H, 30 BB, 62 K, 6 HR
Veras was outstanding for the first four months of 2008, posting a 2.54 ERA & 1.15 WHIP while pitching in crucial situations. The wheels kinda came off in August though, and he put up a 5.79 ERA & .958 OPSA (Hanley Ramirez-esque) the rest of the season. James sees a solid 2009 season in Veras future however, one that would set him up as a main cog in the bullpen. Let’s just hope he keeps it up all season this time.

* * *

Projections aren’t available for guys with a minimal amount of big league time, like Jon Albaladejo, Phil Coke, Dan Giese, and Humberto Sanchez. Minor leaguers like Mark Melancon and Steven Jackson are also out of luck, but the six guys above represent the core relievers that should be a factor all season.

Based on James’ projections, it looks like Damaso Marte and Edwar Ramirez – not Brian Bruney – will serve as the primary bridge to Mo next year. The one thing that sort of bothers me is all the walks: excluding Mo, those projections combine for 4.43 BBper9. Yikes. Good thing these are just projections, so don’t put much, if any stock in them.

Really, the best way to build a bullpen is to have plenty of options. Stockpile a horde of unheralded guys with decent stuff and the willingness to throw strikes, and hope a few of them stick. If not, they’re all easily replacable. This, of course, is much easier said than done.

Next Monday, in the final installment of this little mini-series: everything else (the bench, guys on minor league deals, etc)

The unwanted Manny Ramirez
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  • Dirt

    Jesus with the walks. Just out of curiosity, how did Bill James do in past years? What were his projections last year? I know projections are all conjecture, and conservative at that, but it’s a bit disappointing when nobody other than Mo, is projected to have a really great year, granted that Edwar will probably only have a few bad outings, as per usual.

  • Peter Lacock

    It’s like a novel. Read it, enjoy it and forget it.

    • Ryan S.

      Yes, exactly. These projections and a handful of nickles will get you a quarter. Its still fun to debate and assert our own projections though.

  • VO

    i sure hope his predictions are bad including the SP wins it came to a total of 75 wins?

    • Moshe Mandel

      Well, we only have his predictions for 3.5 starters and part of the bullpen, so 75 is pretty good. 5 more from the bullpen and 15 more from the rotation gives you 95.

      • VO

        nope were gunna get 115 wins this year im calling it

        • Will (the other one)

          I enjoyed this post.

  • X-Man(Angel)

    4.50 era. ofr Bruney? hmmmmmmmm to high

  • ryan

    Im betting on Veras and bruney having much better yrs thann he’s projecting. Veras just seemed tired toward the end of the year and is understandable considering it was a heavier work load than usual. I see him as def option to hand the ball to Mo. I don’t see bruney having that type of yr either, He was a different pitcher last yr in his attittude as well as his body. Bruney should go into spring training in as good shape as in 08 and when he does that he’ll be dominant and throwing hard as ever.

    • Ivan

      Veras was pitching over his head for most of the season and his control is still average at best. Veras does have a power FB but so does alot of releivers and Veras doesn’t have spectacular secondary pitches either.

      I,ve always like Bruney though.

      • Ryan S.

        Doesn’t Veras have a good quality breaking ball? When he’s got a feel for whatever secondary pitch it is I’m thinking of (maybe its a curve), he’s a very good middle reliever. I’d make a personal guess that Veras rocks an ERA of 3.50ish this season.

        • Ivan

          Yea when he’s going right his breaking ball is solid, but it’s sorta slurvy and tend to struggle with his command.

          I think Edwar is the guy who can really breakout in 09.

          • Ryan S.

            I’m horribly biased about the bullpen because almost everyone we have is homegrown talent, but I think the ‘pen continues to be a major strength for us.

            Albie, Veras, Bruney, and Marte I all think we have ERAs below 4.00, and a couple of them could event end up with an ERA in the mid-2s. I think James’ projection for Mariano looks about right. Any quality #s Edwar puts up is a bonus to me – I stopped believing in him after he gave up that grand slam, though I’ll be more than happy if he proves me wrong, I still like the kid – just don’t trust him in any kind of important situation.

            Again, I know I’m biased and my expectations are unrealistic, but those are my legitimate projections for them.

            • Ryan S.

              Meant for this to be a new comment, not a “reply”. Bleh.

      • KW

        Veras has a disgusting curve ball. His key is location, but with guys that throw as hard as he does, even if he misses, he has a pretty good chance of missing bats. I’m not sure he doesnt succeed this year as well.

      • ryan

        Yeah veras has some sort of slurv and I’ve heard of a Split he has in his pocket, when he has that secondary pitch working it’s pretty hard to hit. A lot of his numbers got inflated toward the end and at time he flashed above average control. He’s wet up nicely to build off last yr especially after a full offseason to rest up.

        • Ryan S.

          Veras’ effectiveness improved immensely in between his Sept. 2007 call up and the 2008 regular season. If he can further evolve as a pitcher and improve his control and command (his stuff is fine as is), he’s a legit setup man for years to come.

  • Ivan

    I can’t wait to see Melancon in 09.

    That way all the “Joba to the pen” club can see why the yanks aren’t listening to them.

    • Matt

      I will make sure my father is watching very intently.

    • jsbrendog

      my friend said if the yankees bring back pettitte or sign another starter he thinks joba should go to the pen because you cant imagine how imposing it is to have that shut down 8th inning guy…..

      it took everything in my power to not slap him.

  • jsbrendog

    albaladejo 17.2 innings this offseason 0 runs. that is the projection i like to see. why? because projection it is not, it is fact. and that could be a very good sign of things to come. bruney break out last year, alby this yr.

  • Matt

    Via CHONE:

    Dan Giese: 48 G, 57 IP, 57 H, 17 BB, 46 SO, 6 HR, 2 HBP, 27 R, 25 ER, 3.95 ERA, 1.321 WHIP

    Phil Coke: 47 G, 55 IP, 55 H, 22 BB, 51 SO, 6 HR, 1 HBP, 28 R, 26 ER, 4.25 ERA, 1.400 WHIP

    Albaladejo: 32 G, 36 IP, 39 H, 14 BB, 27 SO, 5 HR, 1 HBP, 21 R, 19 ER, 4.75 ERA, 1.472 WHIP

    • TheLastClown

      This is probably the reason James didn’t project for these guys. Albie’s going to struggle, along with Phil Coke? They both looked great last year.

      Risky futures are not a good investment for your money, or your oracular baseball wishes.

      • Matt

        I think the projection for Giese is actually right on, same with Coke–maybe a lower WHIP for Phil and a fewer strikeouts for Giese. However, I think Johnnie A will definitely outperform what CHONE’s given us here.

    • MattG

      For kicks, who do you think will be the ‘trusted’ guys come October? I am betting on Mo, Marte and Melancon, with Ramirez and Veras to back them up.

      I don’t get the Bruney love. I want to see relievers do three things: throw strikes, miss bats, and keep the ball in the park. Bruney misses bats fine (but not great), and doesn’t excel at the other two. I think it’s as simple as that. He’ll have nice stretches, but the walks and home runs will hurt him over the long haul.

      Veras throws more strikes, and Melancon looks like a beast. David Robertson looks like a beast, too. I wonder…

  • steve (different one)

    D-Rob was having a fine start to his big league career last year, but after a while it seemed like everytime Girardi brought him into a game, it was with two or three runners on and no one out.

    imagine a reliever being asked to come in with men on base.

    i would guess that this didn’t happen more than 3-4 times, but they stuck in our memory.

    to me, it just looks like he pitched in a lot of blowouts, and being low on the depth chart, he got a bigger share of mop-up work.

    • Ryan S.

      I remember one game last year where Robertson threw a single pitch and got the W – I remember chuckling about that when it happened.

    • Matt

      His curve ball sticks out in my memory. Mmmmm….

    • ryan

      I remember them leaving him in a bit too long on a couple outings. Nardi said he was a lil tired when he got sent back to AAA during the year after a couple bad games. A lot of stress, pressure and tough at bats on the major league level can wear down a young pitcher especially a rookie. Some of these guys also go through rehab adn pitch in winter ball and don’t get a full ofseason to rest. not guys like Robertson persay but guys like veras.

  • Moshe Mandel

    These systems loved Edwar last year also, due to the K-rate. Hopefully he takes another step forward. Also , I am not too high on Veras or Bruney as legit 8th inning types, but I think this bullpen has enough depth with those guys and some possible breakouts for young guys to be a really positive part of this team.

  • Peedlum

    Off topic comment–Just want to say thanks for RAB for giving me something to do (and reporting such great news) while visiting the girlfriend’s red sux loving family in Bahston for the holidays.

  • AndrewYF

    I loved the bullpen last year, and it looks like I’ll love it again this year. So many options to mix and match, and an incredible amount of depth. I’m pretty sure the Yankees had only one or two losses when they were leading after 7 innings. That’s an impressive turnaround from years past.

    • steve (different one)

      that’s the thing, even if some of these guys regress, there are reinforcements that should be ready to go.

      Coke, Melancon, Albadalejo, maybe Sanchez, etc. Aceves will probably pitch in long relief at some point.

  • Julie

    As much as I love Mo, he’s not necessarily a given. As the Jets learned the hard way this year, no 39-year old player, not even a future Hall of Famer, is a given.

    • Nady Nation

      Favre showed plenty of signs of decline before this season (see: ’05, ’06 seasons). Mo has yet to do so

    • Matt

      I would disagree. Comparing the two is unfair to Rivera because in the last 14 seasons, River has had ONE, literally ONE, “down” year, and even that was a good year by most measures. Favre had shown signs of decline coming into 2007 and had a down year in ’08.

      I think a more favorable comparison for Favre is Moose–down year in 07, great year in 08 for Moose, down year in 06 for Favre, great year in 07.

      /pulling things out of my ass.

    • kunaldo

      favre is not the best ever at his position, while Mo is….on top of that, Mo has been ridiculously consistent, while favre(as has been said) has been showing signs of decline(07 was an outlier)

      • jsbrendog

        but favre has always been consistent, make lots of big plays, throw it away to the wrong team too much and when ti counts. consistently througout his career

        • Bo

          Comparing Mo to Favre?

          Yea not a real smart comparison.

          • Julie

            All I’m saying is at some point he is bound to start showing his age.

            • Julie

              And honestly, I hope I’m wrong. Nothing thrills me more than the sound of “Enter Sandman” in Yankee Stadium.

  • MattG

    For kicks, who do you think will be the ‘trusted’ guys come October? I am betting on Mo, Marte and Melancon, with Ramirez and Veras to back them up.

    I don’t get the Bruney love. I want to see relievers do three things: throw strikes, miss bats, and keep the ball in the park. Bruney misses bats fine (but not great), and doesn’t excel at the other two. I think it’s as simple as that. He’ll have nice stretches, but the walks and home runs will hurt him over the long haul.

    Veras throws more strikes, and Melancon looks like a beast. David Robertson looks like a beast, too. I wonder…

    • Ryan S.

      I wouldn’t feel comfortable betting on Melancon being one of our go-to guys yet, simply because he’s completely unproven in the major leagues … though it certainly would not surprise me to see him end up being a 7th or 8th inning guy by the end of the year.

      Top 3 guys for me, outside of Mo who is a given, are: Albaladejo, Marte, and Veras. I like Bruney a lot and he’s been pretty effective overall, but I’d like to see more of him before I rank him too highly. I could say the same thing about Albie, who has made even less major league appearances than Bruney, but I’ve always been more impressed with him and his final DWL line really caught my eye.

      • Balls Deep

        If Aceves isn’t starting; I like him as a 7th or 8th guy if Joba is starting…I like Albaladejo, but Robinson and Coke were great too.

        • Alan

          JOBA NEEDS TO BE IN THE BULLPEN!111!11!1!1!!!1!1!1!!

  • Bo

    Edwar Ramirez has way too many bad innings and games to be considered in any important context.

    • Balls Deep

      I wish they could keep Joba in the pen, but if they are not getting another starter; it’s gonna be Joba… and I am not a Ramirez fan; hot or cold; and that doesn’t work…more time in AAA

  • ryan

    Claggett could be a summer call up of one of these guys don’t workout.

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  • Adrian-Retire21

    12 BB!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    MO barely gives up 5 walks.Mo is Bruney or K-Rod.

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  • Corey

    Robertson had 4 wins and no loses. You are right that he was put in tough situations, but it seems that he is quite capable in close games. He kept them in a few extra inning games and never lost it for them.

  • yankeewanabe7

    melancon said his goal is to be on ml roster by end of spring training his career sugjest belive hiim he has knack on forfilling goals.

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