How many ways to say Yanks have a good bullpen?


The Yankees spent hundreds of millions of dollars on players outside the organization this winter to improve their starting rotation and their lineup. Yet they spent zero dollars on players outside the organization to improve the bullpen. For some, this might be cause for worry. We’ve seen the Yanks have some pretty bad bullpens in the past half decade, and one year with a solid pen might not do much to alleviate concern. However, as we’ve said repeatedly in this space, the Yankees have little to worry about with their 2009 relief pitchers.

The argument we most frequently employ is that the Yankees are going with the San Diego Padres method of building a bullpen: find as many capable arms as possible and make sure you have some flexibility with them. If some guys stumble out of the gate, they can be replaced by eager relievers in AAA. In other words, there are cases like Heath Bell out there, and you don’t find them by signing big-name relievers to fill your pen.

(Also, go me for picking three guys who put up above-average numbers out of the pen in 2008, including one monster year from Balfour.)

There’s another argument to be made for the Yanks’ above-average and underrated bullpen. Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Boxscore takes care of it for us. It revolves around FIP and Runs Above Replacement, so it covers the sabermetric ground where our argument does not. The bad news: Joba Chamberlain is on his list. The good news: The list also contains a number of players projected to have quality FIP numbers, as well as Runs Above Replacement figures.

As is always the case with BtB, the whole article is worth a read. Sky mentions that the Yankees had the best Runs Above Replacement total from their relievers in 2008, though they did pitch the most innings (higher is better in this situation). He then uses that league-leading figure to show how the bullpen is overrated. The team with the leading RAR in offense was Boston with 332, and the leader from the rotation was Toronto with 216. So the best rotation saved over three times as many runs above replacement as the best bullpen. Hmm…I wonder if we can apply this stat to any other argument…

Categories : Death by Bullpen
  • http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com Sky

    I don’t think Joba SHOULD be in the bullpen, but I definitely think there’s a chance he will be. I only projected him for 20 relief innings and if you think of it as a 1/3 chance he throws 60 relief innings and a 2/3 chance he throws zero relief innings, it works out.

    Mo is good, by the way.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Meh, perhaps you should throw a disclaimer on there before the sharks start circling. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Nice writeup, though.

      BTW, it’s Alfredo, not Alfred. He’s a Mexican Gangster and a swingman, he’s not Batman’s butler.

      • http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com Sky

        Thanks, fixed.

    • Mike Pop
    • Mike Pop

      “Mo is good, by the way”


      • Mike Pop

        Please excuse my ignorance.

  • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Next to leadership and clubhouse chemistry, talking heads harp on bullpen depth more than any other key to success… As us saber-geeks like to point out, bullpen depth is overrated and big name relievers tend to be over-priced.

    Harold Reynolds’s head just exploded.

    I love these two quotes, though, they tie a nice ideological line through three fairly bullshit concepts. I think Kalkman is right that B-Jobbers (who overemphasize the seen over the logical) probably overemphasize intangibles and chemistry as well. Most of their B-Jobber arguments are appeals to emotion anyway (He’s more “dominant” in that role, he’s more “trustworthy”, it’s a psychological weapon, etc. etc.)

    Baseball continues to be the least team-oriented of all the team sports. 99% of “chemistry” and “leadership” is hooey. If you’re talented at hitting or throwing the ball, you’ll be a positive influence on the team; if you’re not, you won’t be. That’s why guys like ARod and Manny aren’t clubhouse “cancers” but guys like Jose Guillen and Shea Hillenbrand are.

    Maybe we need to try to coin another phrase like B-Jobber to refer to people who overstate chemistry and intangibles…

    • Chip


      • jsbrendog


        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Krukers? Phillipsians? Lupican? (I like “lupican”, personally.)

          (btw, I was listening to the Brandon Tierney show on 1050 last week, and somebody called in with a straight face and said he knew how to “fix the Yankees”: fire Cashman and Girardi and replace them with Steve Phillips and Davey Johnson. He said they both know NYC and they’re both solid and underrated.

          Yes, he called Steve Phillips “solid and underrated” and thought Phillips would be an upgrade over Cashman. My head exploded.)

          • Thomas

            The common fan probably does underrate Phillips. Though Phillips is horrible GMs , the common fan seems to blame him for Kazmir trade, which as I am sure you know was done by Duquette. Also, he was GM when they signed Reyes and drafted Wright and Kazmir, but so much of that credit goes to the scouting director. However, that is the only way he is underrated, just about everything else he did with the ML club was a mistake.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

              He also tried to trade David Wright for Jose Cruz Jr. once upon a time. Luckily for the Mets, Toronto said no.

              • http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/profile.php?id=594331910&ref=name Jamal G.

                Please tell me Riccardi was the GM for Toronto at that time. Cot’s says Riccardi has been the GM since 2002, and Wright was drafted in 2001; so it had to have been him, right?

                • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  Riccardi was hired away from Billy Beane’s A’s on November 14, 2001. Since draft picks can’t be traded for a year after being drafted, unless I’m missing something, that proposed deal had to have been offered to Riccardi.

                • andrew

                  It looks dumb now (and is dumb), but at the time Cruz was coming off a great year (30/30) and was entering his prime. Hindsight is always 20/20… but damn how good would the AL East/Blue Jays be with David Wright…

                • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  Eh, he was a 30/30 guy, true, but a 30/30 guy who had just OBP’ed .323 and .326 the prior two years. He was a quality player, but not exactly a superstar in the making.

                • andrew

                  And Wright was a kid in A ball hitting .266, it wasn’t until 2 years later when he cut down on his strike outs till he became the Wright we know today. Oh well, it is what it is. The division would be way too good with the Blue Jays contending as well

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona

          Sorry man, didn’t mean to step on your toes.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona


    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Wouldn’t it be great if, in an interview, Bruney referred to HR as a B-Jobber? Somehow, someone HAS to make that happen!

  • Rich

    I think Kalkman’s analysis undervalues the new and improved (and much lighter) Bruney.

    Depending on Ramirez’s health, I’d like to see Veras traded (his command is too inconsistent). Either way, Melancon needs to play a big role from April on.

    • http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com Sky

      Which of these no-name guys have good enough reputations to return anything worthwhile in trade?

      • Chip

        Marte and Coke have value based on the fact that they’re lefties. Melancon has good value because he’s ridiculously good. Of course, other than that, they’re just spare parts. They’ll just get sent back to AAA long before they’re traded just because there’s almost zero return on a 27 year old middle reliever

      • Rich

        Given how variable the success of relievers can be year to year, a guy with Veras’s velo may interest teams in the NL. Would you get a ton back? No, but that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t value.

        • Rich

          Last sentence should read:

          “…couldn’t get value back.”

          • steve (different one)

            i would guess that you would get more value trading an effective reliever at the deadline than you would now.

            you are gambling that Veras holds it together for another half season, but the reward might be worth it.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        Yeah I guess no one in baseball has a way of watching other players play the game. If they could only come up with a way to “scout” rival teams. Someone should look into that.

  • Chip

    Girardi said this morning that Coke is heading to the bullpen rather than being a starter. I think this means he more than likely makes the team right? That means the bullpen has four spots solid


    and another spot is going to the long reliever (a must if you’re going to limit Joba in the 5th starter role). That leaves two spots for Veras/Edwar/Robertson/Melancon/Hacker/Sanchez/Alabalejo/ect and I’d almost think that it’s Veras and Edwar’s spots to lose based on their solid season last year.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Yeah, if they’re abandoning the Coke as a Starter game, I’d say our master bullpen depth chart should look like this (with the opening-day cutoff line at 7):

      1.) Mo
      2.) Marte
      3.) Bruney
      4.) Edwar
      5.) Coke
      6.) Veras
      7.) Aceves
      8.) Albaladejo
      9.) Robertson
      10.) Giese
      11.) Hungry Hungry Humberto
      12.) Melancon
      13.) Steven Jackson
      14.) J.B. Cox
      15.) Mike Dunn

      • Chris

        Giese is more likely to make the team as the long man than Aceves. Aceves will likely be a starter in Scranton. Also, I believe Melancon would be ahead of Humberto.

        Of course, this whole depth chart could be completely turned on it’s head by one good (or bad) week in spring training.

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Giese is more likely to make the team as the long man than Aceves. Aceves will likely be a starter in Scranton.

          But why? Neither of them are exactly young prospects anymore; Aceves just turned 26 and has plenty of AAA worthy experience from his Mexican League tenure. It’s not like he’s got lots of projectability left and we’d be ruining his future by using him sporadically as a long-man/bullpen option, Al Aceves probably is now what he will always be. I don’t see much reason to keep him in Scranton “developing”, I’d rather have him with the big-league club contributing and spelling Joba.

          Aceves >>> Giese, so he gets the last spot in the pen IMO. Hughes and Kennedy stay down to stay on their growth tracks. Aceves is likely at the end of his growth track.

          • J.R.

            Giese has shown that he can be an effective swingman. I’d rather have Aceves pitching out of the AAA rotation for depth purposes and Giese as the longman in the bronx.

            If Aceves pitches as the longman for the Yankees then we lose significant depth.

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              How did Giese show that he was an effective swingman? By being used as a swingman. Aceves can be used the same way.

              I fail to see how keeping one up and one down alters the “depth” in any way. No matter which one is in the Bronx and which one is in Scranton, one will be the 7th man in the bullpen, primarily relieving and occasionally spot-starting, and the other will be in the AAA rotation waiting for emergency purposes.

              The better of the two should be in the Bronx; that’s Aceves.

              • andrew

                You might be right, but then getting rid of Wright makes very little sense if Giese is going to sit in the minors.

                • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  Not if Wright was a worse pitcher than Giese who didn’t project to get much better.

                • andrew

                  Both Giese and Aceves have similar minor league stats and project to be similar enough in the majors that the difference would be negligible, yet one of them (Aceves) has some upside, however limited it may be. He has a better chance of reaching that upside getting regular work in the minor leagues, while Giese is almost certain to not improve at all.

        • http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com Sky

          True. But it won’t really matter. Most of those guys project to be around 3.75 ERA guys. And with those few innings, it’s a wash.

  • pat

    According to fatman scoop coke has been told he will be a reliever. We’re now looking at the prospects of our whole bullpen throwing 95+ (except for the longman) and two of which are lefties. I don’t think too many teams in mlb can match that. Imo with the shoulder soreness edwar might be the first guy voted off the island in favor of melancon or cokemeister.

  • jsbrendog

    i just hope we can have another committe that has such a cool name as quangormo…minus the overuse and such of course.

    • steve (different one)


      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


  • Januz

    People in the media are obsessed with Joba in the pen. They forget several basic things. 1: If the Yankees are in the playoffs, they have the option of putting him there (Just like what Tampa did with David Price). 2: There are in-house options such as Bruney, Melancon, Robertson, and maybe even Sanchez or Cox that are available. 2a: If they fail like Ian Kennedy, I am sure they can find middle inning relievers available to trade for. 3: The very reason why you spend big bucks on Sabathia (And to a lesser extent, Burnett), is to have a horse that will get you right to Mariano (Or at worse through 7 innings constantly) without needling middle inning relievers.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      1: If the Yankees are in the playoffs, they have the option of putting him there (Just like what Tampa did with David Price).

      And, yet, if the Rays had started David Price in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series instead of the drastically inferior Andy Sonnanstine, maybe they don’t give up 6 runs in the first 5 innings and go on to lose 10-2, dropping them into an insurmountable 3-1 hole. Maybe Price pitches 6-7 strong innings and they win and tie the Series 2-2. Maybe they should have put Price in the postseason rotation where he belonged and demoted Sonnnanstine to the bullpen instead.

      It’s not hard to imagine how the Rays using one of their best pitchers in the bullpen, even during the crucial playoffs, was a horrible mistake that cost them the championship. Similarly, the only way we should entertain the notion of putting Joba in the bullpen for the playoffs is if he is our 5th best starter and our other options to start are all markedly better than he is. Somehow, I doubt it.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        Only the Yankees make mistakes.

      • http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com Sky

        Vastly inferior Sonnanstine?

        Price has nice upside, but comparing his performance in a few relief innings where he only threw two pitches to Sonny’s inflated ERA (his skills imply better) isn’t fair.

        I’ll take bets on Sonny posting a better FIP than Price in 2009…

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I’ll take bets on Sonny posting a better FIP than Price in 2009…

          You’d probably be right, but that’s likely due to Price’s age/inexperience/growing pains, not due to Sonnanstine being in any way a better pitcher than Price.

          If I asked you “who do you want for the next year/five years/ten years, it’s Price and you know it. If I asked you who you’d rather have starting one game that you have to win, it’s Price and you know it. Obviously it’s not a perfect analogy because Price is just a pup and it’s unlikely they’d throw him in the fire like that in that situation, where as starting Sonnanstine is dancing with the one that brung ya. But the point is, putting excellent starters in relatively unimportant roles while starting merely good starters instead isn’t a great recipe for success.

          The Yankees could put Joba back in the pen for the playoffs, but only for innings-restrictions reasons. Virtually any other scenario is a bad idea. If we reach October and all five starters are all healthy and effective, if Joba’s pitching like an ace and Andy Pettitte is pitching like a #5, Andy should get bumped into a relief role and not the other way around. I’ve got no problem with starting Joba and turning Andy into a LOOGY. It’s smart baseball. Your best 4 starters should be your postseason rotation.

          • Rob in CT

            And I think that the innings cap has to be tossed for the playoffs. I want them to be careful with Joba, sure, but at that point you gotta put the best guy on the mound. Ideally, the team does well enough that they can keep Joba slightly under the cap and still be sure of making the playoffs. That’s probably not happening, though, ’cause the division is just sick.

            The only reasons Joba shouldn’t be in the playoff rotation are injury or ineffectiveness. Otherwise, you want him on that mound. You need him on that mound.

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              The Yankees use words like competitiveness; championships; salaries. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent pursuing something. Bud Selig uses them as a punchline. We have neither the time nor the inclination to explain ourselves to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very revenue stream we provide and then questions the manner in which we provide it. We would rather you just said “thank you,” and went on your way.

              • Sweet Dick Willie

                ICWYDT – many great quotes from that movie -

                “if you haven’t gotten a blowjob from a superior officer, well, you’re just letting the best in life pass you by. ” and

                “You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in that faggoty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some fucking courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely.”

          • http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com Sky

            I’m with you. Price will be better in a year or two. But last year? I’d go with Sonny. It’s not fair to pick one bad start of his. Give him another chance, and he likely would do better.

  • Will

    when I come to the site, this is the only post being shown… is anyone else having this issue?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      The site’s loading a little slow, but it fully loads up for me. If it persists, send a screen shot to one (or all) of us and we’ll look into it.

  • Bo

    We have some good options out there and in the minors but I wouldn’t be gloating just yet about the pen. We do have a 39 yr old closer coming off shoulder surgery. Even if hes God, Jr. Marte and Bruney have yet to show they can handle a full season of high leverage duty. In Bruneys case the 6th inn is completely diff than the 8th no matter what stat geeks say. And NY is not Pittsburgh for Marte.

  • Reggie C.

    Who knew Mo was a pool shark?


    • Sweet Dick Willie

      There’s a reason he’s referred to as God.

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