Rays outlook in 2011 tied to pen overhaul

Posted: February 3, 2011 in AL East, Bullpen, Rays

A delightful core strength over the past few seasons has been the Rays pitching. In the early Rays years,  Tampa Bay struggled mightily in the pitching arena.  What the Rays organization has done the past few year in developing major league starting pitching talent has been remarkable. Moreover, the young arms that have come over in trades have helped build this organization into a winner.

With the official Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon signings, the franchise now has in their possession  a formidable offense  to supplement around key hitters Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist.

I understand that someone had to be the odd man out with Jeremy Hellickson ready to move into the starting rotation. It makes total sense in moving a player such as Garza who could bring back good talent on the open market.

However, what scares me immensely is the relief pitching. In Joe Maddon’s first few years with the Rays,  the bullpen struggled and cost them ball games.  The bullpen was essential in the successful run we have had the past few years.

The following table illustrates how the Rays success over the past 7 years has been tied to relief pitching. The Inherited Score (ISO) %  statistic tells you about the relief pitching whereby it indicates the inherited percentage of runners on  base when pitcher entered game and who subsequently scored

Yr AL East Rank Runs Allowed ISO%
2004 4th 842 33%
2005 5th 936 35%
2006 5th 856 40%
2007 5th 944 41%
2008 1st 671 25%
2009 3rd 754 31%
2010 1st 649 27%


I can not state the difficulty level in comprising a bullpen. The idea that the Rays can just piece together a few undervalued arms and build them into a successful bullpen is quite risky.   I wish I could say that building the bullpen would be as easy as refreshing the talent and plug and play.

The way I see it the best case scenario is like what happened in 2009 when the team operated with a closer by committee.  If you can’t protect the leads, it’s going to cost you games. Its classic seeing that the years the Rays had a dominant closer, they gave up under 700 runs and won the division.

The realistic best scenario for the bullpen is that they begin developing Jake McGee for 2012, or even give him the role in 2010. As I have said time after time, closers are not born they are made.  Moreover, the system has a bunch of live arms in the system that could contribute in 2011 in the bullpen. For example, Archer who was obtained in the Garza deal could be another important arm to call up for a spot the bullpen.

In summary, I wish the Rays had saved at least some money for the bullpen. I see this as a transition year for the bullpen and 750 runs or more given up is a realistic number.  That number says fourth place.

  1. HarborGal says:

    Who was our dominant closer in 2008?

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