Building a Bullpen, 2019 edition

joe dokes

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Hey man, I know you often write aggressive posts in general so I don’t actually give a fuck. But you’re just wrong and silly with the pants wetting stuff.
Pants-wetting is the first term that comes to mind over a concern whether the team will psychologically fold like a cheap suit if the bullpen blows some games. That's whats wrong and silly. This is the same group of players that wept when Eovaldi pitched 6 in relief the world series. I dont see them suddenly going all Schilling-with-a-towel-over-his-head if Barnes, Brewer or Brasier have shaky moments.
 

E5 Yaz

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Pants-wetting is the first term that comes to mind over a concern whether the team will psychologically fold like a cheap suit if the bullpen blows some games. That's whats wrong and silly. This is the same group of players that wept when Eovaldi pitched 6 in relief the world series. I dont see them suddenly going all Schilling-with-a-towel-over-his-head if Barnes, Brewer or Brasier have shaky moments.
That's one sternly written response, dude
 

TheoShmeo

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Pants-wetting is the first term that comes to mind over a concern whether the team will psychologically fold like a cheap suit if the bullpen blows some games. That's whats wrong and silly. This is the same group of players that wept when Eovaldi pitched 6 in relief the world series. I dont see them suddenly going all Schilling-with-a-towel-over-his-head if Barnes, Brewer or Brasier have shaky moments.
Yeah, and you repeatedly have trained in on one aspect and overstated it.

The point is that having a weak pen, if they have one, will have many bad results. Losing games is clearly the biggest negative. Not even close. Divisions or playoff spots often come down to a game or two and the margin might be just that for the 2019 Red Sox.

I’ve also noted that losing lots of games that were in hand because of the pen could have an affect on morale. The 2018 Sox out performed by 5 games their win expectancy and I believe part of that is luck and part is that they had a really good clubhouse. A leaky pen is the kind of thing that COULD have an impact on what was a positive last year.

If saying that — which I think is not particularly novel — is pants wetting, then pass the freaking Depends, tough guy. I’m a size medium.
 
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joe dokes

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Mejia got roughed up again so his chances of making the club are probably slimmer. Brewer absolutely deserves a roster spot.
Fortunately, Mejia is only on a minor league deal. if nothing else, he can spend time at AAA to see if there's anything there without affecting the roster.
Whole lotta B's: Brewer Barnes Brasier. Only one more to go to match the hitters: Betts Benintendi Bradley and Bogaerts (unless you count Brian, Bobby and Brandon).
 

Adrian's Dome

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I don't think the pen overachieved last year. I think it performed kind of average. I think they won 108 games because the offense opened up a lot of close games in the 6th-8th innings and prevented some losses that a lot of normal teams and seasons would have.

There's a reason no Sox team had won 100 games in most of our lifetime. It's really fucking hard. To expect them to do it again is crazy IMO. Again, I'd take 95 wins today if I had the chance.
Everyone likes to forget this team completely took their foot off the gas once the division was in hand. They were barely even trying leading up to the playoffs, and this year's team is not significantly different.

The expectation that they're just going to radically drop 13 games and 95 wins would be at the reasonable end of the spectrum is more of the same overly pessimistic woe-is-me bullshit, kind of like how the Yankees were going to dominate us all last year (omg how will we pitch to Stanton/Judge/Sanchez,) our bullpen was going to kill us in the playoffs, there's no way Sale is healthy, etc etc etc. It's the same tired story, kind of like how this entire offseason has been nothing but consistent crying about our bullpen. I'll see you guys when we win the division by 5+ again.
 

YTF

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One thing I'm interested in seeing this season vs last season is how much the other teams in baseball may have improved. The Sox were great last season, but the overall competition in baseball was putrid. In the A.L. 7 of the 15 teams had losing records and in the N.L. 6 out of 15 teams played under .500 ball and 3 others had just 82 wins. It's hard to imagine that this many teams will be that bad again this season.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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I am confused by your post. Almost half the teams in the AL lost more than half of their games and you think that's a lot?

Have you compared that number with prior years? Bet you find that overall about half the teams lose more than they win, on average, every year.
 

jon abbey

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One thing I'm interested in seeing this season vs last season is how much the other teams in baseball may have improved. The Sox were great last season, but the overall competition in baseball was putrid. In the A.L. 7 of the 15 teams had losing records and in the N.L. 6 out of 15 teams played under .500 ball and 3 others had just 82 wins. It's hard to imagine that this many teams will be that bad again this season.
I think the opposite actually, at least as it applies to the AL. I’d guess that the 12 non-BOS/HOU/NYY AL teams will be collectively worse than they were last year. For starters, OAK and SEA won 186 games between them, that could easily be 20 lower this year.

I thought it would take 105 wins to win the AL East coming into last season and that ended up a bit high (BOS of course won 108, but 101 would have been enough), but this year it might actually take 105 or more.
 

nattysez

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So:
Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier
Colten Brewer
Tyler Thornburg
Hector Velázquez
Heath Hembree
Brian Johnson
Brandon Workman

I'll again mention that the Giants have some interesting bullpen arms they'll likely be looking to trade by early July (if not sooner).
 
Feb 6, 2018
1,386
Florida

So:
Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier
Colten Brewer
Tyler Thornburg
Hector Velázquez
Heath Hembree
Brian Johnson
Brandon Workman

I'll again mention that the Giants have some interesting bullpen arms they'll likely be looking to trade by early July (if not sooner).
Thornburg will be DFAd by June. Would much rather see Poyner.
 

Plympton91

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Oct 19, 2008
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So:
Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier
Colten Brewer
Tyler Thornburg
Hector Velázquez
Heath Hembree
Brian Johnson
Brandon Workman

I'll again mention that the Giants have some interesting bullpen arms they'll likely be looking to trade by early July (if not sooner).
Positively frightening. It wouldn’t surprise me if none of them except Barnes have an ERA below 4 or a WHIP below 1.25.
 

simplicio

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They announced the Boston pitchers yesterday. Hernandez will start the season in AA.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I get why they do this but sometimes they stick with guys as starters too long. He's always been projected to be more of a bullpen arm.
He's also 22 and has barely worked above A-ball regardless of role. Absolutely nothing wrong with him starting the season in the Sea Dogs' rotation rather than the Red Sox bullpen.
 

Sam Ray Not

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OT: Is there a reason we're using the super-generic "Hernandez" instead of the wonderfully unique "Darwinzon"? Same number of key strokes. Seems a bit like calling Jaylen "Brown."
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
They announced the Boston pitchers yesterday. Hernandez will start the season in AA.
Ahh, missed that. Oh well.

I get why they do this but sometimes they stick with guys as starters too long. He's always been projected to be more of a bullpen arm.
It's interesting to me that you hardly ever see anymore what used to be a common practice, namely breaking in emerging starters by bringing them up to the majors as long/middle relievers. I guess that's because bullpen roles have gotten more specialized.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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It's interesting to me that you hardly ever see anymore what used to be a common practice, namely breaking in emerging starters by bringing them up to the majors as long/middle relievers. I guess that's because bullpen roles have gotten more specialized.
That and the premium on service time. The Earl Weaver approach of breaking guys in in the bullpen was easy when the reserve clause made it so there was never a rush to get the guy into the rotation. Once the guy hits the big league roster now, the clock starts ticking. If they've only got six years with him, they'd rather they get six years worth of starts if they see him as a starter. The result being that they'd rather he start in AA or AAA than accrue service time sitting in the bullpen.
 

BaseballJones

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I know it's "just" spring training, but here are some spring pitching stats for bullpen guys (as of this morning's ESPN stat page, which may not include yesterday's game yet)....

Matt Barnes - 7.20 era, 2.00 whip, 16.2 k/9
Ryan Brasier - 4.50 era, 1.50 whip, 13.5 k/9
Colten Brewer - 3.60 era, 1.50 whip, 9.0 k/9
Tyler Thornburg - 10.50 era, 2.67 whip, 9.0 k/9
Hector Velázquez - 7.84 era, 1.94 whip, 7.0 k/9
Heath Hembree - 9.82 era, 2.18 whip, 14.7 k/9
Brian Johnson - 7.59 era, 1.97 whip, 8.4 k/9
Brandon Workman - 4.50 era, 1.38 whip, 18.0 k/9

Again, "just" spring training, but my god those numbers are impossibly bad. When 3.60 era, 1.50 whip represents by FAR your best pitching line...holy crap.

The good news is that those stats really can't be that bad in the regular season!
 

BornToRun

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Those numbers are meaningless because if they weren’t, I’d be focused on all of those pretty K/9 rates. Barnes is much better than he’s given credit for and, by some measures, was better than Dirty Craig last year. Brasier acquitted himself exceptionally well last season and even if he regresses, he’s shown some very valuable skill sets such as velocity and control. Hembree is a solid middle relief arm with consistently good strikeout numbers and Thornburg is a big question mark but has talent that he’s flashed in the big leagues.

Is it 2017 Kimbrel and 2006 Papelbon bridging the gap to 2013 Koji? Of course not, but there’s real talent there and bullpens are always a volatile asset so it’s hard to say with any real degree of certainty what things are going to end up looking like a month or two from now.
 

BaseballJones

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Those numbers are meaningless because if they weren’t, I’d be focused on all of those pretty K/9 rates. Barnes is much better than he’s given credit for and, by some measures, was better than Dirty Craig last year. Brasier acquitted himself exceptionally well last season and even if he regresses, he’s shown some very valuable skill sets such as velocity and control. Hembree is a solid middle relief arm with consistently good strikeout numbers and Thornburg is a big question mark but has talent that he’s flashed in the big leagues.

Is it 2017 Kimbrel and 2006 Papelbon bridging the gap to 2013 Koji? Of course not, but there’s real talent there and bullpens are always a volatile asset so it’s hard to say with any real degree of certainty what things are going to end up looking like a month or two from now.
I thought about the k/9 rates but then I considered that a lot of times, these pitchers are facing guys who will never ever see the major leagues, which is why the k/9 rates are astronomically good.

But then.....

Why, against those same minor league-caliber hitters, are their ERAs and WHIPs so godawful? In the beginning of spring training, I'm sure it's just a lot of getting loose and trying out new approaches, but as spring training winds down, they are, I would think, working on more real game-like situations. So the k/9 numbers don't encourage me as much as the ERA and WHIP numbers scare me.
 

Bread of Yaz

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I wouldn't say the numbers posted by Baseball Jones are "impossibly bad," as he contends, given small sample sizes, the fact that pitchers take longer to get ready in ST compared to hitters, the possibility that some are perhaps working on new pitches, and the like. A quick scan of spring training stats shows some very poor performances by good-excellent relievers:

Ottavino: 1.92/8.48
Giles: 2.14/7.71
Boxberger: 2.57/11.57
McHugh: 2.47/15.88

But I also wouldn't conclude that they're "meaningless," as Born to Run suggests. We can't point to a single reliever that's pitching well right now; there were no strong breakthroughs by minor leaguers who claimed a roster spot; and Kimbrel is gone.
 

BaseballJones

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I think that’s my concern. It’s not that one guy is having a horrible spring. It’s that EVERY SINGLE GUY currently slated to be in the Sox’ bullpen on opening day has had a horrible spring.
 

benhogan

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I haven't followed the Sox this Spring, been too busy watching the Celtic tire fire. Since that won't last much longer, I need to up my Sox game.

I've always liked the idea of trying out as many "AAAA arms, starters turned to relievers, young minor league studs, youngsters w/options-Paw. shuttle" out of the Bullpen to start the season to see if you can find some diamonds over the first 2 months of the season (see Brasier-2018). Then make trades according to need in June. It's going to be a very bumpy ride but its probably one of the shrewder ways to find value.
 
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chrisfont9

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He's also 22 and has barely worked above A-ball regardless of role. Absolutely nothing wrong with him starting the season in the Sea Dogs' rotation rather than the Red Sox bullpen.
Isn't this about getting more reps, building strength, dealing with different situations, going to secondary pitches more? In other words, just full-on development, even if his major league role will be bullpen. All of those things will make him a better reliever than pitching half as many innings (or less) under repetitive circumstances. It also keeps all long-term options on the table for his career. Maybe he really will end up a starter?
 

chrisfont9

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I haven't followed the Sox this Spring, been too busy watching the Celtic tire fire. Since that won't last much longer, I need to up my Sox game.

I've always liked the idea of trying out as many "AAAA arms, starters turned to relievers, young minor league studs, youngsters w/options-Paw. shuttle" out of the Bullpen to start the season to see if you can find some diamonds over the first 2 months of the season (see Brasier-2017). Then make trades according to need in June. It's going to be a very bumpy ride but its probably one of the shrewder ways to find value.
This 100%.
 

bosox79

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Isn't this about getting more reps, building strength, dealing with different situations, going to secondary pitches more? In other words, just full-on development, even if his major league role will be bullpen. All of those things will make him a better reliever than pitching half as many innings (or less) under repetitive circumstances. It also keeps all long-term options on the table for his career. Maybe he really will end up a starter?
Yes, but if you think he's going to end up in the bullpen and could possibly help this year, getting the reps as a reliever in AA or AAA could be more valuable.

It's also not as simple as more reps and more innings. Betances struggled mightily as a starter in the minors because he couldn't consistently repeat his delivery. When he moved to the bullpen, pitching multiple times a week instead of once every 5 days helped him do just that.

He just turned 22, so giving him another chance to start isn't the end of the world. I just hope if he doesn't light the world on fire as a starter, they aren't slow to move him to a bullpen role.

I wasn't advocating for him to be on the big league club in anyway. Just possibly being used as a bullpen arm in the minors for 2 inning stints a few times a week or w/e.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
I think that’s my concern. It’s not that one guy is having a horrible spring. It’s that EVERY SINGLE GUY currently slated to be in the Sox’ bullpen on opening day has had a horrible spring.
Actually I think the fact that every single guy has been bad* is more reassuring than worrying, as it seems to increase the likelihood that those numbers can be explained by something in the team-wide approach to ST pitching that works against in-game run prevention.

If it was just a couple of guys with bad ERAs, and others were fine, I'd be more inclined to worry that the bad guys were bad because they were bad.

*Not so much Brewer, really, but the larger point stands.
 

chrisfont9

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It's also not as simple as more reps and more innings. Betances struggled mightily as a starter in the minors because he couldn't consistently repeat his delivery. When he moved to the bullpen, pitching multiple times a week instead of once every 5 days helped him do just that.
Hm, that's interesting. Well if they come up with anything specific like that, then I could see the dilemma. Hopefully he succeeds as a starter, but his bb/9 has been alarming so far in three A-ball seasons... and as a reliever in the AFL.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Sox need a cost controlled starter to replace Porcello, assuming they want to pay Xander. Finding one within the org sure seems to make sense to me so I would try everyone at SP in the minors and maybe Hernandez will be the Fittest choice to Survive.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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I've been under the impression that pitchers use spring training outings to work on pitches, situational pitching, mechanics, and all that. So guys getting boxed around is, on paper, concerning, but if it's because they were working out the kinks without a whole lot of thought to strategy or getting guys out, it doesn't seem so frightening. Also, there's probably no book on half the guys they face, so I'm guessing part of it is trial and error and learning the hard way that Johnny Rookie Ball can hit the straight heat or can handle a lazy curveball.

I may be wrong. I think the way tonight and tomorrow's games go will give a lot more information on the vibe of this pitching staff.
 

Plympton91

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Barnes gave up 4 runs in his first outing and has been fine since. I wouldn’t worry about him at all. Except that making him the relief ace / closer means he can’t also be the top set up man. And nobody else is qualified for either of those jobs.

Similarly, Hembree Workman and Johnson have enough of a track record as good pitchers in low leverage situations that you can count on them to remain way better than average mop up men.

Brasier needs to show that he really went from a Japanese league minor leaguer to major league quality set up man in one off season at age 30. I’ll need to be convinced by at least another half season of success.

Brewer has proven what he can in AAA. He needs to show it can translate to the majors. I see him as basically another Workman. Good guy to have around as depth, not a disaster if he has to pitch, not an ace.

Velasquez is AAAA insurance, so doesn’t matter much. Thornburg is toast.
 

SouthernBoSox

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Barnes gave up 4 runs in his first outing and has been fine since. I wouldn’t worry about him at all. Except that making him the relief ace / closer means he can’t also be the top set up man. And nobody else is qualified for either of those jobs.

Similarly, Hembree Workman and Johnson have enough of a track record as good pitchers in low leverage situations that you can count on them to remain way better than average mop up men.

Brasier needs to show that he really went from a Japanese league minor leaguer to major league quality set up man in one off season at age 30. I’ll need to be convinced by at least another half season of success.

Brewer has proven what he can in AAA. He needs to show it can translate to the majors. I see him as basically another Workman. Good guy to have around as depth, not a disaster if he has to pitch, not an ace.

Velasquez is AAAA insurance, so doesn’t matter much. Thornburg is toast.
I actually think the best way to move forward is have Barnes and Braiser pitch the 8th and 9th based on the match ups. Braiser has the stuff and is super aggressive against guys. I actually wouldn't mind just making Braiser the closer and floating Barnes in the 7th and 8th. I have a lot of confidence in those two. Barnes really figured out tunneling his fastball and curve last year with great success. Braiser's and Barnes stuff looks really good this spring as well.

I think the guy you are unfairly capping here is Brewer. He has a dynamic curveball and high velocity cutter. He probably has the highest ceiling of any arm in the pen outside Barnes. They have already played with his mound positioning and like the adjustment so far.

If i had to guess its going to be Barnes, Braiser, and Brewer in high lev by the end of April. Workmand and Hembree in middle relief.

I really wish they had signed a couple vet's to the fill the middle. I just hate the depth here. Need to pray Lakins really is for real in a relief only role.
 

Plympton91

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The reason I can’t get that excited about Brewer is because he still has options and yet the Padres were willing to trade him for relatively old for the league AA second baseman who was hurt most of last season.

That doesn’t strike me as the pedigree of an ace reliever.
 

DanoooME

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The reason I can’t get that excited about Brewer is because he still has options and yet the Padres were willing to trade him for relatively old for the league AA second baseman who was hurt most of last season.

That doesn’t strike me as the pedigree of an ace reliever.
I think part of it is the Padres have like 10 guys like Brewer on their 40-man and they realistically can only keep so many.
 

SouthernBoSox

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The reason I can’t get that excited about Brewer is because he still has options and yet the Padres were willing to trade him for relatively old for the league AA second baseman who was hurt most of last season.

That doesn’t strike me as the pedigree of an ace reliever.
But have you seen him pitch? He has a true blue swing and miss breaking ball (It looks better than last year based on the video I can find. Was more get me over last year) and upper echelon cutter velocity. I think it's important to look at what he is now, rather than what he was acquired for.

If he can control his cutter, which is admittedly a big if, he's going to get a lot of outs. honestly, I see him as either being fantastic or flaming out. I don't think there is much in between with him. The tools are there though.