Hey guys, it’s EJ(no, it’s Michael Jordan). Right now, instead of talking about the game (which I will do tomorrow after the M’s-Yanks game, in case you were worrying), I’ve decided to do a recap blog. I want to bring to you, my readers, the best of the best when it comes to bullpen arms.
You can’t underrate the importance of a strong bullpen. If you’re a good team, you only need your starter to go 6 decent innings for you and leave with the lead. If he goes farther, then that’s only a plus. But if you are really a good team, you can trust that the guys you’re about to bring in in relief are going to get the job done for you and hold your ballclub’s lead. Therefore, here are the cream of the crop in the bullpen. The best guys in their respective roles, all teaming up for one bullpen. If this is your bullpen, then you can trust your starter to only go 6. Here they are, the ultimate bullpen.
His fastball is not 100 mph on the gun. He doesn’t have a phenomenal 12-6 curveball, a wicked slider, a devastating off speed pitch, or a power sinker. What he has is the sheer ability to pitch: he knows what to do when he takes the hill. He has 5 pitches and he knows where and when to locate all of them, he holds runners well, and he’s not afraid to challenge you with a fastball in the zone. He’s aggressive, smart and has stellar poise, and that is reflected in his 142 ERA+ and his WHIP, which is impressively 6 points under 1. Oh yeah, and he can go 3 innings.
Here’s a guy who throws 3 good pitches: a solid fastball with unimpressive velocity but good action on it, a good, biting slider, and a decent changeup. His command is not the best, as he’s surrendered 20 walks. But he has given batters fits. His ERA? 1.94, translating to a 216 ERA+. He’s struck out 52 batters in 41.2 innings pitched, and only 26 base hits in that span of innings pitched. He’s done so much for the Florida Marlins, and he doesn’t get much attention for it, either.
You talk about giving hitters fits… Michael Wuertz, the 6’3″ right hander in the Oakland A’s’ 2009 bullpen does it. His ERA is nice, at 3.21, a 129 ERA+, but what he has is maybe the best slide piece in the game. Wuertz’s slider has hard, tumbling, downward and sideward action, and he compliments it with an above average heater. How good is this slider of the 30-year old Wuertz? Well, he’s struck out 70 batters in 56 innings pitched, and plus, his WHIP is only 1.071. You always need a guy who can come in and ring up a batter, and that’s what Michael Wuertz provides.
32-year old Matt Thornton might be a southpaw, but he is not to be used as a lefty on lefty matchup pitcher. He has a high octane fastball, and strong secondary pitches. That explains his 11.2 strikeouts per 9 innings ratio, and his 2.49 ERA(188 ERA+), and his 6.9 hits per 9 innings pitched, and his 1.066 WHIP. Thornton has been, since 2008, an incredibly tough pitcher to face out of the Chicago White Sox.
Yes. Mitch Stetter. Here you have one of the hardest lefty on lefty matchups in the game. He throws from a side arm angle, he has a solid slider, and he is so deceptive to left handed hitters. He, at one point, had a 11 consecutive outs made via the strikeout, and that comes from good stuff. And while a 3.75 earned run average might not be redonculous, it’s certainly not bad, and you can’t doubt how tough it is to face the Brewers’ southpaw if you’re in the left handed batters box.
8th Inning Set Up Man
If you’re down 4-2 against the Yankees in the 8th, chances are you’re taking your hacks against Phillip James Hughes, the 23 year old right hander and 2004 first round draft pick from the Bombers. He’ll come at you with a fastball as hard as 96 miles per hour, and he’ll couple it with a tight slider and a slow, 12-6 curveball that can be absolutely nasty. Hughes, a native of California, has a 1.35 ERA out of the ‘pen this year, and he’s struck out 44 batters in 33.1 innings as a relief pitcher. Not only that, but the former top prospect has put up a baffling 0.870 WHIP for the Bombers in this set up role, and he’s quickly become just the guy you don’t want to face late in games.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m biased, putting 3 Yankees relievers on this list. But the one guy out of the 3 Bombers I’ve put in this bullpen that you can least doubt is easily this man, Mariano Rivera. When he comes in to Metallica’s Enter Sandman, jogging in from the bullpen to the mound at Yankee Stadium, your confidence takes an enormous drop. It’s been like that since the mid-90s, and even at the age of 40, it is still very much like that. He leads the leag ue in saves with 34, and he’s only blown one save. He has put up a 1.98 ERA, and he has a WHIP of 0.92. There is nobody better than him in 9th inning save situations: you can say your Papelbons and your Nathans and your K-Rods, they’re all fine and dandy, but Mariano is simply the best closer in the game, and you’d have to be pretty ignorant not to think so. Yes, I said it.
Stay positive, Yankee fans.
-EJ the Kid From New York
Okay, so we’re heading into spring training, as you all know. It’s hard not to contain your excitement. To see the new acquisitions and the long tenured guys take the field… it’s just a good feeling. Hopefully, I’ll be able to attend more than just one ballgame this season.
For those of you that do not know, I am currently doing a series of blogs in which I break down certain sections of the 09 Yankees ballclub. Today, I’m introducing a rating system for each section of the ballclub. It’s a 0-5 rating. I didn’t give ratings for the catchers and the bench… which is SO TOTALLY UNFAIR, clearly. So here they are:
Catchers: 2 out of 5
Bench: 3.5 out of 5
Okay, now time for a necessary part of the team, the bullpen. In this day in age, a good bullpen means that you’ll give your starters more wins and you won’t blow their leads when exiting a ballgame. A good bullpen gives your team a chance to win if the starting pitcher had a tough outing. Let’s take a look at the 2009 Yankee bullpen. By the way, Harold Reynolds says that the Yankees still have trouble giving the ball to Mariano at the end of the game… I somewhat agree with that, it’s not a flawless bullpen, it has made several mistakes and has blown leads. But it’s not bad. Not bad to the point of needing to put Joba in the bullpen… that’s a whole different conversation, however.
Onto the bullpen!
Long Reliever: Phil Hughes
He’s supposed to be a starter, but with his struggles and injuries the Yankees are pretty much putting him in the bullpen for a long relief spot this year. He has great potential, and I’d rather have him starting at this point, but I’ll take him in a bullpen spot.
Middle Reliever: Brian Bruney
Bruney was great in his time last year, which was at the beginning and end of the year. He missed most of the season with an injury to the Lisfranc joint of his right foot. He had a 242 ERA+ in 34.1 innings. He has great stuff; an electric fastball and a sharp slider. The 6’3″ 235 pounder had a significant weight loss prior to the 08 season, and he looks to keep up his success from the bullpen in 2008 in a larger, injury-free campaign.
LOOGY: Phil Coke
“It was only 14.2 innings”, several people say. It was, indeed, a very small sample size, and it wouldn’t be smart to put a lot of trust into this guy. However, he’s shown very good stuff; a nice fastball and a hard slider, and he could continue to be effective in a pen spot from 09. The minor league starter got called up in September of 08 and had a 0.61 ERA in the afformentioned innings out of the bullpen. He could be a very good lefty-lefty guy for us this season.
Middle Reliever: Jose Veras
Jose Enger Veras came out of the blue and was very effective for the New York Yankees in 2008. Veras is a tall Dominican righty who is known in the Yankees pen for the speed on his fastball. He can throw from 94-98 on the gun with his fastball, and can also throw an effective slow slurve-like pitch that will throw hitters off. Veras came from practically out of the blue and put up a 124 ERA+ in 57.2 innings with 63 K’s. It’d be much appreciated if he could keep that up for 09.
Also worth noting; I love this guy. I just do.
Mop-Up Reliever: David Robertson
It’s hard not to like the 23-year old Robertson. He absolutely dominated the minor leagues in relief, and so he came up to the majors. He showed a hard cutter that he throws in the low-90s, and coupled that with a hard, dropping curve. While his 5.34 ERA in 30.1 innings shows his inneffectiveness and inconsistency, he’s still a guy I want to have in my bullpen, whatever role he’ll provide.
Middle Reliever: Edwar Ramirez
When you think of skinny baseball players, this has to be the first guy that comes to mind. Edwar is 6’3″… 165 freaking pounds. That’s absurdly skinny. Despite Ramirez’s lankiness, he’s still a very effective reliever, with a 90-mph fast ball and an incredible, hard circle changeup. He had a 114 ERA+ in 55.1 innings pitched. The 27-year old right hander joins a select group of relievers in the Yankee bullpen– The Dominican Demons, as I like to call them– who are effective for the Yankees out of the bullpen, and hail from the Dominican Republic. There are 3 members of the DDs, Ramirez, Veras, and Damaso Marte…
Set-Up Reliever: Damaso Marte
Marte, one of the Dominican Demons, has great stuff: a hard fastball and slider. The lefty really struggled in his short tenure as a Yankee last year, but this year he looks to go back to his previous form as a Pirate. He can truly be dominant at times, and we expect him to be more like his old dominating self, rather than his post-Nady/Ohlendorf/Karstens form with the Yanks. He should be a fantastic set up relief pitcher.
Aaand last but not certainly not least, the very important closer’s spot, possibly the most notable position in the bullpen…
Closer: Mariano Rivera
Do I really have to say anything about Mo? He’s the best closer of all time. He’s incredible. His ERA+ last year was 317. I rest my case. I didn’t even have to bring up my case in the first place…
Overall Bullpen Rating: 4.2 out of 5
The Yankee bullpen looks to be great: we have the Dominican Demons, of course, along with a guy who had a 1 ERA last year not named Mariano Rivera(granted, he didn’t pitch that much, but still). Oh, Mariano Rivera? We have him too.
Well that’s it for the blog; stay positive, Yankee fans, of course…
-EJ the Kid From New York
Pettitte in Pinstripes?
You know who this article is about.
It’s everybody’s favorite veteran lefty pitcher, Aaaaandy Pettitte. From what we know, the crafty 36-year-old starter will most likely sign a deal with the Yanks. From Bryan Hoch’s article on MLB.com…
“…industry sources believe that the two sides will eventually settle on a contract to bring Pettitte back for one more year in pinstripes, completing the Yankees’ five-man rotation.”
Wait wait wait hold up.
Completing the Yankees’ five-man rotation?
See this is the problem, the Yankees think they have to go all out They think they have to sign another pitcher, because they have nobody to pitch in the 5 slot. So what happens to Aceves here?
You know, Aceves? Alfredo Aceves? The guy who had a 2.40 ERA in 30 innings last year? Anybody home? What’s going to happen with him? Is he just going to flooooat away until we need him again? Sure, long relief would be a fitting role for him, but we don’t need Pettitte.
What about Phil Hughes? If Pettitte is in the rotation and Aceves is in long relief, what will Hughes do? Go back to the minors? Wasn’t Hughes the future of the Yankees rotation? Well he’s going to be 23 next season. He still has time to get better, but when will come the time when the Yanks decide he’s truly ready?
This is when it all starts to come back now. Knock knock. Who’s there? Dan Giese, remember me? I was really efficient in the rotation and in long relief when you needed me. Remember that? What happens to me now?
What about me, Chase Wright? Sure, I gave up those four consecutive homers but I’m all good now! Yeeeah man. Totally.
What about Ian Kennedy? Yeah he sucks, but he’s still young. It’s too early to just completely give up on him. We all know his problem is his attitude and his immaturity, which usually changes with age. He was still really freaking good in 2007, and to just completely throw him in the toilet would not be that smart. I could understand trading him to a team if you got a good return out of it, and I don’t even want him throwing off a major league mound, but let’s not totally give up on Kennedy. Especially with a cool name like Ian…
Oh and yeah, remember Phil Coke? Haha, yeah. Great numbers. Good lefty reliever. I like his stuff. Yeah, that’s all fine and dandy, except for the fact that he’s a starter. He’s not a reliever. He was a starter in the minors. Is he ever going to show us if he can start or not?
Don’t tell me it’s an incomplete rotation… and don’t tell me we need Pettitte. I’m not saying I would hate this signing, I wouldn’t mind it to be honest. I like Andy. I’m a fairly big fan of his. But that “incomplete rotation” comment just gets me riled up…
Anyways, stay positive Yankee fans!
-EJ the Kid From New York
We still believe in a great playoff contender. We still believe in a powerful offense. We still believe in a good pitching staff and a dominant bullpen. We still believe!
We still believe in great potential. We still believe in veteran leadership. We still believe in great stuff. We still believe in “Generation Tre”. We still believe in control and command. We still believe in big curveballs. We still believe in moving fastballs. We still believe in the rotation for the ages. We still believe!
We still believe there is better judging. We still believe there will be other championships. We still believe there will be another great gymnastics competition 4 years from now. We still believe the Romanian girl won’t be there to spoil the win. We still believe in gold medals. We still believe in cute girls who could effortlessly break your neck at the drop of a hat. WE STILL BELIEVE IN THE INTEGRITY OF GYMNASTICS.
I FEEL A STORM A’COMIN’.
Stay positive, Yankees fans!
-EJ/Kid From New York