The New Wave of Relief

Are relief pitchers the new market efficiency? As new minds and fresh ideas invade traditional, or better put, current baseball sensibility, old customs are tossed aside in favor of statistic driven approaches that are these days less and less taboo. Once oft used batting average has fallen to the wayside in favor of stats that encompass more aspects of offensive production than just “hits”, fielding percentage has been all but forgotten and catchers have been scrutinized recently for their ability (or failure) to create strikes on the fringe of the zone.

This brings us to today’s look at relievers, and a possible trend that could have teams digging through the farm teams, rule 5 draft and even the scrap heap for viable late inning arms. Tampa Bay, who is considered one of the top teams in evaluating and developing pitchers is a great example of executing a low cost revolving door of relievers. We all know Kyle Farnsworth, who fell out of favor in NY only to land down south and give the Rays some quality innings. One of the very best relievers of 2012, 35 year old Fernando Rodney, was by some accounts found in a dumpster somewhere in southern California looking for a job when the Rays pulled him from the abyss and resurrected, nay, created a career for him as a closer. The reigning champion San Francisco Giants lost their 9th inning man to Tommy John surgery, but instead of hitting the panic button they reached from within and rode Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo’s arms all the way to a title.

On to the Yankees, who by every evaluation has had the benefit of having the absolute best closer of all time shutting the door for the last decade and a half. That has, however come at a cost, topping out at 15M per season the last several years. Now I’m not going to make the case that Mariano hasn’t been worth his weight in gold… no one has ever put up the kind of numbers he has over such a period of time, and none of us are likely to see it again. Paying for past performance is not uncommon in MLB, and for quite some time Mo was locking down games for a penance, so coughing up the cash these last few years for both present and past accomplishments is not by any stretch a raw deal. Mo will make at least one last run at a title after taking a small pay cut but still a sizeable amount. Moving forward however, and with a budget minded front office at the helm the team will need to look within to help hit that self imposed mark. Gone will be the days of having 25 million or more tied up in a pair of relievers; when Mo retires, so shall shelling out starter money for one inning thrills. Don’t get me wrong…I’d pay to have another Mariano, but that isn’t going to happen lest Mo Jr. can channel his old man’s greatness. Relievers are the most volatile in the business, and you have to ride the hot hand and know when to fold. With the future of the bullpen in mind let’s take a quick look at who could be sewing up the latter innings over the next few years.

Chase Whitley is probably the closest to landing a job in the Bronx bullpen, as he’s got some significant innings at SWB in 2012 and some solid numbers to go along with it. He started off in Trenton but only hung around for a handful of innings, and then moved on to the traveling circus that was our AAA team. He ended the season with a 3.09 ERA, striking out 66 on the year while walking 25. He held batters to a .207 average as a solid piece to their pen all year. He’s not the flashiest guy in the pen but he’s consistent and can chew up a fair amount of innings. A fairly fast riser, Branden Pinder, skipped Charleston and went right to Tampa in 2012, finishing the year throwing a few innings for Trenton. He threw 69 innings with a 67/29 K/BB, a 2.74 ERA and a .260 average against. Pinder combined with Jose Ramirez for a no hitter earlier this year, and will be looking to push his way to AAA in 2013. He’s another guy that could soak up some middle relief innings if he stays on pace and could be a part of the 2014 bullpen that will no doubt be on a tight budget. Another right handed pitcher that finished his year in Trenton is Tommy Kahnle, who has been reported to light the radar up to triple digits and can rack up the K’s about as well as anyone in the system. He had a bit of a rough go in 2011; while he struck out 112 batters, he walked 49 and got touched up to the tune of a 4.22 ERA. He harnessed a bit more control in 2012 pitching to a 2,37 ERA over 57 innings, walking 24 hitters while striking out 74 and holding them to a .162 average against. Kahnle will be in his age 23 season in 2013 and could well get himself a callup in September and a shot at the ML pen in ’14.

With Boone Logan in his last year of arbitration, now might be the time to sell on him. With a career high in appearances and innings in 2012 and a mix of lefties to choose from for 2013 I’d be looking to include him in any packages that might come up in the coming weeks. Cesar Cabral, impressed in ST earlier this year but ended up on the DL. If he can return to his spring form he might get himself a look. Another option is Juan Cedeno, who has played all over baseball for a number of parent clubs the last ten years put in 64 innings of work and pitched to a 2.81 ERA with a 57/21 K/BB, and a .273 BAA. He got touched up a little during fall/winter leagues dropping to a 3.49 ERA, but to his credit he pitched a lot of innings during the stretch of the year. Last but certainly not least is right hander Mark Montgomery, who has drawn numerous comps to David Robertson. Not only are their K rates both in 14/9 range, but his release point is similar to D-Robs in that his stride brings him closer to the mound, making his low 90’s FB play up a bit in the eyes of the batters. He features a slider that he can change the grip on slightly depending on the handedness of the batter, making it dive away from right handers and sink more like a curveball against lefties. He’s been a fast mover and I know a lot of people are really looking forward to seeing him as soon as possible, but I think he’ll stay stashed away for at least part of 2013. I have Whitley as one of the early callups in case of injury or ineffectiveness, but Montgomery could be soon to follow. This is just a handful of the arms that look to be part of the future NY Yankees bullpen; some will fade and other stars will rise, but the horizon looks pretty good for having the late innings protected, and at a fraction of what we are used to paying.

Posted on December 19, 2012, in Minor League Updates, Personal Opinion, Player Analysis. Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. Nice write up on these guys. Spent a lot of time watching Pinder, Kahnle and Monty down here in FSL. Not only do they got pretty good arms but they seem like pretty good guys and seem pretty down to earth which I think you would need to last in the Bronx Boilermaker. Just my two cents but whats the thoughts Pat. V the switch pitcher maybe getting a look?

  2. Last I saw on Venditte was that he had injured one of his arms and was possibly headed for surgery. He wasn’t really overpowering from either side and now may be forced to focus on one side which may be better for him in the long run.

  3. TALK ABOUT….baseball chatter! The keyboards were smokin’ this afternoon. Good.
    The Bourn rumors burned out quick..good.
    Where that Vernon Wells rumor came from, scares me. Put a dagger in it.
    Old Kenny’s self imposed exile, should bring him back on X-Mas. Stocking stuffer.
    Nice to see participation……….blockbuster?

  4. “The Athletics have traded outfielder COLLIN COWGILL to the Mets”…River Ave. ( today )
    Almost fell out of my chair…a CowGirl goes to the Mets?…then, I reread…Funny.

  5. Old yankee7 & TWASP…world class bloggers. Thousands of posts….non-better!
    So, where are these dudes?…In exile?..pouting?..being dumb? Yes.
    On a nude beach?….No!
    OK, CowGirls…you’ve been thrown off a mechanical bull before, get back up.
    San Tzu says…..”only idiots are stupid.”….You guys figure out what he meant.

    • Is this a sports blog or a looking for missing children department?
      I never saw anything that good from being a switch pitcher, I know he has had some good games but, he really hasn’t got good stuff.

      • The first and best switch pitcher was in 1957, Angel Macias threw a perfect game in the little league world series final, the only perfect game ever thrown in the series.The team was in a Disney movie called I think How Tall is a giant

  6. I misspelled ! Sorry. I posted above…” Thousands of posts….non-better! “….idiot!
    Correction……….. ” Thousands of posts….none better! ”
    An old Irish priest, whom I am not allowed to mention, on this site, would of hammered me
    on my spelling.

  7. Not sure if I shared this before but def worth checking out….. (Yankee Prospect Rankings).

    • I note that they don’t have Pineda on the 2016 projection.
      I agree, and anyone who actually believes that he can be counted on for ANYTHING in the future is really smoking something.
      He wasn’t much before the injury, and that injury kills most careers, even guys who had showed something before they suffered it.
      I think people have become so used to TJ surgery being successful that they take injuries to pitchers very lightly now. This was NOT TJ surgery, and even if this guy had any work ethic(certainly far more than he’s shown to this point, which is none) he wouldn’t be a cinch to make it back in good shape.

      • Michael, I think you are selling Pineda short, I thought he was a top type pitcher before his injury. I am not sure about shoulder surgery’s or his work ethic. The other pitcher is Banuelos, he should be able to come back strong.

      • I have to agree about Pineda. So many pitchers (especially hard throwers) look impressive for half a season or so in their first year or 2. He was over powering with a high 90s fastball and good slider for a while but it didn’t last long. he lost effectiveness, lost velocity and began to drop his arm angle. Was he any better than Ivan Nova in 2011? He was a 2-pitch pitcher who even if totally healthy was going to be a #3 or 4 starter for the Yanks unless he learned how to pitch and developed a 3rd pitch.

        Now, realistically speaking, what can we expect from him? Shoulder surgeries are totally impossible to predict. Even if he’s able to comeback strong I seriously doubt he’ll be averaging 96-97 as a starter like he was his first 2 months. So if he regains health, he will still need to work extremley hard to develop a 3rd pitch and to be successful without his overpowering velocity. what is the likliehood of that? I didn’t like the trade bc I think very highly of Montero’s bat and Pineda wasn’t nearly good enough of a return. It helped that Campos was thrown in but he was a low-A ball pitcher. Pitchers that far from the Majors are so volatile.

        Seeing that Toronto got a Cy Young Winner and KC got a workhorse legit #2 in his prime for their top hitting prospects really drives home the fact that Cashman didn’t get the best value for Montero.

        • Fish when I heard about the trade I smashed my laptop. Pineda was just a “thrower” as you say. I remember when we crushed him in a second half game in 2011 and I remember making the observation that he was going to get killed going forward because everyone was just going to learn to sit on his fastball. I think we chased him in something like 3 innings and everything was just fastball, fastball, fastball.
          The odds that he can learn to be a “pitcher” with a damaged shoulder are laughable. If anyone believes that, they should buy powerball tickets because the odds are the same.

        • fishjam, If you think you can predict pitching performance you are mistaken. There are less than 10 starters that have put 5 good seasons in a row. Pitching is Outlier.

  8. Matt, I like the Rankings here’s mine:
    C- Sanchez
    1b- Tex
    2nd- Cano
    SS- Nunez
    3b- Austin
    Lf- Gardner
    CF- Williams
    RF- Heathcott
    1- CC

  9. Well i am not so sure on any of this—–Michael P way to negative. doug –way to positive.

    I am hoping some of these guys work out , I am open to a trade or 2 or 3 or 4 along the way.

    Just get younger and better along the way.

    • john, I agree,my picks were only with players that the Yanks have right now. We know that this isn’t going to happen!

    • Ha ha Doug …if that’s our 2016 team we are in deep manure. Throw in some possible free agent signings or trades.

    • John I don’t believe it is negative to assume a pitcher with a wrecked shoulder who relied on power and power only to get anyone out is a bad bet to amount to anything at all significant.
      As far as our farm system goes, there are bright lights just as there are in any farm system, but the bottom line is that there are no stars who will be ready to contribute this season or even next season.
      I do believe that using Romine at catcher is a great idea, but he has no bat so you must excuse me if I am not overwhelmed by the sudden urge to do cartwheels around my living room.
      The more I think about the more I am convinced that Cano should be traded now if we can get a monster return for him. He’s talking no hometown discount and 10 years at Arod money. He’s my favorite player in the game but it would be insane to even entertain the thought of giving him that sort of deal at his age.
      We can’t win the AL or even the division with the current team and in my opinion keeping Cano on the team for 2013 will do nothing more than give the Yankees a chance to make it into a one game wildcard playoff.
      If Granderson and Cano are traded now and a true reshaping of the team that strengthens it going forward is done in a calculated and intelligent manner I believe that most will understand why it was done.
      What I’m not at all interested in is getting nothing back for these guys other than draft picks just to chase the 5 seed this year.

      • Michael P…………not for nothing, but a wrecked shoulder?
        How do you know this. Is not he due back in May-June?

      • Agreed right now I have the Yanks finishing 2nd in the East behind Toronto with around 88-92 wins. Should be good enough for a wild card but certainly not a championship with teams like LA, Det and Tor clearly a notch above right. I don’t see Cano getting a 10 year deal anywhere, probably more like an 8 year deal, which I think the Yankees will give him. Granderson should be traded but with all the production they have lost and not replaced already they probably don’t want to lose more.

        • Matt, rarely does a team improve the way your saying Toronto will improve. This division is always up for grabs. At this point I still like the Yanks,I don’t think the Jays pitching is as good as people think. The AL East is a much harder division than the NL East. I think the Angels and Tigers are ahead of the Yanks, but as we know it’s just get in baby, and Outlier takes over.

          • Doug the Jays were not really a 73 win team last year. If they were healthy they would have been at least .500 or a few games over. That is the question with them right now is health. If they have a rash of injuries the Yankees could potentially steal it from them. However, all things being equal the Jays clearly have more talent at this point.

            • If: Johnson and Beurhle can pitch in the East, if Johnson can stay healthy, if Romero is back on track, if Reyes stays healthy on turf, if Encarcion has another career year, if if if. If Garder plays to his 4.3 average WAR, if Ichiro plays to his 2.7 WAR, if CC and Kuroda are better than any Jays pitcher,if Mo is Mo, if Tex and Cano are the best at their positions, if Jeter and A-Rod get healthy, if Youk returns to form. The combo of Ichiro and Gardner have a better WAR than Swisher and Ibanez/Jones.

        • Matt, what is the differnce in WAR between Gardner and Ichiro compared to Swisher and Jones/Ibanez?

          • WAR is not my favorite metric. It loves Gardner because of the defense, but he is not the issue here. Ichiro is at .4 and 2.6 the last two years while Swisher was at 3.8 and 3.9. Giving Ichiro a 2 year deal was not the smartest decision.

      • Hooray—-Negatives and positives aside. We are on the same page regarding letting players walk, when we can cash in on more reliable and more plentiful chips than a draft pick. In no way am i on board with ANY long term deal with those on wrong side of 30. Less of course they want sign me at 2x the wrong side.

      • Mike very good observation on your part. In two or so years he will end up at 3rd anyhow. $20+m per for10 years on a 30+ infielder is not good.

  10. Good job then Doug…you da man.

  11. ODD QUESTION from a first time poster, early this am, by…’kat34dog’. Re: this site.
    I believe he has sailed this site before, under a different flag.

    • Yes I have posted under a different name a time or two but not much lately. I was just flying low and started to read the comments. It seemed to me there was a lot of comments about things unrelated to baseball. So I took a cheep shot at you guys.
      I read your stuff often but post on another site.
      I kind of like the way things are it is less restricted then some others.
      Good luck more than you think read you guys.

  12. doug ( BBNY )…stay strong my brother. True diligence is difficult, in a calm ‘trade wind’.
    All will be fine, I can sense an unexpected move happening.

  13. THE RING MASTER…TWASP is here tonight. That is good.
    Thought you went under ground. I’m on your starboard wing.

  14. Good….keep an eye out for an angry Irishman…..likes to take on 2 opponents at once….cost him 5 weekends last time. WANTED picture may vary …..sometimes 30 years ago sometimes 40 years ago….

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