Our week long series continues with ranking the AL East Bullpens and Benches.
2. Blue Jays
3. Red Sox
The Yankees have the best bullpen in the AL East by a good margin led by Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, and Cory Wade. Rivera, even at age 42, is one of the best closers in MLB and the most trustworthy in a big spot. Robertson had a breakout season by posting a 1.08 ERA and striking out a staggering 13.5 batters per 9 innings. Soriano came on at the end of last season and is a tremendous talent to have as a 7th inning guy ,when on pretty much any other team he would be closing or be in the 8th inning. The Red Sox and Blue Jays both have completely revamped bullpens and it was a close race for 2nd. The Blue Jays picked up Sergio Santos and Francisco Cordero this offseason while the Red Sox picked up Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon. Bailey is the best of the 4 when healthy, but he has rarely been able to stay healthy so I gave the edge to Toronto. Toronto also has better depth than the Red Sox behind their 2 new additions in Jason Frasor and Darren Oliver, whom they also signed this offseason. Cordero had 37 saves for the Reds last year, while pitching to a 2.43 ERA and Santos had 30 saves for the White Sox, while striking out an amazing 13.1 batters per 9 innings. That is almost as much as David Robertson. So that is a very good combo for the Blue Jays for the backend of their bullpen. The Red Sox lost Jonathan Papelbon and replaced him with Bailey. Bailey has been one of the best closers in MLB when healthy. He made the All- Star team his first 2 seasons and won rookie of the year. Ex Yankee farmhand Mark Melancon will replace Daniel Bard as the setup man. Melancon saved 20 games for the Houston Astros last season. The Rays bullpen had a surprisingly good season last year after loosing virtually everybody who contributed to it in 2010. Kyle Farnsowrth had a good year last year closing, but it is still Kyle Farnsworth and he is tough to trust. Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom, and Kevin Gregg will battle for the closers job in Baltimore. Read the rest of this entry
As the offseason began, we heard something that is oh so familiar for Yankee fans. Brian Cashman is looking for rotation help and left-handed relief pitchers. With Boone Logan as the only lefty in the bullpen, Cashman is at least expected to explore the market, both through free-agency and trades, in search of a second lefty. Considering it will be a miracle if Pedro Feliciano pitches for the Yankees at all next season, the Yankees could use some outside help.
Over the next week or two, I’ll be looking at the free agent market for lefty relief pitchers...
• Oliver, a seasoned veteran at the age of 41, has played 18 seasons in the MLB. Because of his age, a one year contract is just about as close to a guarantee as it gets. Considering the Yankees past history with multi-year contracts for relief pitchers, a one year deal might be a nice change of pace. Plus, he’s maintained some pretty nice numbers of late, including 4 straight seasons with an ERA in the 2s.
• He does a very good job versus lefties. In 51 IP in 2011, Oliver held lefties to .227/.269/.318, with a 5.75 K/BB ratio, which is quite good. He’s showed that skill against lefties in other recent years as well.
• Oliver, with a 7.76 K/9 in 2011 doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, but with a stellar 1.94 BB/9 to go along with that, he manages pretty well.
• He’s always been good at getting ground-balls (career 44.7 GB%), except for in 2011 where he had only a 37.9 GB%. More importantly, his GB% against lefties specifically, was much better at 42.9%.
• At 41 years of age, Darren Oliver is very far from a sure thing. At his age, he is much more prone to injury, and he is probably one significant injury away from retirement. You also have to figure his numbers will decline from 2011 to 2012, so don’t be expecting another 2.29 ERA / 2.77 FIP / 3.24 xFIP season.
• In fact, Oliver showed decline from 2010 to 2011. There was a significant drop-off in both his strike-outs, ground-ball, and swing-and-miss rates. Not a good sign if you’re holding out that Oliver will have another great season next year.
Overall, I wouldn’t mind if the Yankees signed Darren Oliver to a one year deal. It’s a relatively low-risk signing, but you simply can’t expect a whole lot out of him. He showed significant decline in 3 very important stats from 2010 to 2011, so there would be no surprises if this trend of decline continues. If Oliver, can stay healthy, and (close to) maintain his 2011 numbers, he would be helpful to the Yankees in 2012. Could he be that extremely dominant, Randy Choate-like, lefty specialist next year? Odds are, no – but he could be of use.