Bullpen: Same Stuff Different Year

After last year’s “collapse”, we did something rare here at MetsToday: a statistical analysis. Yes, even an old school guy like me will once in a while check the numbers (though it gives me a headache).

For those who weren’t here, or don’t remember, we took a hard look at the Mets’ 2007 bullpen, then compared it to those of other top teams in the NL. Go ahead and re-read those posts, so you understand what’s going on with relief pitching in MLB lately. If you don’t have the time, here’s the gist:

To reiterate, establishing specific people with bullpen roles and expecting them to fulfill those roles from game 1 through 162 is suicide. There are simply too many innings to cover over that span, which require at minimum 9-10 arms that can share the load. The teams that stockpile the highest-quality arms — and/or can squeeze the most innings out of their starters — will be less susceptible to breakdowns in the last weeks of the season.

So, what did the 2008 Mets management learn from last year?


Because here we are at game 122, and the Mets have 4 pitchers among the top 20 in the NL in appearances. No other team has more than 2. The “bullpen roles” concept was used by Willie Randolph last year, but everyone forgot that when current savior Jerry Manuel announced that everyone in the bullpen would have roles. Everyone also forgot what a BAD IDEA it is to have set roles in the bullpen — regardless of how the pitchers themselves feel about it.

Here is a breakdown of the bullpen staff:


Looking at the above, you can see that six pitchers have accounted for 303 of the team’s 381 relief innings — which comes to 80% of the workload. That’s alarming, considering that last season, only five teams had SEVEN pitchers account for that percentage of relief innings.

Maybe that didn’t come out clearly, so I’ll re-state it: Most teams don’t put that kind of workload on SEVEN pitchers, much less six.

This is easier to see if you refer back to this table from last year:


Forget anyone’s “theories” as to why the Mets bullpen is suddenly a train wreck; a simple look at the numbers makes it as plain as day: the relievers are grossly overworked. Yet we keep hearing nonsense from radio jockeys, bloggers, journalists, other pundits, and Jerry Manuel himself — no one can seem to understand why the relief corps is having so much trouble lately. It’s as if people think Heilman, Feliciano, Schoeneweis, Smith, and Sanchez are in some sort of unexplainable, mystical “slump”, or that they “stink”.

As much as the sabermetricians would like to believe that baseball is all about the numbers, there’s something called the human element that comes into play. And six human beings, without the advantage of HGH, steroids, or other PEDs, cannot pitch at a consistently high level under this stress.

To reiterate: the Mets NEEDED more arms to share the load. There needed to be more shuttling back and forth of guys like Claudio Vargas, Carlos Muniz, Brian Stokes, Willie Collazo, etc., to and from AAA, and USED when they were with the big club (it’s likely too late now to fix the situation). But since management remains enamored with this “bullpen roles” concept, we see the same five guys pitch every single game.

How they’ll make it through September remains to be seen.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude August 15, 2008 at 12:38 pm
    It would be nice to see metsblog post a link to this article to show the buffoon commenters over there that you’re not the screaming mad lunatic they all make you out to be. This article makes perfect sense and is very well researched, and if last year can be used as a guide, we’re going to be in for a very tumultuous September in 2008. One that very well could cost Omar his job.
  2. Taylor August 15, 2008 at 2:42 pm
    Good post. I used to scoff at the notion that overuse was the reason for the bullpen’s poor performance. Then something happened. After years of not working out I started to work out again. Let me tell you something – the human body needs time to recover. When you perform an intense repetitive activity like pitching you will get sore. (I pitched in HS) You need a few days for the soreness to subside. You can’t have the same guy pitching 3 nights in a row and expect that he’ll be effective. I understand that they are professionals and they train harder than I do. Nevertheless they are subject to the limits of the human body. The Mets need to use Stokes and Muniz more. Stokes has been promising. Muniz has been lousy but better than Heilman, Smith and Feliciano have been the last few weeks.
  3. isuzudude August 15, 2008 at 3:15 pm
    Amen, Taylor.
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