Bullpen Blueprint – Teasers Coming

Last week I began researching an article about the management (and mismanagement) of big league bullpens in 2008. However, what began as an article turned into a treatise — the document is currently over 20 pages long (and growing) and certainly too hefty for a blog post. Eventually, it will be available as a PDF download.

Basically, what I’ve done is researched each playoff team’s bullpen management, as far as the frequency of use, pitch counts, and rest time, to determine whether there is a pattern among successful teams. Actual performance — that is, ERAs, blown saves, etc. — were not a focus of the study, though included for comparison. This may seem illogical, but the point of my research was to find out what successful teams do in their attempt to keep their bullpens fresh and performing at optimum levels from games one through 162.

Since we already know that teams strictly manage their starting pitchers — stopping them when they reach specific pitch counts, and ensuring they regularly receive at least four days’ rest between starts — I was curious to find out if teams also exerted similar limitations for their bullpen arms. What I’m finding out is that they do — or at least, the numbers suggest they do. This may seem obvious to most baseball fans, but as Mets fans, we certainly haven’t seen any patterns or “rules” in regard to handling relievers in the last 3-4 years.

MetsToday readers know I’m not much for grinding out and quoting statistics, and this report won’t be of interest to the number-crunching sabermetricians. But I’m hoping it sheds light on the correct and safe ways to manage championship bullpens — or at least begins the conversation. Because I don’t believe there’s any “mystery” or “luck” dictating middle relief performance from one year to the next, and I do think that there IS a right and wrong way to handle a bullpen over the course of a season. What I’m theorizing is that most studies are flawed in that they have focused on the raw performance numbers (ERA, WHIP, etc.) of relievers rather than taking a step back and seeing whether a reliever (or bullpen) has been properly prepared to compete.

This afternoon I’ll publish a “teaser” or excerpt titled, “Aaron Heilman: Most Abused Pitcher in Baseball?”. I’ll continue to post excerpts over the next two weeks, if you’re interested to read this doctrine as it develops. Your comments are more than welcome.

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.