As a group, the bullpen has a lot of room for improvement, given what happened in 2004. But let’s try to differentiate between the first-half bullpen and the second-half bullpen. Remember, Bob Wickman, Bob Howry, and Matt Miller were brought in later in the season, replacing guys like Scott Stewart, Jose Jimenez, and Jeriome Robertson. David Riske and Rafael Betancourt (to a lesser extent) turned things around in the second half as well. Here’s the second half numbers from returning bullpen members:
Bob Wickman – 26.2 IP, 4.72 ERA, 29 H, 24 SO, 8 BB
Bob Howry – 34.0 IP, 3.18 ERA, 28 H, 31 SO, 10 BB
David Riske – 33.2 IP, 3.12 ERA, 28 H, 28 SO, 18 BB
Rafael Betancourt – 30.2 IP, 3.23 ERA, 28 H, 36 SO, 10 BB
Matt Miller – 34.0 IP, 2.91 ERA, 26 H, 30 SO, 14 BB
That’s not a bad bullpen. Unfortunately, the ugliness of April overshadowed July and August. Bob Wickman, who isn’t a dominating closer by any stretch of the imagination, will force the rest of the bullpen into roles that they’ve thrived in. That will hopefully make the 2005 bullpen somewhat of a strength.
2004 WARP: 3.3
Raffy was probably the best reliever on the team from April to June. Unfortunately, the rest of the bullpen was so horrid that he was misused as a setup man because no one else could get the game to the 9th inning. After Wickman and Howry joined the team, Betancourt found his niche as a 7th inning reliever. This spring, there’s a chance that he won’t make the club, which is mind-boggling.
2004 WARP: NA
He looks like a reincarnation of Steve Reed, a former Indian. Like Reed, Miller is an extreme-groundball pitcher. Hitters batted only .216 against Miller last season, making him an extremely effective change-of-pace pitcher out the bullpen. Like Betancourt, Miller may be on the outside looking in.
2004 WARP: 1.5
A failed closer in Oakland, Rhodes was dealt in two salary dump trades over the winter; to the Pirates in the Jason Kendall trade, and to the Indians for Matt Lawton. I don’t think he’s going to be anywhere near what he was in 2000-2001, but a expecting a rebound season is reasonable.
2004 WARP: 1.6
If he’s healthy, Bob will give you 50-60 mediocre innings, racking up about 35 saves, and increasing sales of pacemakers in Cleveland by 50%. As I said earlier, his worth may be more as a placeholder than a linchpin.
2004 WARP: 4.0
Now that Riske is a permanent setup man, look for him to settle down as a dominant 7th or 8th inning pitcher. His hit rates climbed last year, but declined over the course of the year as his brutal April got farther and farther away.
This year’s injury rehab project. Given the choice between Sauerbeck, Miller, or Betancourt, I’d take the two right-handers. At his best, Scott is a dominant pitcher against left-handers who can also get right-handers out if needed. Left-handed hitting has hit a lifetime .201 against Sauerbeck, which may mean he’s the team’s LOOGY in the middle to late innings. He’s coming off a one-year layoff thanks to shoulder problems, so my expectations are tempered.
2004 WARP: 2.6
Another in the long line of retreads made good, Howry was the best pitcher in the bullpen down the stretch last year. Even in a contract year, though, Howry is going to be hard-pressed to repeat his 2004 performance. Don’t read too much into this rating; like Westbrook, Howry’s just a bid overvalued at this point. Bob may slot down to the 7th inning if Riske comes out hot.
Signed C Josh Bard, RHP Andrew Brown, RHP Fernando Cabrera, RHP Fausto Carmona, OF Coco Crisp, OF Franklin Gutierrez, 1B Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, RHP Matt Miller, SS Jhonny Peralta, and RHP Kazuhito Tadano to 2005 Contracts.
And so everyone on the 40-man roster has a contract for this season. It looks like there will be no multi-year deals for Martinez and Hafner, although it appears negotiations are still on-going. Brown has been moved to the bullpen, so he may move a bit quicker than if he remained a starter. Cabrera, Brown, and Tadano and going to Buffalo barring a barrage of injuries, and Gutierrez and Carmona are probably going to start in Akron, with a mid-season promotion to Buffalo if they do better this time around.
Invited LHRP Graeme Lloyd to Spring Training
Old LOOGYs don’t retire; they simply run out of clubs to tryout with.