Thursday, May 7, 2009

How Much Confidence Does The Rocket Scientist Have In The Bullpen?

In 2007, when Joe Maddon came out to the mound and the game was within 3 runs either way, the game was over, the Rays were bound to lose.

In 2008, when Joe Maddon came out to the mound to relieve the pitcher and the Rays had a lead, it was a safe bet that the Rays would win.

In 2009, when Joe Maddon comes out to the mound to relieve a pitcher, the rocket scientist doesn’t feel entirely safe with a small lead, but still has some level of confidence in all of the pitchers in the Rays’ pen.

Below is a ranking system, from 1-10 and what the rankings mean, of how confident the rocket scientist is in a bullpen pitcher. Following that, the rocket scientist will go through each of the pitchers in the Rays’ bullpen and rank them.

1) “The Rudy Lugo” – You have no place pitching in a major league ballgame, period, end of story. Yes, the rocket scientist would rather have someone in the following ranking than you on the mound.

2) “The Nick Swisher” – May as well bring in an outfielder, as you are only good when the Rays are down by a large margin and have given up. This ranking is also known as the “Jose Canseco.”

3) “The Brian Stokes/Shawn Camp” – The rocket scientist shut the game off every time one of these 2 entered a game in 2007. The outcome was determined before either threw one pitch: chalk one up in the loss column.

4) “The New York Mets in September” – You have looked good for so long, you can get 2 outs in the 9th, and then a collapse is highly probable. Also known as “The Greg Norman in a major golf tournament.”

5) “The Cecelia” – “You’re breaking my heart; you’re shaking my confidence daily.” You were very good, and still show flashes of brilliance, but sometimes you are blowing a lead that you shouldn’t, and I am losing confidence in you quickly.

6) “The Sex Panther” – 60% of the time you pitch well….every time.

7) “The Al Reyes” – You are sufficient as a closer, for a last place team. You will get saves, even some saves with a 1 run lead. However’ if this team wants to get anywhere deep in October, you will not suffice as the closer. The Tampa Bay area hospitals also want to thank you for the extra patronage as you are good for a heart attack a week for Rays’ fans. (Author’s note: In order to fall into this category and not actually be Al Reyes, you also must pass the test of yelling the line “don’t tase me bro!”)

8) “The Rick Vaughn” – You are wild and will walk batters, but when you need to be called on for the big strikeout, you will produce. Just stick to throwing the heat.

9) “The Pocket Aces” – You hold up approximately 85% of the time against a random opponent, and because of that, the rocket scientist is willing to put a lot of money behind you.

10) “The late 90’s Mariano Rivera” – Lights out, enough said. (Author’s note: This pains the rocket scientist to give any props to the much hated Yankees. Let’s be honest here though and call it like it is, a spade is a spade. Rivera in the late 90’s was unhittable and was the single most reliable closer in baseball history.)

Now that the rankings 1-10 are established, it is time to look at how each of the Rays relief pitchers fall into these rankings.

Grant Balfour – 8, “The Rick Vaughn” – Balfour has not had the same velocity fastball as he had last year. Balfour has been wild and erratic with his pitches. However, if the bases were loaded with 1 out and you needed someone to throw a strikeout, Balfour is the best bet to dial it up a notch and get the k.

Lance Cormier – 6, “The Sex Panther” – The rocket scientist thinks this may be a little high for Cormier since he is yet to pitch in a pressure-packed situation, however he is filling his role as long reliever nicely and knows he can eat up innings.

J.P. Howell – 5, “The Cecelia” – Oh J.P. Howell, you’re breaking my heart by not pitching as well as you did last season when you were in the running for team MVP, and you’re shaking my confidence daily by giving up late leads.

Joe Nelson – 9, “The Pocket Aces” – Nelson has only given up meaningful runs in 1 appearance out of a total of 12 trips to the mound. The 2 run homerun against Baltimore hurt, but those will happen, and the rocket scientist still would bet on Nelson pulling through 85% of the time.

Troy Percival – 7, “The Al Reyes” – Don’t look now, but Troy Percival has actually done pretty well in his last few appearances. He has recorded saves in his last 3 trips to the mound, and has not blown a save yet. However, Troy still makes the rocket scientist cringe every time he throws a pitch. He is not the dominant fire-baller that he used to be. The rocket scientist wishes he had even more confidence in the Rays closer, especially in September/October. A 7 won’t get it done in the playoffs. A championship caliber closer should be a 9 or a 10 on this confidence scale.

Brian Shouse vs. Lefties – 9, “The Pocket Aces” – Lefties are hitting .150 against Shouse, or in other words, Shouse gets lefties out 85% of the time.

Brian Shouse vs. Righties – 1, “The Rudy Lugo” – This situation should never happen, period, end of story. Righties are hitting .421 against Shouse. If it is a close game, Maddon should know better than to take this chance (again) and has better options. If the game is out of reach, put Willy Aybar in to pitch so you can end the game and put the rocket scientist out of his misery for the night.

Dan Wheeler
– 4, “The New York Mets in September” – Despite Wheeler’s numbers, he has looked decent so far this season. His 7 runs allowed have come in 2 of his 7 appearances though. Just as Wheeler seems to be heating up, he seems due for a melt down of epic proportions sometime soon. For that reason, the Rocket Scientist doesn’t have a ton of faith in Dan Wheeler.

Overall, the rocket scientist feels an average level of confidence in the bullpen. If the Rays want to be competitive in October, that level needs to rise, especially with the way Joe Maddon likes to use his bullpen. These are just one man’s thoughts on the bullpen for now. Those can change quickly since they are feelings, not rocket science.

-The Rocket Scientist

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