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Bullpen Banter

   by ASA - 07/09/2009

Thriving – Pittsburgh Pirates



Similar to the Reds who were smack dab in this spot in last week’s article, the Pirates are hanging around and causing problems in the N.L. Central in large part due to their pitching. The Pittsburgh starters began the year extremely well but they have faded in recent weeks. The bullpen however has remained solid and constant for the most part.



Over the last seven games, the Pittsburgh starters have fallen apart and the offense has gone stale. Thus, one would assume the Bucs record has been none too impressive and that would be correct as they are just 2-5 in that span. The starters over that seven game stretch have compiled an ERA of 5.30 and allowed an astronomically high 65 base runners in just 39.1 innings. The offense has only put up an average of 3.7 RPG over the last seven and in four of those games they have hit below .210 as a team for that particular game. The bullpen is not to blame for their recent struggles.



On the season, the Pitt relievers have an ERA of 3.91 and opponents have hit just .240 against them. Closer Matt Capps has saved 19 games in 21 attempts and has really stepped it up a notch as of late. In his last 17 appearances, Capps has allowed only four runs. He has also successfully saved 13 straight games. And while his overall ERA won’t impress at 4.71, he has been ultra solid after a rocky start to the season.



Lefty set-up man John Grabow has been very good in his role. His ERA is 3.49 and he has not lost a game in his 37 appearances this season. Right hander Jessie Chavez has a deceiving 0-3 record, yet his overall numbers are very solid. He eats up innings with 41 appearances yet his ERA remains very low at 3.22. Those type of relievers are invaluable. Joel Hanrahan was a disaster for Washington as most National relievers are, however a change of scenery may help. We’ll have to wait and see on that.



No one is claiming the Pirates will contend in the N.L. Central or even make a run at the wildcard. However, the pitching staff, mainly the bullpen, has been very respectable and the fact is the Bucs have only three fewer wins than the Cubs and Reds entering play on Wednesday. Pittsburgh’s solid bullpen makes them an attractive underdog in many situations and it’s something to monitor closely as we enter the second half of the season.





Struggling – Toronto Blue Jays



The Blue Jays normally have one of the better bullpens in the league and that looked to be the case again early in 2009. However, after a solid start, the Toronto relievers have fallen into a long, six week funk. After starting the season 27-16 and leading the very tough A.L. East, the Jays have faltered to a 16-28 mark since May 19th dropping them to just barely above .500. The bullpen has had a lot to do with that free fall.



Part of the reason the Toronto bullpen has been a negative for this team is they have been thinned out. Because of injuries, the Jays have used a total of 12 different starting pitchers already this season. That means a number of “formerâ€쳌 relievers, like Brian Tallet and Scott Richmond, who were very solid out of the bullpen have been thrust into the starting rotation. That has taken away several relief pieces rendering the bullpen ineffective over the last month and a half.



Overall the Toronto pen has an ERA of 4.12 ERA which puts them in the bottom third of MLB. However, since May 22nd, their ERA is a poor 5.12. They have already blown 11 saves in just 25 opportunities. Thus they nearly have one blown save for every actual save which is very poor. Former closer B.J. Ryan has been terrible with an ERA well above 6.00. He has also been unhappy with his role prompting the team to release him today. Scott Downs has been solid in the closer’s role since taking over for Ryan, however he has been on the D.L. as of late. He was just reactivated today.



The middle relief has also been a struggle for this team. Brandon League was extremely reliable last year with a 2.18 ERA. This year is a different story as his ERA is north of 5.00 and he already has five losses. Jesse Carlson leads the team in appearances at 41 but his ERA is nearly 5.00 compared to 2.25 a year ago. Scott Camp has decent numbers, but he is already 0-4 on the season.



Nothing is going well for this bullpen and they hope the return of Downs will help. However, attrition due to injuries have really taken its toll on this relief corps and because of that, Toronto is quickly falling out of the race in the baseball’s toughest division.

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