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Bullpen Banter

   by ASA - 07/24/2009

Thriving – Texas Rangers



Historically the Rangers simply have not been known for their pitching prowess. It’s been a long time since their bullpen threw fear into any opposing hitters. This year they were headed down the same road early in the season, as this Texas bullpen was on their way to some of the worst numbers in baseball. However, the relievers have turned in some very solid numbers as of late, which has this team contending for a playoff spot.



The Rangers bullpen ERA as of today sits at 3.85 which puts them in the middle of the pack in MLB. However, as I stated, that is a great improvement over how this group started the season. Over the last 10 games the reliever’s ERA is an impressive 2.73. Looking back even further, that numbers sits at a very low 1.87 over the last 16 games. During that 16 game stretch, this bullpen has allowed one run or less in all but three of those contests.



Closer Frank Francisco has been great this year with an ERA of just 2.28 and 15 saves. However, he hasn’t pitched since July 10th and has been put on the D.L. due to pneumonia. However that was retroactive to July 11th, thus I expect him back soon. Mainly because of Francisco, the Rangers have blown the second fewest number of saves in the Majors at just seven. His replacement, C.J. Wilson has also been impressive with nine saves and a 2.93 ERA. When Francisco comes back, that will move Wilson to a set up role making this bullpen even stronger than it currently is.



Unsung heroes Darren O’Day and Jason Jennings have been a huge key to this unit’s success. O’Day has put up great numbers with an ERA of only 1.99 in 36 appearances. Jennings has also been an innings eater with nearly 50 innings pitched. His 3.26 ERA is very respectable.



Two recent additions to the bullpen staff have given the Rangers a very deep relief corps. Jason Grilli, who pitched for Colorado earlier this season, has been solid allowing only 2 earned runs in his 13 innings pitched with Texas. Also, Doug Mathis was called up from Triple A and has an ERA of 1.64 in his 11 appearances. If those two continue to impress, that gives this team a deep bullpen with five or six really solid relievers.



At 11 games north of the .500 mark, this Texas team simply won’t go away. They are chasing the Angels in the A.L. West and a wild card spot is definitely a strong consideration. Especially if their bullpen continues to pitch lights out as they have been lately.





Struggling – Milwaukee Brewers



The Brewers are on the opposite end of the bullpen spectrum when comparing them to Texas. Milwaukee surprised many with very good bullpen numbers early in the season. Those solid marks have come to an abrupt halt and the relief situation in Milwaukee is going downhill fast.



Milwaukee has won only 6 of their last 18 games and the bullpen definitely needs to take their share of the blame. Over the last 11 games, the ERA of the Brewer relievers has sky-rocketed to 6.19. The relievers have allowed a whopping 25 runs over those 11 games. The Brew Crew has won only 4 of those 11 games and the bullpen has an 0-4 record during that span. Not pretty to say the least.



The bullpen as a whole has a decent ERA at 3.84. However, as I mentioned above, much of that success came earlier in the season and their recent problems have actually pushed the ERA numbers upward. A truer indication of this group of relievers might be their 13 losses and 14 blown saves. They definitely have some work to do to help this team get back into the post-season race.



Here is a quick player by player overview of why this bullpen is struggling right now. Closer Trevor Hoffman was invincible for much of the season as he didn’t allow an earned run in his first 18 trips to the mound. Since then, Hoffman has allowed runs in 4 of his 11 appearances as teams are getting to him early in the count rather than waiting. Innings eaters, Carlos Villanueva and Seth McClung have been terrible as of late. Villanueva has an ERA approaching 25.00 over his last four outings while McClung’s ERA is above 15.00 in his last three trots to the rubber. Left handed specialist Mitch Stetter has been all but special recently with an ERA of 9.00 his last six appearances.



The injury to starter Dave Bush and lack of a sufficient fifth starter have pushed this bullpen into overuse and it’s starting to show. Mike Burns, the current fifth starter by default, averages only about five innings per start. Yovani Gallardo, who went deep into games for much of the season, has now pitched only 16 innings in his last three starts. The ups and downs of Jeff Suppan pitching six innings one start and following that up with three frames the next have also started to wear on the pen.



Unless the Brewers get their pitching situation rectified via a trade or drastic improvement, they could fall out of the playoff race sooner than later.

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