The NEW AGE bullpen is there, big league managers just don’t know it.
I grew up in an era of light hitting, slick fielding shortstops and relievers that would throw (and close) 3 to 4 innings in an appearance.
Staffs would be at 8 men- in fact the 1985 Royals post season roster included just 8 pitchers. I am not advocating that to come back, but I believe some elements of that should.
The term closer needs to go away…I don’t care if someone saves 60 games if half his saves come from getting out the opponents 7-8-9 hitters. I care about guys that close out innings 6 thru 9.
Fireman is a great term but I don’t know if that is the role I am looking for because I am really looking to change the bullpen as a whole.
I believe every bullpen needs to have resilient arms…arms that can throw multiple innings a couple times¬†a week. I think if you are going to carry a¬†one inning-one batter pitcher you need to have¬†twp of them…One Loogy and One closer type.
But Greg, you said you want the closer to go away….sure, I did but there are still too many pitchers in the game conditioned for this role…So, keep that guy around for high leverage situations. But, that does not mean they just “close” the 9th inning.
I know there is talk of going to 26 man rosters (which would play perfectly to my evil plan) there is talk of going to 6 man rotations (I don’t like this idea) I think you could employ 2 relievers that are exaggerated swing men. Meaning, you could have 2 guys that could throw 25-40 games and get 120 innings.
One of these pitchers would be a young pitcher and we will borrow the Earl Weaver book to describe said pitcher. You break in a rookie at the big league level this way…He earns confidence pitching in the big leagues and since he is not pitching in clutch situations the mental game is not as damaging. But, he gets a big league education and can enter his second season ready to be an everyday big league P. This pitcher would not be a get up, warm up, sit down, get up, warm up, sit down guy. He would be the guy that knows his role as the guy that would be used to either save a bullpen or to band aid an awful start or even replace a starter when needed . He might finish the season with an e.r.a north of 6 but at least he has gotten his innings and saved a bullpen that can be used for more important moments. But. I doubt that will be the case if this role is taken by a talented prospect…Weaver did this with some great names in his day (let’s take a look at his guys and other rookies who broke in as swing guys)
*one thing to remember is you will see low game totals because many SP in those days threw¬†double digit ¬†CG a season)
Mike Flanagan 1976 20G, 10 GS, ¬†85 IP, 3-5, 4.13 e.r.a (next season as a SP- 15-10, 3.64 235 IP) *IP would never be this high today
Dennis Martinez 1977 42 G, 13 GS, 167 IP, 14-7, 4.10 e.r.a (next season as a SP 16-11, 3.52, 276 IP)
Scott McGregor 1977 29 G, 5 GS, ¬†114 IP, 3-5, 4.42 e.r.a (next season as a SP 15-13, 3.32, 233 IP)
Doyle Alexander 1972 35 G, 9 GS, 106 IP, 6-8, 2.45 e.r.a (next season as a SP 12-8 3.86 175 IP)
Wayne Garland (served role for 2 seasons 74-75 ) 1974 20 G, 6 GS, 91 IP, 5-5, 2.97 ¬†and 1975 29 G, 1 GS, 87 IP, 2-5, 3.71 e.r.a
as SP in 1976 38 G, 25 GS, 232 IP, 20-7, 2.61 e.r.a
*Doyle wasn’t a rookie but he was acquired from the Dodgers by the Orioles after one season of sub-par numbers for that era
None Weaver guys:
David Cone 1987 21 G, 13 GS, 99 IP, 5-6, 3.71 e.r.a (next season as a SP 35 G, 28 GS, 231 IP, 20-3, 2.22)
Bret Saberhagen 1984 38 G, 18 GS, 158 IP, 10-11, 3.48 (next season as a SP 32 GS, 236 IP. 20-6, 2.87)
This new role would also work for many of today’s young program pitchers. More and more of them are coming… ¬†the program pitcher is the new way of young pitchers from the college level down to the most elite summer clubs. This role would allow these young men to get in there work before the game knowing they will be needed that game.
The other reliever is a resilient, talented arm that knows that more than likely he will pitch multiple innings 2 games a week when certain pitchers can not go past the 5th or 6th inning. We all know who these guys are and by identifying that I believe you can manage your other relievers better.
If you carry a loogy¬†he better be freaking Tony Fossas or Darren Oliver. A guy, that you know you can go to 80 times a season while his bubble gum card says 55 innings in those 80 games. I think there is a role here that if done right could work…so don’t worry old man lefty or limited pitch young arm you won’t go away.
That leaves you 4 more relievers to work with. Let’s include the one inning closer here. I know my buddy Robert Ford (Royals pre and post game host) will say that baseball is a business and closers make big bucks and because of that this role is about saves. I get it, baseball is a business…But the last time I checked a closer on a non-pennant team is like having a Ferrari in a Rain Forest. You ain’t going to drive it often. Besides, business is better when you are winning and MY closer will get opportunities anywhere from the 6th to 9th innings. The baseball stat people can invent a new stat if that will make agents happy. Besides, there are plenty of power arms with¬†one or ¬†pitches that just can’t go multiple innings.
So, we are down to 3 arms (4 if you go to a 26 man roster). I would suggest 2 righties and one lefty (2 if a 26 man roster). These arms are resilient arms that can pitch 2-3 times a week getting 2 innings a time if needed. These arms would get 100 plus innings a season. Stop, before you say there arms would fall off…I strongly disagree. Today’s young pitchers (especially the program ones) are built for this. Denver Bundy, the father of the most talented pitching prospect in baseball, will tell you the tired arm is an unconditioned arm. Easy for the father of 2 future major leaguers to say, right? But, I can tell you there is an underground belief (maybe not so underground anymore) that pitchers are athletes too and many will actually crash if they aren’t pitching. Meaning, they are so well conditioned that the down time and up and down belief of today’s reliever will hurt them more than help them.
College baseball uses relievers differently….and yes I know they play 4 days a week but a great college manager will use his best relievers in high leverage situations and not just in the 9th inning. His best reliever might throw multiple innings in order to capture a big conference win. These are kids that have been conditioned to do so from a young age. But, they get to the pros and are defined as guys that need a role where they only throw so many pitches. I strongly believe that today’s young arms (the ones that have been prepared correctly, which is not hard to find out) need to be treated like wild horses and not stable ponies.
It is interesting that baseball is the one sport where the next great head coach (manager) prospect is never at the college level. When, in fact many of the great young minds in baseball are managing college programs (Kevin O’Sullivan at Florida is a great example) But, that is an argument for another day
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