Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Look at Relief Pitching

Rays Relief PitchingWe previously examined the starting pitching in the Rays organization, now let's look at the relief pitching (using primarily StatCorner numbers, definitions are shown at the end of the article). A few notes: StatCorner only covers down to full-season A ball, so no Hudson Valley, Princeton, DSL or VSL players (click on the links to see stats for those pitchers). Data does not include innings pitched as a starter, only as a reliever. Age is as of today. Pitchers are listed by level, so some appear on multiple lists.

Tampa Bay Rays (MLB):
Balfour, Grant30.8MLB55.42.0814.7
Howell, J.P.25.5MLB86.63.687.6
Miller, Trever35.4MLB41.24.79-1.5
Wheeler, Dan30.9MLB61.44.72-1.7
Bradford, Chad34.2MLB17.95.45-1.9
Percival, Troy39.3MLB43.25.59-5.4
Hammel, Jason26.2MLB49.26.19-9.4

Miller is a free agent. The big question mark is of course closer, should Balfour replace Percival? Balfour struck out 36.6% of the 224 batters he faced, but it will be hard to maintain a BABIP of .227 (average is ~.300). Percy has the experience, but just was not that good, and his health and age (39.3) are issues. Howell was solid, and Bradford gives us a quality matchup ROOGY. Hammel walked 10.1% and only struck out 12.7%, and it wasn't just bad luck, his BABIP was .293. The bullpen, along with RF and DH, have to be the Rays offseason priorities.

Durham Bulls (AAA):
Thayer, Dale27.8AAA72.42.8212.2
Salas, Juan30.0AAA43.71.9511.6
Balfour, Grant30.8AAA20.80.808.2
Dohmann, Scott30.8AAA41.72.727.5
Medlock, Calvin26.0AAA63.75.38-7.3
DeBarr, Nick25.2AAA74.96.41-17.2

DeBarr is a minor league free agent. Balfour struck out an amazing 45.9% of the batters he faced in AAA. Thayer (not on 40-man) and Salas may be spring training options if they remain in the organization, but the younger guys (DeBarr and Medlock) are not.

Montgomery Biscuits (AA):
Andrade, Steve30.8AA39.93.466.4
Morlan, Eduardo22.7AA47.54.402.7
Reid, Ryan23.5AA48.34.512.2
Bean, Colter31.8AA51.34.591.8
Deago, Roger31.3AA79.44.96-0.5
Frontz, Neal24.6AA22.86.88-5.0
Gonzalez, Jino26.2AA36.86.93-8.3

Andrade, Bean, and Deago are minor league free agents. Morlan and Reid are the ones to watch here. Morlan should start the year in AAA after a full AA season. Reid has a half year of AA under his belt, but may return for a while in '09 after a rough Arizona Fall League outing.

Vero Beach Devil Rays (A+):
Reid, Ryan23.5A+29.70.0013.8
Frontz, Neal24.6A+47.92.677.9
Wlodarczyk, Mike25.9A+
Baker, Brian25.8A+69.53.812.6
Noel, Wilton25.8A+
Owen, Ryan24.3A+48.35.70-8.3
Kelly, Chris26.3A+70.66.23-16.4

Reid certainly earned his promotion to AA with a 0.00 tRA at Vero Beach. Frontz may still have a shot if he handles AA better next year (6.88 AA tRA in '08). The rest are not showing enough for their age at this level.

Columbus Catfish (A):
Hinkle, Austin22.4A48.22.4111.4
Garcia, Justin21.9A67.93.1610.4
Boggan, Kevin23.5A74.04.252.4
Risser, Travis23.8A34.65.10-2.1
Baird, John22.4A34.05.77-4.7
Barnett, Travis25.1A31.75.93-4.9
Gibson, Glenn21.1A24.88.07-9.7
Mejias, Jose Angel23.2A56.96.70-13.6

Hinkle and Garcia are the ones to watch. Hinkle struck out 34.2% while walking 9.7% with a reasonable BABIP of .297. The younger Garcia struck out 28.0% while walking 7.2%, but his .216 BABIP will be hard to maintain at Charlotte next year. Gibson needs a do-over at Bowling Green next year.

To summarize, this was not nearly as exciting as looking at our starters. The relief pitching is not as deep or high-ceiling, but that is not really a problem. Some of the starters will eventually move to the pen due to injury (ex. McGee, most likely) or the inability to develop enough quality pitches to progress through the minors in the rotation. Opportunity is another issue, there just does not appear to be many openings in the Rays starting rotation for years to come (ex. Niemann, Talbot, Davis, Rollins, Hellickson). Expect to see some of our current minor league starters converted to the bullpen over time.

Here are the definitions of the stats used from the StatCorner Glossary:

xIP: Derived from xOuts, "xOuts stands for the expected number of outs a pitcher has generated based on his defense and park neutral outcomes." This is how much they pitched.

tRA: "tRA involves assigning run and out values to all events under a pitcher's control and coming up with an expected number of runs allowed and outs generated in a defense and park neutral environment. tRA is on a R/9 scale and does not involve any regression of the rates so while it should be more useful at determining a pitcher's true talent level, the best method for pitching projection is to use tRA*, the regressed version of tRA." This is how well they pitched.

pRAA: "Stands for pitching runs above average. Using tRA as the benchmark, the formula is (lgTRA * xOuts / 27) - xRuns." This is how much 'value' they added (or cost) their team based on the quality and quantity of their pitching.

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