Bullpen Previews Introduction

Breaking the format here a little to mention a couple of things before heading into the reliever previews, which are always the toughest part of this task…

First, I feel (this is one of the many things Bill James convinced me of) that it is a mistake to have many players with the same weakness, or too many pitchers who have similar styles. This is a concern with the Braves’ bullpen, because most of the righthanders anyway are similar pitchers. The three righthanders who will definitely be on the roster, Kolb, Reitsma, and Gryboski, all have two basic similarities:

  • All throw hard, but don’t get many strikeouts. (To be fair, Reitsma’s strikeout rate was pretty good last year, but it hasn’t been in the past.)
  • All are supposedly ground-ball pitchers.

It’s too soon to say about Roman Colon, but before last season he’d been basically similar, before his strikeout rate took a big jump in Richmond. Having one guy like this is okay. But when you have three guys like this, and they’re your top three righthanders in the pen, you have a problem. You’re going to run across some teams that will match up well with your bullpen, and you won’t have a counter for this. The Braves find themselves without a real power arm in the bullpen for the first time in a long while, and it’s a concern.

My second point is that I know I will miss somebody who makes the team, and I’m likely to say something that looks stupid in retrospect like I did about Alfonseca last season. Pitchers are unpredictable and relievers more so than starters. Also, the Braves have in the past been willing to give relief jobs to pitchers with limited track records, or who haven’t been effective in awhile. I think there’s a good chance someone will come completely out of nowhere and make the team.

A brief note on an unrelated topic… I missed NRI Roosevelt Brown in the “Additional outfield” entry. Brown won’t make the team in spring unless someone gets hurt, but could come up later. He hasn’t played in the majors in two years, but he was a pretty good outfield reserve once upon a time, hits lefty, and can play center field if your definition of “play center field” isn’t too strict. He’s probably a better player than Brian Jordan is now, but you can say that about a lot of guys.

Roosevelt Brown Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

16 thoughts on “Bullpen Previews Introduction”

  1. Mac, I agree with you for the most part, but I thought that Gryboski’s signature pitch was a sinkerball and that Reitsma’s was his changeup? They may both be “groundball pitchers”, but won’t the batters still be seeing somewhat of a different style from each one? You know more about it than I do, so maybe I’m missing something. I can’t comment on Kolb because I don’t know much about him, but I think that Gryboski and Reitsma differ somewhat. Maybe Reitsma can make his strikeout numbers continue to ascend, so we don’t have to worry about it.

    As for Colon, I’ll just say what the sports pundits on ESPN say about nearly every rookie, that is, that he has potential. He got Bonds out on consecutive days when he first came up–that’s got to count for something.

    On a side note, fantasy baseball starts tomorrow. Does anybody know any “diamonds in the rough” that might be worth picking up?

  2. Reitsma mostly throws a sinking fastball, or at least pitches off it. He does have a good changeup as his other pitch, and that’s his “out” pitch. Kolb also throws a hard sinker. I’ll try to go into the pitch selection in the individual comments, but the three do differ in their second pitches.

  3. On the OF. What about Nick Green and Wilson Betemit getting some looks out there this spring?? Even more with Betemit. Anybody is better than Jordan!!!!

  4. You make a good point. They aren’t exactly similar, but there isn’t quite the variety there one might like. Part of what Alfonseca had going for him last year, I think, is that he was much different than the other relievers – a sort of controlled wildness, when he was on. It sure would be nice to have someone come out of no where like a Remlinger, Hammond, or Holmes. But how many times can you really strike gold like that?

  5. Tom: The Braves aren’t going to do anything radical like that in the outfield. Besides, they have plenty of young outfield prospects with much more upside than Green.

  6. Grst is right; Langerhans or McCarthy, or even (though he’s not ready) Francoeur would be better than Jordan and out-hit and out-field any converted infielder.

  7. the problem with the bullpen, at least with the Braves, is that they tend to not be designed but to just develop through chance. I’m not aware that teams actually look for pitchers with different styles–it’s obviously a good idea but I think when it happens, it’s usually by chance.

  8. Mac is on to something with this analysis. Look at our best bullpen year: Holmes, Hammond, Remlinger and Smoltz. All four guys were very different in their approach and style.

  9. that was also a year when we had veterans who had a few bad years and came to reclaim themselves. Gabe White to me is the wildcard this year. He, Colon and Reitsma are very different, and though Reitsma and Kolb are similar in end result, they are very different in approach. I am pretty happy with the pen as compared to previous years. Who knows, maybe Martin could get on track as well. The outfield, well that is another story. That Kerns / Rameriez rumor should would look good to me now.

  10. Mac, I think the way Bobby uses his bullpen may make the “similarity” issue less important than it does in other managers. Bobby doesn’t use a situational approach to the bullpen as much as a structurual approach: whereas Larussa, etc. are obsessed with getting pitcher vs. batter matchups, Bobby tends to view it as this is my 6th inning guy, this is my we’re getting killed guy, etc., and never lets those guys out of the role they’re assigned in ST. My point is that does it make for a weaker bullpen to have 5 of the same thing? Yes, but only if you knew how to use the bullpen to take advantage of differences in relievers. Bobby doesn’t, as we have discussed many times: he’s of the “I’m gonna ride this horse til it drops” school.

  11. If you accept bledsoe’s comments about Bobby’s tendencies, then it’s easy to see why Mac clamored for more of Juan Cruz last year.
    Still, I know Bobby knows more about handling pitchers than I do, so I cut him some slack. There could come a day when Bobby typecasts a guy, rather than recognizing his strengths.
    I just hope that day never comes.

  12. No, I don’t think so. It’s not a situational thing, it’s a “repeat viewing” thing. You see Gryboski in the sixth inning, then Reitsma in the eighth, it’s not as big of a change as you’d usually get. Reitsma’s bigger and throws a little harder, and at least he has a second pitch, but you’ll still get that guy up there throwing sinkers to get ground balls.

    Moreover, if one guy gets hit around, normally Bobby would bring in the next guy then. But if the next guy’s pretty much the same as the last guy, there’s a good chance the hitting around will continue.

    I agree with Kevin; White’s a wild card. The Braves can’t be counting on him, but there was a time he could pitch, and at least he’s a different type of pitcher.

  13. I really think this is why farnsworth was on everyone’s radar, including bobby’s. It is always nice to have a cruz that can just come in and give two innings of power pitching to speed up the opponents swings.

    To me, that is when you have the best setup close rotation, when your closer is totally different from the reliever that just pitched the 8th.

  14. As long as they locate the ball, their stuff is always going to be of secondary importance. If Gryboski is walking guys or missing over the plate, and Reitsma comes in throwing the same pitch but with command, they should still be able to get hitters out.

  15. That is why the braves do well in the regular season and not in the postseason. Good hitters can hit a pitch anywhere if it is straight(see Vlad Guerrero) You need good stuff to get out good hitters. This is also why Smoltz was so much better in the postseason than glavine.

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