ZiP It! The Bullpen Edition
By Sean Davis
It brings a tear to my eye to be writing the final installment of the ZiP It! series, but all things must pass….
This group of players is often overlooked, but they are essential to any team’s success. They spend most of their time finding ways to past the time during the games, but when they’re called upon they have to snap into game form in a matter of minutes and enter in some very dicey situations. They’re expected to bail out starters, and walk the tightrope constantly, and if they’re good at it the team will have great success holding onto leads. The bullpen for the Athletics really came together in 2012 and became a strength down the stretch. A mix of firepower and deception, with an adrenaline pumping emotion undercurrent made the Athletics bullpen a force to be reckoned with.
August 2, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics bullpen dance to “call me maybe” during the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The likes of Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook, along with Sean Doolittle get the bulk of the spotlight for the manner in which they dominate hitters in the late innings, but the middle relievers led by Jerry Blevins, Pat Neshek, Jordan Norberto, Evan Scribner, Travis Blackley, Pedro Figueroa and new addition Chris Resop will bridge the gap between the starters and the late inning guys. So the question is whether or not they will continue to be a strength in 2013.
Grant Balfour: 61 games, 57.1 innings, 3.14 ERA, 57 K, 3.23 FIP
Ryan Cook: 67 games, 68.1 innings, 3.42 ERA, 66 K, 3.52 FIP
Sean Doolittle: 61 games, 71.1 innings, 3.15 ERA, 83 K, 3.04 FIP
Jerry Blevins: 59 games, 57 innings, 3.79 ERA, 51 K, 3.83 FIP
Pat Neshek: 57 games, 56.2 innings, 3.49 ERA, 48 K, 3.32 FIP
Jordan Norberto: 48 games, 55.1 innings, 3.90 ERA, 53 K, 3.98 FIP
Evan Scribner: 52 games, 59 innings, 4.27 ERA, 50 K, 4.16 FIP
Travis Blackley: 26 games (13 starts), 88 innings, 4.40 ERA, 61 K, 4.30 FIP
Chris Resop: 55 games, 58.2 innings, 4.30 ERA, 49 K, 3.83 FIP
Pedro Figueroa: 52 games, 4.82 ERA, 61.2 innings, 40 K, 5.10 FIP
There are many other relievers who may find themselves riding the pine down the left field line in 2013, like Mike Ekstrom, Jesse Chavez, Andrew Werner, and perhaps even a youngster like Arnold Leon. Time will tell as the guys in the back end of the bullpen begin to go through the revolving door.
Balfour, Cook, and Doolittle are all expected to build on their strong 2012 seasons, and ZiPs thinks two of them will do just that. Balfour became a truly dominant pitcher when he took charge of the closers role late in the 2012 season, and there is very little doubt that he’ll let that go. I expect Balfour to lead the charge in 2013, and his numbers may look even better than ZiPs thinkgs. Cook walked a bit of a tight rope when he struggled with his control, and it caught up with him at times, and it may do so once again for the 2012 All Star. Sean Doolittle has the talent to continue to dominate hitters, and will take his stuff to a whole new level this year.
Jerry Blevins was still prone to the long ball, despite his success otherwise. If he can cut those down, he can easily beat his projections, but if he doesn’t then his good fortune that kept his numbers down in 2012 will likely run out. Pat Neshek absolutely needs to face right handed hitters unless there is literally nobody left to pitch to a lefty, his wild deception and nasty movement will give hitters fits, a 3.49 ERA seems like it very well could be a bit high.
Jordan Norberto and Evan Scribner will be mostly in lower leverage situations unless they prove too dominant to ignore, they’ll both take their lumps, but will provide the A’s with many valuable innings throughout the season. Travis Blackley will be the long man when he’s in the bullpen, but as ZiPs projects will likely grab a few starts here and there, I don’t know if he’ll get up to 13 starts, but 6-8 seems more than reasonable. He won’t blow anyone away necessarily, but he’ll get the job done when he’s needed, his projections seem about right. Besides, his midseason hashtags on Twitter are top notch (#canwin #ourbad).
Then there’s Chris Resop, the new guy in the mix. He’ll be in a similar role to that of Scribner and Norberto, pitching in mostly low leverage situations. A 4.30 ERA seems about right for him. Pedro Figueroa will likely ride the I-80 corridor numerous times between Oakland and Sacramento, his projections will probably be about right if that’s the case.
With that, I officially conclude the evaluation of the ZiPs projections for 2013. These projections are often a bit on the conservative side, as evidenced by many of the numbers expected from various members of the Athletics roster. The fact remains no matter what though, this is the team to beat in the AL West in 2013, and they seek to defend that title and build on the success of 2012.