Drew Pomeranz Best Suited For Oakland Athletics Bullpen


The Oakland Athletics’ bullpen has a lot to think about after its disastrous eight-run seventh inning in Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. One of those runs came in when reliever Drew Pomeranz walked Daniel Robertson with the bases loaded. Although Pomeranz contributed to the runs scored in that dreadful inning, the A’s should keep him as a staple in the bullpen for the long term.

The A’s may be tempted to work Pomeranz back into the rotation if they decide to move Scott Kazmir later, but they already have Kazmir’s replacement waiting in Triple-A Nashville. Pomeranz has actually demonstrated that his skill set is significantly more effective in the bullpen, and the A’s should not even consider moving him into a starting role again.

Pomeranz has always struggled to get quality starts, which occur when the starter pitches at least six innings while giving up three earned runs or fewer. In his 18 starts with Oakland since 2014, he has only done this four times. In those 18 starts, he averages only five and a third innings per game. With an average of 88 pitches per game started, he works especially hard to get through those five innings.

The explanation for this is simple. Pomeranz has phenomenal stuff when he is facing a lineup for the first time, but batters figure him out quickly. In 2015, his performance when facing a lineup for the second or third time paled in comparison to his ability to get batters out the first time.

This season, Pomeranz’s strikeout to walk ratio through the first time of the order is 4.67. This falls off the map the second and third time through the order to 1.29 and 1.50 respectively. Batters have a .637 OPS versus Pomeranz when seeing him for the first time, but this jumps to .729 and .717 the second and third time through the order.

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The pitch count is not a thing that pitchers can ignore. When Pomeranz starts, he knows that he has historically had trouble going the distance. He feels the pressure to get through innings efficiently, and it may distract him from making the pitches he needs to in the starting role. That is obviously speculation about what he feels when on the mound, but what if the A’s used him in situations where he could forget about the pitch count?

That is exactly why the A’s use Pomeranz out of the bullpen, and the numbers show that he is an incredibly more effective pitcher this way. When pitch counts do not matter and he only has to see the lineup once, he is actually a relief arm the A’s can use in any situation.

As a reliever this season, he has held opposing batters to a feeble .143 average, compared to a .242 average as a starter. His 2015 ERA as a reliever is 2.70, which is astounding given his 4.40 ERA as a starter. He has held opposing batters to a lights-out .439 OPS in relief appearances this year. Nearly every metric supports that not only is he better in a relief role, he is a lot better in a relief role.

Do not condemn Pomeranz for what happened Friday night. Recall Daniel Robertson’s at-bat when Pomeranz was asked to come in with the bases loaded and nobody out. Pomeranz jumped ahead of the count 1-2, but Robertson fouled off a very well placed fastball. Pomeranz then threw a curveball in the dirt and a high fastball, and Robertson showed tremendous plate discipline to not chase either of those. The pitch that walked in a run was a low fastball that barely missed the zone, and Robertson again showed incredible discipline not swinging at that and possibly grounding into a double play.

Pomeranz struck out the next batter.

Even in a game that embarrassed the A’s bullpen, Pomeranz did exactly what he was supposed to do. He is, in fact, the A’s most useful situational reliever, and he is uninhibited in using his best stuff on every single pitch in this role.

Next: A.J. Griffin Key To Moving Scott Kazmir