Grading the A’s Season So Far: The Bullpen
Last year, the bullpen was a disaster. Rebuilding the bullpen seemed to be one of the major goals of the front office going into the off-season. Several trades and free agent signings later, the Oakland Athletics had an almost-entirely new relief crew.
The bullpen was expected to be much better this year, and it really has been so far. Sean Doolittle seems to have relinquished the closer’s role to Ryan Madson, but both of them have gotten a few saves, and both of them have blown a few saves. After a rough start to the year, Doolittle appears to be back on track. One other observation: John Axford also throws surprisingly hard.
When it is clicking, manager Bob Melvin knows he can count on the bullpen not only to preserve a win, but to blow the other team’s hitters away. Even the hurlers who are not closers have been very good. Fernando Rodriguez has allowed just one of 11 inherited runners to score so far this season, and Marc Rzepczynski has posted a 2.70 ERA against left-handers. Ryan Dull has also emerged as one of the most reliable arms in the bullpen.
The injuries to the starting rotation have meant that a lot of inexperienced pitchers have been called up. Some very short starts have put a great deal of pressure on the relievers. It has not been perfect, but the bullpen is meeting expectations.
Next: Grading the A's Season So Far: The Defense