Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Updates: TTO; Bradley; Silva; Bullpen

Posted by dannmckeegan on April 13, 2010

Carlos Silva and Milton Bradley are not going to leave me alone.  Studying Silva’s fall from grace is interesting and more complicated than I thought.  Bradley’s saga keeps getting more and more storied.  There’s some tangential follow-up to the three true outcomes entry from a couple days ago.  And the bullpen craziness is bugging the hell out of me.  I’ll have more later, but I’ll keep these four mini topics together.

Third things first:

On Carlos Silva:

When I said that I’d be posting my Silva write-up after the game a number of days ago, I didn’t realize what ghosts I’d find lingering in the bowels of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.  I’ve had to spend a good bit of time looking at the Minnesota numbers, perhaps even more than the Seattle numbers (even though his 2008 stats are rather fascinating from a Murphy’s Law standpoint: every variable that could go negative for the M’s that year, did.  So I’m still technically following through, but that likely won’t be until tomorrow.

So back to the original point, deriving from the third topic introduced, which itself became the first to be addressed: Carlos Silva is quite a complicated case study.  I personally believe that every pitcher is a complicated individual case study.  Only Mariano Rivera of the Yankees is somewhat simple, but the elegance of his simplicity derives from a fifteen year career in which he has thrown but one pitch almost exclusively.  Advanced metrics for pitchers aren’t nearly as telling as they can be for hitters, but some are useful.  It’ll be worth the wait.

TTO:

…or “three true outcomes.”  I talked about the falsehood of TTO after Zambrano’s strong game against the Reds.  I have a pair of updates.

First, the man who whiffed truth to power, Juan Francisco, was the man who lost his roster spot to debuting starting pitcher Mike Leake the following day.  Leake proceeded to walk 7 Cubs but contribute to the total stranding of a dozen baserunners.  An odd series of completely independent events.  No baseball hoodoo or voodoo there.  Just funny to notice the +11 swing for the Reds in “true” outcomes from one day to the next, and the switch from loss to win.

The second update is a commendation of Cubs TV play-by-play man Len Kasper, who brought up TTO during the broadcast of the Cubs’ home opener on Monday.  Aramis Ramirez’s first three plate appearances resulting in a base on balls, a foul-tip strikeout that facilitated a double steal, and a two-run home run.  He said, “All you need is a pitcher and a catcher.”  I believe it was color analyst Bob Brenly, whose son Michael just recently hit a walk-off homer for the Cubs’ High-A affiliate in Daytona, who added, “And fans in the bleachers to catch [the home run].”  A nice little piece of broadcast journalism from a very good team that is too often asked to sell the Atmosphere as much as the game.

Bradley:

Things are going about as well as could be expected for poor Milton Bradley in Seattle.  He’s been dropped from 4th to 6th in the lineup already.  His only hit is still an early-game home run, and a second home run bid was brought back in by Oakland OF Rajai Davis.  Apparently the Oakland fans were riding Bradley, a former Athletic, all night.  Eventually, he just told them the score:Milton tells A's fans the score

ESPN picked up an AP story out of Seattle detailing the struggles Milton is going through and how the Seattle organization is bending over backwards (forwards?) to treat their clubhouse like a group therapy session for one guy:

Manager Don Wakamatsu said before Seattle lost its home opener 4-0 to Oakland on Monday that he talked with his slumping slugger after he flipped off heckling fans from the outfield during the fourth inning at Texas on Friday night.

“He opened up and talked about the pressure. We talked a lot about relying on us to alleviate some of that and [how] he doesn’t have to carry this club by himself,” Wakamatsu said.

Bradley’s response?

“He responded to it and was open,” the manager said, adding Bradley was “remorseful” over the incident.

Anyone coherent enough to know he’s crazy can’t be found to be crazy.  Yossarian’s catch-22.  One of them, at least.  He’s 1-22 with 6 BB and 9 K for a triple-slash of .045/.250/.182.   It won’t be long before Ken Wakamatsu begins wondering how to get the dead man’s luggage out of his office.  And anyone who thinks that *this* all of a sudden will turn Milton around…I gave him all of last year.  Nearly six months.  If you play a sport for a living, you damn well better be able to handle pressure.  It’s one of the more important aspects, falling between talent and sunflower seed spitting.  Repeating the same set of actions over and over again and expecting a different result…GMs, meet Milton.  Milton, meet GMs.

Bullpen

Reports of the shaky Cubs bullpen have been greatly exaggerated.  Let’s compare the 2010 “shaky and terrible” bullpen with the pen Lou broke camp with in 2009:

2009 2010
Carlos Marmol Carlos Marmol
Kevin Gregg John Grabow
Aaron Heilman Sean Marshall
David Patton James Russell
Luis Vizcaino Esmailin Caridad
Neal Cotts Justin Berg
Angel Guzman Jeff Samardzija

What is it about the bullpen on the left – the one that has the veteran experience, especially from the right side – that inspires so much confidence? By their very nature, bullpens are mediocre and unpredictable. Veterans who have spent years honing their craft as anything other than dominant closers or LOOGYs of the highest order (think Jesse Orosco‘s career trajectory [three total links]) are simply warm bodies who haven’t yet had the common courtesy to go away.  They cost more than scale players and deliver diminishing returns for those dollars.  As the Cubs have already found with Grabow this year and Heilman in 2009, veteran middle relievers with track records and name recognition are the equivalent of Yakov Smirnoff if Branson, MO.  In an experienced bullpen, baseball game chokes away you!

The bullpen transformation from the late 80s to the late 90s to today has been rather dramatic.  I’ll be looking at that in the future in some detail.  But for now, suffice it to say that the major difference between the bullpens of today and those of my youth is not the depth of the pen, but rather the definition of depth.  Teams now need an 11-man staff at the least, with most teams opting for 12.  Furthermore, the high level of injuries that pitchers experience puts pressure on teams to go two or three deep at the minor league level.  These aren’t the future middle relievers, necessarily, but rather the future “starters,” future “closers,” or simply the riffraff veterans who couldn’t make the grade in March.  Compare this to the depth of the late 80s.  A four or five-man rotation would be assisted by a bullpen that was essentially 3-4 men deep.  Roles were less tightly specified, and the guys in the pen were called upon to Do Their Job, not earn a hold or save or retire the tough lefty/righty hitter.  Marmol. Marshall and Russell; or Gregg, Heilman and Cotts?

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