Derek Lowe didn’t start the night off in a good way. Two walks, two pitches in the dirt (one wild pitch), and one run given up before the Braves came up to bat. Fortunately, Kelly Johnson led off with a triple and scored in the bottom of the first. Similarly, when Lowe gave up 3 runs in the top of the 5th, the Braves answered with three.
But let’s be honest, if your bullpen gives up six runs (5 in the 9th inning), chances are you’re sunk, no matter what happened in the first five innings. Rafael Soriano and Eric O’Flaherty were the only good spots for the Braves – Soriano pitched a perfect 8th inning and O’Flaherty struck out his only charge. Peter Moylan struggled (needed to get that ERA back above 20.00), Blaine Boyer couldn’t find the plate (seriously – he had no clue where it was) and Jorge Campillo had to come in and close the game out in the bottom of the 9th. If we were the Yankees, we’d have sent in Nick Swisher to pitch at that point.
In the end, we lost 10-4. Not even close. The bullpen’s gotta work these jitters out – last year I got so sick of one run games – this year I am going to get mad even faster if we continue to give up six runs every time our bullpen shows up. An ERA of 7.00 from our bullpen is hardly anywhere near acceptable.
Oh, and by the way – if you’re heading out to the game – grab a few layers. It gets downright COLD at night with the wind blowing.
Tags: Blaine Boyer, Derek Lowe, Eric O'Flaherty, Jorge Campillo, Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano
Posted in Game Analysis | 6 Comments »
Today we bring you part two of the 2009 bullpen preview. In case you missed part one yesterday, here it is. We’re looking at the guys duking it out in Spring Training for the last couple of spots in the bullpen this year.
Jeff Bennett was an indispensable part of the Braves’ pitching staff last season, serving in every imaginable role. He started several games, and converted 3 of 4 save opportunities. He pitched in long relief, and was frequently used an inning at a time. And with a hard sinker as his best pitch, he was sometimes called on to pitch to a single hitter in double-play situations. Despite the lack of a predictable role, he performed admirably, finishing the year with a 3.70 ERA (3.12 as a reliever). His solid body of work in 08′, combined with his versatility, may give him an edge in the battle for a spot in the Braves’ bullpen.
Jorge Campillo spent most of last season in Atlanta’s starting rotation, but was outstanding in his 21.2 innings of relief, allowing only 3 earned runs out of the bullpen. He is unlikely to retain his job in the rotation, and will probably find himself battling for a job in the ‘pen’. As with Jeff Bennett, Campillo offers the Braves flexibility. He can pitch in long or short relief, and can be called on to start in a pinch.
Phil Stockman is a fascinating possible addition to the big league club. When healthy, Stockman has dominated minor league hitters over the past few seasons. And I do mean DOMINATED. Since the start of the 2006 season, the 6′ 8″ Australian righty has pitched 109 innings at the A, AA, and AAA levels, posting a 1.57 ERA. Not to mention 126 strikeouts in those 109 innings. Stockman had a cup of coffee with the Atlanta Braves in 2006, and again last season. In 11.1 big league innings, he has recorded 13 strikeouts, and allowed only 1 earned run. The downside… his control can be erratic, and he is injury prone. Stockman is out of options, so the Braves must either add him to the 25-man roster this spring, or trade him. But if he is healthy this spring, his potential may prove too great for the Braves to pass over.
Buddy Carlyle earned a place in Bobby Cox’s heart after his surprise contributions to the team during the 2007 season. The veteran journeyman was very effective in the long-relief role for the Braves, finishing the year with a 3.59 ERA over 62.2 innings of work. Carlyle certainly pitched well enough last year to earn a job in the 09′ bullpen. But with so many options and some tough decisions ahead, I’ll be surprised if Carlyle wears an Atlanta Braves uniform this year.
Eric O’Flaherty will compete with Boone Logan and Jeff Ridgeway for the “situational lefty” position in the Atlanta ‘pen’. He started the 08′ season in that very role for the Seattle Mariners, but was optioned to “AA” just two weeks into the season after a rough start. The Braves claimed him off waivers over the winter after he was dropped from the Mariners’ 40-man roster. Braves officials are hopeful that O’Flaherty, who features a mid-90′s fastball and a biting slider, will respond to a change of scenery and recapture the form that once made him a top-prospect in the Mariners’ organization.
Boone Logan was “the other guy” acquired by the Braves in the deal that brought Javier Vazquez to Atlanta. MLB’s Mark Bowman recently reported that the Braves are “excited about Logan’s potential”. He added that the 24-year-old left-handed reliever “posted a 5.95 ERA in 55 inconsistent appearances this past season. In his first 36 appearances [last] season, Logan posted a 1.95 ERA and limited opponents to a .223 batting average.” However, he struggled over his next 12 appearances, and lost his job on the big league roster.
Jeff Ridgway was one of two players the Braves acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Willy Ayabar prior to last season. After 10 productive outings with the Braves last year (3.72 ERA), the lefty earned a chance to compete for a big league bullpen job this spring.
STRENGTHS: Assuming reasonably good health, the Braves bullpen essentially has three dominant closers (Gonzalez, Soriano, Moylan) at their disposal. I’m not sure any other team in baseball can say the same. They also have two other young relievers (Acosta, Boyer) with “closer’s stuff”, and tremendous overall depth. A more durable starting rotation will further add to the strength of this bullpen by removing the undue burden placed on it last season.
WEAKNESSES: While everyone appears healthy, the Braves will be dependent upon three surgically repaired arms at the end of their bullpen. Also, the departure of Ohman leaves Atlanta without a proven left-handed middle-reliever.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: If healthy, it is not hyperbole to say the Braves could have the best bullpen in baseball. And if Boyer & Acosta take a step forward, along with good health, this could be the best bullpen in either league by a significant margin.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Please see 2008.
So with that in mind, who do you see taking the final couple of spots in the bullpen this year and what roles will they best serve?
Tags: Boone Logan, Buddy Carlyle, Bullpen, Eric O'Flaherty, Jeff Bennett, Jeff Ridgway, Jorge Campillo, Phil Stockman
Posted in General | 2 Comments »