Bullpen Improvements?

I’m baaaccckkkkk….

Coming into the 2011 MLB season, there was a ton of hype about the improvements that the Boston Red Sox made.  Adrian Gonzalez is one of the among the top 3 first basemen in the entire league.  Carl Crawford is among the top 5 or 6 outfielders in the league.  Adding those two cornerstones to the Sox lineup would undoubtedly increase their offensive production in 2011.  Although that hasn’t necessarily come to fruition just yet, I’m not concerned with either Crawford or Gonzalez, they will both get their fair share of hits.  Another area of improvement that was talked about was in the bullpen.  Much was made of the inconsistencies of the 2010 unit, that led to Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez being dealt away at the deadline, and the bullpen was in need of huge improvements.  So, Theo Epstein and the Red Sox went out and tried to improve the bullpen for 2011.  There are high hopes for the additions.  Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler are expected to be key members of the 2011 unit, while guys like Dennys Reyes and Matt Albers are looked at to provide some depth and Reyes to work primarily against lefties.

Upon further examination, I’m willing to argue that the 2011 bullpen is no better than the 2010 unit that so many Boston Red Sox fans continued to be aggravated with throughout last season.  Let’s take a closer look at the players and their stats.  First, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, and Tim Wakefield were all members of the 2010 unit that are around again in 2011.  Although you might look for some better production out of Papelbon, I would expect those three to give the Sox similar numbers that they gave in 2010.  As for the new additions, let’s take a look at their 2010 stats:

Bobby Jenks

Innings: 52.2

ERA: 4.44

Saves: 27 (4 blown saves)

WHIP: 1.37

Dan Wheeler

Innings: 48.1

ERA: 3.35

WHIP: 1.08

Matt Albers

Innings: 75.2

ERA: 4.52

WHIP: 1.48

Dennys Reyes

Innings: 38

ERA: 3.55

WHIP: 1.45

Now, let’s take a look at the relievers from 2010 that are no longer members for the 2011 bullpen (or at least are not there yet):

Manny Delcarmen

Innings: 44

ERA: 4.70

WHIP: 1.39

Ramon Ramirez

Innings: 42.1

ERA: 4.46

WHIP: 1.30

Scott Atchinson

Innings: 60

ERA: 4.50

WHIP: 1.28

Hideki Okajima

Innings: 46

ERA: 4.50

WHIP: 1.72

Felix Doubront

Innings: 25

ERA: 4.32

WHIP: 1.48

As is evident by the stats, the 2011 unit isn’t much more impressive than the production that the Sox received from the 2010 unit.  Granted, Wheeler’s 3.35 ERA is much better than anyone from 2010, but as relievers age their production often drops off quickly.  At 33, Wheeler’s ability to be effective in 2011 remains to be seen.  Reyes’ ERA was also lower than any member of the 2010 bullpen, but as a left handed specialist, Felix Doubront was very good in 2010.  Okajima will be in the mix for the 2011 bullpen, but his numbers seem to get worse the more hitters see him, so his level of production also remains to be seen.  Bobby Jenks was an implosion waiting to happen in 2010, and Ozzie Guillen’s feelings towards Jenks might say something about his ability to control his emotions.

Although Theo tried to make moves to improve the 2011 bullpen, from what I’ve seen so far this season and from what the 2010 stats indicate, I’m not sure how much better this season’s bullpen will be.  Late game success for the Sox will rely heavily on the shoulders of Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard, just as it did in 2010.  How they are going to bridge the gap between the starters and those two end of game studs remains to be seen.

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