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April 14, 2005
  
Free Heath Bell

In 2003, Twins’ fan and blogging legend Aaron Gleeman, tired of watching Proven Veterans Rick Reed and Kyle Lohse hamstringing his team’s chances, decided to start the “Free Johan Santana!” campaign. You see, during that time, the Twins were in a battle three-way battle with the Royals and White Sox for the AL Central crown, and like any team in contention, couldn’t afford to give away any starts. Realizing this, Aaron, started to campaign for the liberation of a young Venezuelan whose changeup and fastball combination had outgrown his role as a middle reliever. Eventually Twins’ brass inserted Santana into the rotation, watched him establish himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, and rode his arm to the playoffs.

Following the same spirit of that now famous battle cry, we MetsGeek.com’s writers have decided to start our “Free Heath Bell!” campaign. Just like the Twins and their shaky rotation, the Mets have hamstrung themselves by having Manny Aybar and Felix Heredia in their bullpen while a much better option awaits in the minors. So, just like Aaron before us, we are asking Met management to do the right thing, and Free Heath Bell.

For all of you that don’t know, Heath Bell is a right-hander reliever, who in his uphill climb through the Met system, has done nothing but excel.

3.43 ERA 406.2 innings 370 hits 115/458 bb/so 

As you can see, Bell’s minor league numbers are impeccable. Not only that, but thanks 90+ fastball and a good breaking ball, he has posted excellent peripherals (as we all know ERA’s are deceiving for relievers. Just ask Mike Stanton):

8.19 hits per nine innings
2.55 walks per nine innings
10.14 strikeouts per nine innings

Reluctantly, the team called Bell up last year for a September audition, and the right-hander didn’t disappoint:

3.33 ERA 24 innings 22 hits 6/27  bb/so

Or better expressed as:

8.14 hits per nine innings
2.22 walks per nine innings
9.99 strikeouts per nine innings.

All excellent numbers, of course. The only thing that raised some red flags out his performance is the HR’s allowed, a problem that continued during spring training. In 24 innings at the major league level, Bell allowed 5 home runs, or a very ugly rate of 1 HR every 4.8 innings. Nevertheless, it should be noted that 2 of those 5 long balls happened during Bell’s only three-inning stint of the year, and at the HR-friendly, Citizens’ ballpark. Moreover, during his minor league career, Bell has only allowed 0.77 HRs per nine innings, which suggests that those major league numbers could be a fluke.

Obviously, the HRs are somewhat of a concern, but let’s remember, its not like we are asking the Mets to use Bell instead of Mariano Rivera, here. No, we are asking them to boot guys whose minor league and major league records are very suspect, both in ERA and peripherals, and who are clearly not capable of pitching effectively in tight spots (we are talking about you, Felix). We are asking them to do that and call up a guy who has proven time and time again, he can get people out.

So join us, Mets’ fans, and lets stop this injustice. Let’s “Free Heath Bell!”


60 Responses to “Free Heath Bell”

  1. Comment posted by Dan in Gettysburg on April 14, 2005 at 12:41 am (#910)

    People should start going to the stadium with FREE HEATH BELL signs and wave them anytime a crappy bullpen pitcher pitches….this is a worthwhile cause.

  2. Comment posted by Ricardo Gonzalez on April 14, 2005 at 1:28 am (#914)

    That’d be awesome.

    Hmmm…we should have some sort of contest about that. Whoever takes a “FREE HEATH BELL” sign to Shea and gets on TV…gets [insert in the blank].

  3. Comment posted by Andrew Hintz on April 14, 2005 at 1:41 am (#915)

    My Dad has a season ticket plan: four seats, four rows behind the Mets dugout. Everytime we go, we’re on TV.

    Next game we go to is May 13th against the Cardinals. If Heath Bell isn’t on the ballclub by then: consider it done, gentlemen.

  4. Comment posted by wally on April 14, 2005 at 10:28 am (#927)

    test
    test test
    test

  5. Comment posted by wally on April 14, 2005 at 10:39 am (#929)

    just a pet peeve, but K-rates, BB-rates and HR-rates are much better expressed as a % of TBF. Per 9 inning stats are inflated for guys who give up a lot of baserunners since they simply have more opportunities to get a true outcome. Average K-rates are 16%, BB-rates 8% and HR rates 2.5%.

    Yr-Level K%/BB%/HR% (CMD)
    2004-MLB 28.7/6.4/5.3 (4.5)
    2004-AAA 28.7/10.1/1.7 (2.8)
    2003-AAA 26.2/3.9/1.9 (6.8)
    2002-AAA 22.2/7.1/1.6 (3.1)
    2002-AA 37.4/4.6/0.0 (8.2)

    was the HR rate high last year in the majors? yes. but very out of line with his minor league numbers so chalk it up to SSS deviation. his walk rate was a little out of character in AAA last year, but he still had a healthy 2.8 CMD rate. and while there was a lot of 40-man roster competition mixed in there, you’re still looking at a guy who struck out almost 1 out of every 3 batters he faced in the majors last year.

    as bell’s slowly moved up through the system, his rep was always: good control, misses bats, but hittable when he doesn’t. looking at the numbers again:

    2004-MLB .290 BIPa, 17% RAS, 3.33 RA
    2004-AAA .299 BIPa, 26% RAS, 3.40 RA
    2003-AAA .367 BIPa, 37% RAS, 4.71 RA
    2002-AAA .370 BIPa, 28% RAS, 4.26 RA
    2002-AA .274 BIPa, 21% RAS, 1.42 RA

    BIPa is BAA on BIP (and you’d expect a regression to .270ish). RAS is Runners Allowed to Score (and you’d expect a regression to 30%ish). anything off from that may mean there’s luck implied in the RA.

    sure looks like he was immensely hittable in 2002 and 2003. was he throwing it straight and hard or was this a biproduct of DIPs bad luck? whatever it was it (and ?bad luck? with RISP/bequeathed runners in 03) kept his prospect star fairly low profile. but a return to more normal numbers brought that RA down and allowed us to focus on the stellar K:BB ratios.

    bell’s not a kid. he’s 27 and entering his prime. using guys like him and forunato (30) for 2-3 years of on the cheap, effective relief pitching is the way you build a bullpen (unless of course you can spend $35M like the team crosstown). that minaya and willieball dont seem to grasp this concept is so disappointing.

  6. Comment posted by Mike on April 14, 2005 at 11:13 am (#933)

    Great stuff wally.

    Look, Heath Bell should be setting up in the ML Pen, we all know that. However, this is getting a little out of hand. While it wasn’t said or even implied in the article, let me say it anyway

    Heath Bell != Johan Santana

    Johan Santana pitched 110 inning of 3.00 or lower ERA ball in 2002, in the majors. Heath Bell ….. didn’t. Starter ….. reliever. We have other options in the minors that are almost as good as Bell. Free them all.

  7. Comment posted by wally on April 14, 2005 at 11:45 am (#937)

    Look, Heath Bell should be setting up in the ML Pen, we all know that. However, this is getting a little out of hand. While it wasn’t said or even implied in the article, let me say it anyway

    Heath Bell != Johan Santana

    but free ramon castro and bobby kielty johan santana either. it’s about using a player as a symbol for a team that’s making some questionable roster decisions. and right now the mets are. and bell’s the most visible of the bunch…at least until fortunato, strickland and moreno are healthy.

    We have other options in the minors that are almost as good as Bell. Free them all.

    open the cage. let them into the wild.

  8. Comment posted by wally on April 14, 2005 at 1:04 pm (#942)

    i misspoke.

    you’d expect RAS to regress to around 25%. and BIPa to about .300.

  9. Comment posted by warren on April 14, 2005 at 1:38 pm (#944)

    It should be Manny (Aybar)out, Heath in. I might not agree w/it, but at least I know why Heredia is on the team. Aybar is a 33 year old never has been who never will be. I heard John Stearns last summer on the FAN, and when the host asked him about Royce Ring (who I have seen in person and think is VERY good), all he wanted to talk about was how good Heath Bell is.

  10. Comment posted by Paulie Vegas on April 14, 2005 at 1:41 pm (#945)

    Bell has done everything the organization has asked him to do. He’s lost weight. He’s worked on his control. And he’s done his time in the minors. From what’s been published, he’s a likeable and positive clubhouse guy. His time has come. Release (or trade) Aybar and promote Bell now. There is no reason to not make the move now. FREE HEATH BELL

  11. Comment posted by Ricardo Gonzalez on April 14, 2005 at 3:33 pm (#957)

    Good stuff, Wally.

    And no, I don’t think Heath Bell is anywhere close to Johan Santana as a pitcher. The idea behind the comparison is that just like Johan, Bell is being used inefficiently by the Mets and as such, he also needs to be “liberated.” Will Bell come up and lead the Mets to the playoffs? Nobody knows, but at the very least we can expect him to be better than Manny Aybar and Felix Heredia.

    And yes, when (if?) Moreno is healthy, he should be in the bullpen. He’s probably, other than Looper, the Mets’ best reliever.

  12. Comment posted by wally on April 14, 2005 at 6:18 pm (#967)

    bell got 2 innings in this afternoon, retiring all six he faced for his second save. he’s now faced 15 batters this year, set them all down, 8 of them with their bats in their hands muttering obscenities on the way back to the dugout.

  13. Comment posted by wally on April 14, 2005 at 6:26 pm (#970)

    can we start a free brett harper campaign? 5 homers already in the FSL. he’s slugging .821. does he have anything to prove in high-A at this point? instead he’s blocked by the triple-headed AAAA monster luis brazbach in norfolk, and the ongoing devaluation experiment of mike jacobs in AA.

  14. Comment posted by Ricardo Gonzalez on April 14, 2005 at 6:52 pm (#972)

    Speaking of Bell, today he inherited 2 runners and no outs in his first inning. Not surprisingly, none scored as he struck out two of the next three batters and induced a pop out. FREE HEATH BELL!!!

    Definitely. Harper starting in the FSL, a league in which he hit 350/440/564 last year, is nothing short of ridiculous. I can’t possibly imagine what the Mets are thinking here.

    BTW, Petit, through 3 innings already has 5 Ks. Too bad that fastball isn’t going to work with more advanced hitters, huh?

  15. Comment posted by Rene R. on April 15, 2005 at 4:01 pm (#981)

    I’m in..Free Bell & Get the hernia out of my back!!!

  16. Comment posted by Edwin Alejandro on April 24, 2005 at 3:38 am (#1424)

    How about John Rocker on the Mets A.S.A.P?

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