October 15, 2008
State of the Bullpen, Part 2

Last time, we went over who should stay. Now, who should join:

The Big Names

Francisco Rodriguez

            IP    H   HR    ERA    K   BB
2008      68.1   54    4   2.24   77   34
Career   451.2  305   34   2.35  587  198

Splits: Lefties + .109 OPS (.623-.523) career, +.111 OPS (.682-.571) last year.

Certainly you don’t really need too many advanced statistics to flesh out the value of Francisco Rodriguez. Through his first six years in the major leagues, he’s been as good and consistent a closer as you could really hope to have. However, warning signs pop up in many more places than you’d expect: his delivery is one of the most violently torqued in the game, and many have long thought it will lead to future injury. More importantly, his strikeout rate has plummeted from its previous alter world realms and settled on a saner pace just north of one per inning.

And there there’s his likely asking price; it’s unprecedented for a player of this stature to make it to the market at such a young age, and it may take five years to sign him.

And I’d be a little wary of that. This isn’t a completely fair comparison, but it reminds me a lot of the 2006 offseason when the Mets were linked to Barry Zito, who was the best pitcher on the market despite his declining peripherals. Ask the Giants how that one worked out for them. I’m not saying K-Rod will not be a valuable pitcher, but his value will never be higher than it is right now, and I’m very reluctant to lock into that with any pitcher, let alone one who will throw less than 100 innings a year.

Brian Fuentes

            IP    H   HR    ERA    K   BB
2008      62.1   47    3   2.73   82   22
Career   422.0  343   41   3.41  480  179

Splits: Righties + .056 OPS (.690-.634) career, +.125 OPS (.596-.471) last year.

Fuentes is probably the less sexy closer option of the two, but he’s been just as good as Rodriguez has, and the splits issues resulting from having a lefty closer don’t matter quite as much when said reliever is still mowing down righties. He is older but has a very easy and repeatable motion, and, like Rodriguez, he has no injury history.

However, the rumblings are again picking up to where it looks like Fuentes will be looking at something near four years and $40 million. I consider this safer than Rodriguez because his peripherals have yet to start to dive yet, but I still don’t like the commitment here.

Kerry Wood

            IP    H   HR    ERA    K   BB
2008      66.1   54    3   3.26   84   18
Career  1219.1  947  131   3.65 1407  577

Splits: Lefties +.057 (.706-.649) career, Righties +.053 (.657-.604) last year.

Do the Mets want to go down this road again?

Wood is an extremely talented pitcher, he took really well to his role in the bullpen, and his walk rate was way down. He still has phenomenal stuff. But the question will always be, “How long can he stay healthy for?”

It’s an interesting dilemma. On talent, Wood is the equal of Fuentes or Rodriguez, and his injury woes will probably force him into a smaller contract. But we have seen what relying on injury-prone pitchers can do to a staff over the last few years, namely with (primarily) Pedro Martinez, Duaner Sanchez, and Orlando Hernandez. I’m not sure Omar is willing to gamble on the chance that the savings and potential reward will outweigh the chance of injury.

Trevor Hoffman

            IP    H   HR    ERA    K   BB
2008      45.1   38    8   3.77   46    9
Career   988.0  762   90   2.78 1055  274

Splits: Lefties +.026 (.618-.592) career, +.407 (.873-.466) last year.

At this point, Trevor Hoffman is an extremely flawed pitcher. Not only has he not had success against left-handers since 2006, but his stats are extremely depressed, due to some big assistance from Petco Park.

So, why do I suggest him? He’s the perfect option for the Mets if their goal is all about perception. Say the Mets don’t want to go into next season with spending money on any of these big guys, but they still need a name pitcher in the pen to make it look like they’ve addressed the position when they’ve instead budgeted the improvement elsewhere. Hoffman can’t possibly be asking for more than a one-year, $5 million contract.

That said, I do expect him to retire or go back to the Padres, but you just can’t make a big-name reliever list without one of the top closers of all-time when he’s available.

Bobby Jenks

            IP    H   HR    ERA    K   BB
2008      61.2   51    3   2.63   38   17
Career   235.2  196   13   3.09  224   76

Splits: Righties +.126 (.666-.546) career, +.081 (.661-.580) last year

Consider this more of a split entry for random shocking closer trade; BJ Ryan is the other one that gets bandied around a bit, but I consider Jenks more likely to be traded because J.P. Riccardi hasn’t really made any team-altering trades since the 2005 offseason—Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus doesn’t count. The decline in strikeouts for Jenks this year was almost unheard of, but a close look at the data shows that his slider was imminently hittable last year. I’m not sure what to make of Jenks, or if he will come at a discount because of these issues, but he’s still got a big-time arm, and if he could be had it makes a lot of sense for the Mets to check in.

That said, I think teams with less payroll room than the Mets will be angling harder for Jenks, as he is just entering arbitration and will be very attractive to teams near their payroll limit, such as the Tigers.

Huston Street

            IP    H   HR    ERA    K   BB
2008      70.0   58    6   3.73   69   27
Career   269.0  210   18   2.88  271   78

Splits: Lefties +.204 (.710-.506) career, +.066 (.709-.643) last year

That last line there, that’s why you won’t hear too many people campaigning for Street’s addition to the bullpen. That said, his splits last year were not too bad, he’s still got a couple years before free agency, and there may very well be enough of a panic about his performances in Oakland for a savvy team to try to buy low.

That said, there is something very scary about trading for someone with those kinds of splits and expecting him to hold up as a key cog in the bullpen. And the idea of Billy Beane dealing with Omar Minaya is not exactly something that inspires me with confidence.

Hitoki Iwase

            IP    H   HR    ERA    K   BB
2008      49.0   55    2   2.94   41   10
Career   625.2  521   26   2.04  575  125

2008: 49 IP, 55 H, 2 HR, 2.94 ERA, 41-10 K/BB (Nippon Stats – Chunichi)
Career: 625 2/3 IP, 521 H, 26 HR, 2.04 ERA, 575/125 K/BB

Splits: Unavailable

Iwase, profiled well by NPB Tracker, is the latest Japanese international that looks likely to try his luck on the continent. Words like “you’d have to go back to Kazuhiro Sasaki to find an NPB closer with better numbers than Iwase” are pretty encouraging,

That said, he will be 34 next season, and his numbers from this season are a clear step back from his previously established performance. If the Mets can shoehorn him into a smaller deal like the one handed out to Takashi Saito, I think this is a move they should probably make with confidence. If there is a bidding war, stay away.


I think it’s probably best if the Mets stand on the sideline on most of these guys. Other than the top three, the level of performance is a little questionable at this point. That said, I expect the Mets to end up with either Rodriguez or Fuentes, and while it will be one expensive bandaid, it might be able to shut the tabloids up for a half-season.

Next week: looking under the radar.

7 Responses to “State of the Bullpen, Part 2”

  1. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on October 15, 2008 at 2:52 am (#877252)

    it might be able to shut the tabloids up for a half-season.

    Hah! I´ll believe that when I see it!

    Good analysis. I had pegged Woods or possibly Fuentes on my new journal, though I didn´t look at trade candidates or japanese players. Some interesting names…

  2. Comment posted by Big Bob the sluggah on October 15, 2008 at 11:48 am (#877487)

    Juan Cruz
    Jeremy Affeldt

    Beast ‘pen

  3. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on October 15, 2008 at 11:39 pm (#878040)

    Well, at least I can say: *&#^ Ned Colletti!

  4. Comment posted by MightyJoeOrsulak on October 15, 2008 at 11:39 pm (#878041)

    Go Rays!

  5. Comment posted by Wally Dykstra on October 17, 2008 at 12:58 pm (#879153)

    I kind of like Wood if you can get him for a short-term deal.

  6. Comment posted by Super T on October 19, 2008 at 8:57 am (#879422)

    I wonder how hard Seattle would be to negotiate a deal with for JJ Putz?

  7. Gravatar
  8. Comment posted by Chris McCown on October 20, 2008 at 12:41 am (#879477)

    I didn’t touch the Putz situation because Seattle doesn’t even have a GM yet, but it would definitely make sense for them to shop him if they aren’t going to spend a lot of money this offseason.