Relievers Wearing Down
On August 2nd, Right-Handed Setup Guy #1 had a 2.24 ERA and was considered one of the key cogs in a bullpen that was keeping his team in a pennant race. The guy was a horse, having already pitched 56 innings during the first four months of the season and providing important shut down 8th innings to bridge the gap to the closer. In the 6 weeks since, he’s appeared in 15 games, put 23 guys on base in 12 2/3 innings and has posted a 10.66 ERA during the stretch run.
On August 2nd, Right-Handed Setup Guy #2 had a 2.59 ERA and was considered one of the key cogs in a bullpen that was keeping his team in a pennant race. The guy was a horse, having already pitched 58 innings during the first four months of the season and providing important shut down 8th innings to bridge the gap to the closer. In the 6 weeks since, he’s appeared in 18 games, put 36 guys on base in 19 innings and has posted a 6.63 ERA during the stretch run.
One of these guys is Scot Shields – one of the premier setup men in the league, a veteran with years of playoff experience, and a rock of the Angels bullpen. The other is Sean Green – a newcomer to the scene without any kind of major league track record. Can you tell which one is the grizzled veteran who has been through the wars and which one is the young guy who couldn’t handle the stress of a playoff race?
I didn’t think so. Here’s a hint – the guy allowing more than a run for every inning pitched? That’s the awesome reliable veteran.
I could repeat this exercise with a plethora of veteran relievers. Eric Gagne? Terrible since August. Dan Wheeler? Disastrously bad. Al Reyes? Total debacle.
So, local media types, please do us all a favor – stop talking about how the bullpen’s struggles since August are obviously the cause of inexperience wilting in a playoff race. You don’t know why Sean Green’s struggling any more than you know why any of those veterans are struggling. Relievers are inconsistent – even the best of them. Remember when Mariano Rivera posted a 10.57 ERA in April and everyone was ready to write off the Yankee closer again? Yea, that wasn’t right either.
Yes, the Mariners bullpen is young. And yes, the Mariner bullpen has struggled. But you don’t know that A is the cause of B, and there’s no evidence to show that an equally talented young pitcher is more likely to struggle during August and September than an equally talented veteran.
This whole veteran love affair is, by far, the most annoying storyline of the 2007 season. We already have to deal with the organization making bad decisions based on age – we don’t need media members using date of birth to give us bad analysis too.