Revisiting The Six Man Bullpen

Dave · April 21, 2010 at 11:19 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The M’s left spring training with just six relievers, believing that their defense could help keep pitchers in the game long enough to make it work. It didn’t, and a few short outings by Ian Snell and Ryan Rowland-Smith led to the end of the experiment after just three games, when Jesus Colome was called up to serve as an additional long reliever. He pitched 3 innings on April 8th, saving the bullpen before they went to Texas, and at that point, it seemed like the team would need to stick with a seven man bullpen to make up for some questions in the rotation.

Since that day, the M’s have played 12 games. Jesus Colome has pitched in two of them, throwing a grand total of three innings. Nearly the entire rotation has pitched well, and the bullpen has actually been underworked. In fact, since April 9th, here are the games pitched by each of the members of the Mariner bullpen:

Jesus Colome: 2
Kanekoa Texeira: 2
Shawn Kelley: 4
Sean White: 4
Mark Lowe: 4
Brandon League: 4
David Aardsma: 5

During this stretch, Aardsma, League, and Kelley have each pitched on back to back days one time each, while the other four have not had to pull duty in consecutive games. This covers 12 games with just one off day in that stretch. The Mariners have barely needed six relievers for the last two weeks, and they certainly didn’t need seven.

Now, of course, it was impossible to know any of this ahead of time. At the time they made the decision, they couldn’t have foreseen how well Fister and Vargas were going to pitch, so I don’t blame them for making the move when they did. However, given what we now know, and what is coming up, it’s time to consider going back to the six man bullpen.

The Mariners are off today, then play six straight games against the White Sox (who can’t hit) and the Royals (who have forgotten that they can’t hit, but will remember soon). This is followed by another off-day, and then the team comes home for a three game set against Texas. In the first game of that series, Cliff Lee returns from the DL, bolstering the pitching staff even more. And the team follows that series with yet another off-day.

Nine games in twelve days, with Lee’s return included in that stretch, and the first six games coming against relatively easy opponents. If ever the Mariners could go with a six man bullpen, these next two weeks are it. But it’s not just a good idea because they’re not likely to need Jesus Colome, but because they could really, really use that roster spot.

Milton Bradley is dinged up, which is no big surprise. When he’s not in the line-up or has to leave early, the M’s have to choose between Eric Byrnes or Matt Tuiasosopo to play left field, with the other acting as the only real reserve for the rest of the roster. As we saw the last few days, that creates some problems, especially when a right-handed pitcher is on the hill. The Mariners can’t afford to be punting offense from left field, not when they’re already punting it from DH, catcher, and shortstop (the last few days notwithstanding).

The Mariners are walking a pretty tight rope with the position players. What do you do if Gutierrez’s groin acts up again on the road trip? Stick Byrnes in center and hope like crazy that Bradley can play an entire game, I guess, and if Rowland-Smith or Vargas are pitching, apologize for the outfield defense you’ve given them. It’s not just worst case scenarios, either. If Bradley needs another day off, you can’t pinch hit or pinch run for anyone on the roster, no matter the situation, because whichever of Tui/Byrnes isn’t already in the line-up is the backup for everyone else. If Junior or Kotchman are on third base with one out in the ninth inning of a close game, Wak is then left with the decision of whether to use his only backup to try and increase the odds of scoring that run.

From a tactical standpoint, this bench is short a couple of players. Since they’re committed to the Hugging DH Tandem for now, they can’t entirely fix it, but they can at least make the situation better.

DFA Colome, bring Langerhans back up, and give the six man bullpen another try. See if they can get through KC and Chicago with off-days on either side of the six game stretch. If it’s a disaster again, you can easily go back to the seven man bullpen in a week when Lee comes off the DL. But at least you’d have given it a real shot, with a rested bullpen and a somewhat solidified rotation, and used the roster spot on an area of the team that could actually use some help.

Jesus Colome isn’t going to help the Mariners win anything in the next week. He might not even pitch again before he’s DFA’d when Lee returns. Langerhans, though, could serve an actual purpose, give the team an outfielder who can play against RHPs, a left-handed bat off the bench for late game situations, and another pinch runner for situations where its needed. And if the M’s continue to pitch like they have, the six man bullpen can work, especially once Lee returns to the rotation.

The M’s felt like it was worth a try three weeks ago. Now, they’re actually in a position to make it work. I know they’re not going to go back to the six man bullpen, but they should.


84 Responses to “Revisiting The Six Man Bullpen”

  1. Dave on April 22nd, 2010 12:23 pm

    The DH issue is entirely separate issue. Don’t confuse them. This is simply “Langerhans is more useful than Colome to this team”.

    The team needs another outfielder on the roster. They do not need another long reliever. Thus, they should swap an outfielder for a long reliever. Pretty simple premise. There was no whining involved. Take off your blinders and read the post.

    Don’t be contrarian just for the sake of it.

  2. spankystout on April 22nd, 2010 12:24 pm

    I realize Saunders wasn’t impressive at all with his offense. Neither has Byrnes or Langerhans. Saunders, I believe should be an equivalent fielder, if not better with a larger sample. But if the M’s are going to have enough AB’s to keep Saunders playing somewhat frequently, it would make sense to develop. His production should be around what those guys can give. If he can’t get somewhat consistent playing time then its not worth it.

  3. Chris_From_Bothell on April 22nd, 2010 12:27 pm

    The DH issue is entirely separate issue. Don’t confuse them. This is simply “Langerhans is more useful than Colome to this team”. This is simply “Langerhans is more useful than Colome to this team”.

    Fair enough… but, Saunders is also more useful than Colome, though. So then it’s a matter of how that extra person would be used. Which does bring the DH issue into it.

    If the intended use is bench depth, platooning, resting, etc. then yes, Langerhans is the better option as he can do that and Saunders needs the bake time.

    If the intention is looking for a fulltime or nearly fulltime LF, Saunders likley has more ceiling than Langerhans and can be sent down more easily if the bullpen implodes again.

  4. thehemogoblin on April 22nd, 2010 12:29 pm

    We would have been better off being in Texas’ shoes right now. Winning is giving the front office the wrong signals. The process is flawed, regardless of the results.

  5. GripS on April 22nd, 2010 12:33 pm

    I shamefully admit I was in favor of Sweeney coming up after his awesome hitting at spring training. I now realize the error of that and wish the M’s FO would do the right thing. Sweeney absolutely must go.

    Langerhans *should* be with the club on Friday. Not sure what the deal is with Byrnes but that guy should be next to go in my opinion(after Sweeney of course). Start producing or be DFA’d.

  6. spankystout on April 22nd, 2010 12:52 pm

    My blinders are off. The post read the same way. I just am seeing a different perspective, and am discussing possibilities. Which is if the M’s are going to make a move in LF (internally). What would be the best move? Dave you said ‘Langerhans’. I disagree. I said Saunders in LF Bradley at DH. The whole point is to promote a collective thought, throw ideas back-and-forth. I’m being devils advocate to just be. If Saunders was suggested I would have agreed. In my first post I said I’d he doesn’t get enough time then don’t do it.
    What toe did I/we step on?

  7. Shanfan on April 22nd, 2010 12:54 pm

    Disregarding the arguments whether he can still hit or is using up a roster spot, what’s the problem with using Sweeney to face right-handed pitchers, doesn’t (didn’t) he hit them better anyway or am I reading the statistics wrong? (That’s very possible; I’m asking, not arguing.)

  8. spankystout on April 22nd, 2010 12:57 pm

    ‘i’m NOT being devils advocate to just be.’ (damn iphone)sorry

  9. JMHawkins on April 22nd, 2010 1:24 pm

    I just am seeing a different perspective, and am discussing possibilities.

    This discussion made me think back to the Bavasi Administration. For a couple of years back then, Dave presented his offseason plan in two posts: one that was Dave’s plan according to Dave’s philosophy, and another that was Dave’s plan according to the M’s FO philosophy. Or another way to put it, what the M’s should do in one post, and then the best we could hope for given the constraints the M’s put on themselves in another. Needless to say, the plans were pretty different, and trying to mix and match elements from each plan in the discussions didn’t really make sense..

    It just occured to me that this post is a little like those (and I realize how unkind that is to Zduriencik). What the M’s should do, and Dave has advocated, is end the DH platoon and assemble a more flexible bench. But for whatever reason, the M’s don’t want to do that, and it is causing problems. So this post appears to be Dave’s best plan according to current FO philosophy.

    “If they’re not going to do the smart thing, at least they can make this not-entirely-dumb move.”

  10. djw on April 22nd, 2010 1:51 pm

    I must confess to confusion at some of the hostile energy directed toward Langerhans in this thread. He’s absolutely nothing special, but he’s not a disaster, either. The bench is short one useful player, and that player is pretty much Langerhans. He’s almost certainly a better all-around player than Byrnes at this point, but Byrnes doesn’t get the hostility.

  11. Kazinski on April 22nd, 2010 2:01 pm

    I think Colome is more useful right now than Sweeney. It makes no sense to do anything with Colome right now because with Lee coming off the DL, there other moves to be made with the pitching staff. Why not do them all at once? Plus it looks like Bedard is only a few weeks behind Lee, I think we will be seeing a 7 man bullpen until Bedard settles into the rotation with a few starts, that is the middle of June.

  12. guschiggins on April 22nd, 2010 2:07 pm

    Langerhans for Colome makes the most sense. Even if Sweeeney gets cut, between Bradley-Griffey-Byrnes, I just don’t see the necessary PT for Saunders to warrant calling him up.

    I think Sweeney being apparently unable to play the field is what seals it for me… I’d like to see them try him out at 1B vs LHP with Bradley at DH and Byrnes at LF…

    There’s another name that no one has brought up yet in this thread… Tommy Everidge. If the front office really wants a RH DH vs LHP, doesn’t Everidge’s MLEs from last year project him at least as good as Sweeney?

    Texeira by the way has shown me absolutely nothing that makes me want to keep him on the team… middling fastball, poor control… I’d like to see whoever gets bumped by Cliff Lee as the long reliever in a 6 man bullpen with Kelley-White-Lowe-League-Aardsma

  13. Gamer on April 22nd, 2010 2:38 pm


    skipping Snell’s start in the rotation…

    On ESPN, they list the projected starters, Snell is dropped, I’m guessing they know something. Also, why would you not pitch your number one guy every five days, thus one of the current starter will be skipped this series. (even if it is not Snell). That puts eight pitchers in the pen. Something gotta give.

  14. MrZDevotee on April 22nd, 2010 2:42 pm

    Colome and Texeira would seem to be the odd men out when our pitching staff starts getting to where we expected (ie- when Lee and then Bedard show up).

    We’ll also need room for Hannahan soon, so I would expect THAT is the reason a move hasn’t been made with Langerhans (if they know they’re gonna have to simply DFA him again, and really don’t want to risk losing him a second time as guys are starting to get dinged up, so early in the season– not to mention Langerhans isn’t on the 40 man roster).

    So this would include either Byrnes of Sweeney leaving to make room for Hannahan.

    It’s the only thing that makes sense to me as to why they’re keeping things the same right now– they’re being careful about seeing what happens with Lee and Hannahan before making ANY moves.

    Lee entering the rotation should start the process of revamping the bullpen.

    And with Hannahan and Tui on the bench, if you figure in Figgin’s versatility, you’re able to cover the loss of two infielders, or two outfielders, with decent replacements.

    Seems like a decent plan, just one not able to be executed immediately.

    (Saunders is better off getting more at-bats at Tacoma– he’s not doing so hot at the moment.)

  15. fiftyone on April 22nd, 2010 3:36 pm

    At this point, the FO is leaving Längerhäns in Tacoma and Sweeney on the 25-man for one solitary reason: it’s unseemly for an MLB team to appear to make moves at Dave Cameron’s behest.

    There is no other rational explanation.

  16. Kazinski on April 22nd, 2010 3:47 pm

    Also, why would you not pitch your number one guy every five days, thus one of the current starter will be skipped this series.

    When your number 1 starter is 24 and you want to limit his innings to ~220 or so? And your 2nd #1 starter is just coming off the DL, and your projected 3rd #1 is coming off of shoulder surgery. Not to mention that your other starters are pitching effectively, and are giving you a pretty good chance to win on days they pitch.

    And I wouldn’t put to much stock in ESPN’s projected starters. I imagine it is probably a 23 sports geek intern that is looking at the rotation and the calendar and throwing on the web to see if it sticks.

  17. bseblfevr on April 22nd, 2010 7:19 pm

    please give up on this love affair with Langerhans will ya! “He is a lefthanded bat off the bench”…so am I and I can hit better and play OF as well…and run better. If you DFA Colome…bring up someone who actually brings something to the table…not a career AAA guy!

  18. bseblfevr on April 22nd, 2010 7:22 pm

    what next bring up Hannahan too?? Why make a poor offense even worse….Langerhans and Hannahan,wooo, look out Angel fans!

  19. Dave on April 22nd, 2010 7:24 pm

    One’s opinion of Hannahan/Langerhans works very well as a litmus test for how much you understand the game.

    You, clearly, have a lot to learn.

  20. bseblfevr on April 22nd, 2010 7:30 pm

    thank you…apparently 55 years of age …25 spent with minor league scouting says otherwise sir.

  21. Jeff Nye on April 22nd, 2010 7:33 pm

    I’m not trying to be snide here, but honestly: how could you have the background you claim to have, and still don’t understand how a player like Langerhans would be valuable to the Mariners roster as currently constructed?

    Not every player has to be a superstar to be valuable, and if you really have been doing “minor league scouting” for 25 years, there is no way you wouldn’t know that.

  22. bseblfevr on April 22nd, 2010 7:38 pm

    what does he bring …a glove, ok, Byrnes does too. Speed…no, hitting, the Tui kid is a better hitter and has decent speed. Hannahan is a 3B man…little time elsewhere. His bat is weak and average speed. Neither makes this team any better. That is why both were sent to the minors by the Nationals and A’s. Colome sat a lot and got rusty. Texiera sat too much and is to the point where …when can you use him? He should have pitched in the blow out blame, but White pitched two innings.

  23. bseblfevr on April 22nd, 2010 7:46 pm

    Dave, aside from writing and research, have you ever worked on the field in baseball professionally?

  24. wtnuke on April 22nd, 2010 7:50 pm

    “If you DFA Colome…bring up someone who actually brings something to the table…not a career AAA guy!”

    Who are you thinking is going to fill that void better than Langerhans? I get that you don’t think he’s a world-beater in any facet of the game. The point of the post is, what’s more valuable to this team? A pitcher watching the game, or an OF who will fill in for the people who get hurt or need a day off? There’s nobody in the minors right now who can step in and win a starting job in left field with their ability as a baseball player. If there were, they’d be on the team already. Now we’re just deciding which replacement-level parts are better to have around, and I’d say another outfielder is more useful than a bullpen spectator. It’s not a great roster, and it won’t get a whole lot better with what’s available at this time.

    And no, I have no baseball experience. That doesn’t make the argument wrong. Experience doesn’t help without common sense.

  25. Dave on April 22nd, 2010 7:54 pm

    People whose opinions depend on “trust me, I have credentials” are generally those not worth listening to.

    Langerhans and Hannahan are both high quality defenders who have gap power and work counts enough to get on base at a useful enough clip, given their other skills.

    They aren’t stars, but they’re very good role players. You don’t have to spend 25 years scouting to understand that.

  26. wtnuke on April 22nd, 2010 7:58 pm

    Speaking of which…

    Dave, I’ve spent the last 10 years working at a bank. I’ve seen a lot of numbers, and so I say with confidence that you owe me $25. Pay up.

  27. jordan on April 22nd, 2010 8:26 pm

    thank you…apparently 55 years of age …25 spent with minor league scouting says otherwise sir.

    Just out of curiosity, care to elaborate on this?

  28. MrZDevotee on April 22nd, 2010 9:07 pm

    [let’s not go there]

  29. robbbbbb on April 22nd, 2010 9:35 pm

    [let’s not go there]

  30. spankystout on April 23rd, 2010 1:13 am

    Well if it has to be either Hannahan or Langernans, I would prefer Hannahan. Jack H. actually does have some ‘gap power’ having 10 or more doubles every year, including two years with 27. Ryan Langerhans on the other hand, hasn’t hit 10 or more doubles since 2006! Yikes.

  31. egreenlaw9 on April 23rd, 2010 3:59 am

    [sorry, but ot — you can email us for more]

  32. dingbatman on April 23rd, 2010 7:38 am

    [sorry, but ot — you can email us for more]

  33. JMHawkins on April 23rd, 2010 11:14 am

    Well if it has to be either Hannahan or Langernans, I would prefer Hannahan. Jack H. actually does have some ‘gap power’ having 10 or more doubles every year, including two years with 27. Ryan Langerhans on the other hand, hasn’t hit 10 or more doubles since 2006! Yikes.

    That’s not really a good way to evaluate their power. Langerhans has a career ISO of .147, while Hannahan’s is .123. If you look at their wOBA, Langerhans is clearly the better hitter as well, .311 vs .295 (neither is a good hitter, but Langerhans is the better of the two).

    But both are young, left-handed and play good defense at their positions. Neither is a masher, but they’re both useful role-players and can definitely contribute 2+ games per week each, which is more than they’re getting out of Colome.

  34. Tboneman on April 23rd, 2010 3:31 pm

    Haven’t read all the comments, but in amongst the first 10 or so, there seems to be a lot of concern about some of the older horses pulling up lame, and us not having enough guys to fill in.

    First, I think going back (at least temporarily)to a 6 man bullpen would be a good thing for the reasons mentioned in the post.

    But if someone pulls up lame, and is going to be out for any length of time, the guy taking his place will be on the next plane out of Sea-Tac, or in a car coming up I-5. Meanwhile, that player is getting a lot of playing time in Tacoma instead of sitting on a bench waiting for a player to get hurt. Not really a bad thing, IMHO.

    Granted, it doesn’t fill the emmediate need for the rest of that game. But it’s not a major setback either.

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