Sunday, June 22, 2008

MSM Musings: Reliever Roles

One of Jerry Manuel's "campaign promises" when he took over as manager last week was to define bullpen roles, so that the seven relievers in the Mets' bullpen could have a reasonable expectation of the situations they would be called upon to pitch. The preview for today's season finale against the Rockies (which we are live-blogging at 3 pm!) includes quotes from Manuel about the roles he has begun to carve out for his relievers.

From the article: Interim manager Jerry Manuel said Saturday that he's in the process of defining roles for all his pitchers, and that they won't stray far from those posts. (Billy) Wagner is the closer. (Duaner) Sanchez is the setup man. (Joe) Smith and (Pedro) Feliciano are the right-handed and left-handed specialists, respectively.

"I would rather those guys stay as short as possible," Manuel said.

Oh man, is he serious? Did Jerry Manuel also miss the memo that Scott Schoeneweis can only function as a lefty specialist and still gets tattooed against right-handers? Yes, I know his superficially pretty numbers this season (a 2.40 ERA and a 1.033 WHIP) are a distraction, but as usual there is a obvious difference in his effectiveness between lefties (.135/.220/.192) and righties (.280/.373/.480). The more righties Schoeneweis faces, the less effective he is going to be.

Meanwhile Feliciano, after a terrible start to the season, has pitched very well since mid-May. He has a .270 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP in his last 20 appearances, and batters are hitting just .193 against Feliciano in that time frame. Their season lines are very similar against righties (.281/.369/.439 for Feliciano), but historically Pedro has been far more effective against opposite-handed batters that Schoeneweis. He should be getting longer outings and more at-bats against righties, because he is far more likely to get them out that Schoeneweis is.

Jerry, your bullpen hierarchy should look something like this:

Closer: Billy Wagner
Righty Set-Up Man: Duaner Sanchez
Lefty Set-Up Man: Pedro Feliciano
Righty Specialist: Joe Smith
Lefty Specialist: Scott Schoeneweis
Mop-Up Man: Aaron Heilman
Long Reliever: Claudio Vargas

Personally, I'm not a big fan of overly defining individual bullpen roles anyway. I'm of the belief that the best relievers should get the most work and the most appearances on high leverage situations, regardless of their role. Of course, I'm also one of those heretics that doesn't believe in the current concept of the closer, so I know that I'm never going to find a modern-day manager who shares my viewpoints.

I always thought one of the few things that Willie Randolph did well was refusing to define bullpen roles. Randolph simply went with the guy he thought was the most likely to get the outs he needed. The problem was that Randolph had a terrible feel for who was the most likely to actually get the out and often went against the percentages when choosing a reliever. (Think Schoeneweis against a righty or Jorge Sosa against a lefty.) More often than not, this led to disastrous results.


tim said...

Semantics. Shoenweiss/Feliciano come on, put some effort into it, shit, live blog? Where is it? This how you treat me on my birthday? Hrrumph!

John Peterson said...

Why are Mets' managers incapable of looking at splits?

Also, Heilman is a good pitcher. I am a Heilman apologist. You are overreacting to a small sample size, in my opinion.

tim said...

Heliman is done in New York, I do believe he will prosper elswhere.

Judge Roughneck said...

Tim - I've been trying to take you out all weekend. I would've taken you to the bar instead of live blogging on Sunday if you had just picked up your phone!

JP - I'm with you. I believe in Heilman too and I don't think there's any reason to trade, demote or convert him into a starter. But if Manuel is going to make strict bullpen roles, I have to assume players will have the ability to slide into and out of roles. Right now, Heilman is pitching like a long man. If he strings together 10 good innings, Jerry should move him into a more prominent role.