MSTI.com’s 2008 In Review: Relief Pitchers

87toppstakashisaitoWelcome to day… err, I don’t really know at this point, but welcome to another day of MSTI’s 2008 Season In Review.  I apologize for the delay.  You see, we are in our pre-hot stove period, but, you see, it’s me.  My outside life isn’t particularly conducive to baseball articles and so if there’s usually a gap between posts, it’s probably me not being able to get to the article I said I would.  Let’s call it: “Vin Being Vin,” if you will.  Yeah… I like that.  So before MSTI lands at LAX to beat me with a club screaming: “Friday!  You promised me this would be up by Friday, you bastard!” let’s get into the always fun world of relief pitchers…
Takashi Saito = B+
(4-4 , 2.49 ERA, 1.19 WHIP)
O.K., we might as well get it out of the way and just say it: Takashi Saito had, by far, his worst year as a Dodger.  The numbers show his worst W/L record, his highest ever ERA, WHIP, and the lowest number of K’s.  What a loser, right?
Well, no.
Now, yes, it’s true: he wasn’t quite the same awesome Saito that he was in 2007, but still, he was very good in the time he pitched in 2008.  I think in these instances, it really shows how spoiled Dodger fans are when it comes to closers: we went from arguably the most reliable closer in MLB history to a guy who isn’t that far behind in terms of being automatic (and, yes, I know I skipped Danys Baez… but he’s long repressed in my mind).  In fact, in his mid-season review, MSTI said something similar:

As for this year, there’s been some sentiment around the Internets that he’s lost it, and I for the life of me just can’t see why. He’s really had two lousy games all season, and his ERA+ is still a fantastic 201. Is it because he’s not as dominating as last year, when he had a better season than future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera has ever had? Sure, he hasn’t, but he’s still been a pretty damned effective closer, and if he’s DL’d or worse, there’s no question this team’s in trouble without him.

So let’s take a gander at the numbers: in 2008, while he wasn’t Saito 2007, he still managed to put up a 171 ERA+, and have a very good WHIP, at 1.19 (Brad Lidge had a WHIP of 1.22 this year).  His K/9 was actually better this year going from 10.91 in 2007 to 11.49 in 2008.  In other words, there was still plenty to like about Saito, this year.
However, there were obvious declines.  His BB/9 ratio went from 1.82 in 2007 to a 3.06 this year.  To get a little geeky, let’s take a look at a stat called pLI.  This is called Player’s Leverage Index.  Now what do we mean when we talk about leverage index?  Well, that’s talking about the importance a certain situation has on a game, and it’s determined by variables such as outs, inning, number of runners on base, the score, etc., etc.  So when we talk about Player’s Leverage Index, this is to show the average leverage index a player had throughout the season in games.  So in 2007, Saito’s best year, his pLI was 1.80.  In 2008, it was a bit lower, at 1.63. The interesting thing to note is that Saito also did seem to suffer a bit of bad luck this year: his BABIP went from .213 in 2007 to a whopping .350. The league average is usually somewhere between .290-.300.
At the end of the day, though, it’s hard to really get the greatest look at Saito’s year simply due to the fact that he was injured quite soon in the year.  When he was healthy he was still a very good closer: again, not the top 5 he was before, but still quite capable and enough to earn a B+.  What I do especially commend him for was making an attempt to come back.  When he went down, it was looking quite possible that he was going to have to undergo Tommy John surgery, but he fought and came back at the end of the year.  Unfortunately for him and the club, other than a few good moments, he wasn’t quite the same as we saw in the NLDS.  And while the Dodgers were still successful in 2008, he was definitely missed.
Going into 2009, I do see Saito coming back and at least giving it one more shot.  Hopefully he can return to form so we can rekindle the lovely Broxton/Saito combo in the 8th and 9th.
87toppsjonathanbroxton1Jonathan Broxton = B-
(3-5, 3.13 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
Now it’s interesting to see how Jonathan Broxton has gradually become a bit of a lightening rod amongst the Dodger faithful.  In one circle, you have the group who argues: “That Broxton is a wimp!  He can’t handle the pressure as a closer!” and then the group who argues quite the contrary.
It is an intriguing case.  No doubt Broxton is incredibly talented and gifted with the tools he has: a 97 MPH fastball with a wicked slider.  Can’t go wrong with that.  When he is on, he is literally untouchable and my condolences if you have to face him on those nights.  On the other hand, he can drive you insane.
Nonetheless, since Broxton was primarily a closer this season, that’s what I want to focus on.
As a closer, Broxton filled in admirably for the injured Saito.  However, admirably is about as far as I’ll go.  Now this isn’t to say that Broxton was this horrible closer.  He wasn’t and many, many teams would be happy to have him as their closer.  But let’s face it: despite saving most of his opportunites (14 out of 22), he did make it an adventure in the games he did save.  Out of his 14 saves this year, only 6 of them came without allowing a runner on base.  This was also showcased in his walk totals where he walked 2 more batters this year than in 2007 (27 to 25 BB), despite having pitched 13 less innings.  In fact, his BB/9 ratio jumped considerably, going from 2.74 in 2007 to 3.52 in 2008.  To his credit, we also saw an increase in K/9 going from 10.87 to 11.48.  Still, the walks killed him many times this year and, in order to be successful consistently, those have to come down.  What also hurt Broxton were the two absolutely horrific months he had; in May, where he gave up 10 ER’s to give him a 7.50 that month and then a horrific August, giving up 7 ER’s to the tune of an ERA of 5.11.
But there is still plenty to like about Broxton; as mentioned, we saw an increase in K/9, but he still managed to have a 136 ERA+, a respectable 3.13 ERA and a fine WHIP of 1.17.  Another thing we have to remember, and it’s hard to remember when we’re on our toes in the 9th inning: even though he’s the longest tenured Dodger (damn, that’s weird to say) he’s just barely 24.  These growing pains will happen and it will be an adventerous road at times.  This isn’t to excuse him when he does screw up, but it is to say that if we’re getting this type of production from a 24 year old kid, then I do look optimistically at how he’ll perform as he gets older and gets more experience.  Also, I think arguably the biggest problem with Broxton is that he can rely way too much on his fastball and, once he does that, all they have to do is sit on it and it will go a long way (see Stairs, Matt 2008 NLCS).  Once Broxton can get more of a handle on his stuff, then watch out.
87toppsjoebeimelJoe Beimel = B-
(5-1, 2.44 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)
See Joe Beimel’s pose in that picture where he’s pointing his finger?  Little known fact: turns out during one game this year, beloved fan TroyFromWestVirginia ran on the field naked, but with a smile, towards Beimel screaming “I love you, Beimel Baby!” and so that’s actually Joe saying: “Oh My God, can you believe this?  Security, get him out of here, now!  Help!”
O.K., so maybe not.  But you’re probably wondering: for a guy who went 5-1, with a 2.02 ERA, why the hell are you giving him a B-?  You might say: “Vin, are you high?”  While the answer to that question will remain undisclosed, it is important to note that his W/L record and ERA is a tad deceiving.
So, O.K., his W/L record and ERA was good.  In fact, during the first half, he was awesome.  MSTI in his first half review:

Joe Beimel (3-0, 1.61) (A)
You know what they say about middle relievers; they’re so up-and-down from year to year that it’s a mistake to ever depend on them. Except for the third year in a row, Joe Beimel’s been incredibly reliable out of the Dodgers bullpen. His ERA is a little deceiving; while he’s clearly doing a good job of not letting guys score, his WHIP is from 1.29 to 1.42 this year. Still, 5 earned runs at the All-Star break is pretty impressive.

Well said, MSTI.  He really was something during the first half, wasn’t he?  But the second half?  Not quite as much.  After having a stellar first half, he put up a 4.76 ERA in July and 4.32 in August.  To Beimel’s credit, he rebounded well in September (0.90 ERA), but his WHIP bumped from 1.29 last year to 1.44 this year, and while his K/9 ratio went from 5.21 to 5.88, BB/9 ratio went up from 3.21 to 3.86.
Actually, the Kamenetzky Brothers over at the L.A. Times had an interesting take regarding some of the reasons for Beimel’s decline in the second half:

Beimel surrendered seven earned runs over fourteen July/August innings, allowed many an inherited runner to score and bumped his 2007 walk total despite a decrease in frames.  In my opinion, the innings drop may have accounted for the production following suit.  Joe Torre often shifted Beimel’s role from “seventh inning mainstay” to “one batter-and-out lefty,” a transition I think Beimel never adjusted to, and was often a waste of his services.

I would agree.  Nonetheless, Beimel hasn’t done anything to show that he doesn’t deserve the spot in 2009 and here’s to more of the 2006-2007 Beimel.
87toppscorywadeCory Wade = A+
(2-1, 2.27 ERA, 0.92 WHIP)
Yeah… who the hell is Cory Wade?
Well, I’ll tell you who he is.  Cory Wade in 2008 was the pitching equivalent of Blake DeWitt: in other words, like DeWitt, Wade came out of nowhere from double-A and became a fixture with the team.  Of course, there were some differences: unlike DeWitt, Wade was stellar throughout the entire year and, unlike the popularity DeWitt achieved, Wade was truly the definition of the unsung hero.
In 55 appearances this year, which translates into 71.3 innings, Wade put up a good 2.27 ERA with an even better WHIP of 0.92.  The great thing about Wade this season is that, as the season went on, he got better.  Throughout the first half, his ERA was 2.56, and topped that with a 1.93 ERA in the second half, spurred by great months in August (2.16 ERA) and September (1.08 ERA).  In fact, that’s what was so impressive about him, this year.  I don’t remember a period where he ever really truly sucked and went all Proctor on us.  The worst month he had in 2008 was July, where he had a 3.52 ERA and gave up 6 ER in 15 IP.  Not great, but not horrific.  He was also arguably our best reliever in 2008 ranking second in VORP only to Hong Chih Kuo with 22.9.  Cory was definitely our most reliable, being able to give us a good couple of innings at a time, if need be.  In other words: he was this year’s Scott Proctor, much to the delight of Joe Torre, who went to Wade very often.
Overall, though, a hell of a debut for a 25 year old kid who wasn’t expected to do much of anything, much less become a fixture in the bullpen and hopefully for the years to come.  He has great stuff and, in particular, quite the nice curveball.  Nice year.
Wade to go, Cory!

87toppsscottproctor1Scott Proctor = D-
(2-0, 6.05 ERA, 1.68 WHIP)
So Joe Torre finally did it; he finally got Scott Proctor’s arm to fall off midway through the year, having to be DL’d for a large chunk of the year.  But, in ways, I feel like I should thank Joe because there was no way to spin Proctor’s year up to that point: he was horrific.  Bad.  Abominable.  Aretha Franklin in a bright yellow teddy bad.  (in British accent) Absolutely dreary!  The Official 2008 Dodgers’ Bullpen Representative For Crapulence… little children would cry and scream “No, Mommy, no!!!!” when hearing the name “Proctor”… O.K., so maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit.  I don’t recall him being a representative for anything.
Nonetheless, 2008 is a year Scott Proctor would like to forget.  Proctor began April with a 5.14 ERA.  O.K., so just a rough month; he’ll get better right away.  Well, in May he shot back with a 6.10 ERA.  O.K., so a little concern, but you know what?  June will be good!
Scott Proctor’s June statistics: 11.05 ERA, 7.1 IP, 9 ER’s.
O.K., so maybe not?
But his arm decided to say “you know, Scotty, we need some time apart” and he was out for two months.  However, to Proctor’s credit, and the only thing that barely keeps him in D range and prevents him from getting F’d is the fact that he was at least respectable when he came back in September, putting up a 2.57 ERA and walking only 2 to striking out 10, but, alas for him, a playoff spot wasn’t to be.
While he gets a D- for his performance this year, there is no need to fret: he did come in runner up to Brad Penny for the Biggest Douche Of The Universe Award.  How could we forget this…

LOS ANGELES – For the past month, Scott Proctor insisted that his arm was not hurting. After being told he was going to be optioned to Class AAA Las Vegas on Wednesday, he changed his tune and said he has been pitching in pain.
[. . . ]
After being repeatedly asked by Torre if an injury led to his rough stretch, Proctor told him his right elbow has hurt for nearly six weeks.
“There is still no excuse. I don’t care how bad you’re hurting, you still have to go out and pitch,” Proctor said. “I don’t like the way this thing looks right now. Right now all I care about is the respect of my teammates and coaches.

As opposed to… oh, I don’t know, winning games?!  Way to put the team first, jackass.
87toppsramontroncosoRamon Troncoso = C
(1-1, 4.26 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)
Wow… Ramon Troncoso!  Doesn’t reading this part of the review just fill you with excitement?!

Snooze…

O.K., I thought so.  Still, Troncoso was another rookie inserted into the bullpen in 2008, although not quite the story Cory Wade was.  But, nonetheless, Troncoso didn’t Falkenborg himself either, going from a less than stellar 4.91 ERA in the first half to a respectable 3.81 in the second half, sparked by a good August where he sported a good 2.57 ERA.  His ERA+ was 100 even and that about sums it up; average and servicable for the role he played throughout the season.  For a person in his rookie year, not bad; here’s to an improvement in 2009, but otherwise; not really much to say about the big Tronny.

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg

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