MSTI’s 2011 in Review: Relievers, Part 2

Matt Guerrier (C)
4.07 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 6.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: despite all of the negative things we say about Matt Guerrier, he wasn’t bad. He pitched in 70 games, just like he always does. His xFIP was nearly exactly the same as it was in the previous few years, and his FIP was actually lower. While he walked more than he did as a Twin, he also struck out more, so on the whole you got a decent Guerrier year, and that’s not a terrible guy to have in the bullpen.

But that contract… good lord, that contract. As Eric Stephen wrote at TrueBlueLA, “among the 15 Dodgers to pitch in relief this season Guerrier ranked eighth in ERA (4.07), eighth in FIP (3.43), and 12th in xFIP (4.30).” For that, Guerrier was handsomely rewarded with a backloaded three-year, $12m contract, and, well, we went over all of this a few weeks ago:

As you can see, Guerrier ranks all over the place. He missed a surprising amount of bats for someone without that kind of reputation, which is nice, as was his decent placement in the advanced run metrics. Of course, being one of the worst at LOB% and the absolute worst at “meltdowns” (if you didn’t read the definition, it’s when a reliever makes his team at least 6% more likely to lose) isn’t exactly what you hoped for when spending the money.

And that’s really the entire point, isn’t it? Guerrier had his uses, and he’s deserving of a place in the Dodger bullpen – no one’s arguing that he needs to be dumped or shipped off immediately, that he was some sort of Juan Uribe in the relief corps. But as I continue to struggle with my 2012 plan (which I’m probably on iteration #76 of right now), the backloaded ~$4.7m for Guerrier sticks out, particularly when he’s likely no better than the 4th best reliever in the bullpen.

Considering how many relievers were as successful or moreso than Guerrier for less years, dollars, or both, it’s safe to say that this is one we should all wish we had back, perhaps even more so than we initally felt when he first signed it.

Still, it’s not Guerrier’s fault that he accepted the large contract that was offered to him, and he’s still got two more years left on it. If we can look past the dollar amount, he’s still useful, and for a bullpen that looks to be extremely young next year, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a reliable, if not spectacular, veteran in the mix.

Blake Hawksworth (C+)
4.08 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 7.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9

I will say this until it can’t be said any longer: Blake Hawksworth derives value from simply not being Ryan Theriot, whom he was traded straight-up for back in November. Or do you not remember the sheer joy of “Ryan Theriot Traded for Living, Breathing, Human Being“?

Beyond that, Hawksworth seemed like an intriguing arm and potential spot starter, and since he was out of options it was all but assured he’d make the club. For the first month or so, he was reasonably useful, at least from a back-of-the-bullpen arm acquired for literally nothing: through May 10, he’d allowed a .651 OPS and six earned runs in 17 2/3 innings. On a team that was employing both Lance Cormier and Mike MacDougal at the time, that was valuable enough – until he injured his hip and missed nearly a month.

Returning in June, he was once again solid, allowing a .542 OPS and a 19/5 K/BB in 19 1/3 innings. Nothing stellar, of course, but certainly useful; this earned him a B in the midseason reviews, where I referred to him as “perfectly acceptable.” But from there, it was all downhill for Hawksworth, as he allowed 16 runs (12 earned) in his final 16 2/3 innings of the season, making many wonder if he was injured again – and culminating in his failure to cover first base (or, you know, get outs) in the September 28 soulcrusher in Arizona.

Still, he did top previous career highs in K/9 rate and BB/9 rate, and despite being out of options he’s still a pre-arbitration player. At essentially zero cost to the Dodgers, he provides value, so it’s more than likely that he’s got a job in the 2012 bullpen.

Jonathan Broxton (F…’d by Torre)
5.68 ERA, 5.63 FIP, 7.11 K/9, 6.39 BB/9

I think I said all I needed to about Broxton back in September, when it was announced that he wouldn’t be making a return in 2011 and I bid a likely adieu to his Dodger career:

If this is the end for Broxton, he’s going to walk away as one of the most successful and dominating relievers in Dodger history. Among Dodgers with as many career innings as he has, his 11.55 K/9 mark is by far the best, more than a full strikeout ahead of Eric Gagne‘s chemically-aided 10.38. His K/BB of 3.09 is fifth best, ahead of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Don Sutton, and he’s also on the top ten as far as the fewest hits per nine allowed.

From his debut on July 29, 2005 through June 26, 2010, Broxton was consistently excellent. In 349.2 innings over 341 games, he struck out a whopping 468 batters, allowing opponents to hit just .209/.285/.300 against him. For those afraid he’d wilt in the ninth inning, he actually got better once he was promoted to the closer’s job after Takashi Saito‘s injury in July of 2008; from then until June 26, 2010, he struck out 204 in 138 innings and held the opposition to a microscopic line of .185/.258/.242. For the better part of two years, Broxton was either the absolute best closer in baseball or something very close to it.

That was more about his Dodger career as a whole, so if we’re sticking to a 2011 recap… well what can you say. He was awful, clearly because he was pitching with a tattered elbow, which he finally underwent surgery on it in September. If anything, he helped prove once again that saves are a mockery by converting seven of eight, including five of the first eight games of the season, despite not being very good. Really, any sort of analysis of his performance this year is somewhat pointless. He was never healthy, and he was gone after the first month. Sad end for one of the better Dodger pitchers in recent years.

******

Next! Josh Lindblom finally makes his debut! Mike MacDougal, shiny happy veteran reliever! And Ramon Troncoso, punching bag! It’s relievers, part 3!

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  2. [...] don’t forget that after a relatively solid first half, he was so poor at the end of the year that we often wondered if he was hurt: Returning in June, he was once again solid, allowing a .542 OPS and a 19/5 K/BB in 19 1/3 innings. [...]