Tagged: bullpen

A Tiny Transaction

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OK, here’s another post about a minor transaction
most people completely looked over. 
Even I looked over it at first, but one thing led to another (I started
with researching the Orioles starting rotation) and I started extensive
research on one specific player: Kurt Birkins. 
Who?  You should know if you have
been an Orioles fan for over two years. 
He was an “average” left hander that made appearances from the bullpen
in 2006 and 2007.

 

Well, to make this story short: the Orioles placed
him on waivers this off-season and the Rays picked him up.  Birkins was in AAA this year, playing with
the Durham Bulls, before he was flat out released.  What did he do in AAA? 
Two wins, three losses and a 7.52 ERA in 36 games, all but one in
relief.  And that’s the
problem.  No, not his high ERA, I’m
talking about the fact he was exclusively used a reliever.

birkins.jpg

In the game of baseball, managers and pitching
coaches have the tough job of deciding if a pitcher should be a starter of reliever.  There is a very thin line between the two,
but usually by the time a player reaches AA, the organization knows what the
future of that pitcher will be as.  If
you solely look at the ERA of pitchers, you would assume that almost every
pitcher is better suited for the bullpen. 
It really does make sense. 
Relievers put all of their strength into one or two innings, while
starters have to split their energy up into six innings or more.

 

It makes sense that if a pitcher is moved from the
rotation to the bullpen, his ERA will go down, unless that pitcher is of the
type that gets better the more times they see a certain hitter, although
usually, the case is the opposite for the pitcher.  Therefore it is difficult to judge whether a pitcher is more
valuable in the pen or rotation. 

 

birkins2.jpg

However, all of this discussion doesn’t apply to
Birkins.  That’s what makes him so
unusual.  He is one of the few pitchers
that pitches extremely better as a starter then a reliever.  Two years ago, Fausto Carmona
was a fine example, although some of his struggles may have come from the fact
that he was used as the team’s closer.

 

Obviously, Carmona is a starter now, but for some
reason, Birkins is still considered a reliever.  Maybe it’s because he is short. 
Maybe it’s because he is a left-hander. 
For whatever the reason, the only organizations Birkins has ever been
with have treated him as a reliever when he gets to the high levels.

 

The
Orioles drafted Birkins in 2000 in the 33rd
round
.  All the way through AAA,
they used him as a starter.  But when he
got called up to the majors in 2006, he was put in the bullpen, and never got a
chance to start. 

birkins3.gif

Heading into 2007,
Birkins was again assigned to AAA Norfolk as a reliever.  Despite having made all but one of his
appearances in Norfolk last year, as a starter. 

 

I
just don’t get it.  Birkins made 19
starts in Norfolk the year before, and had a 3.05 ERA.  And then, he gets transferred to a reliever,
after he made 35 relief appearances with the O’s the year before and had a 4.94
ERA.  So, after struggling again with
the Orioles (as a reliever) the next year, Birkins was put on waivers, and
Tampa Bay claimed him.  In an instant, I
knew that desperately needing pitching Baltimore had lost a real legitimate,
young starter.  When claimed, Birkins
was only 27 years old.  I was really
hoping that the Rays would realize just how good of a starting pitcher Kurt
Birkins was.  But no, when the Rays again
assigned Birkins to AAA they also used him as a reliever.  You already know what he did this year.  I’m 90% sure if the Rays decided on using
him as a starter, his ERA would have vastly gone down.  That’s the type of pitcher Birkins has
proved himself to be over his career. 
More innings and a better ERA? 
What more could you want?

 

birkins4.jpg

From
the Rays point of view, it would have been hard to imagine someone being so
drastically better as a starter than a reliever, but if any pitcher can prove
it’s possible, it’s definitely Kurt Birkins.

 

On
August 29th, the Rays released Birkins.  Amazingly, no team has taken notice of what he did with Norfolk
in 2006, and he’s still unsigned.  If I
were a GM of a pitching deprived team, I would without a doubt, sign him to be
a starter.  Since Birkins still is still
looking for a place to play, the Orioles have a chance of redemption if they
bring Birkins back.

birkins5.jpg

Here is
Birkins’ statistics throughout his professional career.  Take note on the number of starts and relief
appearances each year.  See a pattern?  The higher percentage of his games that were
starts, a noticeably lower ERA.

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birkins6.jpg

Sherrill Must Go

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      The
Orioles need to trade George Sherrill now! 
I respect Andy MacPhail and what he has done so far as GM, but the
Orioles have a reliever who is as the top of his career, and ultimate peak of
trade value. 

sherrill.jpg

Sherrill was impressive in
the AS game and has proven he is capable of closing.  But Sherrill(pictured) is 31 years old, and by the time the Orioles are at
a championship level will be way past his prime.   I think 2013 is the absolute earliest the Orioles could plan for
winning the World Series.   If that prediction
is right, then Sherrill will be 36 years old. 
The Orioles need to trade him at this year’s deadline.  Why not wait until next year?  Because the Orioles will not be good next
year either, and every year Sherrill gets older his value will go down.  I know the Orioles have a currently unstable
bullpen, but they have some nice future pieces like Randor Bierd, Lance
Cormier, Jim Hoey, Cory Doyne, Jim Johnson, Dennis Sarfate, Matt Albers, Chris
Ray, and Bob McCrory. 

 

     Chris
Ray, of course is the future closer, while Doyne was named Closer of the Year in
the International League (AAA).  Sarfate
will be a good set-up man for years to come and Bierd has been a nice Rule 5
surprise. 

Thumbnail image for fernandocabrera.jpg

Lance Cormier has broken out
in Baltimore as reliever, and the same thing can be said about Matt
Albers.   Hoey just needs consistency
and he will be dominant.  Jim Johnson
has been the best reliever this year for the O’s, while McCrory is mowing them down
in Norfolk.   Fernando Cabrera(pictured) is a big
question mark.  He was the
Indians future closer at one time, but has struggled for the past two
years.  He’s doing a fine job in
Baltimore so far and has the chance to post a huge comeback season.  It’s weird to say that a 26 year old could have a comeback season, but it certainly would apply to Cabrera.

 

    

Sherrill should go to any team that could use bullpen
help like the Brewers, Cardinals, Angels, Twins, and even Yankees or Mets.  The Orioles could, and should ask for some
prospects in return.  I don’t care what
position the minor leaguers play because the Orioles need help everywhere.  They could trade Brian Roberts in the
future, so second base depth will be important if that occurs.  The only areas I would shy away from, is the
outfield (Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Luke Scott, Nick Markakis), and catcher
(Wieters).  Any infield players, or
starting pitchers should be the main targets for the O’s.

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In
other news….

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    • Outman is starting games again
      in Midland!  The A’s are seeing clearly
      now.  Maybe some Oakland official read
      this blog.   Or maybe they just don’t care
      about what the Phillies think.

     

    • Adam Loewen and Brian Bogusevic
      are both abandoning pitching and becoming a first baseman and outfielder,
      respectively.  Boy, the Orioles just
      can’t catch a break.  Bogusevic, on the
      other hand, has the opportunity to contribute something to the Astros.  He was a bust as a pitcher, being drafted in
      the first round in 2005. 
      They could
      have drafted guys like Matt Garza, Clay Buchholz, Colby Rasmus, or Michael
      Bowden.  The chance of Bogusevic ever
      being as good as any of those players is still extremely slim.  They are trying the exact opposite of what
      Matt Bush(pictured) is attempting. 
      Thumbnail image for mattbush.jpgIf you don’t
      know about Bush already, he was the first overall pick in 2004.  He never did squat in the minors, and at the
      end of last season he switched to pitching. 
      He only pitched in 7.2 innings with a 1.17 ERA, before getting
      injured.  He had TJS, and will be out
      all of this season likely.  Of the 7
      games he appeared in, six of them were in rookie ball.  His last outing was in A-ball.   By the way, isn’t it weird that Bush had a
      brother named Jeremy, while so does Tim Beckham.  Both were high school shortstops drafted first overall.  Jeremy (17th round), Tim’s
      brother has already been promoted to A- before his bro.  Tim has .247 OBP with no homers in 23 games
      for Princeton (R).   In Tim’s defense,
      Jeremy was drafted out of college.

     

    • By
      the way, the Randy Wolf for Chad Reineke deal makes no sense at all for the
      Astros.   Does Ed Wade actually believe
      the Astros could make the playoffs?  Not
      that Reineke is anything special, but I’m starting to think that Wade makes
      trades just for the heck of it.

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The Phillies Read My Mind (Partially)

Well, I was in the middle of writing a long post about the Phillies transaction of bringing R.J. Swindle up, Brett Myers down and Chad Durbin coming into the rotation.  But of course, perhaps the Phillies read my mind and are keeping Durbin in the pen.  They also sent R.J. Swindle down, and recalled J.A. Happ. 
   
    The post I was writing was basically why the Phillies need to send up either Happ or Brian Mazone from AAA, so Chad Durbin could remain a reliever, where he has shined. 
   
    The Phillies did what I thought they should do, except for one thing.   In the “Lost Post” I mentioned (before I stopped writing) that I thought that Swindle actually deserved a call-up, and I was going to discuss why he was way better than other Phillies relievers that are still in the majors. 
   
    As of Saturday, this is the Phillies bullpen along with their age and ERA this year:
  
Brad Lidge, 31, 0.77, Dominant closer who’s 19 for 19 in saves.
Chad Durbin, 30, 1.50, You don’t mess with something that’s finally fixed.
Ryan Madson, 27, 3.07, Nucleus of the bullpen, just as valuable as Lidge.
J.C. Romero, 32, Way more than a lefty specialist, although he is great in that role.
Rudy Seanez, 39, Having an unbelievably great year, perhaps will stay around another year or two.
Tom Gordon, 40, I don’t care about how much experience he has, he’s been bad since the end of May.
Clay Condrey, 31, He’s not dominant, but can play many different roles.

    Explain to me why R.J. Swindle is back in on the farm, while Tom Gordon is 40 years old and has 6.48 ERA in last ten appearances is still with the Phillies.

Let’s compare how they have done this year:
R.J. Swindle          Age:25         Salary:390,000
swindle face.jpg

Level     G     ERA     W     L     IP     BB     K
AA        11    0.54      1      0    16.2   1       16
AAA      19    2.19      1      1    24.2   5       34

Swindle has been awesome, and just take a look at those BB/K ratio.  Nasty.  Plus he has a 55 MPH curveball.  All hail the ephus!

Tom Gordon          Age: 40          Salary: 5,500,000
tomgordonface.jpgLevel     G     ERA     W     L     IP     BB     K
MLB     34    5.16      5      4     29.2  17      26

Explain to me why Gordon, who hasn’t been good the past two years, is still considered better than Swindle.  I actually know why; because teams just can’t get over a player’s reputation even if truthfully they know another player can do better than him.  It’s hard to explain exactly, but it happens. 

     If the Phillies would release Gordon, they would still have to pay a large portion of his salary.  They could send him down, although I’m not sure his current contract would allow it.  Truthfully to be respectful, I think you trade him for a low to mid level minor-leaguer.  That would relieve the Phillies of the of a larger portion of Gordon’s salary, depending of the specifics of the trade.  If the other team is smart, they make the Phillies pay up to 50% of Gordon’s salary. 
    Just trade Gordon to any team that needs bullpen depth.  I’m thinking maybe the Tigers, Dodgers, or Brewers.

    Of any trade involving Gordon, the most important aspect would be how much each team pays of that 5 and a half million.  Still, hear are some minor-leaguers that could be involved in deals.
delwyn.jpgDelwyn Young     Age: 26      Left Fielder
Level     G     AB     H     .OBP     HR     RBI     SB     BB     SO
MLB     57     94     25     .330       1        5        0        9       23

He’s hammered at every level in the minors, and is blocked in LA.  If Geoff Jenkins and Pat Burrell both leave after this year, he could play a big role in 2009.

bazardo.jpgYorman Bazardo     Age:24     Pitcher

Level     G     GS     ERA     W     L     IP     H     BB     K
AAA     14     11      6.47      2      5    65.1  88     26     44

I see the bad numbers, but Bazardo is extremely young and had a very good year in Toledo last year.  He’s a ahead of his age, but Yorman and Detroit don’t quite click.   The Phillies need more young starters after Kendrick and Hamels.  Bazardo looks like he could use a change of scenery.

gillespie.jpgCole Gillespie      Age: 24     Left Field
Level     G     AB     H     .OBP     HR     RBI     SB     BB     SO
AA        84   304&nbsp
;    84    .375       12      55       9       48      70

Gillespie is very similar to Young as a player and the position he’s in.  He blocked in the outfield in Milwaukee, but has done well in the Minors.  Young is more experienced than him, but Gillespie may have more power potential.

brantley.jpgMichael Brantley     Age:21     Center Field
Level     G     AB     H      .OBP     HR     RBI     SB     BB     SO
AA        74   306     62     .405       4        34      25      39      18

Brantley has been very consistent in his career so far, and has a huge amount of speed.  His .OBP is great and has over twice as many walks as strikeouts!   He looks to be ready for the majors by, at the most, age 24, but, like Gillespie, is blocked in Milwaukie.  He could move Victorino over to right if the Phils make a deal for him.

skelton.jpgJames Skelton    Age: 22     Catcher
Level     G     AB     H     .OBP     HR     RBI     SB     BB     SO
A+        42    145    42    .429       2        13       10      36      36

I know about Lou Marson, but the Phillies still really need catching depth, and Skelton is a solid player.  He doesn’t have much power, but he is a fast catcher and knows how to get on base.  He may be like a Jason Kendall-type player.  I’m a Carlos Ruiz non-believer.  Sorry

carlossantana.jpgCarlos Santana     Age: 22     Catcher

Level     G     AB     H     .OBP     HR     RBI     SB     BB    SO
A+        81    284    89    .421       12      80       5       55     46

Every catcher in the Dodgers system should hope to get traded unless they want to be a back-up.  Russell Martin will be there for a long time, so Santana could be future trade bait.  Santana had a bad year last year in the Midwest League(A), so it would be a reasonable thing to say that the high altitude of the California League is helping him.  But hey, he’s putting up some sweet numbers.  I’d jump at the oppurtunity to acquire Santana for Gordon.

   Any of these players I’d trade straight up for Tom Gordon.  Of course that would never happen considering Gordon’s salary, but the Phillies should try to gripe (is that a word?) away some of these players.  Heck, include Mike Zagurski in the deal.

   Well, I plan on talking about the Nationals, Mariners, and Giants in the near future.  See ya.