FanPost

Bullpen Building Bonanza

I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we are going to spend big on at least one reliever this offseason. And, while as a general rule of thumb I believe that relievers are largely fungible, and you shouldn't overspend on a reliever, how can I even argue against the FO on this, given our bullpen performance this past year?

The following table details the relievers available in free agency this winter that I think we should pursue. Since it appears highly unlikely we are going to offer Barrett Loux a contract, we'll probably receive the 7th pick in compensation for next year. Unfortunately, that compensation pick has no protection, which means we really shouldn't be trying to sign a Type A reliever (sorry, no Rafael Soriano next year). Which means I've essentially culled the list from Type B agents available.

So, here we go!

Disclaimer: All statistics are drawn from Fangraphs

Reliever (Age)

BABIP

LOB%

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

tERA

Jason Frasor (33)

0.363

67.5

9.21

4.29

0.43

4.29

3.32

3.69

Jon Rauch (32)

0.329

83.0

6.75

2.18

0.65

2.83

3.35

3.04

Kevin Gregg (33)

0.292

77.8

9.49

4.64

0.84

3.59

3.76

3.68

J.J. Putz (34)

0.254

84.4

10.02

1.74

0.65

1.96

2.40

2.05

Joaquin Benoit (33)

0.198

98.0

11.95

1.55

0.89

1.33

2.25

1.54

Brian Fuentes (35)

0.257

80.6

9.44

4.19

1.31

3.41

4.39

4.63

Jesse Crain (29)

0.284

70.1

7.77

3.30

0.58

3.11

3.39

3.26

Randy Choate (35)

0.335

62.2

8.70

3.60

0.60

5.10

3.34

3.48

Pedro Feliciano (34)

0.389

81.2

8.58

5.02

0.21

3.14

3.39

4.34

Takashi Saito (41)

0.312

75.5

11.09

2.72

0.84

3.14

2.76

2.25

Trevor Hoffman (43)

0.300

63.3

6.08

3.65

1.95

6.81

5.78

5.81

Octavio Dotel (37)

0.296

70.6

10.47

3.98

1.26

4.40

4.13

3.78

Aaron Heilman (32)

0.282

82.6

6.79

3.74

1.19

3.40

4.67

5.31

Guillermo Mota (37)

0.259

70.5

6.12

3.59

0.42

3.16

3.55

3.47

Chad Durbin (33)

0.309

80.8

8.10

3.28

0.77

3.28

3.77

3.52

Dennys Reyes (34)

0.291

74.6

6.97

5.23

0.29

3.77

3.91

4.90

Kyle Farnsworth (35)

0.305

75.2

7.23

3.04

0.38

3.23

3.32

4.14

First, a side note about the statistics and organization of the table. The first two columns show BABIP (batting average for balls in play) and LOB% (left on-base percentage). As a general rule of thumb, BABIP should be around .300 and LOB% should be around 70%. Deviations from this are largely due to luck (for instance, a lower LOB% means the pitcher was unlucky this year, whereas a higher LOB% means he was luckier), and we should expect regression to the mean next year. Of course, this isn't entirely true for BABIP, as some pitchers perennial have lower, or higher BABIP than league average (for instance, flyball pitchers tend to have lower BABIP than groundball pitchers).

The next three columns are your basic peripherals for pitchers: their strikeout, walk, and home run rates. I was thinking about including groundball rates, but frankly, was just too lazy. Moreover, I'm not particularly convinced that groundballs are better than flyballs at Chase field. For one thing, our home run park factor isn't that much worse than other parks, and is no where close to how bad home runs are at US Cellular (where the White Sox play). Secondly, our outfield defense is a strength of the group, which means flyball pitchers might actually have a slight advantage.

Finally, the last three columns detail the "results" aspect of the pitcher in question, and also gives us an idea of what we can expect from them, should the Dbacks sign them. ERA is not very reliable at all as a predictor of future performance. However, it is important in the sense that many front office's will still pay for a shiny ERA, and thus relievers can be overpriced or underpriced depending on their ERA. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, which only takes into account the pitcher's performance with regards to home runs, strikeouts and walks. It's a better predictor of future pitching success than ERA is. However, I understand some of you don't really like FIP as it values strikeouts more than other outs, so I've also included tERA into the table, which measures the "expected" ERA of the pitcher this year, which takes into account groundballs, in-field pop ups, bunt hits, etc.

So which pitchers should the front office pursue? The way I see it, old relievers show much more variance in ability than younger ones (Bob Howry ring a bell?) so I would try to avoid pitchers 35 and older at all costs. Remember, many of these pitchers will probably want to command a two year contract. The second criteria for me, is walk rate. People are going to get hits at Chase Field. That's just a sunk reality, because what primarily makes Chase Field a hitter's park is the fact that we probably have the best "batter's eye" in baseball. If all of our pitchers are going to give up hits, then the pitchers who have marginal value for us are those who can limit walks. So, we can also pretty much eliminate any relievers with a walk rate over 4 BB/9.

Who does that leave us?

In order of preference: J.J. Putz, Joaquin Benoit, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Chad Durbin. It's the J Crew plus Chad.

Benoit and Putz have been absolutely filthy this year, and if there are any two relievers I wouldn't mind paying extra for on the free agent market this year, then it would have to be them. Double digit strikeout rates and a walk rate under two is phenomenal. Putz also has closer experience with the Mariners. That being said, the two have been exceptionally lucky this year, particularly Benoit and his 98% LOB rate. Still, there is something to be said about pitching in the AL, and particularly pitching in the AL East (Benoit is a reliever for the Rays). Moreover, even with a little regression, their numbers still look fine (based on their FIP and tERA). Crain, Rauch, and Durbin are also very solid relievers.

One thing of note, is that none of these pitchers are left handed, and we are desperately in need of a left handed reliever. Out of the pitchers listed in the table, only Randy Choate, Pedro Feliciano, and Dennys Reyes are left handed specialists. Even though Choate is 35, he's the only one of the three worth anything, and his non-flashy ERA might bode well for us as we can probably get him cheaper. His numbers against lefties are absolutely filthy (9.99 K/9, 1.85 BB/9) so as long as we don't throw him against righties we'd be alright.

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