For this final installment, I've gone back to Fangraphs projections, and am going off the total expected WAR for a team's relief contingent - with one adjustment, removing the contribution of the expected closer. How do the rest of the relief arms stack up?
1. Rockies (2.0 WAR)
I like what Colorado has done: they've realized recently that reliever volatility means there's no point in spending big or trading away prospects for relief arms. Their big off-season acquisition was LaTroy Hawkins, who'll get $2.25 million, though more expensive is Boone Logan, signed to a three-year $16.5 million deal before last season, only to go on the DL four times in 2014. However, Adam Ottavino was solid last year, and if Rex Brothers can get back to form, that'll be another formidable weapon. While the raw numbers may never look great, thanks to Coors, and few tasks are as thankless as relief pitching for the Rockies, they've got a decent set of arms.
2. Diamondbacks (1.3 WAR)
There may be huge concerns about our starting pitching, and questions about many spots on the diamond, yet I think our bullpen will, quietly, be pretty good. Evan Marshall came out of nowhere to look very impressive in his rookie campaign, and Oliver Perez anchored solid left-handed relief, an area where we've struggled in previous years. If Brad Ziegler is fully healthy and effective, that's going to be huge, and we also have the returning arms of Matt Reynolds and David Hernandez, plus long-relief in Randall Delgado. If we can avoid a further rash of Tommy John procedures, our relievers should rank pretty far down the list of potential problems in 2015.
3. Padres (0.3 WAR)
All told, the Padres bullpen is worth 1.2 WAR, but three-quarters of that is tied up in closer Joaquin Benoit, and the rest of their options add up to being not much more than replacement level, over more than 450 innings of work. Brandon Maurer and Shawn Kelley are the only one of the other 11 named relievers, plus 'The Others' projected with a positive value. All told, and including Benoit, their expected to put up a 3.47 ERA, basically indistinguishable from the Diamondbacks bullpen, at 3.50. Giving the yawning charm in park factors [last year, Chase Field was 2nd in the majors for overall run inflation, Petco 29th], that's near-complete condemnation.
4. Giants (0.1 WAR)
Almost the same goes for the Giants, with a projected bullpen of ERA of 3.42, despite AT&T being 25th in park factor. The projections don't even have them possessing a lock-down closer, Santiago Casilla's expected ERA actually being fractionally higher than team average, the only franchise in the division for whom that's so. San Francisco does have a number of pitchers better than replacement, but only marginally so. And any good they do is largely negated, since there are less than a handful of relievers in the majors expected to be less valuable than Javier Lopez in 2015. Yet some rank SF among the best bullpens in baseball. This would be why they play the games.
5. Dodgers (-0.1 WAR)
This has the potential to be the Dodgers' biggest weakness, and we'll find out soon enough how good the rest of the bullpen is, with the absence of Kenley Jansen for the first month or so of the season. The frantic scrambling around to cover for him - the LA Times said the team now has "a void" at closer - can only be good news for the rest of the division and, certainly, you look at the rest of the relievers and they don't strike me as being anywhere near as scary as, say, the front four in their rotation. Stay close to Los Angeles, work the pitch counts so the starters can't go deep into games, and try to get to their bullpen might be a worthwhile tactic, especially while Jansen is out.
Well, it's nice to finish on a relatively upbeat note, after what seems like a long, dark journey through an endless void of swirling nothingness, like a binge viewing marathon of Requiem for a Dream, Dancer in the Dark and Grave of the Fireflies. But, hey! After what we've seen in previous installments, I'll happily settle for a bullpen that probably won't suck as bad as other aspects of the 2015 Diamondbacks. Morally speaking, few things are worse than blowing late leads; if that didn't actually happen that much more often in 2014 than the year before, that was largely because we didn't have as many chances. Here's to both more late leads, and solid protection of them.