Chief of the Bullpen?

Last time, we looked at how Cordero stacked up against other closers in the league. I thought as someone in the bottom half of the pool, he was a bit overpaid. However, the availability of other pitchers with his abilities are limited, so a team like the Nats, with plenty of room on the payroll, aren’t necessarily wrong for overpaying a bit. Clearly, there aren’t too many stud closers out there, and as a team that is trying to rebuild, closer is arguably one of the last positions you want to waste free agent money on anyway. But there is one source where the Nats may find a better option, and that’s internally. So I thought it would be best to examine the bullpen guys who could make a case for themselves as setup men or closers, just to see. Again, I included ERA just because it makes people feel all warm and fuzzy, seeing a stat they know.

Nats Bullpen

It’s interesting to note, that none of my usual sources (espn, cnnsi, baseball-reference, Cot’s) knew Rivera’s or Colome’s salary this year or last. I sound like a pretty crappy columnist to leave those as N/A, but I’m a blogger, not a columnist. I doubt they played for free, so let’s guess they are among those sub-$500 K payroll guys. Anyway, with all the previous warnings about WHIP not being the best predictor stat, we dive right into it.

WHIP Nats

As my intuition told me, Cordero’s abilities to give me a heart attack by letting people on base are very real. It is a credit to him that he has maintained his abilities to get in and out of trouble, in part because he can strike people out, and in part because he usually comes in with the bases empty, giving him to room to let a few people on. On to the ever important strikes per walk ratio. This is the measure of pitcher’s control, and is alot more accurate than just looking at number of strikeouts. This is as good as any a time to mention why I’m using ratios not absolute numbers. The counting stats are obviously highly dependent on two things: number of innings pitched, and these ratios. With relievers, the number of innings can vary greatly depending on how their manager uses them, and it is hard to see how the counting stats (strikeouts in particular) played out. The ratios allow us to see exactly how they perform, without worrying about usage.

Nats KBB

Cordero is toward the bottom of this list, which isn’t too surprising considering how low he was on the league list. Again, he isn’t too bad compared to most pitchers, what’s interesting to see is how well the bullpen actually stacks up. Ayala is in the same group as Corder, while Schroder and Rauch have a 50% chance of having an ERA within a half a point of 4.00. In total, this statistic helps build the case that the Nats have an above average, talented bullpen. On to K/9, which is best used in conjunction to K/BB to really see if a guy is a soft tossing control pitcher, a real strikeout pitcher, or Rick Vaughn pre-glasses.

Nats K9

As we can see there, Cordero ranks among the top of the list, with Schroder looking quite impressive. Of all the members of the bullpen, Schroder is the best strikeout pitcher, at least according to these stats. Rauch and Cordero are right up there as well. As we said last week, anything above 6 or 6.50 is considered good, so nobody raises a red flag as bring completely unable to strike people out, but Colome and Ayala are close. And I checked, Ayala’s K/9 ratio was about the same before the injury, but his lowest K/BB before that was 2.86, above 3.00 the other 2 seasons. So that may improve from ’07 to ’08. The last ratio we’ll look at will again be groundball/flyball. Again, this is interesting especially for us Nats fans, as we can assume that a couple of fly ball outs will turn into HRs next season in the new park. Remember, the higher the number, the more grounders (which we like) and actually Cordero is considered neutral.

Nats GF

A couple of things jump out here, mostly that 3 of the 6 guys are flyball pitchers. The one that surprised me was Rauch, as he has done so well on all of the other ratios. Does this mean Rauch and Schroder are gonna let up alot of HRs now? Not necessarily. While the likelihood of these guys giving up homers is increased with a small park, it is increased across the board. It is something to keep an eye on, however. On to WXRL, which gives us a type of VORP for pitchers.

Nats WXRL

Cordero leads this category, but it’s not only usage. He isn’t tops in innings pitched, but he tops WXRL because he is used in high leverage situations, but also because of the results he had. His ratios may not be perfect, but his results were great. I found this exercise enlightening for several reasons. Cordero is not the best closer out there, and he doesn’t dominate among his own bullpen. But that doesn’t make him expendable. There isn’t another person in the bullpen that dominates every category, nobody that screams “closer”. Not that Cordero does either. They all have their weaknesses.

Cordero seems to be good enough for now, although if a trade offer does come down the wire, the team should seriously consider it. We can see here that much of the rest of the bullpen can compete as a closer, and for much cheaper. While nobody is a sure thing, they are certainly promising. When he is beyond arbitration, and ready for a long-term contract, he should become much more expendable, all the more reason to seek out trades before that happens

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