Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Astros to focus on bullpen in off-season

In Jose de Jesus Ortiz's piece following the Astros' 100th loss of the season last night, we get a (fairly obvious) plan for the off-season: the bullpen.

We're going to make some investments in bringing in some players from outside the organization with the goal in mind to help us be more competitive, to shore up the bullpen, maybe add another bat to the lineup and put these guys in a position where if they go out and give us enough innings, we've got the ability to score enough runs for them and finish the game and put a 'W' up there.

We all know about the bullpen. Here's some more. You can split team pitching stats into seasons on FanGraphs by starter, reliever, or both. You can do this for seasons going back to 1871. I did it here. The results show 2554 teams since 1871. Where does the 2013 Astros' bullpen rank in terms of WAR? 2554th. And it's not even close. The Astros' bullpen is at -5.8 WAR. The 2553rd bullpen in history, the 1966 Mets, came in at a -4.5 WAR. There have only been three teams in baseball history have a bullpen under a -4.0 WAR. Yet here we are. The worst bullpen in the history of baseball. By far.

How did this happen? Well, for one, the Astros only have two relievers who are even at 0.1 WAR this season - and one of those is David Martinez, who has thrown 8.1IP. Jose Veras is the team leader, at 0.6 WAR. Seventeen Astros pitchers - in a reliever's role - have posted below replacement-level player numbers. Paul Clemens (-1.0 WAR) and Travis Blackley (-1.2 WAR) lead the way.

Another table for you, this one showing that, out of 696 possible results, Clemens' 2013 season is ranked 692nd, and Blackley's 2013 season is ranked 694th in team history. Only John Hudek's 1997 season (-1.2 WAR) and Al Osuna's 1992 season (-1.3 WAR) were worse than Blackley in franchise history.

The Astros are 36-20 when leading at the beginning of the 7th inning. This is a .643 Win%. The other 29 teams average about an .865 Win% when they're leading at the beginning of the 7th inning. 

So a few decent reliever signings - and by "decent" I mean "completely average in every way" - and the Astros would be...well, not good, but better.