Mar 16, 2014; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Rafael Soriano (29) comes into the game during the fifth inning of the game against the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves vs. the NL East: Bullpens

This will be the penultimate post in our comparison of Braves’ players to the rest of the NL East.  Today we review the state of the division’s bullpens.

First, let’s take a look at who we’re actually talking about:



Yes, Steve Cishek‘s name is misspelled.  Sorry.  Too lazy to fix it.

There has been a change to this chart since it was created.  The Nationals announced yesterday that starting pitcher Ross Detwiler is going to begin the year in the bullpen.  From the sound of it, I doubt that they are looking at the end of that bench, either.  Given that he’s a left-hander with a mid-90’s fastball, I’m pretty sure that manager Matt Williams is looking squarely at Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward as he made that announcement.  This move does improve their pen.

On the whole, it’s actually a little difficult to get excited about many of the names I’m seeing in this chart… if you’re not a Braves fan.  There are pitchers here with talent, but many of them do not jump out and declare “I’m a stopper” to you…except for the pitchers on a couple of these teams.

  • The Braves have the best bullpen.  Period.  They were the best in the majors last year and nearly everyone is returning.  Lost is Eric O’Flaherty, who could be replaced by Luis Vasquez.  Later in the year Jonny Venters should return – and he was unable to pitch at all in 2013.  Nice mid-season pickup, that.  The only question is whether the bullpen can limit their innings again this year, given the state of the rotation.  I can foresee a few more arms rolling through to spell these guys from time to time… but they should remain solid regardless.
  • The Nationals have bouts of inconsistency – or maybe they just seem to be inconsistent since they have trouble with Atlanta.  Detwiler should help that, but their cast is still very good overall.
  • Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Mike Adams (37). Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Philadelphia actually has a chance to be very good.  They are stuck with Jonathan Papelbon, but that’s not a horrible thing, especially if he can find the rhythm that he had a few years ago when he was racking up saves with Boston.  Mike Adams likewise is a bounceback candidate (3.96 in 2013 – was at/under 2.00 in 2009-2011), and is in a good spot as setup man.  The rest of that group doesn’t scare anybody, though.

  • The Marlins pen does have a decent chance of overtaking the Phillies since they have a lot of up-and-comers… pretty much just like the rest of their team.  Their wild card is Carlos Marmol, who regularly melted down with the Cubs.  As a setup man, will that change?  Really hard to say, though even if he fails, there are others that could step up to take that place.  Fortunately, they have a steady and patient ownership that tolerates growing pains (okay, I can’t even type that with a straight face – ROFL!).
  • Did you remember that the Mets were in the World Series in 2000?  In the NLCS in 2006?  Since 2009, the Mets rank in a tie for 23rd in baseball for wins (374), just ahead of the Marlins (370).  There’s a lot of reasons for this, but in looking at their team this year, I just don’t see any changes coming.  This bullpen is weak.  Parnell can’t pitch nearly enough innings to make up for that.  In 2012-13, the combined WAR value for their relievers was -0.7, one of only three teams (Cubs, Astros) under zero.  Their starting pitching is getting better, but this is not good.


The Rankings


This is pretty straightforward, really.  The only real question I have is whether the Marlins could overtake Philadelphia, but even with that, I’m leaning pretty heavily with the rankings as shown here.


Miami Marlins pitcher Steve Cishek. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports


  • Best relievers. Craig Kimbrel, of course.  Rafael Soriano is second...Steve Cishek and Papelbon are fairly close for third (hard to tell just good Cishek is, but he has continued to improve).
  • Worst relieversCarlos Marmol until he proves otherwise.  At least Manny Acosta is no longer pitching.
  • Players to watch.  Cishek, Mike Dunn (he could become the human trade rumor this summer), David Carpenter, Drew Storen (still looking for consistency – and he’s still only 26).

How is it that Cishek can throw like he’s a pretzel that’s being unwound while our pitchers break themselves with much more ‘traditional’ deliveries??  *headscratcher*

We’ll wrap this series up with a summary later this week!


Tags: Atlanta Braves Bullpens NL EAST Relief Pitchers

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