Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More Yankee skankiness

From the great Tom Verducci of SI -- the do's and don'ts of building a bullpen:

[Brewers' GM Doug] Melvin spent $2,792,000 on his bullpen, with [Ricky] Bottalico's $800,000 his single-highest expenditure. And you know what? It's working. No bullpen in baseball has received more bang for its buck than the Brewers, who began this week with the sixth-lowest bullpen ERA in baseball, including the second-best in the National League.

Management acumen -- in the front office and on the field -- may be no more important than in the area of relief pitching. Most teams can't afford to sink huge dollars into pitchers who mostly will throw only between 50 and 90 innings per season. Many relievers are somewhat flawed -- or else they would be starters. They often lack experience or a quality third (or even second) pitch. And few relievers are consistent year in and year out. So a huge amount of responsibility falls on the pitching coach to extract the most out of cheap, flawed pitchers and the manager to use that pitcher in ways in which he might best succeed.

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Are the Brewers on to something here? I looked at the top six bullpens in baseball at the start of this week. Of the 40 active pitchers for those teams, 34 earn less than $1.5 million this year. None earned more than the $4 million of Seattle's Eddie Guardado.

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And then you have the Yankees, the majors' No. 14 bullpen, whose organizational strategy is to carry big contracts. Rarely have the Yankees turned a castoff into an effective pitcher, outside of the small sample Tanyon Sturtze gave them last year. And not since Ramiro Mendoza has New York developed a solid, young arm for its bullpen. There is little evidence to argue for smart management acumen on this front.

The Yankees' bullpen, besides being way too expensive and providing the worst bang for the buck, is also way too old. Give me Minnesota's bullpen or the Angels' bullpen, with young power arms who can strike people out, a highly coveted trait for a bullpen.

So let's see: the Yankees sign old overpaid retreads to high-dollar contracts (Tom Gordon, Chris Hammond, Steve Karsay, Mike Stanton) and cannot produce solid relievers from dross like the Brewers, Braves or (2004 variety) Rangers. Time for a new pitching coach. And the Brewers' Mike Maddux has jumped right up with Bud Black at the top of my list, with Orel Hershiser not far behind.

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