Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bullpen Management

Hasn't this bullpen been mismanaged long enough? Not by the managers but by the front office.

John Parrish just doesn't have what it takes to be a major league pitcher. He has a live arm, you have to admit, as evidenced by 33 strikeouts in 34 innings. That's a pretty good way to keep a job as a reliever. But unfortunately he's also allowed a ghastly 28 walks on the year.

And that's not something new. In 211 1/3 career innings, he's walked 160. That's good for 6.81 BB/9. Even if you can blow it by batters as well as John Parrish, you have to have some basic level of control. Parrish doesn't have that, despite spending parts of six seasons with the Orioles dating back to 2000. He's never had it, and considering he's now 29, at what point does the organization realize it's finally time to cut bait? Parrish just isn't a major league caliber pitcher. Guys with a 5.82 ERA in middle relief, especially those with little prior track record, are imminently expendable.

Paul Shuey hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2003 before his call-up to Baltimore last month. He's good enough as bullpen filler for Norfolk, an experienced pitcher to step in and provide some innings in case of emergency pending his performance in AAA, although given that Shuey is 36, there doesn't seem to be much of a need to try to resurrect his career in the bigs.

But Shuey wasn't good in Norfolk, posting a 4.70 ERA (although in fairness his peripherals were strong). Considering that he had pitched in just six games in organized baseball from 2004-2006, what reason was there to promote Shuey? None, other than his performance from years ago when he was a very good middle reliever. So far Shuey has rewarded the Orioles with a 6.11 ERA in 11 appearances.

If the Orioles didn't have any options, maybe that would be acceptable (though you'd have to wonder why these two were the best relief options they could come up with). But there are options. Here are two:

Corey Doyne: 1.91 ERA/42.3 IP/47 K/14 BB/0 HR (age 25)
James Hoey: 0.72 ERA/ 37.3 IP/53 K/ 9 BB/ 1 HR (age 24)

Doyne put up those numbers at Norfolk while Hoey split the season between Bowie and the Tides.

Is this a small thing? Relatively speaking, it is. But it's also illustrative of the team's failures. In at least three areas

1) Relying on veterans and experience over youth, talent, and performance

It's the tendency of the Flanagan & Duquette to go with the veteran rather than the young guy who is likely to outperform him. Doyne and Hoey both pitched better than Shuey in the minors this season, but yet Shuey is the one member of the trio on the current major league roster.

It might be understandable if the young guys were 20 or 21, or the team were in the heat of the pennant race, but that's not the case. Hoey and Doyne are both in their mid-20s and as ready as they'll ever be to contribute in a major league bullpen. And in a season where the Orioles are once again miles out of the race, why are innings being given to a retread like Shuey rather than guys who might possibly be part of the team the next time the Orioles contend?

2) Poor roster management/planning

Hoey and Doyne did get a shot with the Orioles this season. They were called up and combined to throw one inning before being sent back down to Norfolk. You have to wonder what the Front Office was thinking in calling these guys up only to promptly shuttle them back to Norfolk before either could pitch a full major league inning.

Was it a lack of patience? Was it a move that wasn't thoroughly considered before it was executed? Either way, it speaks to the lack of planning to call these two up for two days, only to send them down for Rob Bell and Paul Shuey.

3) Holding on too long

I had no problem with having John Parrish on the opening day roster. He had, after all, posted an ERA well better than the league average over 84 appearances from 2003-2005. Even taking into account the control problems, that's enough for him to make the roster, especially considering his affordable six figure salary. But at some time it's time to make the realization that he just doesn't have it.

It's similar to the way the Orioles handled Todd Williams. He gave them solid relief work off of the scrap heap in 2005 despite poor peripheral numbers that forecasted a drop off. He was understandably brought back for 2006 where he struggled in posting a 4.74 ERA over in 62 appearances. But despite being 36, the Orioles brought him back to the organization calling him up long enough to post a 7.53 ERA in 14 games.

Instead of realizing that pitchers like Todd Williams and John Parrish are a dime a dozen and can be replaced, the team has held onto them as if they are valuable commodities worth trying to rehabilitate. And that's a problem.

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