Is the Rays bullpen set for improvement in 2012?

By Robbie Knopf

The Rays have made some moves this offseason, and most of them have involved trading relievers as they acquired Josh Lueke from the Mariners and Burke Badenhop from the in-state rival Miami Marlins. After all these moves, is the Rays bullpen going to be better than it was in 2011?

Let’s compare the 2011 bullpen with the 2012 (projected) bullpen.

Closer: Kyle Farnsworth 2011 (2.18 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 63 appearances, 1.5 aLI, 25 saves) vs. Kyle Farnsworth 2012

Righty setup man: Joel Peralta 2011 (2.93 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 71 appearances, 1.3 aLI, 6 saves, 19 holds) vs. Joel Peralta 2012

Lefty setup man: J.P. Howell 2011 (6.16 ERA, 4.35 xFIP, 46 appearances, 1.2 aLI, 1 save, 10 holds)/Jake McGee 2011 (4.50 ERA, 4.18 xFIP, 37 appearances, 0.7 aLI, 4 holds) vs. J.P. Howell 2012/Jake McGee 2012

Righty middle relief: Juan Cruz 2011 (3.88 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 56 appearances, 0.8 aLI, 6 holds) vs. Josh Lueke 2012 (6.06 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 25 appearances, 0.4 aLI, 2 holds in 2011 for Mariners)

Versatile middle relievers (short or long relief): Brandon Gomes 2011 (2.92 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 40 appearances, 0.7 aLI, 5 holds) vs. Brandon Gomes 2012/Burke Badenhop 2012 (4.10 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 50 appearances. 0.7 aLI, 1 save, 5 holds in 2011 for Marlins)

Based on simply 2011 FIP and xFIP (which you can basically eyeball from here), the Rays clearly improve their bullpen by adding in Lueke and Badenhop (who replaces a true long-man like Andy Sonnanstine). But the question is whether Rays relievers like Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta can repeat their outstanding 2011 seasons. Let’s leave this as an open question for now and we’ll look at these reliever matchups in the coming days through the eyes of both statistics and Pitch F/X.

Here is the link to the first part of this series, a discussion about whether Kyle Farnsworth will be able to repeat his outstanding 2011.

Now here’s Part 2, where we talk about whether Joel Peralta has really found something in his success the past two seasons.

The next component of this series is about J.P. Howell and whether he’s really as bad of a pitcher as he was in 2011.