Luck Check: Do the Rays Have a Serious Bullpen Problem?


Thus far this season, the Rays are 4-4. What would their record be if it weren’t for the ineffectiveness and almost ineptitude of their relief corps?

It’s early in the season, but this is pretty insane. Fernando Rodney has a sparkling 0.00 ERA. He’s alone. Wade Davis‘ ERA is a decent 3.86. OK, fine. Burke Badenhop‘s is 6.75- whatever, he’ll get that down. J.P. Howell‘s at 7.71. I thought 2011 was over for him! Jake McGee is at 10.80. Oh, shoot. Josh Lueke is at 27.00. Why in the world was he on the big league roster? Same story with Dane De La Rosa at a ghastly 45.00. But Joel Peralta, who we thought might be getting closer reps, at 37.80? Are you trying to give me a heart attack?

When all else fails, we result in advanced stats. We’ll go with two here: FIP and BAbip. I like to call this a luck check- sometimes luck is on your side, sometimes it’s set squarely against you, laughing as you fail (maybe I’m getting a little too much into this). We’ll start with Rodney and work our way backwards. Rodney’s FIP is a nice 2.45- he hasn’t walked a batter nor allowed a home run while striking out 1 in 2.2 IP- although his BAbip is thus far a perfect- or terrifying depending on how you want to look at it- .000. Get a grip people, Fernando Rodney will allow a run in 2011. Rodney has managed to avoid allowing a single line drive though, which is definitely a good sign. I have a decent amount of trust in Rodney to close out games for the Rays for the foreseeable future.

Davis has managed a great 2.56 FIP (3 K’s, 1 walk, 0 HR allowed in 4.2 IP), although he’s definitely lucky in terms of BAbip, managing a .250 mark despite a crazy 25% line drive rate. But Davis has thrown well and I think we can expect a nice season from him this year.

Badenhop’s FIP is not exactly what you want to see at 5.45 (2 K’s, 0 walks, 1 HR allowed in 4 IP), but although he’s not forcing quite as many groundballs as he should (1.33 grounball to flyball ratio), he’s allowed just 14% line drives and has been unlucky to allow a .308 BAbip. Badenhop won’t be an ace reliver, but he should be fine.

Howell’s BAbip is actually a 3.57 (2 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 HR allowed in 2.1 IP), an enormous margin ahead of his 7.71 ERA. However, he’s allowed a horrific 25% line drive percentage and more alarming is his groundball to flyball ratio- just .33. Howell has really struggled to begin the season, and hopefully he’ll be a whole lot better than he’s looked thus far.

McGee’s FIP is about half his ERA but still not at all what you want to see, registering at 5.60 (1 strikeout, 2 walks, 0 HR allowed in 1.2 IP). A .429 BAbip despite just a 14% line drive rate screams fluke, although hopefully he can get his .75 groundball to flyball ratio up. McGee remains an enigma with outstanding stuff who just can’t put it all together, and hopefully that will change soon. A scouting note: McGee has really had to rely on his fastball thus far this season, throwing it over three-quarters of the time with a decent amount of success, but he really has not gotten a good feel for his slider so far. A sharp breaking ball could change matters for McGee.

Lueke was absolutely horrendous. His FIP was 5.45 as he walked 3 compared to not a single strikeout, and although he didn’t allow a single home run, that was pure luck as his GB/FB was an execrable .25. Coupled with a 27% line drive rate, Lueke’s BAbip was .600, definitely a fluke but Lueke just looked overmatched out there. Hopefully he can rebuild his confidence and his arsenal of pitches at Triple-A.

There is one word to describe Dane De La Rosa’s FIP from his 1 game in 2011: unbelievable. His 45.00 ERA was horrifying. But his FIP must have been a good 40.00 at least 35.00 lower, right? Wrong. Since he allowed 2 walks and a home run in his 1 inning of work without striking out a batter, his FIP was just about the worst you’ll ever see: 22.20. Wow. DDLR’s career FIP in 8.1 IP is a little better at 5.16, still not what you want at all. But the Red Sox simply demolished him out there yesterday. He was probably unlucky to allow the same .600 BAbip Lueke allowed while posting an even 1.00 GB/FB and a 17% line drive rate, but Dane De La Rosa should not be a major league pitcher.

And now we get to Peralta. Is there any hope for him and his 37.80 ERA? His FIP is just as scary, coming in at 12.20 as he has walked 4 and allowed a home run while striking out 3 in 1.2 IP. He has allowed a .667 BAbip thanks to a 29% line drive percentage and just a 0.40 GB/FB. The one thing Peralta has going for him is his track record. Even in 2011, there were times we he looked like he did not belong at the big league level. But when it mattered most, in September when Kyle Farnsworth was out, Peralta stepped up to close games for the Rays. Peralta just cut his goatee off. Maybe that will do the trick. In any event, The sample size (1.2 IP and 14 batters faced) is just so small and we know that Peralta can’t be anywhere even remotely close to this bad. It will be an uphill batter for Peralta to get his ERA into the range of respectability after this disastrous start, but he’s definitely better than this and hopefully he’ll start showing that soon.

The Rays bullpen is not this bad. They have talented pitchers with quite a bit of potential but a variety of factors, such as nerves and bad luck, have made them get off to a terrible start to 2012. They will be better than this and hopefully we will begin seeing that immediately. The Rays as a team have the potential to go far this season. But in order to do that, they need their bullpen pitching at its best.