Photo: Adam Fusfeld
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. – Be it a left-handed specialist, a guy that can go multiple innings, or a pure power arm, bullpen help is on every executive’s mind here at the Dolphin Resort in Disney World.Repeatedly asked by the vast media contingent for their wish lists, baseball insiders are beginning to sound like broken records: they all want relief.
We’ve noted that statistics show middle relievers are influencing the game more than they ever have before. Clearly, teams are on to this trend. Everyone from the stoic Angels manager Mike Scioscia to the loud-mouthed Ozzie Guillen have set their sights on building up that part of the team. Certain clubs are willing to go to great lengths to shore up bullpen weaknesses.
The Diamondbacks, for example, traded their leading home run hitter for a pair of relievers. And they still aren’t done. Meanwhile, Dusty Baker indicated the Reds will likely keep Aroldis Chapman and his 105 mile per hour fastball in the pen despite his upbringing as a starter. The Angels plan to do the same with their free agent signing, Hisanori Takahashi, even though he’s had success taking the mound for the first pitch.
It’s ironic considering the premium that’s traditionally placed on starting pitching. In the past bullpens consisted primarily of failed starters. Perhaps executives are looking to the World Champion San Francisco Giants for inspiration. Sure, everyone harped on their collection of young starters, but their league-best bullpen was the real reason they went the distance. In fact, none of the last four World Series champs finished any lower than 4th in save percentage, and two finished on top.
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