Today’s article is inspired by long-time Ducksnorts reader Robby Deming:
— Robby Deming (@robbydeming) March 24, 2013
Robby raises a good question, which I’ll attempt to answer in a moment. But first, how weak was last year’s Padres bullpen? Acknowledging that ERA is an imperfect representation of reliever performance, here’s how Padres bullpens have fared during the Petco Park era:
|Year||RP ERA||MLB Rank|
One problem with ERA can be seen in that third column. Bullpen ERAs over the past two seasons are about a half run lower than they were from 2004 to 2009. So when we say that last year’s Padres ranked 28th out of 270 total bullpens from 2004 to 2012, it’s a little misleading. The standard for relievers has changed over time.
Even still, the bullpen wasn’t bad in 2012. It only seems that way because the 2010 and 2011 versions were outstanding. If you want to see a bad bullpen (and who doesn’t), check out 2008.
The Padres have the lowest bullpen ERA (3.46) in baseball since moving to Petco Park. With more than 4,500 innings and nearly 20,000 batters faced, this is not a small-sample illusion. However, as my pal Lance Richardson notes, it may be a park effect.
No team has a better home ERA than the Padres over the past nine years. Eighteen teams have a better road ERA, including all four of their NL West competitors. So yeah, park effect.
This is all very fascinating, but I still haven’t even started to answer Robby’s question: Which relievers are poised to have a strong year?
Although not all of these guys will start the season in San Diego, most should see action at some point. Again, with the caveats about ERA, here is how they did in 2012 (big leagues only) and how various systems project them to do in 2013:
Key: BJ, Bill James; OL, Oliver; PE, PECOTA; ZI, ZiPS.
The bad news is that most Padres relievers are projected to slip from their 2012 performance. The good news is that projections are often wrong.
The one guy that every system has improving is Brach. I don’t happen to be a big believer in him. Thatcher looks good on paper but has topped 40 innings just once in his career. Mikolas and Thayer are expected to repeat last year’s performance, while everyone else is projected to slip.
But Robby didn’t ask who was going to slip from 2012, he asked who was going to have a strong 2013. Assuming they stay healthy (an unhealthy assumption), I’d say Gregerson, Street, and Thatcher.
Does this answer inspire? I feel like it does not inspire. Oh well, at least it’s honest.
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