Tonight's 3-2 win over Baltimore was a great example of how well and cheap a bullpen can be assembled when properly allowed to. It should serve as evidence to impatient fans out there that patience is a virtue. The pen has allowed just one run in the last three games (over 12 innings), and has an ERA of 3.81, good for 5th in the AL (and that includes Billy Traber, Latroy Hawkins and Ross Ohlendorf, all who had ERAs over 5.50).
There was talk of trading Brian Bruney after last season. Some people never wanted to see Edwar again after his meltdowns last year. There are some who are upset that we received nothing in return for Gary Sheffield; that's not true - it just takes time, and we saw the first major league impact of that trade on Thursday when highly-touted and hard-throwing Humberto Sanchez debuted, pitching a perfect inning with one strikeout (sitting in the low 90s).
We've also seen the emergence of Phil Coke, who looks like a very viable bullpen candidate for 2009. Right behind him is our best reliever in the upper minors, Mark Melancon, the former closer for the U of Arizona. He had Tommy John surgery in 2007, but destroyed three levels of the minors this year. He'll be another great bulpen option in Spring Training.
Look how well some of our inconsistent but promising relievers have adjusted, comparing pre-2008 to the current year.
ERA - 8.14 vs. 3.98
WHIP - 1.81 vs. 1.23
BB/9 - 6.0 vs. 3.9
HR/9 - 2.5 vs. 1.2
ERA - 4.95 vs. 3.58
BB/9 - 5.3 vs. 4.2
K/9 - 5.8 vs. 9.6
Brian Bruney (07 vs. 08):
ERA - 4.68 vs. 2.03
WHIP - 1.62 vs. 1.03
BB/9 - 6.7 vs. 4.3
K/9 - 7.0 vs. 8.8
What a surprise that all three are now in their mid-late 20s, which historically has been players' peak years. It can take a while for players to reach their potential - it usually doesn't happen until 27 or so.
We have yet to see these adjustments made by Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy but I strongly believe we will. I don't know exactly when, but it will happen within the next couple years. In general, minor league success does translate to the majors. If we all have patience, we'll see the fruits of this labor in the near future - after all, we've already seen some.
Brian Cashman knows how to construct a team, but we should all be afraid of what Hank Steinbrenner's 'advisory group' might do to derail the plans. He's already gone over Cashman's head to re-sign Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez. One is already a burden and the other will no doubt become one.
PS: Some catch by Brett Gardner! Anyone that doesn't want him playing over Melky?