Looking Back at What Was: Bullpen

Aug. 01, 2010 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - 01 August 2010: Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez.
Source: Yardbarker.com

This is the eleventh in a series of posts looking back at the realities of the Indians 2010 season. We’ll look at what was hoped for, what actually happened, and what the expectations are going forward at the position in 2011.

Now former Indians GM and current team president Mark Shapiro once said that bullpens are very fickle in nature year in and year out (I’m paraphrasing).

After watching the 2010 Cleveland Indians bullpen, I’d have to say he’s right.

Some of the guys the Indians went through probably don’t have much of a future with this club, and some like Jamey Wright (18 games, 5.48 ERA, 1.59 WHIP) are already gone.

Kerry Wood started the season as the closer, pitched miserably, obviously wanted to be somewhere else and was mercifully picked up by the Yankees … and then found his role and has been a stud for them. Go figure.

But the departure of Wood has made way for Chris “Pure Rage” Perez, who was one of the brightest spots in this dark Indians season. Perez had a 1.71 ERA in 63 games with a WHIP of 1.08 (61 Ks in 63 IP). He saved 23 games in 27 chances over the course of the season, and in his last 32 IP, he only allowed two (TWO!) earned runs. Perez has all the stuff to be a great closer, now it’s just a matter of whether or not he’ll get the save opportunities on this team.

There’s the “other” Perez, Rafael Perez, who found himself on the verge of being designated for assignment (on May 31st, his ERA was an ungoldy 7.20) but turned it on in the second half of the season, finishing with a 3.25 ERA and while never the lights-out reliever he was in 2007-2008 (during Eric Wedge’s abuse of him), he’s a reliable late inning setup guy now.

Tony Sipp was the epitome of hot and cold during the season. When he was on, he was good. When he wasn’t, he got lit up (12 home runs allowed). He’s probably better suited for middle relief, but he’ll get his chances in the late innings next year. Speaking of inconsistent, Joe Smith is still around. He also seemed to turn it around towards the end of the season, but he’s never going to be more than a righty specialist (7 ER in 8.1 IP vs. lefties). Then there’s Jensen Lewis, who was sent down to Columbus 50 times during the season (no really, 50 times exactly), but by the end of the year he finally found a role as a 7th-inning/high leverage situation pitcher (or exactly where he should have been all along). I don’t know what the future holds for Lewis, as he’s out of options and the Indians have some younger, hopefully more consistent arms coming into the pen.

There were two “surprise!” guys, and they were Frank Herrmann and Justin Germano. Herrmann busted into Cleveland and was incredibly stingy early on, but after about a month or so opposing hitters began to figure him out. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but he settled down at the end of the year and is probably going to be a middle relief option next year. As for Germano, he cold e-mailed Shapiro to get a job, got one, and found himself in Cleveland after trades and injuries. And he didn’t give the Indians a reason to send him back down. He ran up a 17.1 scoreless innings streak, and really the only blemish on his season was the spot start for the final game of the season where he gave up five runs in 2 IP. Like with many of these guys, I’m not sure Germano guaranteed himself a job, but he at least will get a shot.

Hector Ambriz was the last dude on the bench. I discussed his situation in-depth here. He’s out for all of 2011 after Tommy John surgery.

Finally, there are two guys that will get a shot to make the pen that I’m excited about. One, Vinny Pestano, got a cup of coffee in the big leagues at the end of September, and showed some promise in limited innings. He’s definitely got a shot to make the pen next year. Finally, DLF’s favorite Indians prospect Josh Judy was slowed last year by injuries, and it cost him a September call up. But he definitely has a chance at making the pen out of spring training and if he doesn’t, he’ll see time in Cleveland before the end of the year for sure.

One thing’s for certain: don’t expect the bullpen to look the same at the end of the season as it did at the start of the season. Bullpens are fickle like that.

Tags: Chris Perez Frank Herrmann Hector Ambriz Jamey Wright Jensen Lewis Joe Smith Josh Judy Justin Germano Kerry Wood Manny Acta Rafael Perez Tony Sipp Vinny Pestano

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