Entering spring training, Tribe skipper Manny Acta said there would be a competition for the two spots in the bullpen and that Frank Herrmann had a leg up for one of them. The first question that popped into my head was: Why?
Soon after, during the mic’ed up spring training game broadcast, Acta reiterated that Herrmann had an advantage in the competition because he was there last year. But I couldn’t figure out what Acta was seeing, and I still don’t.
I tried to look beyond Hermann’s ugly ERA of 5.11 last season and his miserable second half in which his ERA shot up 249 points to 6.49. Maybe the answer lies in his 2011 splits? The numbers suggest that Herrmann could be a very useful arm to against right-handed batters: In 2011 he held them to a slash line of .223/.266/.331. Meanwhile, lefty hitters tuned him up with a slash line of .386/.431/.605.
When I was predicting the 2o12 Indians bullpen earlier in the offseason, I had Dan Wheeler taking one of the two open spots (if he’s healthy) and Nick Hagadone getting the other. Wheeler, who signed a minor league deal with the Indians this winter, is coming off an injury plagued season in which Red Sox manager Terry Francona put him in to face more lefties (78) than he had in either of the previous two seasons. In his career he has held right-handers to a .586 OPS, but like Herrmann has troubles with lefties, who carry an impressive .827 against him.
Something didn’t seem right with Herrmann’s numbers. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I don’t recall any prolonged period of time in the second half of the season when he was able to effectively get anybody out. After mining through Herrmann’s 2011 splits, I found was that he was absolutely dominant against right-handed hitters in the first half but abysmal in the second half. In the first half he faced 67 right-handers and held them to a ridiculous .156/182/203 triple-slash, but in the second half the 62 righties he faced extracted their revenge, lighting him up for a .298/.355/.474 line.
Hermann did manage to show a slight improvement against left-handed hitters as the season progressed. In the first half of the season he faced 64 left-handers, who hit .424/.469/.495 off of him; he was able to limit the damage somewhat in the second half, holding the 60 southpaw hitters he faced to a more reasonable .345/.390/.509 line.
After his struggles in the second half of 2011, Hermann should have needed a strong spring performance to win a job in the 2012 bullpen. We really don’t know what Manny Acta will be looking at as far as spring training numbers are concerned. He’s posted a 6.48 ERA and opponents are hitting .361 against him, but on the positive side he has 8 strikeouts against just one walk in 8.1 innings of work.
The Indians may feel it is more prudent to have Herrmann in the bullpen and use him sparingly while sending Nick Hagadone to Columbus, where he could get regular work in and continue to develop his secondary pitches. But in my opinion, the Indians should allow Hagadone to open the year in the big-league bullpen and start Herrmann in Triple-A. Even the best teams in baseball go through 10-15 relief pitchers a year, and the time in the minors could help Herrmann refine his arsenal so he’ll be more prepared when he’s called upon later in the season.
Should Hermann win a spot in the bullpen?
- No (58%, 7 Votes)
- Yes (42%, 5 Votes)
Total Voters: 12