Improving the Bullpen
The Indians bullpen was a source of strength for the 2011 Indians, especially in the first half of the season. As the season progressed the bullpen’s numbers declined, probably due to a combination of overexposure and fatigue. Still, a late lead was safe with the Bullpen Mafia. The Indians went 56-8 when leading after six innings and were 15-10 when tied after six; when leading after seven innings they were 61-4 and were 13-8 when tied; and they were 64-3 when leading after eight and 12-8 when tied.
The 2012 Bullpen Mafia will include returning members Chris Perez (player profile here), Joe Smith (player profile here), Vinnie Pestano (player profile here), Rafael Perez (player profile here), and Tony Sipp (player profile here). They’ll be joined by Dan Wheeler (player profile here) and Jairo Asencio (player profile here).
The bullpen’s performance did decline between the first half (15-9, 3.18 ERA) to the second half where they posted a 12-12 record with an ERA of 4.31. The most notable drops in performance were Smith’s, Rafael Perez’s, Pestano’s, and Chris Perez’s.
Smith’s ERA increased by 2.21 runs from 0.85 in the first half to 3.06 in the second half, yet his strikeout rate increased from 14.7 percent to 18.8 percent and his walk rate dropped from 8.5 percent to 7.3 percent. His OPS against fell .559 to 525, which included a 21-point decrease in his BABIP, from .271 to .250.
Rafael Perez’s ERA increased by 2.71 runs, from 1.71 in the first half to 4.62 in the second half. Unlike Joe Smith, Perez was unable to continue to strike hitters out as his strikeout rate fell from 16.3 percent to 7.7. But he was able to decrease his walk rate from 7.3 percent to 6.7 percent. Despite a 10-point drop in BABIP from .289 to .279 hitters, his OPS against increased a whopping 171 points from .581 to .752.
Sipp’s ERA increased 0.74 runs from 2.72 in the first half to 3.46 in the second half. He did see a slight drop in his K% from 24.1 percent to 20.9 percent, but it corresponded with a small decrease in his walk rate (from 9.9 percent to 9.1 percent). The most significant change in his numbers from the first half to the second half was his BABIP, which increased 125 points from an extremely low .163 in the first half to .288 in the second half. That may help explain some of the 88-point increase in his OPS against from .626 to .714.
Chris Perez’s ERA increased 2.01 runs from 2.42 in the first half to 4.44 in the second half. His strikeout rate dropped from 16.3 percent to 15.0 percent but his walk rate also fell, from 11.1 percent to 9.7 percent. His OPS against shot up 138 points from .587 to .725 while his BABIP increased only 13 points, from .234 to .247.
The Indians hope that the the starting rotation will be able to eat more innings and that better offense will lead to more opportunities to protect leads late in games in 2012. They also hope that the additions of Wheeler and Asencio will both depth and veteran presence to the bullpen.