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Sampling The Delicious Fruits Of The Reliever Tree


The scintillating life of Roy Corcoran

2001: signed as undrafted free agent, Rookie and A-ball
2002: A-ball
2003: A-ball through Majors; brief stint with Expos
2004: AAA and Majors; brief stint with Expos
2005: AAA
2006: AA through Majors; brief stint with Expos
2007: AAA
2008: AAA and Majors; extended, successful stint with Mariners

Roy Corcoran came to Seattle at the low low cost of a minor league contract and Spring Training invitation. Since then he's thrown 56.2 innings with the big club, posting a 2.95 tRA and generating an unbelievable 69% groundballs. That's the highest rate in baseball among pitchers with at least 40 innings. For good measure he's also kept opposing hitters to a pathetically emasculating 8% line drives. People just have not been able to get Corcoran squared up, and the result is that, despite below-average control and an only mediocre ability to miss bats, Corcoran's flourished.

Behold the awesome power of a good sinker. On the checklist of things a pitcher has to do in order to succeed, Corcoran does exactly one of them, and yet he's able to get by because he generates so many groundballs that walks and balls in play just don't hurt him the way they do most other arms in the league. Remember how we used to talk about Sean Green back before he dropped his arm angle and got even better? It's the exact same sort of thing. Corcoran's the exact same sort of pitcher as Green used to be, and as such, he's more than deserving of a Major League career. Even if he never figures out how to throw consistent strikes or miss consistent bats, he still belongs in the back of somebody's bullpen, because he does that one thing so well that it makes up for a lot of his other shortcomings.

A good bullpen is easy to build, and Corcoran's just the latest example of a success story who barely cost anything in terms of initial investment. This isn't a fluke. Corcoran isn't a one-time-only kind of outlier. He's the latest in a long line of pitchers grabbed off the scrap heap who went on to succeed because, despite a lack of veteran experience, they do their jobs well enough to survive against Major League competition. I don't get why some GMs still don't understand this, and I'm thankful that I'm a fan of a team that does, because it's a simple concept, and the payoff can be huge. When all else fails in the bullpen, go cheap. In fact, go cheap and go groundballer, if you have the chance. Off the top of my head I feel like groundball rates probably hold up a little better for minor league relievers making the jump than strikeouts and walks. But I can't really say for certain.

Talented, effective relievers really do grow on trees. The only requirement of a GM is that he doesn't mind occasionally getting his hands dirty when he picks them.