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40-Man Review: Relief Pitchers

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The Mariners' bullpen was surprisingly good this year and most of the core should carry over into 2015.

Otto Greule Jr

Earlier this week, I started a series of posts that will examine the Mariners' 40-man roster, both a recap of 2014 and a look forward to 2015. I'll do my best to try and figure out who might be dropped from the roster before the season starts and who might be added to the roster. I won't speculate on any specific free agents or trade targets -- there will be plenty of time for that later -- I'll only comment about where the Mariners could stand to upgrade for 2015. I'm also using the recently released Steamer projections via FanGraphs to estimate 2015 production. These projections are pretty conservative and the playing time estimates are based on FanGraphs' depth charts.

Previous Posts: Primer | Catchers (2 40-man roster spots) | Infielders (9) | Outfielders (8) | Starting Pitchers (9)

Today, I'll take a look at the Mariners' relief pitchers:

Pitchers

Age

Org. Level

2014 Salary

2015 Salary

Fernando Rodney

38

MLB

$7,000,000

$7,000,000

Tom Wilhelmsen

31

MLB

$528,800

Arbitration - Year 1

Charlie Furbush

29

MLB

$750,000

Arbitration - Year 1

Brandon Maurer

24

MLB

$504,600

ML Minimum + service

Danny Farquhar

28

MLB

$510,800

ML Minimum + service

Yoervis Medina

26

MLB

$512,600

ML Minimum + service

Dominic Leone

23

MLB

$500,000

ML Minimum + service

Lucas Luetge

28

MLB

$508,800

ML Minimum + service

Carson Smith

25

MLB

$500,000

ML Minimum + service

Logan Bawcom

26

AAA

Minor League Contract

Minor League Contract

Joe Beimel

38

MLB

$850,000

Free Agent

Blake Beavan

25

MLB

$518,700

Free Agent

Stephen Pryor

25

MLB

$500,000

Traded to Twins

Hector Noesi

27

MLB

$500,000

Released

2014 Recap

Pitchers

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

ERA

FIP

WAR

Tom Wilhelmsen

79 1/3

8.17

4.08

0.68

0.204

2.27

3.74

0.2

Danny Farquhar

71

10.27

2.79

0.63

0.298

2.66

2.86

0.9

Brandon Maurer

69 2/3

7.11

2.45

0.78

0.308

4.65

3.49

0.7

Fernando Rodney

66 1/3

10.31

3.80

0.41

0.330

2.85

2.83

1.2

Dominic Leone

66 1/3

9.50

3.39

0.54

0.282

2.17

3.07

0.7

Yoervis Medina

57

9.47

4.42

0.47

0.298

2.68

3.45

0.3

Joe Beimel

45

5.00

2.80

0.80

0.250

2.20

4.18

-0.2

Charlie Furbush

42 1/3

10.84

1.91

0.85

0.327

3.61

2.80

0.7

Lucas Luetge

9

7.00

5.00

3.00

0.130

5.00

7.58

-0.3

Carson Smith

8 1/3

10.80

3.24

0.00

0.125

0.00

1.81

0.2

Blake Beavan

4

2.25

0.00

4.50

0.308

4.50

9.13

-0.2

Stephen Pryor

1 2/3

5.40

10.80

0.00

0.200

0.00

5.53

0.0

Hector Noesi

1

18.00

0.00

9.00

0.333

27.00

12.13

-0.1

Logan Bawcom

45 2/3

6.31

4.93

1.18

0.302

4.93

5.71

The Mariners' bullpen was perhaps the most surprising position group this year. In 2013, the bullpen ranked 13th in the AL by FIP-; that ranking improved by ten this year. That's a pretty significant improvement for a unit that brought back most of its core. Reliever performance is notoriously difficult to analyze because we're dealing with pretty small sample sizes which lead to highly volatile performances. Let's dig in.

The roller coaster ride that was the Fernando Rodney experience was certainly frustrating at times but looking back on the stats, Rodney was one of the better relievers in the league this year. Among qualified relievers in the American League, he ranked 12th in FIP, 20th in strikeout rate and led the league in saves (out of 66 qualified relievers). Outside of his incredible year in 2012, his walk rate was the lowest it's been in seven years. Rodney was a key piece in this bullpen and his presence allowed Lloyd McClendon to use the rest of the bullpen with much more flexibility.

After Rodney, the relievers with the highest average leverage index were Yoervis Medina, Charlie Furbush, and Danny Farquhar. Of these three, Farquhar clearly had the best performance. He was able to build on his improvements he made last year and continued to run a ridiculous strikeout rate -- almost 28% -- and earned 18 shutdowns against only 5 meltdowns. Charlie Furbush continued to dominate lefties -- he struck out almost a third of the lefties he faced -- but when he allowed hits, they were hit pretty hard (25% line drive rate, .327 BABIP) leading to an inflated ERA.

Out of the eight regular relievers in the bullpen, Yoervis Medina had the third worst strikeout rate, FIP, and ERA and the worst walk rate of them all yet he had the highest average leverage index of our non-closer relievers. In high leverage situations, his FIP was 4.74 and his ERA was a ridiculously high 5.27. It's hard to understand why Lloyd McClendon placed so much trust in Medina in these high leverage situations but it is what it is.

As middle relievers go, Tom Wilhelmsen and Dominic Leone performed admirably. Both were able to generate their fair share of strikeouts and limited walks and runs. In fact, they led the bullpen with the two lowest ERAs despite running FIPs that were around a full run higher. Wilhelmsen was third on the team with 17 shutdowns and had the lowest amount of meltdowns (3) among the regular relievers. His flexibility also allowed McClendon to use him as a spot starter twice during the year, a role which may not suit him regularly. As the designated LOOGY, Joe Beimel was perfectly serviceable -- lefties hit just .183 off him.

Brandon Maurer certainly had an interesting season. He started out as a rotation depth and was called into action by the middle of April. He made seven mostly terrible starts in April and May and then was sent back to Triple-A to transition to the bullpen. After dominating as a reliever in the minors, he was called back up at the end of June and began dominating the majors as a reliever. Andrew had an excellent write up on his transformation to dominant reliever a few weeks ago. I'll leave you with one final tidbit: among relievers with at least 30 innings pitched, Brandon Maurer's FIP ranked 11th, right between Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen.

2015 Outlook

Pitchers

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

ERA

FIP

WAR

Fernando Rodney

65

9.35

3.11

0.62

0.291

3.11

3.09

0.7

Tom Wilhelmsen

65

8.56

3.51

0.76

0.291

3.67

3.60

0.3

Charlie Furbush

55

9.70

2.75

0.86

0.284

2.97

3.26

0.5

Brandon Maurer

55

8.15

2.68

0.97

0.287

3.53

3.73

0.1

Danny Farquhar

45

9.53

2.80

0.76

0.288

2.95

3.16

0.4

Yoervis Medina

40

9.18

3.87

0.65

0.291

3.43

3.46

0.2

Dominic Leone

35

9.01

3.20

0.67

0.290

3.19

3.28

0.3

Logan Bawcom

20

6.80

4.17

1.04

0.289

4.52

4.61

-0.2

Lucas Luetge

30

7.67

3.87

0.83

0.289

3.91

4.03

0.0

Carson Smith

25

8.42

3.27

0.82

0.289

3.54

3.66

0.1

The majority of the bullpen should return next year -- Joe Beimel is the only free agent in this group. Steamer's projections are pretty conservative but that's to be expected with the volatile nature of reliever performance.

I wouldn't be surprised if one of our relievers was dealt this offseason in a package for some offensive help. Jack Zduriencik has shown he's more than capable of finding effective scrap heap relievers to fill the back end of the bullpen and I'd expect to see a long reliever added to the roster out of Spring Training. The Mariners will also need to add another left-handed reliever to replace Joe Beimel. Lucas Luetge is currently the second lefty on the 40-man roster but I don't think the team wants to hand him any significant playing time.

Carson Smith made his major league debut in September and was pretty impressive over eight and a third innings. If one of our relievers gets dealt, he should fill that open spot. After a great year in 2013 as Tacoma's closer, Logan Bawcom wasn't very impressive in Triple-A this year. His strikeout rate plummeted and his FIP and ERA skyrocketed as he took a major step back. Since there aren't any other relief candidates in the minors to take his place on the 40-man roster, I'd think the Mariners will want to keep him on the roster as relief depth. If they decide to add another one of the minor league starters (Landazuri, Snow, or Pries) to the roster, I could see them dropping him too.

So that's it, the Mariners' 40-man roster in full. There are just a few minor league players who should earn a spot on the roster this offseason and a few more who could earn a spot sometime in 2015. The core of the team in 2015 is already established with just a few holes that need to be addressed. This is both a blessing and a curse. The Mariners have a few very difficult decisions to make in the offseason to address these holes and there aren't many obvious answers. This should make for an exciting few months before pitchers and catchers report in February.