There's no '$' in Bullpen

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Over at Fish Stripes, Michael Jong plots the Marlins' bullpen performance versus payroll for the past five years: 

It is not a pretty picture. The team has spent a ton of money (mostly on Heath Bell and soon Juan Carlos Oviedo, once his suspension ends). And the bullpen has been much worse in 2012, though the fielding-independent stats suggest the bullpen is not entirely at fault. Jong argues that the steady FIP- stats (which is weighted against the rest of the league; in other words, the Marlins bullpen has been 6 to 10% better than the average MLB pitcher in each of the last five years).

Be warned.
Clearly, the Marlins have overpaid for relievers this year. Besides giving Heath Bell top dollar, the Marlins traded Cameron Maybin two years ago for Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb (Maybin's WAR in 2011-2012: 4.9; Webb and Mujica's combined: 1.4!). 

All those dollars could have been used to address actual areas of need. The Marlins have been forced to play a converted outfielder (Emilio Bonifacio) and a Quad-A guy (Justin Ruggiano, whose .457 BABIP suggests is bound for a big crash) in centerfield. They could have kept Maybin, or used Bell's money on a free agent like Yoenis Cespedes, and probably get the same results out of the bullpen this year. Paying top dollar for a "proven closer" will get good press in December, but it often comes with opportunity costs that end up hurting the team in the long run.


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