12:52 pm Jun. 14, 2012
Bullpens tend to be a great democratizing force in baseball.
It's simply very hard to build good ones, even for teams with all the money in the world to spend on relief pitchers.
So it's a particularly cruel irony that the Yankees have succeeded by taking an approach to bullpen-building that wasn't just about money, and the Mets are failing after taking an approach that was.
Wednesday night, Cody Eppley pitched the eighth inning for the Yankees, navigating them out of trouble in a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves. Eppley joined the Yankees this spring when he was claimed off of waivers from the Texas Rangers.
His fellow bullpen mate, Cory Wade, has been one of the best relievers the Yankees employ this year, with an xFIP of 2.94. The Yankees got Wade in June 2011, when he was released by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Then there's Clay Rapada, signed after the Orioles released him in February. Boone Logan, the team's best lefty, was a throw-in in the deal that brought the Yankees Javier Vazquez. His career E.R.A. at the time of the deal? 5.78. Ryota Igarashi, the latest bullpen addition, had just been waived by the Blue Jays.
David Phelps and David Robertson contributed to the bullpen after rising through the farm system. And neither one was a high draft pick.
Naturally, this being the Yankees, current closer Rafael Soriano is paid handsomely. But it is striking how much of the bullpen came without pedigree, and in many cases, had been cast off by lesser teams. And Soriano hasn't been worth anywhere close to the money the Yankees have paid him to date.
The result? The Yankees have the fourth-best bullpen E.R.A. in baseball. And that's with closer Mariano Rivera out for the year, and Robertson having missed about a month.
Contrast that with the Mets. With almost no money to spend this offseason, New York threw two years and $12 million at Frank Francisco to close. He's posted a 5.33 E.R.A. Jon Rauch got $3.5 million to set him up. His E.R.A. of 4.81 masks how ineffective he's truly been. They traded for Ramon Ramirez, sacrificing Angel Pagan's offense in the process. Ramirez's E.R.A. is 4.78.
Overall, the Mets have a bullpen E.R.A. of 5.48, which is not only worst in baseball, but almost a full run worse than Milwaukee's 4.55, which ranks 29th.
Sandy Alderson was in an impossible position, considering that the funds made available to him really couldn't be used to upgrade much in any other area.
Clearly, it wasn't enough to buy the Mets much relief, either.