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The 2009 Bullpen - Where are we now?

A little less than a month ago, I wrote this post on the 2009 bullpen. Since then the following things have changed:

1) Jorge Julio and R.J. Swindle are Brewers now.
2) Todd Coffey re-signed for 2009.
3) Lots of 2009 projections came out.
4) Two-Fisted Slopper got me thinking about it again.

So, with that said, we have a new pitcher to add and projections to consider, so we're in a pretty good spot to take another look at the 2009 bullpen.


Before we start, I should note that I'm operating under the assumption that the Brewers will carry 12 pitchers and none of the bullpen arms listed below will be the fifth starter. Even with Sabathia and Sheets gone, I don't think there's anyone on this list the team would be comfortable using as a full-time starter.

Potential closers:

Seth McClung

The past:
2008, as a reliever: 25 G, 41.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 26 BB, 37 K
Career, as a reliever: 87 G, 109.1 IP, 5.19 ERA, 80 BB, 93 K

The projections:
Marcels: 89 IP, 4.35 ERA, 44 BB, 70 K
Bill James: 85 IP, 4.69 ERA, 49 BB, 73 K
ZiPS: 90 IP, 4.80 ERA, 61 BB, 72 K
Average: 88 IP, 4.61 ERA, 51.3 BB, 71.7 K

All of the projections seem to point towards a return to previous form for McClung, with the average projection coming out much closer to his 5.19 career ERA than his 3.67 ERA as a reliever in 2008. So, is the real Seth McClung the 2008 version, who emerged as one of the Brewers most reliable relievers, or will McClung's high walk totals drive his ERA up over 4.50 in 2009? Only time will tell.

Carlos Villanueva

The past:
2008, as a reliever: 38 G, 59.1 IP, 2.12 ERA, 14 BB, 62 K
Career, as a reliever: 95 G, 155.2 IP, 3.58 ERA, 52 BB, 149 K

The projections:
Marcels: 96 IP, 4.03 ERA, 34 BB, 82 K
Bill James: 92 IP, 3.85 ERA, 32 BB, 79 K
ZiPS: 94 IP, 4.60 ERA, 31 BB, 77 K
Average: 94 IP, 4.16 ERA, 32.3 BB, 79.3 K

Like McClung, Villanueva's rough outings as a starter in 2009 probably had a larger-than-warranted effect on his projections as a reliever in 2009. All three of his projections seem to think he won't be able to keep up the 3:1 K:BB ratio he's put up as a reliever throughout his career.

David Riske

The past:
2008, as a reliever: 45 G, 42.1 IP, 5.31 ERA, 25 BB, 27 K
Career, as a reliever: 438 G, 473.1 IP, 3.57 ERA, 204 BB, 425 K

The projections:
Marcels: 53 IP, 4.25 ERA, 23 BB, 39 K
Bill James: 33 IP, 3.95 ERA, 15 BB, 27 K
ZiPS: 56 IP, 4.34 ERA, 27 BB, 48 K
Average: 47.1 IP, 4.22 ERA, 21.7 BB, 38 K

Well, the good news is that everyone seems to think Riske's 2009 ERA will be closer to his career figure than his disastrous 2008 numbers. The bad news is no one seems sold on him as a workhorse: Bill James only has him appearing in 38 games, which would be his least appearances since 2001.

The second tier:

Jorge Julio

The past:
2008, as a reliever: 27 G, 30 IP, 3.60 ERA, 19 BB, 34 K
Career, as a reliever: 438 G, 449.2 IP, 4.30 ERA, 218 BB, 435 K

The projections:
Marcels: 46 IP, 4.40 ERA, 22 BB, 44 K
Bill James: 34 IP, 4.50 ERA, 17 BB, 33 K
ZiPS: 67 IP, 4.43 ERA, 39 BB, 73 K
Average: 49 IP, 4.44 ERA, 26 BB, 50 K

I guess it's within the realm of possibility that Julio could close in 2009, but I wouldn't call it likely. All of his 2009 projections are worse than both his 2008 numbers and his career numbers, which is puzzling since he'll only be 30 on Opening Day. All told, I think the projections are missing something here and Julio will exceed expectations in 2009.

Todd Coffey

The past:
2008 as a reliever: 26 G, 26.2 IP, 4.39 ERA, 8 BB, 15 K
Career as a reliever: 222 G, 213.2 IP, 4.46 ERA, 65 BB, 144 K

The projections:
Marcels: 43 IP, 4.71 ERA, 16 BB, 33 K
ZiPS: 76 IP, 4.62 ERA, 29 BB, 55 K
Average: 59.2 IP, 4.65 ERA, 22.5 BB, 44 K

Bill James doesn't have a prediction for Coffey, I'm not sure why. Here's another puzzling prediction, as Coffey is only 28 but his ERA is projected to go up and his K:BB ratio down from both his 2008 season and his career numbers. Even if he only performs at his projected level, though, he'd be a pretty nice bargain at $800k for 2009.

Mitch Stetter

The past:
2008, as a reliever: 30 G, 25.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 19 BB, 31 K
Career, as a reliever: 36 G, 30.1 IP, 3.26 ERA, 21 BB, 35 K

The projections:
Marcels: 38 IP, 4.03 ERA, 18 BB, 33 K
ZiPS: 40 IP, 3.82 ERA, 20 BB, 38 K
Average: 39 IP, 3.92 ERA, 19 BB, 35.5 K

Again, no Bill James projection for Stetter. 39 innings as a LOOGY probably translates to about 50 appearances, and if Stetter can perform that way in 50 games, I think the Brewers will be pretty happy with his performance. And, as mentioned in seemingly every Brewer on this list, his ceiling is significantly higher than the projections would suggest.

R.J. Swindle

The past:
2008 (and career) as a reliever: 3 G, 4.2 IP, 7.71 ERA, 2 BB, 4 K

The projections:
Marcels: 27 IP, 4.33 ERA, 10 BB, 22 K

Again, no Bill James projection for Swindle, and I couldn't find his ZiPS either (Dan Szymborski hasn't released the Phillies yet), so the Marcels are what we have to work from. The major league stats aren't bright and shiny, but Swindle has posted an ERA under 2 in four minor league stops over the last three seasons, and posted an ERA under 1 in three of those four. All told, he's posted a 1.58 ERA in 194 innings over 104 minor league games. He is left-handed, but could potentially pitch to righties as well: lefties hit .135 off of him in the minors in 2008, but righties only hit .261.

Others that could be called upon:

Tim Dillard

The past:
2008 (and career) as a reliever: 13 G, 14.1 IP, 4.40 ERA, 6 BB, 5 K

The projections:
Marcels: 32 IP, 4.22 ERA, 12 BB, 43 K

I threw out the ZiPS projection because I think there was a mistake: ZiPS had Dillard posting a 5.12 ERA in 123 innings of work. The ERA could happen, but Dillard hasn't started a game since 2007, so I'm not sure where 123 innings came from. The Marcel projection is much closer to being a full-season version of his 2008 performance, but with more strikeouts.

Mark DiFelice

The past:
2008 (and career) as a reliever: 15 G, 19 IP, 2.84 ERA, 4 BB, 20 K

The projections:
Marcels: 35 IP, 4.24 ERA, 12 BB, 28 K
ZiPS: 79 IP, 4.33 ERA, 14 BB, 59 K
Average: 57 IP, 4.30 ERA, 13 BB, 43.5 K

I still think most people would be surprised by the numbers DiFelice put up in his limited opportunity last season. While neither of the projections here would live up to that opening act, either would make him a pretty solid middle reliever, and maybe even give him enough time in the big leagues for me to remember his name is Mark, not Mike.

Joe Bateman

The Projections:
ZiPS: 69 IP, 4.83 ERA, 29 BB, 47 K

Bateman doesn't have any MLB experience, and as such he doesn't have Marcels or a Bill James projection. What he does have, however, is an ERA under 3 over each of the last two seasons, and an ERA under 2 in 33.2 innings in AAA last season. It's also worth noting that Bateman isn't on the 40 man roster, so he's eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

Long shots:

Chris Narveson

The projections:
Marcels: 32 IP, 4.22 ERA, 12 BB, 26 K
ZiPS: 91 IP, 6.03 ERA, 41 BB, 60 K
Average: 61.2 IP, 5.56 ERA, 26.5 BB, 43 K

Narveson's ZiPS projection is as a starter, so that explains some of the difference, but Narveson hasn't had an ERA that low since he was a Cardinals prospect in 2006, so I'm not sure why the Marcels are so optimistic. Narveson might have had a chance of making the team as a second lefty, but now that Stetter and Swindle are both on the team and Shouse still could return, that seems less likely.

Luis Pena:

The projection:
ZiPS: 59 IP, 5.03 ERA, 40 BB, 38 K

Pena's projections for 2009 are almost certainly lower than they were for 2008, but not as bad as they could be, since he posted a disappointing 6.93 ERA in 49.1 innings in AAA.

Sam Narron:

The projection:
ZiPS: 123 IP, 5.41 ERA, 36 BB, 48 K

Narron's projections are also as a starter. Again, Narron is a lefty and in some organizations that might help him, but the Brewers seem to have plenty of lefties to go around.

So what do you think? Are you ready to go into 2009 with this pen? Who are you concerned about?