Budgeting For The Bullpen
The Rangers have the best bullpen in all of baseball.
They lost Koji Uehara to the Red Sox and Mike Adams to the Phillies, both via free agency, and replaced them with a group of players coming off of injuries (Frasor, Soria) and inexperienced relievers (Scheppers) and a guy who hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2009 (Cotts).
As local radio personality Mike Rhyner of SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket often says, “the bullpen is a year-to-year proposition.” It’s tough to predict how a reliever, given the small sample size of their performances every year, will perform in any given year, making it all that much more important to avoid investing too much in the bullpen.
Flip the coin over and the importance of the bullpen cannot be understated. Hall of famer Bob Gibson is credited with saying that “the two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen.” Just ask the Detroit Tigers, whose starters have accumulated a league-leading 21.0 fWAR and maintain the 5th best offense in baseball. They are currently just one half-game better than the Rangers as it stands right now.
Faced with the quandary of assembling a dependable bullpen with pieces that are largely considered unpredictable, GMs across the league are often tempted to overpay for “proven” bullpen talent. While the performance of Texas’ bullpen in 2013 has certainly been a pleasant surprise, perhaps more impressive is how much value the front office has squeezed out of their investment.
Here is a look at how a few contenders spend their money, and which parts of their team contribute the most to their success: