Going into the 2011 season, the Texas Rangers bullpen looked like this:

Closer – Neftali Feliz
Set Up – Darren O’Day
Set Up – Arthur Rhodes
Middle Reliever – Mark Lowe
Middle Reliever – Darren Oliver
Middle Reliever – Pedro Strop
Middle Reliever – Mason Tobin
Long Reliever – Dave Bush

Only three of those eight pitchers finished the season on the Rangers active roster, and with good reason. O’Day couldn’t ever get healthy, Tobin had a season-ending injury (and was not very useful prior to it), and Rhodes, Strop, Tobin, and Bush were all incredibly ineffective in their time off the mound.

Beyond this initial group of relievers, the Rangers also rolled out the likes of Ryan Tucker, Cody Eppley, Michael Kirkman, and Brett Tomko to try to patch up the back end of games at the beginning of the 2011 season. And I’m not including Mark Hamburger and Merkin Valdez, because they were expanded September roster additions, and weren’t relied on for meaningful innings like these other names were.

After looking at those names again, it’s a little shocking just how bad the Rangers bullpen was during April – June of 2011. The combined ERAs of those nine players I’ve just mentioned in 2011 was 5.76. The scary part is that they were asked to pitch 31% of the innings pitched by the Rangers bullpen in 2011.

Going into the 2012 season, the Texas Rangers will look like this:

Closer – Joe Nathan
Set Up – Mike Adams
Set Up – Koji Uehara
Middle Reliever – Darren Oliver (not yet signed – my guess)
Middle Reliever – Mark Lowe
Middle Reliever – Michael Gonzalez (not yet signed – my guess)
Middle Reliever – Yoshi Tateyama
Long Reliever – Scott Feldman

***The 2nd Set Up role I penciled in as Uehara, but it all depends on how he performs in Spring Training and the start of 2012, after his poor 2011 postseason performance. He could very easily rotate with Lowe, Gonzalez, or Oliver between the Set Up and Middle Relief position.

The contrast between the 2011 and 2012 bullpen is incredible. The 2011 bullpen was filled with inexperience and journeyman. The 2012 bullpen is being constructed with a purpose, methodically, and with talent.

Perhaps the greatest part about the current construction of the 2012 bullpen is that it is November, and we only have two real question marks about roles to be filled. November. Not March 30th like in 2011.

There are a lot of things changing in baseball with the new CBA in regards to talent acquisition and roster management, as others have discussed already on this site. One thing that is important to reiterate is that the Rangers front office, led by Jon Daniels, is among the best of the business. And we can trust that they will continue to steer this ship in the right direction.

Look at that. I made it through a whole article without any jokes involving hashtags about the current state of the bullpen. But, let’s just say it’s growing very strong.

Peter Ellwood

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