My problem with Cox isn’t that he leaves his starters in too long — the business with Lowe on Tuesday was an obvious exception — but that he wears his relievers to a frazzle without cause. (It wasn’t always this way. At no other time in this decade have the Braves had more than one reliever among the top 10 in games.) The Braves have three relievers with 60-plus appearances. The Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers have none.
It's interesting that Bradley references the Dodgers in his post because overuse of set-up guys was the biggest criticism that Yankees fans had of Joe Torre when he was managing in the Bronx. Maybe he's changed his ways? Maybe he has a deeper bullpen this year?
The one flaw in Bradley's otherwise excellent argument is his claim that the Braves' volume of quality starts mean that the bullpen should be less taxed. The consistent quality starts have kept pitchers like Kris Medlen from racking up appearances, but even when a starter throws six or seven good innings, Bobby still needs some combination of Moylan, Gonzalez, and Soriano for the final outs. Also, the Braves' offense, which was mediocre at the start of the year and has progressed to pretty good by August, has had a hand in the relievers piling up appearances. The team hasn't scored a ton of runs, which has meant a lot of close games and high leverage situations that require Bobby to deploy his best relievers.
The concern for me is whether the bullpen could derail this team, either in September if they pull closer to the wild card lead or next year when one or more of these four relievers may see their arms fall off mid-pitch. Bradley is right that the Braves are shaping up to be very, very good in 2010. The one red flag is that they rely upon pitchers whose arms will be shot after a Bataan Death March of appearances in 2009. I suppose it's possible that Jason Heyward is going to hit four home runs per game next year and the Braves' closer will have seven appearances over 162 games, but in the unlikely event that that doesn't happen, we now have something about which to worry this winter.