Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Braves' Bullpen: Much Ado About Nothing?

I'm not as concerned about the bullpen, despite some truly wretched recent performances, as others. The lefties in the pen (Tom Martin and Gabe White) have been terrible and Adam Bernero has only been marginally better, but White and Bernero came straight from the trash heap and Martin is only slightly better. A bullpen basically needs four reliable relievers and right now, the Braves have Dan Kolb, Roman Colon, Buddy Hernandez, and Chris Reitsma.

Kolb is the big question in the pen and he hasn't had a very good spring, but spring is a small sample size. He's thrown almost 100 innings over the past two seasons and has an ERA of 2.55. He looks a little like John Thomson in the sense that both of them got a lot better once they were liberated from the pitching hell that is the Ballpark at Arlington.

Colon looks promising. He's allowed one run, five hits, and three walks in nine innings this spring. He was fairly good in the pen last year, including getting Barry Bonds out twice. Query how he'll stand up to throwing 70 innings, though. Overuse will be a big issue if the pen only has 3-4 reliable relievers. For evidence of overuse...

Reitsma will be the set-up man again and was effective in that role for a good chunk of last season. His stats were decent last year, despite a June slump, until the bottom fell out at the end of the season when his arm fell off. Reitsma had very good stats last year when he had 1-2 days rest, so the goal ought to be to make sure that this former starter isn't throwing too frequently. Hopefully, Bobby will be flexible in his decision-making process.

Buddy Hernandez is the interesting story. He doesn't look much like a pitcher, but his minor league stats are good (8.1 K/9 last year in Richmond) and he's been able to replicate them in spring training. If Bobby is willing to look past the fact that he's young and doesn't look like Reitsma or Smoltz, then he should perform fairly well. In addition to overuse, Hernandez and Colon are also at risk for slumping in the second half of the season when opposing hitters start to adjust to them.

As for the dilemma of not having a lefty to get the Delgados and Thomes of the world out, did anyone really see anything in Tom Martin last year to make us think that he's that guy? If Schuerholtz's main task is simply to find a designated lefty, then the Braves are in great shape. I miss Pedro Borbon.

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