Friday, May 14, 2010

eHow: To Run a Bullpen into the Ground

If there is one thing you can expect from a Ken Macha managed team, it's a depleted bullpen.

To be fair, Macha hasn't been blessed with a huge arsenal of starting pitching, but he hasn't helped either. Pulling pitchers from games early for no reason, pitching relievers on consecutive days for multiple innings are the perfect way to end up in the current situation they're in.

Wednesday April 14th at Chicago Cubs

Dave Bush was cruising at Wrigley. In six innings of work, Bush surrendered just two runs on seven hits. He had struck out two batters, while not walking anyone. Bush allowed an infield single off the end of the bat in the bottom of the sixth, but otherwise had a very easy inning. After six, the Brewers lead 3-2. I remember being at the game, looking in complete shock as Jody Gerut grabbed a bat to pinch hit for Bush. Dave had thrown just 77 pitches and was commanding all of his pitches. Gerut flew out for Bush and the bullpen allowed four runs in the eighth to lose 7-6. With 77 pitches, it was easy to think Bush could've finished one, if not two more innings.

Carlos Villanueva

Villanueva might be the biggest example of a pitcher who is overworked. He started the season on fire, but has fizzled out lately. In his last two appearances, Villanueva has given up six earned runs in 1.2 innings. He has been up in the zone and has seen a drop in velocity. So what's causing this?

It could easily be early season misuse.

Villanueva and Todd Coffey are tied for 11th in the National League in appearances. They both have pitched in 17 games this season. Worse yet, Villanueva has thrown multiple innings numerous four times this year (2.0 IP in each). Sure Villanueva used to be a starter, but multiple innings in consecutive outings really takes a toll on the arm.

Times Pitched in Consecutive Games

Coffey- 4
Hawkins- 3
Parra- 3
Hoffman- 2 (Blew Saves both times)
Vargas- 1
Narveson- 1

In the first 34 games this season, the Brewers relievers have had to appear in way to many consequetive games. I'm not faulting Ken Macha entirely. Short starts have lead to a lot of innings the bullpen has had to log. My biggest problem is what games the relievers were used in. Todd Coffey and Carlos Villanueva have worked in back to back games unneccessarily a couple of times. What is the point of pitching one of those pitchers in a blowout game if they pitched the night before? The only thing that can do is where down an arm.

I'm not really concerned about how they fare in that game, but the road that lies ahead. Todd Coffey was overused last year and has started to see it catch up with him. His velocity is down and his pitches aren't moving as much. Mitch Stetter saw a similar decline at the end of last season when he lost all ability to throw a strike.

On paper, the Brewers should have one of the best bullpens in the National League. The starting pitching is a big reason for the large amount of innings, but Ken Macha is also to blame. If he is unable to show any ability to manage a bullpen, it will cost the Brewers mightily. Possibly, also his job.

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