Neal Huntington has added several quality relievers recently, namely D.J. Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly and Octavio Dotel. In just over a week, the Pirates’ bullpen has gone from empty to somewhat stable. Adding several solid arms to a non-existent bullpen makes it easy to believe that the relief corps will be a strength. I am guilty of falling into this line of thinking myself over the past week or so. But it is important to remember that the 2010 bullpen, while it looks much better than the 2009 version, still projects as only average.
Here is the Pirates’ 2009 bullpen, along with innings pitched and FIP.
As a group, the Pirates’ relievers threw 462 innings with a FIP of 4.61 in 2009. That FIP ranked 27th in baseball.
Here is my best guess for the 2010 bullpen, along with each player’s projected innings and FIP, courtesy of CHONE. I adjusted the inning totals as necessary to make everything fit.
This unit projects to improve to a total FIP of 4.30. Last year, that number would have tied for 16th among all bullpens. That is definitely a solid improvement, but I would not necessarily refer to them as a team strength. To become an above average bullpen, someone like Ramon Aguero or Ronald Uviedo would probably need to make a surprise impact at the major league level. Another possibility is Carrasco or Donnelly pitching more innings than projected. That is not all that absurd. Donnelly’s projected inning total is essentially predicting him to miss some significant time due to injury. Carrasco is projected to pitch 59 innings after throwing 93.1 in long relief last year. The bullpen has been a mess the past couple years, so at the very least this expected improvement should make the team easier to watch in 2010.