Analyzing the Bullpen by Committee Approach
I tend to disagree with this argument to the way a bullpen should work. A good bullpen needs all of the right parts, as well as needs to be ran the right way. The right parts to a bullpen include:
-The Closer- The closer is a guy who comes in at the end of games when his team has a narrow lead, and/or there is a save opportunity. This pitcher needs to be able to throw the ball in the mid 90’s as well as have 4 or more pitches to choose from. He needs to be an experienced pitcher who is not easily disturbed or that folds under pressure. This is the most important position in the bullpen. All good teams have a solid closer.
- The setup man- Most teams have two of these guys, one for the 7th and one for the eighth. These guys are almost as good as the closer but do not need to be as well rounded, have as much experience, and do not face near as much pressure as the closer does. These guys, as well as the closer should be right handed with the ability to face left handed batters, without trouble.
- The Lefty(s)- One left handed pitcher is necessary but two is best. These guys are specifically put on to face left handed batters. They do not have a regular work routine, and need to be ready at all times. Sometimes they will throw 1 pitch and be done while other times they may pitch two complete innings. These pitchers need to be solid and able to do the job that they are called on to do.
- The Long Reliever– Starting pitchers cannot always go into the 6th or 7th inning and sometimes leave the game with as little work as one inning. The long reliever needs to be able to pitch many innings for when the starter does not make it deep into a game. This pitcher should also expect to give 4 or 5 spot starts through out the course of a season, or even fill in a rotation spot in the event of an injured starter.
- The work Horse- This pitcher is generally right handed and pitches the “junk” innings. He pitches when the game is not close enough for the closer or a setup man. This player will pitch more innings than anyone else in the bullpen. The second left handed pitcher sometimes fills in this role too.
It is up to the manager, and bullpen coach to decide who pitches when and make sure that each players sees the right amount of play time. Each pitcher should pitch 50-70 innings a season, but also should not pitch too many days in a row, or have too much time between outings. Sometimes pitchers will have to fill in other roles for a game in order to make that happen. I think that former Detroit Tiger Jamie Walker said it best when he said, “Relievers are like firemen, they come rescue you when you get into trouble.”