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September 29, 2011
With the season at an end—well, as I send this in, we’re not sure if that’s the case for Boston, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, and Atlanta—it’s about time we do a little self-reflection and go back through the Value Picks archives to see what picks did and didn’t work out this season. Though I ended up on the starting pitchers beat by the end of the season, most of my year was spent in the bullpen, so that’s what we’ll be looking at today.
Preseason: Hey, good call!
So we're left with the stats, and here it's ever more important to filter out the pieces which we know are completely irrelevant. Once again, that would be ERA(where Meek's 2.14 is a lot shinier than Hanrahan's 3.62) and particularly Meek's All-Star appearance, which not only should have gone to Andrew McCutchenbut was the result of a totally flawed system. The more advanced statistics generally preferred Hanrahan, including WXRL (2.553 to 2.030) and fWAR (1.4 to 0.8). It's not hard to see why: while Meek and Hanrahan each walked roughly 3.5/9, Hanrahan's strikeout rate was far superior, as he whiffed 12.9/9 to Meek's 7.9/9.
Indeed they did, and Hanrahan was masterful, saving 40 games and garnering an All-Star appearance of his own. Though his strikeouts were down from 2010, so were his walks, resulting in a K/BB rate of 3.81 that was nearly identical from the year before, and his 2.18 FIP was sixth-best among all qualified MLB relievers. Looking at him again on February 17, I noted that “he's likely to be an incredibly undervalued one come draft day… and he could very well outperform more heralded closers selected well ahead of him,”which is exactly what happened.
Aside from Hanrahan, I also touted Drew Storen as someone with “real upside as a low-cost choice who could bring solid results,” filed away David Hernandez as a sleeper later in the year, and pointed out that Leo Nunez—or whatever you want to call him these days—lagging behind Meek and Octavio Dotel in ADP seemed like a ludicrous situation to take advantage of. Those all worked out well, along with the idea that Fernando Rodney was not going to last long in Anaheim:
The name I really like here is Jordan Walden. The fireballing former starter overcame several injuries to make a splash as a reliever in a late-season cameo, striking out 23 in 15 1/3 innings to close out 2010. He continued that production this spring, striking out 10 across nine scoreless innings, and ended up making his first Opening Day roster. It may take some time, but eventually either he or Downs is going to unseat Rodney.
Preseason: Not so much!
First half: Hey, good call!
Bastardo could be a good real-world example of my usual argument that “closers are made, not born” because few thought much of him headed into the season, and he was fourth in line (at best) to the throne behind Brad Lidge, Jose Contreras, and Madson (you could argue for Danys Baez and J.C. Romero as well).
Bastardo was one of the hidden gems of the season, grabbing eight saves while generating—along with Jansen and Pestano—one of the ten highest swinging strike percentages of any pitcher with at least 50 innings. In the desert, we got out ahead of the game in June by noting there was something wrong with J.J. Putz before it came out that he was injured and that Hernandez would be a solid replacement.
First half: Not so much!
Second half: Hey, good call!
Betancourt didn’t make his MLB debut until 28 and seems to fly under the radar, but he’s quietly been one of the most effective non-closing relievers for years, particularly as he’s cut his walk rate since arriving in Colorado midway through 2009. While he’s never really been a “closer”, he’s grabbed at least one save in each year since 2003, and if you believe, as I do, that nearly any effective reliever can survive in the 9th, Betancourt could make the most of this short opportunity.
Betancourt was outstanding in the role, having struck out 30 since his last walk (which, wow), and he was so impressive that there’s talk of Colorado trading Huston Street and keeping Betancourt as the closer for 2012.
Second half: Not so much!
And that’s the end of another Value Picks season. A big thanks out to all of you who read, commented, and helped me find new ways to find value.