Et Tu, Bobby?
Although a fair amount of ink has been spilled on the Braves’ supposed bullpen
woes this season, there wasn’t much evidence that Bobby Cox had started
about it. But Tuesday night’s display of Leylanditis Chronicus should have
fans concerned. With 20-year-old rookie Odalis Perez already over 100
pitches, Cox first
let his young starter bat in the seventh with a 3-2 lead, one out and a
runner on second
base. The, he sent a clearly tired Perez out in the eighth, and his control
Cox left him in until his pitch count hit 120–and the lead was gone.
Cox’ abuse of a talented young arm is indefensible. Even more perturbing is
to go to the pen–even though his relievers have been better than
advertised. Rudy Seanez and
Mike Remlinger have each posted ERAs under two while allowing one
baserunner per inning or
fewer. John Rocker has been solid except for one poor outing in Colorado.
Among lesser lights,
Justin Speier has surprised early with some strong performances, and Kevin
pitched moderately well while struggling with his control. Since this
wasn’t a problem for him
in the minors, there’s reason to believe it’s fixable.
Cox has no reason to fear his bullpen, despite the lack of a "proven"
closer and ESPN’s relentless
flogging of just this point. If Bruce Chen is to replace Kevin Millwood at
some point, giving the
Braves two fragile young arms at the back of their rotation, Cox had better
learn the bullpen’s
number by heart, or risk blowing out some immense talents.
And the Worst Part Is, Ron Gant Is Still Healthy
Speaking of bullpens, how about the Phillies’? They had two relievers with
ERAs under 4.50
before Thursday’s games. One, Jim Poole, is a lefty specialist who posted
his numbers in a whopping
3 2/3 IP. The other, Jeff Brantley, is now out for up to four months after
surgery. The only other
reliever they have with an ERA under 5.00 is Mike Grace, whose medical
records read like a
Tolstoy novel and who shouldn’t be used more than twice a week, lest he pop
Most of the focus will be on who will move into the ninth-inning closer
role, but the Phils should
be equally concerned about innings six through eight, given their rotation.
Wayne Gomes has lost
the control he seemingly found last year, and the league is hitting over
.300 against him to boot. Ken
Ryan is struggling with the control problems he’s had since his 1997
surgery. And they’re the best relievers the Phils have left.
Expect Curt Schilling to throw close to 300 innings this year, and don’t be
shocked if the Phils try to swing a minor trade for a reliever.
Prattle and Hum
So the Mets "survived" without Mike Piazza. Perhaps it’s because they had a
backup who could
play ahead of half the starters in baseball: Todd Pratt.
Pratt is certainly not in Piazza’s class as a hitter, but he’s pretty good
in his own right, slugging over
.500 twice in small samples and going .280/.344/.446 in his two previous
years with the Mets. Even a
hitter as good as Piazza isn’t worth an extra win a week over a guy like
Pratt, so the fact that the Mets
played as well without Piazza as you might expect them to play with him
isn’t all that surprising. As for
Pratt, teams still screwing around with Scott Servais and Matt Walbeck
should take notice.