Bullpen Reinforcements


The Mariners made what are likely to be the final offseason changes to the roster, adding both Shawn Camp and Hong-Chih Kuo to the bullpen. If we focus on the pieces of this trade without team context, this is what we’re getting:

Camp is 36 years old, and doesn’t strike very many batters out. Not a fantastic trait to lack as a reliever. However, his strength lies in his groundball rates—55% career—and moving off the turf in Toronto could very well lower his career .315 BABIP down to something below .300.

You know what else would help? Pitching him against righties almost exclusively. His xFIP against same-handed batters has consistently outpaced his xFIP against lefties by nearly a full run, and his BABIP splits go like this:

Career  .361 /.303

2011  .372 /.293

I know he can’t face righties all the time, but the Jays nearly split him 50/50 last season. Bad planning. Let’s avoid that.

Kuo is the really interesting one. In 2010 he was like the second coming of Eric Gagne, posting a 1.20/1.81/2.96 ERA/FIP/xFIP in 60 innings. Injuries plagued him in 2011, and he pitched just 27 innings to the tune of a 9.00/5.06/4.39 slash line. What saved his xFIP, and what might predict a return to success, are his strikeout rates. They actually improved in 2011 to 12.0 K/9. Kuo is a low risk, high ceiling signing, and that’s generally a good thing.

The combined major league salary the Ms are paying to these two relievers is just $1.75 million, so there is a lot of potential for surplus value here. Though I wouldn’t necessarily expect amazing things, that potential is there, and it’s worth being a little excited about.

The only problem with these signings in my mind is the likelihood of a 7-man bullpen on a team which needs every hitting edge it can muster. Anyone who can platoon would be great, but with a 7-man bullpen, that leaves one less spot for such savvy lineup moves.

Players that could help the bullpen were added, but it may be a wash if it costs the Ms runs offensively.