Baseball Positional Preview: Bullpen

Wow.  After our comment meltdown on the pros and cons of everything from poms-poms, jorts, the Tiger mascot, and whether Richard should be allowed to write stream of consciousness ever again... I feel like there's no way for me to live up to that.  Hell, I was excited when my comment thread ended up with us touching on the concept of Defense Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS).  Just for the record, the central theory of DIPS is that a pitcher has very little control whether a batted ball that is not a home run becomes a hit or not.  So the only way to judge a pitcher reliably is to look at walks, strikeouts, and home runs - the only things a pitcher can truly control.  So, if a pitcher has a high BABIP, it is likely his ERA will drop next season as his BABIP regresses to the mean.

Enough math talk.  Today we end our five-part look at the upcoming baseball team by reviewing the bullpen.  Our bullpen was a team strength last season, but as we discussed in the rotation review, three of our bullpen pitchers have been promoted.  On the flip side, Louis Coleman is arguably our best pitcher, and he will spend the entire year in the pen again as an all-purpose reliever. 

CLOSER/ACE
Louis Coleman, Sr., 8-1-2, 1.95, 55.1 IP, 62/10

I hate to call Coleman our closer because a simple look at his record shows that Mainieiri is not tied to the idea of saving Coleman to protect a lead in the ninth inning only.  In 23 appearances, Coleman threw 55 innings, meaning that he usually came in for 2 innings of work.  I love this usage pattern.  Mainieri knows Coleman is our bullpen ace and he will not save him for the ninth, he will bring him out whenever the game is actually on the line.  He also, as a senior, will start the first game in the new Alex Box.  He was drafted in the 14th round, but turned down the Nationals so he could play one more year for the Tigers.  Thanks, Louis. 

RIGHTIES
Jordan Nicholson, So., 0-0-0, 4.26, 12.2 IP, 8/2
Nolan Cain, Sr., 0-0-0, 2.37, 19 IP, 11/11
Paul Bertucinni, Jr., 2-0-2, 2.63, 27.1 IP, 30/12
Ben Alsup, So., 0-0-0, 6.75, 5.1 IP, 6/1
Shane Riedie, Fr., Louisiana All-State
Matty Ott, Fr., Louisiana All-State
Spencer Matthews, RS Fr., All-American

That's a whole heck of a lot of inexperience right there.  It's also a whole heck of a lot of right-handers.  Riedle and Ott probably will redshirt, as I can't imagine we need more righties in the pen.  Matthews was a redshirt last year, coming off an All-American high school career, but he still had to walk on.  He gets a promotion this year.

Bertucinni is the most reliable guy in the pen, which is sort of faint praise.  He's the only reliable option aside from Coleman.  Mainieiri leaned heavily on him last year, and expect more of the same this year.  He's an absolute bulldog who seems to thrive in getting tough outs.  When the bases are loaded, he's the guy who will get the call to get out of the jam.

Someone has got to step up from the group of Nicholson, Cain, and Alsup.  Nicholson is the best bet, but I think Cain will get the first crack being a senior and all.  He had a nice ERA last year, but his peripheral stats were pretty terrible and his effectiveness could be a mirage.  I hope not.  The pen has lots of righties in it, but only one established guy in Bertucinni.

LEFTIES
Ryan Byrd, Sr., 6.82, 30.1 IP, 17/8
Chris Matulis, Fr., HS All-American

These names look familiar, right?  It's the same guys who I previewed as potential midweek starters.  They are also the totality of our lefty relief.  Left handed relief pitching is clearly the biggest hole on this team going into the season.  Mainieiri needs Matulis to develop right away if we are to have any situational relief this year. 

The again, if the team's biggest flaw is left-handed relief pitching, chances are, you're looking at a real good team. 

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