Being overworked can take a toll on anyone, just ask the O’s bullpen. When your starters can’t get past the sixth inning on a regular basis and your bullpen has to come in and try to hold the lead or prevent further damage, it doesn’t take long to get worn down. The issue isn’t so much that the guys in the bullpen are pitching horribly, it’s just the fact that they are being overworked. The O’s bullpen has pitched 292 innings so far this season, which adds up to over three innings per game. This is way too many innings for any team, but especially for a team who doesn’t have the personnel to blow you away. The Dodgers, who have been one of the best teams in baseball, have also run their bullpen ragged this season by pitching 289.1 innings but have a 3.20 ERA to go along with it. The difference, however, is the Dodgers have guys like Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario, before he went on the DL, who have the ability to shut down the opposing lineup and serve them to closer Jonathan Broxton on a silver platter.
Besides George Sherrill, there isn’t anyone in the bullpen that’s going to blow you away.
The O’s do have some guys that have good stuff, but not good enough to pitch as many innings as they have so far. When there is a call to the bullpen, fans collectively hold their breath, cover their eyes and hope for the best. They don’t have those one or two guys that the team has complete confidence in to come in and do his job night in and night out.
The regular middle relievers include Jim Johnson, Danys Baez, Matt Albers, Brian Bass and Mark Hendrickson with occasional appearances from the oft-injured and ineffective Chris Ray. I’m sorry, but the O’s just need to release Ray. Everytime he enters the game he finds a way to make whatever situation the O’s are in worse. For a guy to pitch 21.1 innings and still have a 9.28 ERA is horrible. He has given up 36 hits and 22 earned runs over those 21.1 innings and his WHIP is a whopping 2.30. The only stat that is working in his favor are his 23 strikeouts.
One guy who may have found his home in the bullpen is Hendrickson. He started off the season in the starting rotation, but was eventually moved to the bullpen to make room for starter Rich Hill. I’m sure Hendrickson’s poor performance as a starter didn’t help his cause to stay in the rotation either. But since moving to the bullpen, his numbers are much better. After posting a 1-4 record and a 4.63 ERA as a starter, he has developed into quite a reliever and has went 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA since the move.
The staple of the O’s bullpen has been none other than Sherrill, even though he gives fans a heart attack almost every time he enters the game. Sometimes I think he actually puts guys on base on purpose just to mess with everyone. Most of the time he gets out of the jam he puts himself in, but every once in a while it doesn’t work out in his favor. He has a 2.55 ERA and 19 saves, which is tied for fifth in the AL. He also has 34 strikeouts in 35 innings to go with just 12 walks.
I wouldn’t say the O’s bullpen is horrible, but it definitely needs some work. But once again, it all goes back to the starting pitching, which only has two complete games so far this season. The starters need to figure out a way to go deeper into games and give the bullpen a rest or it’s just going to get worse in the second half.
Bullpen Grade: C