A bullpen is one of the most underrated components of a MLB franchise.
The bullpen can make or break a team and we have witnessed it before. The 2016 Cleveland Indians came a game away from a World Series title, arguably due to the effort put in by Andrew Miller and company.
Another great example of a bullpen that has made a team relevant is the recent San Francisco Giants dynasty. Guys like Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Guillermo Mota, and Santiago Casilla have all proved to be vital for success.
Brian Wilson has also proven to be detrimental in the past, as was the case for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Whenever a game is lost within the last few innings, it can kill momentum and spirit for an entire MLB team. Unfortunately, the Padres did witness several moments like this in 2016.
One of the most heartbreaking had to be on April 23, when the Padres faced the Cardinals. Cesar Vargas was making his MLB debut, the 24-year-old Vargas pitched five innings and allowed a run. The bullpen made sure that Vargas did not get the win, by allowing 10 runs.
The game ended with a score of 11-2. This was only one of the countless heartbreaking moments the Padres faced in 2016 due to bullpen issues. Hopefully 2017 can be a lot better. Well it should be, as the Padres have reinforced the organization with many options in the bullpen. Here is how the Padres’ bullpen is taking shape at the moment.
A poor man’s Andrew Miller is really the best way to describe this Padres lefty. Brad Hand stands at 6-foot-3, not quite at Miller’s 6-foot-7 inch height, but he does share many qualities that the all-star has. One of them is stamina. Hand was once a starter (like Miller), so he can handle a few innings out of the pen. Another is K-rate, as Hand punched out 111 batters last season, only 12 away from Miller’s 123 total strikeouts in 2016. Hand may not be with the Padres all year as he can prove to be a valuable trade piece further on in the season. Mike Dunn was signed for the Rockies this off-season on a three-year/$13-million dollar contract. So if you’re a lefty reliever and you’re not half bad, you have some value on the trade market.
The other lefty in the Padres’ bullpen last year was Ryan Buchter. He was magnificent to start off 2016, but did fall off towards the end of the season. Overall though, Buchter did finish with an impressive 2.86 ERA in 63 innings. The left-handed pitcher’s first half was arguably much better than his second half of the season. Buchter posted a 2.61 ERA in the first half while posting a 3.24 ERA in the second half. Something that was much better in the second half for Buchter was his WHIP, which was an outstanding 0.840 in the second half. If Buchter can get off to a start like he did in 2016, the Padres will either have a great reliever or a great trade piece.
Maurer can have an article titled “The curious case of Brandon Maurer” as the lanky reliever is certainly a curious case. After bouncing around between possible starter and reliever, it seems like Maurer has cemented his place in the Padres’ pen. Now lies the question of what role he will play coming out of the pen. Maurer does have stamina to him and he has been a closer, so he can be anyone from the long-man to the man coming in when the bells ring. Maurer’s 2016 was not really ideal as he posted a 4.52 ERA in 71 games. His 3.82 ERA in save situations is also not great, so I feel that the best role for Maurer is as a middle reliever rather than a closer. He still has room to grow at 26 years of age, and he should be in for a solid 2016.
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