Saturday, April 05, 2008

Where do bullpens come from?

I have a theory, which is hardly a unique theory. It states: Minor league relievers are usually irrelevant to major league success. Most key major league relievers are former starters. I'm not sure the extent to which this is true. Obviously there are exceptions, like Troy Percival and Bryan Harvey who pitched in the bullpen from the start of their careers.

On the current team we have:

K-Rod - began as a starter, made 42 minor league starts, switched to the pen and made the big leagues in a year (pretty good finish too).

Shields - Made 68 starts in the minors, did a good deal of relieving too. Did a fine job towards the end of 2003 in the rotation, but the Angels thought he was more valuable in relief.

Oliver - 228 big league starts

Bootcheck - 128 minor league starts

Moseley - 141 minor league games, all starting

Speier - The exception, he's been a reliever his entire time in the majors or minors. He does have 7 minor league starts, but those aren't real starts, they look more like minor league rehab appearances where he just got his 1-2 innings in at the beginning of games.

Then there's Bulger, Thompson, and O'Day. These guys make up the back end of the bullpen.

If anyone who reads this follows another team than the Angels, can you give me the breakdown of your team's key relievers?

23 Comments:

At 5:15 PM, Blogger John said...

For the Pirates:

Matt Capps started until 2005 when he was converted to the bullpen and made 52 relief appearances in a season. Before that he had 41 appearances and 30 starts.

Evan Meek (rule 5 guy) and Dumatrait were definitely starters in the minors. So was Sean Burnett, currently in the minors but a former 1st rounder now converted to the bullpen.

Damaso Marte had 149 appearances in the minors and 89 of them were starts.

Grabow had 174 minor league appearances and 133 of them were starts.

Osoria is the exception, with 235 minor league games and only 4 of them as a starter.

 
At 8:30 AM, Blogger Dave said...

For the Mets:

Billy Wagner was a starter in the minors, a reliever in the majors. Pretty much 100% on both ends.

Aaron Heilman, Matt Wise, Scott Schoeneweis and Jorge Sosa were starters converted to reliever.

Joe Smith was always a reliever.

Pedro Feliciano started some in the minors, but was mostly a reliever in the minors and majors.

Duaner Sanchez began as a starter but converted to relief in the minors.

 
At 9:11 AM, Blogger Chone Smith said...

For the Orioles:

George Sherrill was a reliever throughout the majors and minors. B-Ref has his first minor league season at age 26, not sure how that happened.

Jamie Walker began as a starter, converted to relief in AA, and has been a loogy ever since.

Chad Bradford has always been a reliever, which seems a common experience for knuckle-scrapers.

Hard throwing rookie Dennis Sarfate was a starter until he was converted in AAA last season.

Matt Albers was a starter in the minors and made 18 starts for Houston last year. He's in the pen know but I don't know what the longterm plan is for him.

Greg Aquino was a minor league starter until 2004 when the D-Backs put him in the bullpen.

Randor Bierd has pitched in both roles in the minors.

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger Kyle S said...

Braves:

Rafael Soriano - Starter in the minors, reliever in the majors.

Peter Moylan - Started and relieved as a teenager, went back to Australia, came back for the WBC, has been a reliever since the Braves signed him in March 2006.

Mike Gonzalez - Predominantly a starter, converted to relief in 2003.

Royce Ring - college closer, has never started to my knowledge.

Will Ohman - started initally in the minors, converted to relief in 1999. Has relieved exclusively ever since.

Blaine Boyer - a minor league starter, made the team in 2005 as a reliever, has mostly relieved since.

Manny Acosta - began with the Yankees as a starter, converted to relief in the minors in 2003, relieved ever since.

Chris Resop - began with the Marlins as an outfielder, converted to a relier in 2003, relieved ever since.

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger Kyle S said...

and Sean, I believe Sherrill went undrafted and pitched in the independent leagues until he was 26. Could be wrong.

 
At 11:06 AM, Blogger Eric said...

I don't Baseball Reference's minor league database is as complete or accurate as its major league database. The Baseball Cube is still better for minor league info. (Don't get me wrong, I love Baseball Reference as much as everyone else.)

George Sherrill was never drafted and started out in the independent leagues (Frontier and Northern). In 2000 he pitched 13 games for Evansville, all starts.

And Troy Percival started out not as a reliever, but as a catcher! ;-)

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger SL__72 said...

Minnesota Twins:

Joe Nathan:
93 minor league starts. Was a starter in the majors for 2 years before moving to the pen.

Pat Neshek:
Definitely a reliever from day 1.

Jesse Crain:
Has never made a start.

Matt Guerrier:
Reliever for first two years in the minors. Then a starter for the next four years. Made the MLB in a long relief role and has been a reliever since.

Juan Rincon:
121 minor league starts. 3 major league starts.

Dennys Reyes:
90 minor league starts in 132 appearances.

Brian Bass:
148 minor league starts, now a long reliever.

 
At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Chone said...

Good point on Percival. Bryan Harvey had an unusual path as well, he started out as a softball outfielder.

 
At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

Red Sox
David Aardsma- only 11 total starts in the minors, although he started 8 out of 9 games for the Giants AA team in 2005

Bryan Corey- only 23 total starts, all in the minors, never seemed to be a true starter

Manny Delcarmen- began as a starter, 53 of 60 appearances are starts, none higher than A+, exclusively in relief since

Javier Lopez- only 1 start above A+, not surprising for a sidearmer

Hideki Okajima- 36 starts in Japan, none since his age 23 season

Jonathan Papelbon- almost exclusively a starter in the minors despite being a closer in college, even slated to be a starter in spring training last year before "convincing" Tito to switch him back to the bullpen

Julian Tavarez- plenty of starts throughout his major league career, definition of journeyman

It seems like a handful of the Sox bullpen began as starters early in their careers but were quickly switched to the bullpen, some for obvious reasons (sidearming Corey, 2 pitch Delcarmen), some for less obvious reasons (3 pitch Papelbon).

 
At 9:40 PM, Blogger Chone Smith said...

Yankees -

Chamberlain - 15 of 18 minor league games were starts, exclusively in relief in the majors. Maybe he'll get a turn in the rotation, maybe not.

Ross Ohlendorf - 74 of 87 minor league games as a starter.

Mo - Exclusively a starter in the minors. Made 10 starts in 1995 and wasn't so good. Moved to the bullpen and seems to have improved just a wee bit.

Albaladejo - Starter in the low minors, mostly relief at AA and AAA.

Bruney - made 2 starts when he was 18 in rookie ball, all relief ever since.

Kyle Farnsworth - Minor league starter, made 21 starts as a rookie but pitched in relief after that. God I hate you Kyle.

Hawkins - starter in the minors and lasted 3 years in the rotation as one of the worst starters in baseball. Moved to bullpen in 2000, has had a decent career but it's probably time to put a fork in him.

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger oregongal said...

For the Seattle Mariners:

JJ Putz-Started 75 of 135 in minors. Relief only as of 2003 in AAA.

Eric O'Flaherty-Started 12 of 122 in minors. Relief since 2005 in A ball.

Mark Lowe- Started 32 of 75 in minors. Mostly relief since 2005 in A.

Sean Green-Started 2 of 294 games in minors.

Roy Corcoran-Started 2 of 290.

Cha Seung Baek-Mostly starter through career; generally thought of as stashed in bullpen because he's out of options and the team will trade him.

Ryan Rowland-Smith-Started 44 of 192. Had only 2 starts in 2006 and the majors last year. (He's from Australia, so he didn't play much organized ball.)

Brandon Morrow-Currently in rehab assignment, but expected back shortly. Starter through college. Relief for short-sighted Mariners.

 
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