Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ramirez vs. Dickey vs. Baek, Round 1

posted by Jon

The competition for the long reliever slot in the Seattle Mariners bullpen has drawn a lot of attention this spring, which is somewhat surprising considering it's a role that few pitchers wish to find themselves in.

The position will likely be granted to one of Horacio Ramirez, R.A. Dickey or Cha Seung Baek, though there are some other pitchers in camp that could easily handle the assignment. Early on I picked Baek to win the role, but it could really go any which way. Here is how these guys have faired so far:

Ramirez: 2 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
Dickey: 5 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 3 BB, 2 K, 1.80 ERA
Baek: 4 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 0 BB, 1 K, 2.25 ERA

(These stats are not including any work in minor league games this spring.)

While none of these guys have lost the job yet, Dickey appears to be the frontrunner at this point. He certainly made a strong statement on Friday after throwing 3 scoreless innings in which he allowed just 1 hit, no walks and struck out 2 against the Cubs.

I have trouble endorsing a knuckleballer for a bullpen spot. It just doesn't seem like a great idea to have such a change of pace mid-game. In a game with a knuckleball starter, the catcher can get himself into the knuckleball mindset pregame, then go back to normal once the bullpen is called upon. If Dickey is our swingman this season the catchers will have to abandon normalcy and jump into the chaos and unpredictability of catching a knuckleball in the amount of time it takes to make a pitching change, rather than having the entire day and pregame to adjust. Maybe I am making this out to be a bigger problem than it is, but there is a reason Jason Varitek takes his days off when knuckleballer Tim Wakefield takes the mound for Boston. He doesn't want to throw himself off.

Dickey does offer something than neither Ramirez nor Baek can. Since throwing the knuckleball takes such little effort Dickey could likely pitch 3-4 innings on back-to-back days, something that would take a toll on a conventional pitcher.

Ramirez is scheduled to pitch tomorrow. We'll keep you updated on this and other key position battles throughout the spring.


Johnny B said...

I was wondering how important is the stat Opponents slugging percentage when evaluating a pitchers ability? I always look at that stat to see how good guys are. What do you guys think about that?

topher said...

Good post Jon. I think I would most like to sea Beak there but they all seem to be good options at this point.

Anonymous said...

johnny- are you talking about OPS by any chance?

Johnny B said...

Nope just straight Slugging Percentage. Like against R.A. Dickey and O'Flaherty guys are only slugging in the .100's against them so far this spring. I'm talking Slugging not OPS.

Anonymous said...

alright just wanted to clear that up first, because i think they could be confused. Yeah, it is a good thing to look at because obviously if someone is only giving up singles they won't be effected as much.