In the fourth part of this series we will be looking at the bullpen projections for the 2014 season. We have already looked at the projections for the starting rotation, the infield and the outfield. Tomorrow will wrap up the series as we look at the bench projections.
With the incident last night where Aroldis Chapman was hit in the head by a pitch, things could dramatically shift for the Cincinnati Reds bullpen. Right now there is no word on his health. For now let’s assume that he will pitch this season. He will be joined in the bullpen by JJ Hoover, Alfredo Simon, Sean Marshall (at some point), Jonathan Broxton (at some point), Sam LeCure and Manny Parra. With injuries there will be several others who probably throw 15-30 innings each during the season as well, but those seven are the core pitchers. Let’s take a look at how those seven project for the 2014 season by heading over to Fangraphs.com and look at their various projection systems.
With the unfortunate incident last night, I think at best we should adjust the number of innings Chapman is going to throw this season from the projections. The top projection was by the Steamer system which projected him for a 1.93 ERA in 65 innings with 103 strikeouts. The average of the four systems projects a 2.33 ERA in 67 innings with 106 strikeouts. That is right in line with his career to this point.
Hoover is likely the guy who will take over the closers role if Chapman is unable to pitch to start the season. The Fans system is the friendliest for the right hander as it projects a 2.75 ERA in 67 innings with 71 strikeouts. The average of the four systems projects a 3.16 ERA in 68.1 innings with 72 strikeouts. The systems see a regression for Hoover who has a career 2.61 RA in his career, though he is still projected to be an above-average reliever.
The left hander still hasn’t pitched in a game this spring but he is close to throwing in games. The Fans projections are the most positive with a 2.45 ERA in 58 innings to go with 61 strikeouts. The average of the four projections spit out a 2.72 ERA in 44 innings pitched with 45 strikeouts. The key for Marshall will be staying on the field. Over the last four seasons Marshall has outperformed his projection for 2014.
After a breakout 2013 season the Steamer system has the brightest outlook for the lefty with a 3.24 ERA in 55 innings with 59 strikeouts.The average of the four projections has him with a 3.46 ERA in 47.1 innings with 49 strikeouts. That is pretty much in line with where he was last season, so it seems that the projection systems believe his breakout was real.
With back-to-back seasons where Simon has had a sub 3.00 ERA for the Reds, it seems that the systems all see some regression for the right hander. The Fans projections were the best as they project a 3.25 ERA in 82 innings with 62 strikeouts. The average of the four systems has him with a 3.60 ERA over 71 innings with 55 strikeouts. The Fans were easily the best projection, so the other three systems see quite a regression coming for Simon.
Broxton is another reliever that the Reds have that is working his way back from an injury. He is throwing in games already, but is a bit behind some others. The Steamer projection system has the best projection with a 3.59 ERA in 55 innings to go with 49 strikeouts. The overall average of the four systems is a bit lower than that with a 3.67 ERA in 45 innings with 38 strikeouts. That projection would be in between where he has been for the last two seasons.
With Chapman going down to injury last night, LeCure could be another guy that could take over the closers role until he gets back. He is coming off of the best year of his career in 2013 and the projections all project a slight regression from that. The Fans system has the best projection with a 3.08 ERA in 78 innings with 79 strikeouts. The average of the four systems has him projected for a 3.17 ERA in 62 innings pitched to go along with 62 strikeouts. Those projections are in line with his 2012 season and much of his career.
The Reds bullpen is all over the place right now due to injuries. Alfredo Simon may begin the year in the rotation to make a start or two for Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman is injured, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton are both just getting started this spring with their pitching against live hitters in games. The bullpen though is one of the places where the Reds have plenty of depth though and only Chapman is looking at missing an extended period of time as things sit right now. While losing Chapman for any amount of time is going to hurt, the other options that the Reds can lean on are going to be very good in their own rights even if it is a downgrade from the lefty closer.
The systems see a bit of regression from a few of the relievers and that is what the systems are designed to do, regress to the average of what should be expected from a player based on his peripherals and his past history. The biggest thing this season is that new manager Bryan Price has said that his bullpen is going to be used quite differently than how it was used under former manager Dusty Baker. Price will use guys less often for one or two hitters as he believes it tires guys out to use them in that way. How that effects the numbers the guys will put up is something we will come to see as some of them will lose some of their platoon advantages (with the guys who have them anyways), but perhaps it will keep them fresher over the season as well and even things out or even improve on their durability throughout the season.