If the A’s are going to have any success in 2010, it’s going to come from strong starting pitching and a lights-out bullpen. The A’s have arguably the best bullpen in the American League, and possibly in all of the baseball. The A’s bullpen should be the A’s biggest strength heading into this season.
Earlier this month, I examined the A’s starting rotation and offered my opinions on each starter. In this post, however, the attention is turned on the A’s stellar cast of relievers. Along with their 2009 stats, I’ve included my own projected numbers for each member of the A’s ‘pen. Enjoy!
Andrew Bailey (6-3, 26 Saves, 1.84 ERA, 83.1 IP, 91 SO, 24 BB)
Bailey surprised pretty much everyone in the baseball world last year. Considered a long-shot to make the team last spring, Bailey seized the opportunity the A’s gave him after closer Joey Devine went down. He was named the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year after he went 6-3, with 26 saves and a 1.84 ERA. In 83.1 innings, Bailey struck out 91 batters and walked just 24.
In 2010, Bailey should continue his dominance of opposing offenses. Last season batters managed to hit just .191 against him. So, I’d expect many hitters to still struggle against a power pitcher like Bailey. This season, I think we’re going to see similar numbers from Bailey. There’s no question about it. Bailey is now a top-10 closer in the big leagues.
Michael Wuertz (6-1, 5 Saves, 78.2 IP, 102 SO, 23 BB, 2.63 ERA)
Needless to say, the 31-year old Wuertz experienced his finest season last year. In his first year with Oakland, Wuertz was exceptional out of the ‘pen, and as a result was a frequent trade rumor during last season’s deadline. But, Oakland values his talent and have recently rewarded him with a tw0-year contract. Wuertz tossed 78 plus innings of quality baseball, and as a result batters hit just .188 against the veteran.
In 2010, Wuertz should continue his solid performance out of the A’s bullpen. Like Bailey, I see Wuertz finishing up the 2010 season with numbers similar to his ’09 season.
Joey Devine (Did not pitch in 2009)
Although Devine did not pitch in 2009, you can still take a look at his 2008 numbers and get an indication as to what type of player he really is. In 2008 with the A’s, Devine posted a 0.59 ERA in 45.2 innings. He also notched 6 wins and 1 save. After his lights-out 2008 season, Devine was projected to be the A’s closer in 2009. However, surgery prevented Devine from pitching at all in 2009.
So far this spring, Devine has been making some improvements in his health. He’s experienced a few minor setbacks, but they should not prevent Devine from being ready come April. It’s still unknown as whether or not he’ll be ready by Opening Day, but he should be ready sometime in April. A healthy Devine would do wonders for the A’s bullpen that includes some talented arms.
Brad Ziegler (2-4, 7 Saves, 73.1 IP, 54 SO, 28 BB, 3.07 ERA)
After posting an ERA of 1.06, and recording 11 saves in 2008, Ziegler’s run as the A’s closer came to an end in 2009. Andrew Bailey emerged and took over as closer, and Ziegler shifted over to role of middle-reliever.
However, despite Ziegler was able to keep his ERA relatively low, opponents hit him pretty hard. Opponents managed to hit a scorching .293 off Ziegler, which was extremely unimpressive on Ziegler’s part. Ziegler isn’t the type of pitcher who is going to pile up the strikeouts, so it’s important for him to keep the ball low and induce ground balls for outs. In 2009, Zielger experienced an inflation in most of his numbers, but I think he can still be a reliable reliever in 2010.
Craig Breslow (7-5, 55.1 IP, 44 SO, 18 BB, 2.60 ERA)*with the A’s
Breslow was a pleasant surprise for the A’s, and pitched well for Oakland in 2009. Once he arrived in Oakland, Breslow put together a season that included 7 wins, and an opponent batting average of just .191. In 2010, Breslow should continue to contribute to the A’s impressive cast of relievers.
Also included in the A’s bullpen: Jerry Blevins (4.84 ERA) and Brad Kilby (0.53 ERA). Both should help contribute to the A’s bullpen.
If the A’s have one strength, it’s their bullpen. In 2010, the A’s will have one of the best bullpens in the American League. Mark my words.