Posts in this series:
|Catcher||First Base||Second Base|
|Shortstop||Third Base||Designated Hitter|
|Left Field||Center Field||Right Field|
|Starting Pitching||Relief Pitching|
The Indians' relief staff was, for the first time in several seasons, an asset and not a liability. They maintained the few leads the starters left them, and kept the Indians out of last place. Chris Perez emerged as the team's closer, allowing the Indians to concentrate on building up the setup corps instead of worrying about who would close the games.
For the most part, the setup was effective. Rafael Perez appeared in 70 games, a comeback season for a pitcher who was seemingly one bad outing away from the waiver wire. Tony Sipp matched Perez's appearances, giving the Indians two effective left-handed relievers. Joe Smith and Frank Herrmann were the primary right-handed setup men. Other relievers who made considerable appearances included Jensen Lewis, Rule 5 pick Hector Ambriz, Aaron Laffey, Kerry Wood, and Justin Germano. Wood was the Indians' closer for a short time between his season-starting DL stint and his July trade to the Yankees.
But if you compare the Indians bullpen as a whole to the rest of the league, it's middle of the pack. They improved over previous seasons, but there's still some improving to do.
Here's the AL bullpens sorted by OPS allowed:
Walks were the major problem for the bullpen, just as for the starting rotation. Because the starting pitcher often didn't go past the sixth inning, the relievers had to pitch over 2000 innings, one of six staffs to do so. But despite the usage and the walks, the Indians' relievers did manage to keep the offense in games. It could have been much, much worse.
Here's the individual stat lines:
Five relievers appeared in 50 or games, and the two left-handers appeared in 70 games apiece. Frank Herrmann was a mainstay from June onwards, so there was stability in the bullpen. Aside from Kerry Wood, the main relievers stayed off the DL, which also helped. A 4.00 ERA by a reliever in 2010 has to be considered below-average, but this group made major strides over the previous two seasons.
Part II: Looking Towards 2011
Not Coming Back
Jamey Wright (Released, 6-10-2010)
Kerry Wood (Traded, 7-31-2010)
Andy Marte (Outrighted..Free Agent 11-6-2010)
Jamey Wright was supposed to eat some innings behind a young starting staff, but he never gave the Indians any stretch of scoreless innings. He allowed runs in four straight outings in early May, and ended his short tenure with Cleveland in late May.
Kerry Wood was hurt to begin the season, and when he came back was ineffective. The Indians didn't have the type of team to justify sticking with Wood, and dumped his salary at the trading deadline.
I guess it's sad to say that the highlight of Andy Marte's five-year stint with the Indians might be his scoreless inning of relief against the Yankees, including a Nick Swisher strikeout.
Chris Perez (Arbitration-Eligible) - 3 Option Years Remaining
Everything fell into place for Perez in 2010. First, Kerry Wood started the season on the DL, allowing him to begin the year as Cleveland's closer. Then, after Wood came back, he was ineffective, and because the Indians were out of it, dealt him. So Chris assumed the role for good and ran with it. And after the season, he qualified for arbitration as a "Super Two."
Rafael Perez (Arbitration-Eligible) - No Option Years Remaining
As late as the middle of May, it looked like Perez would be DFAd with one more poor outing. But the Indians' patience was rewarded, and Rafael turned things around as the summer approached, regaining his role as primary setup man. He's also due for a sizable raise.
Tony Sipp (Pre-Arbitration) - 1 Option Year Remaining
I'm concerned with the 12 home runs Tony gave up, way too many for a setup man to allow, and just over 5.5 walks per 9 innings. But Tony also struck out almost 10 per 9 innings and allowed under 7 hits per 9. So at this point, you take the tradeoff, hoping that more major-league experience can reduce the wildness in and out of the strike zone.
Frank Herrmann (Pre-Arbitration) - 3 Option Years Remaining
Herrmann got away with being a one-pitch pitcher for six weeks, but AL hitters adjusted to him and he was much less effective in August and September. He'll need to add at least one effective off-speed pitch to his arsenal in preparation for next season.
Joe Smith (Arbitration-Eligible) - 1 Option Year Remaining
After a lost 2009 season, Smith was an integral part of the bullpen in 2010. When he was facing just right-handed batters, he was great (.160/.264/.274). But if Manny Acta left him in to face a left-handed hitter, he'd often get pounded.
Jensen Lewis (Pre-Arbitration) - No Option Years Remaining
The Indians made use of Jensen's last option year, using him as the default player to option down if they needed an extra arm in the bullpen. Even with all those ups and downs, Lewis managed a good ERA.
Justin Germano (Pre-Arbitration) - No Option Years Remaining
Called up for emergency duty at the end of the July, Germano pitched well early on and stuck around through the end of the season. He struggled at the tail end of the season, so he'll probably have to pitch his way back into the bullpen this spring.
Aaron Laffey (Pre-Arbitration) - 1 Option Year Remaining
Laffey started the season in the bullpen, but struggled and spent most of the month of June in Columbus. When he returned to the majors, his fastball was registering in the low-80s, a sign of injury. He was placed on the DL towards the end of July, and came back only at the end of the season.
Hector Ambriz (Pre-Arbitration) - 3 Option Years Remaining
The Indians satisfied the Rule 5 requirements, but won't get any immediate benefits out of the project, as Ambriz will be sidelined at least for the 2011 season with elbow ligament surgery.
Jess Todd (Pre-Arbitration) - 1 Option Year Remaining
Todd was with the Indians for a couple weeks in July but did not distinguish himself, giving up 5 runs in 6 innings.
Pestano also just got a cup of coffee, but his stint was much more productive. Pestano made five appearances, striking out 8 and giving up 2 runs in five innings, and notched a save.