Pondering the Padres' poor pen

Pondering the Padres' poor pen

Pondering the Padres' poor pen
By Lee Kostroski


San Diego Padres

One wouldn’t normally tab a bullpen as struggling if their current closer is 8-for-8 in save opportunities and has yet to allow a run. However, the San Diego bullpen, sans closer Heath Bell, has been somewhat of a dumpster fire as of late.

Bell has yet to blow a save, but the remainder of San Diego’s relievers have combined to throw away eight save opportunities already this season. Opposing hitters are spanking the Padres bullpen around to the tune of a .282 batting average. They also sport an ERA of nearly 5.00.

The pen is walking nearly as many batters as they are striking out. In actuality, their overall 1.49 to 1.00 strikeout to walk ratio is much worse than it may appear if you take out Heath Bell’s ratio which is 7-to-1. That number drops to just 1.25 to 1.00 if you exit Bell from the equation.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that a few formerly reliable middle relievers are struggling right now. Cla Meredith, who has a lifetime ERA of just over 3.00 in his three year stint with the Padres, currently has an ERA of 4.50. He has also blown three saves this season.

Duaner Sanchez had a very successful run of four years with the Dodgers and Mets before coming to San Diego in 2009. He has not lived up to his billing with an ERA of 6.75, allowing a whopping 19 base runners in just 9.1 innings.

The Padres have lost 11 of their last 13 games heading into Wednesday. During that stretch, the bullpen has allowed 28 earned runs in just 32 innings pitched. Their starters aren’t going deep into games either, which doesn’t help. Jake Peavy is the only starter that is averaging six innings per start.

A glass-half-full optimist, or a true-blue San Diego fan, might have reason to believe this will turn around soon. The Padres have had a tough schedule playing 19 of their last 26 games on the road. After finishing off their series in Wrigley Field, they play nine straight home games. They also play host for 16 of their next 22.

However, a simple change of venue doesn’t mean the pitching will improve. Bettors should take a wait-and-see approach on San Diego as long as the bullpen is stumbling.


Milwaukee Brewers

Brewer closer Trevor Hoffman has been praised in the “other bullpen snipits” in past editions of this column. But it’s time to include the entire staff. Hoffman is still a key, or even the key, component to Bernie’s bullpen. He has converted on all six of his save opportunities and has yet to allow a run or a walk. This is a huge stat for a team that blew eight saves this year before Hoffman, who had 27 saves last year, returned from the DL. Now, Hoffman’s supporting cast has been pulling their weight during this hot streak.

After starting the season with an alarming 4-9 record, the Brewers have now ripped off 15 wins in their last 20 games. While their bats have come alive, much of that success can be attributed to the pitching staff.

The starters, who were shaky early on, have improved and are doing a solid job. The rotation is not great, but they have pitched well enough to win for the most part. The bullpen is the real bright spot. Their ERA during that 20 game stretch sits at 3.50.

Milwaukee has a nice mix of long relievers and setup men to go along with Hoffman. Carlos Villanueva is becoming much more comfortable in his setup role after struggling big time in April. His 5.51 ERA is not overly impressive, but much of that lofty mark was gathered early in the season. Villanueva has not allowed a run in his last five appearances.

Mark DeFelice (1.08 ERA), Seth McClung (3.18 ERA), Mitch Stetter (3.27 ERA) and Todd Coffey (3.24 ERA) round out a very solid corps of relievers that has allowed opponents to hit only .231 BA on the season.

The Brewer’s lineup is among the best in baseball and will no doubt score runs by blasting home runs out of Miller Park. That said, the key to this team’s continued success will be the pitching staff. If the bullpen keeps rolling this team will have a great chance in the NL Central.

Other bullpen snipts

Texas Rangers: The Rangers bullpen is among the shakiest in baseball this year and they are about to get worse. One of the lone bright spots in the pen, Frank Francisco, is out for the next several games due to a bicep issue. Francisco has pitched 14.2 innings and has yet to allow a run this year.

Philadelphia Phillies: Brad Lidge was as close to a sure thing as you could get in 2008. He had 48 saves in 48 attempts last season. This year he has already blown one save and his ERA is soaring above 8.00. There is growing concern in Philadelphia that his lingering knee problem isn’t going away anytime soon. His velocity is down from a year ago and he has allowed at least one earned run in four straight appearances. This is definitely a situation to keep an eye on.

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