I can't remember the last time thehad a bullpen with less than seven pitchers (for an extended period of time). Seven in a ‘pen means five position players on the bench, which limits the possibility of platoons and overall flexibility. Considering the offseason so far, and a few anticipated moves to come, it looks like six relievers and six players on the bench is a viable option come Opening Day. For the sake of this brief thought experiment, pretend these players are signed:
- Chris Young/Jeff Francis/other starting pitcher
Fred Lewis, outfielder
This creates a rotation of Dickey-Pelfrey-Niese-Capuano-Young/Francis. The six man bullpen becomes possible since several of the relief options are accustomed to starting or have the ability to go multiple innings. Plus, four-inning wonders Oliver Perez and John Maine are out of the picture.
One bullpen lineup might be:
Mike O'Connor (or a Joe Beimel type lefty)
Not exactly the Nasty Boys. We'll make due with what's available. Still, the six-pen is feasible. Frankie can go more than one inning. Parnell is a former starter, albeit with some minor arm issues. Carrasco threw ~90 innings in relief in 2009. Bonser and Misch also have starting experience. When inevitable injuries hit between now and Opening Day, Dillon Gee, Taylor Buchholz, Manny Acosta, Pedro Beato and Manny Alvarez are in reserve.
The resulting six man bench would have three locks -- Ronny Paulino, Nick Evans, Fred Lewis -- plus three players from this group:
The Murphy/Turner platoon that many covet is more attractive, as another space opens up for a shortstop. Perhaps Emaus and Turner share duties at second base, with Turner available to play third. If one or more of the outfielders gets injured, an Evans/Lewis (or Lucas Duda?) platoon could be installed without causing roster problems. Plus, resting the regulars becomes much easier.
In 1986, the average NL reliever faced 6.19 batters and lasted 1.45 innings per appearance. In 2010, it was 4.31 batters and 1.00 innings per appearance. This is less about reverting to old school ways and more about taking advantage of relievers' abilities. But maybe this is a terrible idea. Maybe Misch and Gee shouldn't be relied upon so heavily. The resulting flexibility on the bench seems valuable enough to sacrifice a bullpen arm, but that's going with my gut and not looking too deeply at any numbers. Anyway, it's something to think about during the slow march towards Spring Training.