February 26, 2012 at 11:29 am by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves, Pitching
Last season, the Braves received 119.2 innings out of the combination of Scott Linebrink (54.1), George Sherrill (36.0), and Scott Proctor (29.1). While Sherrill was actually reasonably effective as a left-handed specialist, the other two provided very little value during their Braves’ tenures. Proctor recorded a 6.06 FIP while Linebrink sported a 4.30 mark. Combined, the three totaled -0.5 fWAR.
The replacements for these three are expected to be Kris Medlen, Arodys Vizcaino, and a combination of Robert Fish, Anthony Varvaro, Cory Gearrin, Jairo Asencio, and potentially a few others. It should not be too difficult for these three positions to outperform the negative value provided by the three departed members of the bullpen.
Vizcaino is a good bet to receive 60 or so innings out of the bullpen, which would be more than any non-big three reliever last year – aside from long reliever Christhian Martinez. Taking high leverage innings away from O’Flaherty, Kimbrel, and Venters will be beneficial to their arms over the course of the season, and the value of Vizcaino’s innings over theirs is likely close to equal.
Medlen will probably take some of Martinez’s long innings and the middle relief innings, where the team is tied earlier in the game or down by as many as three runs in the later part of the game, which was when Linebrink was utilized last year. If Medlen does not start any games this year, a reasonable projection should be between 70-80 innings. If Fish misses the roster, Medlen will probably be used against stretches of lefties in the middle innings, where Sherrill was used last year.
The final spot, which will probably be filled a mix of the aforementioned relievers, will probably be used more as a mop up role. This spot will be important on days where the back-end relievers are resting or during double headers, but the importance of most of their innings will be minimal. Varvaro, Proctor, Asencio, Moylan, and Gearrin totaled 65 innings, which will probably be similar this season.
In essence, Vizcaino and Medlen will be asked to throw between 120-140 innings in relatively high leverage situations. Medlen will also probably throw 20-30 long relief type innings as well, which should push Martinez’s total down the same amount. Adding these two relievers to replace the innings thrown by the three departed bullpen arms should be a significant upgrade. The final spot will not be filled with very effective relievers, but there are a few specialty arms that can be of value at points. Regardless, this pitcher will not be asked to throw too many important innings.
Medlen’s success as a reliever should be noted. In 75.1 innings as a reliever, he has a 2.72 FIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio out of the bullpen is 3.17. That type of success as the team’s fourth or fifth best reliever will be of huge value to the Braves this year. For Vizcaino, we have not seen enough of him out of the bullpen to peg his exact value in that role, and ZiPS projections have him as a starter. Fangraphs fan projections, however, have him at a 3.43 ERA over 67 innings, which seems pretty reasonable. Sure, he could flop, but this is the type of role many of us have anticipated him excelling at.
The addition of Medlen and Vizcaino to an already dominant bullpen may be the biggest acquisition the team has made this year. Instead of falling further behind in games due to Linebrink or Proctor, these two should be able to hold teams where they are at much more frequently, which should make it easier for the offense to come back. For depth purposes, an injury to one of the back-end types should not be crippling either, and a strength will likely not become a weakness with a hobbled closer or set up man.