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Why Relievers Are Cheap

I needed something to do before the USA-Canada hockey game today. Here is a little comparison between a couple relievers. Who would you rather have?

2008-2009 totals
Reliever A: 75 relief appearances, 77.1 IP, 69 hits, 13 HR, 42 BB, 85 K, 4.42 ERA
Reliever B: 87 relief appearances, 120.1 IP, 118 hits, 10 HR, 44 BB, 101 K, 3.29 ERA

2010 CHONE projection
Reliever A: 51 relief appearances, 62 IP, 56 hits, 9 HR, 28 BB, 64 K, 4.21 ERA
Reliever B: 53 relief appearances, 58 IP, 59 hits, 7 HR, 23 BB, 47 K, 4.50 ERA

Both relievers are right-handers. Reliever A is listed at 6'3", 165 pounds, and 28 years old. Reliever B is listed at 6'2", 206 pounds, and 36 years old. Also, since league differences matter, it's worth noting that Reliever A has spent the past two seasons in the AL, while Reliever B has been in the NL.

Even with the limited numbers I've presented here, it is pretty clear that Reliever A is younger, and has the better arm. However, he doesn't have great control, and that likely is part of the reason he has given up more then his fair share of long balls.

Reliever A is Edwar Ramirez, who got designated for assignment today to make room on the Yankees roster for Reliever B, Chan Ho Park. We last saw Park in the back end of the Phillies bullpen, pitching against the Yankees in the World Series. He was a contributing piece to a very good ballclub, so some were surprised there was minimal interest in his services.

I think this comparison shows why. Park has been significantly more effective than Ramirez the past couple years, but it is likely that a good deal of the difference is luck. At least the CHONE projection thinks so, since it regressed both pitchers' home run rates (Ramirez's down and Park's up) and all of a sudden they didn't look so different. Throw in the limited innings that relievers work, and it's even more debatable who will perform better this year. That's somewhere between interesting and remarkable, considering one of these guys has bounced between AAA and the majors and is yet to establish himself, while the other is a grizzled veteran that has morphed into a setup guy on winning ballclubs.

None of this is meant to criticize the move made by the Yankees (though of course I hope it fails spectacularly, as a life-long Yankee hater). It is simply meant to point out why bullpens can, and always should, be built cheaply.