Last year, I claimed that the bullpen might finish as one of the very best in baseball. In reality, it finished third in xFIP, sixth in ERA, 16th in fWAR, and seventh in WPA. One reason for the disparity between the value statistics and the rate stats is that Cleveland’s arm barn threw 588 innings — 20th in baseball.
It is not a bad thing that Cleveland did not need to rely on its bullpen but knew it left the game in good hands when it did.
Now, stand and cheer, for your 2022 Cleveland Guardians Bullpen!
Clase looked great last season and finished the season as the de facto closer. He accumulated an ERA of 1.29 and an xFIP of 2.60 along with 2.2 fWAR. Spread that out over 69.2 innings and you have yourself an elite reliever. He is also only 24 years old.
I expect another good season from Clase, but keep an eye on the long ball. Clase ran a HR/9 rate of 0.26 last season — the absolute lowest in the American League among qualified relievers. Mariano Rivera matched or bested that number only three times in his career while averaging 0.50.
He does not have to be perfect in order to be excellent.
I will leave it with this: keep an eye on the long ball, again. We all expected Shaw to give up more home runs in Colorado, but his home run rate continues to quietly rise. Not necessarily from season to season, but the trend line is there. His 1.16 HR/9 rate is the highest out of any season for Shaw in Cleveland.
If he can keep the ball in the park, then he will pitch effectively in like 128 games or something that arm is impossible
Gose owns one of the best stories in baseball. Drafted as an outfielder in 2008 by the Phillies, Gose is attempting to reinvent himself as a reliever after a career in the field. He pitched 33 innings in Columbus with a 3.54 ERA last season and also earned a cup of coffee.
Plus, he is a lefty who throws 100 mph, which, dang.
To me, this is the third consecutive season for which Nick Sandlin is a major breakout candidate. Blame the plague.
In 33.2 IP last season Sandlin spun a 2.94 ERA, good for a tidy ERA+ of 150. Look for Cleveland to deploy him as a seventh or eighth inning setup man with a wicked sidearm cannon. It will not be easy for hitters to go from Bieber to Sandlin to Gose to Clase, will it?
We have another left-handed pitcher who throws hard. Please recall that Hentges arrived a year early last season due to injuries; it is accurate to suggest that he pretty much jumped from Double-A to Ye Olde Bigges all at once (over the course of two years? Dangit, plague!)
Hentges is a valuable bullpen arm regardless of whether or not his delivery becomes consistent enough to make it as a starter.
Where is James Karinchak, you ask? Injured, unfortunately. It is not yet known whether or not he will miss significant time due to the injury he sustained to his teres major. Also, recovery for this muscle can vary wildly. There are still questions for Karinchak after his uneven showing last season. If he does join the major league roster at or shortly after the beginning of the season, I expect that Francona will work him back into duties slowly.
Logan Allen, Eli Morgan, and Tobias Meyers will figure into the Guardians' plans this season, too. They are on the edge of the starting rotation and will likely see use out of the pen while waiting for an opportunity. Meyers skipped several levels of the minors on the way up and deserves a true look as a starting pitcher. He may start the year in Triple-A to maintain that course.
With Morgan, I am not sure exactly what it is that the Guardians plan to do. He is yet another player for whom the dingers will toll. He gives up so few ground balls (29% ?!) that he will need to strike guys out at an elite rate and keep walks down in order to stick as a reliever or a starter. If he does, he’s Chad Green. If he doesn’t, he’s Adam Plutko. Such is life!
Logan Allen is mostly harmless.
BREAKING NEWS: pictures of
spider-man Tito’s whiteboard!
An anonymous contributor can now confirm that the following pictures of Terry Francona’s secret master bullpen plan is definitely real and not at all a bit.