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Why relief pitchers have been so hard to figure out

Andrew Friedman had high hopes for his Tampa Bay Rays bullpen in 2014, but it struggled. He worried about the group of Los Angeles Dodgers relievers he took into 2017, but they were a revelation.

In five years as the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, Friedman has experienced a fair share of both hits and misses acquiring relievers. Joe Blanton, Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson worked out, for the most part. Joel Peralta, Sergio Romo and Jim Johnson did not. For years, fans clamored for him to spend money on established middle relievers, and so he did, giving Joe Kelly at least $25 million over the course of three seasons. Now Kelly is statistically one of the worst pitchers in the sport.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

In about a month — if not sooner, if not already — Friedman will shift his focus to other teams for outside help. Yes, the Dodgers will be — are — in the market for relief pitchers. So is practically every other team with aspirations of playing into October, because nobody has this department figured out.

To “get hot” means to warm up at full intensity, or close to it. Relievers hate nothing more than to throw off a bullpen mound with the intention of getting into a game and be told to sit back down only to oftentimes stand up, stretch and start throwing again, ramping up the intensity in earnest. Many equate the act to an appearance, but it isn’t accounted for in any meaningful way.1

The Dodgers know how often their own pitchers warm up, but they’re clueless about the rest of the league. The 29 other teams face the same predicament.

“The hardest part that people always forget about a bullpen is stuff versus rest,” retired former closer Huston Street said. “There’s a direct correlation.”

These days, reliever volatility has reached a new high. League-wide, relief pitchers are allowing 4.77 runs per game, the highest mark in 12 years. The reason, many will say, is that they’re exhausted. Starters aren’t allowed to pitch deep enough into games, so bullpens are accounting for more innings. And even when relievers are not making official appearances, the tendency to let situations dictate usage — as opposed to assigning specific roles — is probably leading to their warming up more often than they used to.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“More is being asked out of bullpens,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “You start accumulating seasons of the starter getting pulled the second time through and more burden placed on the pen, it’s going to take a toll.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he “feels good” about his bullpen within the grand scheme of a season. He pointed to the recent surge of Kenley Jansen — 10⅓ scoreless innings, with 16 strikeouts and one walk from May 12 to June 14 — and the steady reliability of Pedro Baez and Dylan Floro. He brought up the importance of getting lefty specialist Scott Alexander healthy, and then he brought up the obvious — getting Kelly right again.