The San Diego Padres will be looking to improve this offseason. One area in which they must focus on is the back end of their bullpen.
The excitement of hitting and the attention that a starting pitching rotation receives is seemingly all encompassing for the Padres sometimes. But there is one area on the roster which rarely gets either the credit or the blame it deserves for the team’s fortunes.
Over the past decade, the role of major league bullpens has increased. Starters are no longer lasting as deep into games as they once did, and specialists who are inserted for several hitters or even a single hitter are gaining steam.
In San Diego’s case, the bullpen is an area the team should focus on this offseason. Now, this doesn’t mean that the relievers themselves have performed poorly. On the contrary, the Padres have found remarkable success from their lone all-star selection, Brad Hand, and have received valuable contributions from others. Taking a step back and analyzing the effectiveness of individual relievers in San Diego’s bullpen is quite revealing and encouraging.
Still, one problem remains, and a major problem it is. The Padres don’t have a deep bullpen, even if each member is holding their own.
The Padres rank 28th in bullpen ERA which is a combination of not having sufficient talent and lacking the weapons to get through multiple innings using multiple pitchers on a consistent basis. This doesn’t mean San Diego needs to change the way they utilize their bullpen, it merely means they must add a reliever or more this offseason if they want to see improvement in this area in 2018.
Also, the need for an upgrade in relief pitching comes as a result of somewhat shaky starting pitching. It this season wasn’t bad enough for Padre starters, next season they could easily be without Clayton Richard, Jhoulys Chacin, and Jered Weaver. Certainly not all-stars, but that is 60% of the Opening Day rotation.
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This leaves starters such as Luis Perdomo, Dinelson Lamet, Travis Wood, and Jarred Cosart. While these starters could be solid pitchers and could be valuable contributors in a rotation, they alone won’t make up baseball’s best staff. Plus, this group of possible 2018 San Diego starters aren’t exactly known for going deep into games. With this in mind, it would make sense that the Padres would pursue more depth in the area of relief pitching.
It won’t take a ridiculous multi-million dollar signing to improve the bullpen. Stacking up on productive relievers who aren’t stars is the way to go. There are several with ERAs below 3 who wouldn’t break the bank, such as the Chicago Cubs’ Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing, or Washington’s Matt Albers. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but the Padres have got to find another stable arm they can rely on.
Whether it comes via trade or free agency, another reliever or two would be just enough to provide the relief the bullpen needs when there just aren’t enough arms to get through the difficult situations. It would also give manager Andy Green more flexibility to match his guys up properly. Overall, relief pitching should be a priority, and it deserves more attention than it has been getting.