Busch Stadium (Image: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE)

Beyond Busch: NL Central Bullpens & MLB Notes

This week Beyond Busch will cover the bullpens of the teams in the National League Central and then provide a brief snippet for each of the remaining MLB teams.

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have one of the more electric closers in Carlos Marmol. Unfortunately, he is also one of the more erratic closers in the game. Marmol has the potential to come into a game and shut down a team with Ks, but also has the ability to load the bases just as easily, leading to more blown saves than a manager wants to deal with. It will be interesting to see how new manager Dale Sveum treats Marmol’s capacity for the dramatic. Leading up to Marmol the Cubs signed veteran reliever Kerry Wood and Jeff Samardzija is still in the mix. Wood has been very effective in the eight inning role and would likely fill in for Marmol when needed.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds went through a bit of a transformation in the bullpen this offseason. They waited for the market to soften on closers and signed former Philadelphia Phillies closer Ryan Madson to a one-year $8.5 million deal to replace Francisco Cordero. The Reds swung a trade with the Cubs for set-up man Sean Marshall, one of the top lefty relievers in the NL. The Reds are looking to move Aroldis Chapman from the pen to the rotation this season which creates a void for the high octane pitcher. We’ll have to see if Chapman can handle starting, and if not he could very well end up back in the bullpen, where he had flourishes of brilliance.

Houston Astros

The Houston Astros are in a state of rebuilding so it should not come as a surprise that their bullpen situation is, well, suspect. Brandon Lyon had surgery for a detached biceps tendon and a torn labrum last June which leaves a question mark about his abilities to come back from these surgeries strong in 2012. Lyon was not a shutdown closer prior to the injuries. The next man in line seems to be Wilton Lopez. Lopez throws in the low 90’s so he also does not profile as a closer, but he has been largely effective the last two seasons with the Astros. To his credit he has very good control, only walking 23 batters in 137 innings from 2010 to 2011.

Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers may have the best closer in the Central in John Axford and a very effective former closer being used in the eighth inning role in Francisco Rodriguez. Axford has saved 70 games since being installed permanently as the Brewers’ closer in 2010. He has a career strikeout rate of 11.05 per nine innings pitched. However, similarly to Marmol, he walks too many guys (3.75 BB/9) for his career. With Rodriguez backing him, the Brewers have a fantastic back end of the pen.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have a nice bullpen set-up headed by closer Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan, an all-star in 2011, is backed by Evan Meek, who has the ability to close games if needed. Meek was limited by injuries in 2011, but has been very consistent in the set-up role for the Pirates since 2010.  Jason Grilli sits behind Meek. Grilli threw 32 innings in 2011 and was productive in doing so, posting a 2.48 ERA with a 10.19 K/9 ratio.

Here are notes on the remaining MLB bullpens.

NL East

Atlanta BravesCraig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters are machines

Miami Marlins – Signing of Heath Bell pushes Juan Oviedo to set-up role for Ozzie Guillen

New York Mets – Revamped with Frank Francisco assumed lead based on salary, Jon Rauch at the ready

Philadelphia Phillies – Made biggest splash signing Jonathan Papelbon to massive deal

Washington NationalsDrew Storen had excellent 2011 season, heads above average pen

NL West

Arizona DiamonbacksJ.J. Putz looks to maintain success from 2011

Colorado Rockies – With Huston Street leaving, Rafael Betancourt steps in

Los Angeles DodgersKenley Jansen should be closer, will he be?

San Diego Padres – Street goes from Coors Field to Petco; a pitcher can’t ask for a better move

San Francisco GiantsBrian Wilson has a long leash

AL East

Baltimore OriolesKevin Gregg‘s job for now. Matt Lindstrom and Jim Johnson lurking

Boston Red Sox – Unloaded Papelbon and signed Andrew Bailey for 1/3 the price

New York YankeesMariano Rivera could do this for several more years if he wanted

Tampa Bay RaysKyle Farnsworth settled nicely into closer role

Toronto Blue Jays – Acquired Sergio Santos, locked in for 3 years at inexpensive price

AL Central

Chicago White Sox – Traded Santos, trying lefty Matt Thornton again

Cleveland IndiansChris Perez leads deep pen

Detroit TigersJose Valverde‘s tightrope act was perfect in 2011 regular season

Kansas City Royals – Bring in Jonathan Broxton, Joakim Soria trade talk again?

Minnesota Twins – With Nathan out, Matt Capps gets another chance

AL West

Los Angeles AngelsJordan Walden could be elite

Oakland A’sBrian Fuentes and Grant Balfour are the old men on campus

Seattle MarinersBrandon League hopes to build on successful 2011

Texas RangersJoe Nathan leaves Twins and heads strong pen

Next week we will check in on the projected lineups for the Cardinals’ NL Central foes.

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Tags: Aroldis Chapman Brandon Lyon Cardinals Carlos Marmol Francisco Cordero Franciso Rodriguez Joel Hanrahan John Axford Kerry Wood NL Central Ryan Madson Sean Marshall St Louis Cardinals Wilton Lopez

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