Like a fat kid stealing from a summer camp’s tuck shop and stashing his forbidden calorie increase where the counselors can’t find it, the Oakland A’s are quietly amassing one of the best bullpens in baseball.  As teams like the Yankees and Red Sox invest in expensive treats like Rafael Soriano and Bobby Jenks (who knows tuck shops better than most), the A’s are relying on a combination of young, in-house talent (home made candy if you’re interested in ill-advisedly extending this metaphor even further) and shrewd pick ups to form situational nightmares for opposing teams in late innings.

Coming into the offseason, the Athletics already possessed one of the better young bullpens in the league, and since Friday they’ve added both the extremely underrated Grant Balfour and now, veteran lefty Brian Fuentes to two year contracts.

Take a look at these numbers from last season.

Brian Fuentes vs. left handed batters: 1.79 FIP, 0.71 WHIP, .132 AVG, 11.57 K/9, 4.50 K/BB.
Craig Breslow vs. left handed batters: 3.50 FIP, 0.96 WHIP, .188 AVG, 9.00 K/9, 3.25 K/BB.

Grant Balfour vs. right handed batters: 2.68 FIP, 0.87 WHIP, .172 AVG, 9.19 K/9, 3.67 K/BB.
Joey Devine vs. right handed batters: 1.34 FIP, 0.66 WHIP, .125 AVG, 11.52 K/9, 5.00 K/BB.
Brad Ziegler vs. right handed batters: 2.70 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, .215 AVG, 7.15 K/9, 3.27 K/BB.

And of course, let’s not forget about the team’s 26 year old closer Andrew Bailey, who over the course of the last two seasons has put together a 2.70 FIP, 0.91 WHIP, .182 AVG, 9.05 K/9, 3.59 K/BB against all batters.

Oakland’s pitching staff last year gave up the fewest runs in the American League.  And after only losing an ineffective Ben Sheets, a barely there Justin Duchsherer and Vin Mazzaro this offseason, while adding reclamation projects Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy in addition to the two relievers, it’s hard to imagine anything changing.

Of course the team still has to score runs, and despite once again missing out on Adrian Beltre, Oakland still attained the biggest offensive upgrades in the AL West this offseason with Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham adding actual power to a previously impotent lineup David DeJesus will also improve.

While it may not have been their first plan, through the Athletics’ surprisingly successful offseason and a disastrous one for their neighbours in Los Angeles, Oakland will enter the 2011 season as the Rangers’ biggest rival.

Comments (24)

  1. I think there’s a great chance that the A’s win the West. That pitching is insane, and guys like Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill will likely get better over the next couple years as they enter their prime. That’s scary.

  2. When the Blue Jays add RP, you complain.

    When other teams add them, they are shrewd moves.

    What’s the difference?

    Was Oakland’s bullpen not as full as Toronto’s was when they signed Dotel? Does Toronto not have significantly more money that it makes more sense for them to be the ones acquiring assets like Fuentes & Rauch?

  3. Not to mention Gio Gonzalez, who had an amazing year last season and is still only 25.

  4. @NorthYorkJays. Dotel does not fill a need for the Jays. Fuentes is totally different since he would’ve filled a need against lefties. The A’s are also in a much easier division, so the consequences of bad moves are less pronounced and the probability of making the playoffs is much higher due to weaker competitors. The Jays are probably not going to be in playoff contention in 2011 so why waste innings on an expensive reliever who can only pitch to righties. Scott Richmond would do just as good a job but for the league minimum.

  5. I actually thought Toronto adding Fuentes wouldn’t have been bad as long as they didn’t spend an insane amount of money. He’s shut down against lefties. Put him in a position to close and you’re asking for trouble.

    What were the financial terms of the deal with Fuentes? Does anybody know? It’d be hard to judge whether it was shrewd or not based on not knowing how much they are set to pay him.

    And the addition of Balfour is a great one. He’s one of the most undervalued relievers in the game.

  6. It’s not relief pitching I’m against adding. It’s adding Dotel I’m against.

  7. Paying a LOOGY 10.5M was an awful, awful idea for the Jays. I’d be willing to bet that Purcey could do a mighty fine Fuentes impression next year against LH hitters, which is all Daisy is good for in the first place.

  8. @123. Is that what Fuentes got? 10.5M?

  9. There is absolutely zero proof that Richmond could be an effective MLB reliever. You can’t just pluck any mildly effective minor league SP and assume they can transition seamlessly to a late inning RP like Dotel.

    It’s not a waste of innings when the RPs you acquire carry potential trade value, draft pick compensation, and are actually better than the relievers you currently have.

  10. This pretty much gets discussed every day. I’m getting pretty tired of it all, but for the last time:

    Dotel is not a very good relief pitcher. He’s a very good pitcher against right handed batters. People bring up the Richmond comparison because he too is not a very good pitcher, but very good against right handed hitters. The point being that guys who can get right handed batters out are a dime a dozen.

    We went through this before, but people came up with something like three times in the last ten years that a relief pitcher brought back a good return for a team, and in all three it was obvious that a GM was getting hosed. Relievers seldom have trade value.

    Jerry, you’ve previously mentioned the dropoff in talent in the MLB draft. Paying Dotel that type of money merely for a comp pick does not make financial sense, especially when he’s essentially redundant in a bullpen with so many right handed relievers. Trying to acquire guys like Olivo and Lopez on the cheap makes far more sense to me.

  11. It gets discussed everyday because the things you assert as fact are opinion, and I’ll crusade against said opinions if you continue to espouse them without proof.

    3 RPs traded to bring back value?! That’s not possible, considering I was able to name 3 off the top of my head. Please don’t make me go through this entire decade to prove that yes, relievers do indeed have trade value.

    It makes sense because he isn’t redundant, no matter how many times you say he is. You guys keep pretending Dotel is some spare part – he’s the best bet, as of January 17th, 2011, to be the Blue Jays’ best RP this year. This notion that Janssen, Richmond, Roenicke, and whatever other retread you come up with can be counted on to provide what Dotel can be counted on for is, while rather hopeful, completely unsubstantiated by facts.

    You made the same mistake with the Gregg move last year. A good writer learns from his mistakes and uses them to get better in the future. And a good GM learns from his successes and looks to duplicate them.

  12. And please stop saying they signed Dotel merely for a compensation round pick. They didn’t. They signed him to make their team better. The potential draft pick compensation and trade value are what makes him well worth the 3m in addition to his actual on field abilities. But frankly, I’d want Dotel for 3m even if draft pick compensation did not exist. Given the option of 3m in Rogers pocket and watching Roenicke all year or 3m in Dotel’s pocket to pitch for the Blue Jays, I prefer the latter.

  13. You still don’t answer any of my “opinions” then in your counter. That’s why this argument is frustrating. Bring a counter point that has something to back it up.

    How’s this for facts:

    Against LH batters last season:

    1.06 K:BB, .308 AVG, 2.06 WHIP, .5.09 FIP.

    Year before:

    1.11K:BB, 2.41HR/9, .265 AVG, 2.04 WHIP, 7.38 FIP.

    Last year, left handed hitters had a .993 OPS against Dotel. He is no one’s best hope, especially not in the AL East.

  14. How does showing that he’s poor vs. LHB advance this discussion, if that point has never been challenged by me? And I actually address each one of your opinions in my counter while you answer none of mine, which I find amusing.

  15. You’re saying that Dotel is a good pitcher. I’m saying he’s bad. Those numbers support my statement that he’s bad. This is how arguments work. You said he was the team’s best relief option. I believe those numbers make your statement false.

    If it’s so ridiculous to say that Dotel is redundant, don’t just say he isn’t. Show us through numbers that he isn’t. Show us why he’s worth paying that amount when the Jays already have a number of right handed relievers.

    Tell us about the relievers who come to mind that brought back big returns. Show us that it’s common for relievers to be traded mid season and bring back a return that’s beneficial to the team.

  16. If those numbers support your statement that he’s bad, than these DEFINITELY support my statement that he’s good, considering they provide a bigger sample size from the same season.

    Against RH batters last season:

    4.00 K:BB, .166 AVG, 0.91 WHIP, 3.73 FIP

    Year before:

    3.18 K:BB, .221 AVG, 1.19 WHIP, 2.39 FIP

    Those numbers make him not redundant – he can get RHB out better than any pitcher in the Blue Jays’ bullpen.

    Best relief option and best RP are 2 different statements. One implies that Dotel is the best guy to go to in any situation, which I’m not saying. But in terms of overall production at the end of the season, yes I believe Dotel is the best bet of any current Jays reliever. Why? Check out xFIP from 2007-2010, and note where Camp and Frasor fall – behind Octavio Dotel.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=rel&lg=all&qual=y&type=8&season=2010&month=0&season1=2007

    I did tell you about the relievers who brought back big returns. 3 in very recent memory aren’t enough for you? Give me a number that would suffice, so I don’t waste my team unearthing 10 RP trades this decade only to have u then tell me that’s still not proof of an existing trade market for relief pitching.

  17. @Jrock 2/10.5

  18. As long as Dotel doesn’t face (many) lefties, he will be a great addition. In reality, the vast majority of batters are righties anyway, and Dotel’s numbers support NYJF’s argument better than they support Parkes’, as Dotel has faced many more righties, and making his vs LHH stats small samples.

    For $3MM, and if he is used correctly, Dotel is a fine pitcher. He just sucks shit against LHH.

    I’m Wolf Blitzer, and you’re in the Situation Room.

    PS: I’m from Buffalo!

  19. Are you guys forgetting that the Blue Jays still play in the AL East? What’s the point of having a pitcher that can’t get LH batters out in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox. You’re completely delusional if you think that Dotel is a good pitcher. Sure, he can get out right handed batters, but that’s not an especially spectacular thing.

  20. He only faced 49 more RH batters than LH last season.

  21. That’s a shit tonne for a RP, Bob.

  22. Jerry, you’re taking one statistic and an arbitrary number of years and saying that a player’s contract is worthwhile because he’s #1 there among players on that team. There’s a ton more that you could look at, like the fact that four Blue Jays right handers had better FIPs against RH batters last season than Dotel, or that Dotel gives up more homers to RH batters than any other RH Blue Jays relievers. Even if you say that Dotel is the best Jays pitcher against right handed hitting, Frasor, Camp, Villanueva, Roenicke and Janssen all compare well in their advanced numbers He is a completely unnecessary addition to the team..

    Dotel’s numbers against LH batters have nothing to do with sample size. Take a look at his splits yourself.

  23. Right, let’s just ignore that Dotel probably had a better FIP than all those guys vs. RHB in 2009…

    I never said Dotel’s lack of success vs. LHB had anything to do with sample size. I merely used the EXACT same stats that you did and said that mine have inherently more value because they come from a bigger sample size.

    Their 4 year xFIPs give you a good idea of the pitchers they have been over the recent history, and helps remove the noise involved from luck in a smaller sample size. That the Blue Jays just signed Rauch and are now more likely to use Dotel in a specialized role make his signing even better.

  24. “You made the same mistake with the Gregg move last year.”

    Who is saying that Gregg had a year? I want to be on the opposite side of whoever is saying that.

    A closer with a 3.51 ERA and a WHIP of 1.390, ha ha ha, what a great player that completely proved people wrong. Tear up your copy of Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Gregg broke the system. Dotel is going to be the same player. There’s not powerful left-handed bats on the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Rays or something? I don’t care that Dotel was signed because the owners have more than enough revenue to make signings like this without it impacting the club elsewhere. But he will be a disaster, just like Gregg was.

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