With news yesterday that the Rays have finalized – but not announced – their roster, we know the answer to our winter-long speculation about the 2011 Rays bullpen. Friday night, Jake McGee will carry a Dora backpack full of candy to the bullpen to share with Andy Sonnanstine, Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Adam Russell, Juan Cruz, and Cesar Ramos. So, how will this group measure up to the 2010 bullpen?
Luckily for fans in the internet age, we have the benefit of computer prediction systems and, we have FanGraphs to put all the predictions in one place. Are the predictions accurate? I have no idea but I have some doubts. Some of the 2011 Ray-lievers (see what I did there?) must be hard to predict because they don’t have a lot of big league experience upon which to base predictions (McGee, Ramos) or are coming off injury throwing an immeasurable x-factor into the calculations (Cruz). But, we have about 36 hours to kill until the first pitch so, I say let’s indulge the predictions.
I’ll save you the details of my advanced calculations but, suffice it to say that I am pretty incredible with spreadsheets (every math teacher I ever had just passed out from shame — I am obviously terrible with math, after all, I am a lawyer) and, using my talents, I was able to compile and average all the predictions for all the Ray-lievers (did it again!) to compare the bullpen as a whole to the 2010 bullpen.
Based on those predictions, it looks like the 2011 bullpen could be one breakout season away from being equivalent to the 2010 bullpen. The strikeouts and walks per nine are almost identical for both groups (7.3/7.8 K and 3.0/3.1 BB) and the 2011 projected ERA is just a little more than 1 run higher than the actual 2010 ERA (4.46/3.33).
Does that mean the 2011 bullpen will be worse? Not necessarily. We knew there would be some reduction in performance with the departure of quality arms like Rafael Soriano, the re-born Joaquin Benoit, and Grant Balfour. But, the minor difference between the projection and last year’s results combined with the shaky statistical basis for some of the projections, gives me some confidence that a few unexpectedly good seasons from these new Ray-lievers (now I am just showing off) could push this group right back to the 2010 level ( a level that helped a pretty similar club win 96 games!).