April is Over? What a Relief...
At the beginning of the season how many people would have guessed that April would come to a close with future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera recording only one save in three opportunities? Or that the New Yankees would be the worst team in the American League East and the second worst team in the entire American League?
Boston 16-8 .667 7-3 9-5 Toronto 13-12 .520 7-7 6-5 Baltimore 12-14 .462 7-6 5-8 Tampa Bay 11-14 .440 5-6 6-8 New York 9-14 .391 6-6 3-8
During the inaugural month of the 2007 baseball season, the bullpen was one of the biggest determining factors in the standings of the American League East division.
W-L ERA SV/OP IP H BB/9 K/9 HR GO/AO WHIP AVG Boston 2-0 2.18 9/9 62.0 50 3.19 7.26 5 1.45 1.16 .216 Toronto 2-5 3.49 7/12 69.2 58 4.00 7.62 5 1.08 1.28 .224 Baltimore 5-3 3.81 7/10 89.2 76 4.22 8.33 6 1.11 1.32 .227 Tampa Bay 4-6 5.99 9/13 70.2 81 4.08 6.75 10 1.06 1.60 .288 New York 5-6 3.99 1/8 97.0 73 5.29 5.85 8 0.78 1.34 .207
A quick glance at the numbers shows that the Rays' pen was far more brutal than the Yankees' collection of lovable louts. However, New York was notably ineffective in save opportunities. The bullpen pitched a lot of innings, showing the starting rotation must also share blame in the Bronx swoon.
Interestingly, the Yankees' pen had the lowest hits per inning of the five clubs. However, they walked more than five batters per nine innings and did not strike out many batters. Scott Proctor, Mike Myers and Luis Vizcaino all had more walks than strikeouts in April. Only Brian Bruney had a respectable K/BB ratio out of the bullpen at 2.00.
W-L ERA SV/OP IP H BB/9 K/9 GO/AO WHIP BOS Jon Papelbon 0-0 0.00 8/8 9.1 2 4.82 14.46 0.86 0.75 TO B.J. Ryan 0-2 12.46 3/5 4.1 7 8.31 6.23 0.25 2.54 BAL Chris Ray 2-2 5.11 7/9 12.1 8 1.46 10.22 0.35 0.81 TB Al Reyes 0-0 1.50 9/9 12.0 4 2.25 12.00 0.46 0.58 NYY Mariano Rivera 1-2 10.57 1/3 7.2 11 3.52 9.39 0.75 1.83
Both Jonathan Papelbon and Al Reyes were brilliant in the month of April. Interestingly enough both pitchers are returning from injury-marred 2006 seasons.
Reyes, at the age of 36, is returning from Tommy John surgery and had a career total of five saves coming into the season. He was perfect in save opportunities in April. He was recognized by Major League Baseball for his great month when he finished third in the Pitcher of the Month voting behind Toronto's Roy Halladay and Boston's Josh Beckett.
Second-year closer Papelbon wasn't even supposed to be in the bullpen after the Red Sox decided last season that pitching in the bullpen was too hard on his shoulder. A quick turn around this spring, in part due to the lack of a suitable replacement, and Boston is dominating the American League East through 24 games. But will Papelbon hold up?
Second-year Blue Jay B.J. Ryan's numbers look pretty bad but he is out for about six weeks with a bum elbow (strained ligament) that had been bothering him since spring training.
Chris Ray of Baltimore is looking to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump that has left more than one former rookie closer in its wake. He has actually done better than his numbers suggest as all seven of his runs allowed came in two games over the span of 1.1 innings.
Rivera started off the year OK and allowed only one hit and no runs through his first four appearances on the season. However, in his appearance on April 14 against Oakland, he allowed no runs but threw only nine of his 17 pitches for strikes which is very un-Rivera-like. His struggles continued to worsen the next day and he allowed multiple runs in three of his last five April appearances.