Does it make any sense that crappy starting pitchers have become some of the best relievers? I don’t think so. The 2nd inning of a game is a lot less stressful than a 7th inning two men on one out position. At least I would think it is but, some relief pitchers have thrived after being shipped to the bullpen from the starting rotation.Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, Wade Davis. All former starters and now some of the top bullpen arms in the MLB.
I actually have no clue how it has worked. Andrew Miller went from a 5.76 ERA as a starter to a 2.55 ERA in the bullpen while also increasing his strikeouts per 9 innings by more than 6. By the way Miller, was once a top starting pitching prospect in baseball and was even the main piece going back to the Marlins in the trade for Miguel Cabrera. Too bad that didn’t pan out. After his terrible start with the Marlins, he was traded to the Red Sox for Dustin Richardson who never even appeared in a game for the then Florida Marlins. Miller’s value dropped from Miguel Cabrera, who is possibly one of the best hitters of all time, to a player who would only pitch 16 and 1/3 innings in his career. Anyway, after the Red Sox got Miller they gave him a shot to start. That failed again. They then put him in the bullpen and the rest is history.
The same thing happened with Wade Davis and Zach Britton. Davis’s opponents batted a little under .280 against him and then once he got sent to the mystical bullpen, poof, down to .167. Britton pitched 250 innings as a starter and walked 111 batters and so far since joining the bullpen, he has pitched 220 innings and walked only 58. Britton went from a shaky starter to maybe having the best season ever as a reliever last season with a 0.54 ERA while not blowing a single save. Some guys like Alex Colome and Rasiel Iglesias have had a different journey away from the rotation but since the switch they have become the respective aces of their teams bullpens.
So why not put them back in the rotation? It just doesn’t work. Again, I have no idea why. Joba Chamberlain started his career as a reliever for the Yankees, went to their rotation, then had his career tumble downhill. Daniel Bard was 25 years old and one of the best bullpen arms in the game for the Red Sox setting up for Jonathan Papelbon but Bard wanted to make more money so he convinced the Sox to put him in the rotation. The result was not a good one. It was as if Boston should have sent Bard’s arm to the looney bin. He hit more batters in his 10 games as a starter (8) than he did his whole career as a reliever (7). Just imagine what would have happened to Aroldis Chapman if the Reds went through with the plan to make him a starter. Same result? Who knows but I’m sure hitters don’t want a wild pitcher throwing 105 mph.
No one knows what goes on in a pitchers head. No one knows whether or not someone will be a great MLB starter or great MLB reliever. Time will only tell how pitchers end up in the show. Managers will just have to continue to figure it out on the fly. I guess the moral of this blog is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it but, if it is broke just throw it in the bullpen.