Tom Verducci: Rethinking Modern Bullpen Usage

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 15: Pitcher Joel Hanrahan of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California. In honor of Jackie Robinson Day, all players across Major League Baseball will wear number 42. The Pirates won the game 4-1. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

In my basement this is a must-read. I'm going to print it out and tack it up somewhere. Obviously I agree with Verducci (or he agrees with me) because just last week I ranted about how Clint Hurdle has used Joel Hanrahan and suggested a Gossage-like role for the Pirates All-Star closer. Then over the weekend I suggested that if the Pirates weren't going to follow my advice they should trade him--now, because his value will never be higher and for an offensively inept team like the Pirates a Joel Hanrahan is an underutilized luxury. In my mind, I have Verducci's strong, if tacit, support.

Verducci has more street cred than the average baseball writer if for no other reason than he came up with the Verducci Effect. But what is ironic is, that very idea may be part of the reason we have seen bullpen usage evolve to where it is today. And many argue that the Verducci Effect probably doesn't exist.

In this article Verducci points to some interesting work by Dodgers Director of Medical Services Stan Conte. The data cited in many instances isn't robust enough to draw any firm conclusions, but there is certainly enough to give one pause. It also supports Neal Huntington's continued effort to build his bullpen year-to-year and relatively cheaply. This has certainly been Huntington's biggest accomplishment at the major league level to date and it would seem to suggest that he would agree with much of Verducci's piece.

The book is still out on Huntington, and it should be until the Pirates win at the major league level. He has a huge asset in Joel Hanrahan that Verducci argues many in the game overvalue because of how closers are paid and used. Huntington would be wise to get maximum value for this asset before there is a market correction. Who knows when that comes, but I sure hope the move gets made before that or a serious injury makes the whole discussion moot.

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