The game of baseball is an ever-evolving sport.
There are numerous changes in the philosophy and ideals within the game. The analytics period is upon us now in which every statistic is absorbed by the baseball fan and by the front office. Every single factor of the game is used by a team in order to gain a statistical advantage over their opponent.
In this new era of the game, starting pitchers are relied upon less and are not expected to go more than five or six innings to be rewarded with a “pat on the back” by their manager. Just get through the lineup twice, and maybe a third time, and you are good to go. With that mindset, individuals needed to step up.
Bullpens are a real factor now. You must have more than just a closer to be successful in this day and age of the game. You must, in all reality, have two or three capable men that can toe the rubber when the game is on the line. Quite often, games are won in the sixth and seventh inning, and not in the ninth. Managers have slowly adapted to that idea, and with that thought process, you need a solid core group of men in the pen.
Luckily for the Padres, they have an excellent cast of characters, and they all complement each other very well.
If everyone in your pen throws 90-plus, then your opponent knows what to expect and can time it better. Don’t get me wrong, throwing in the mid to upper 90’s is a thing of beauty and usually gets the job done, but as a pitcher, it is all about disrupting the timing of a hitter. If a batter gets consistent at-bats against the same type of high-velocity pitching, eventually they will get their timing. This is where the Padres differ.
In 2018, you will see a wide assortment of pitchers at Petco in the late innings.
You looking for velocity out of this bullpen? Then the Padres have Phil Maton or Carter Capps with high velocity fastballs from the right side of the plate. Each have a funk to their motion and provide some experience at the back-end of a staff as well. Robert Stock and Rowan Wick are in camp and can bring it as well, if they could only find their way onto the 25-man roster. Colten Brewer is another name to keep an eye on. You need a lefty with some gas? Brad Hand can get it up there, and so can Matt Strahm, who could eventually be used in the rotation once he is stretched out. Brad Wieck is another left-handed option who throws in the mid 90’s and he has a nasty funk to his 6 foot 9 delivery.
Then there is the real funkiness that Kazuhisa Makita brings to the team. The Japanese submarine style pitcher flips up a curve ball at around 55 MPH and follows that up with a 80+ MPH fastball that rises and looks 95 plus as it crosses the plate. He will make plenty of batters look foolish this season. Makita’s motion is similar to that of Adam Cimber and Eric Yardley, who are both young pitchers in Padres’ camp this spring. I spoke to Yardley earlier last week and he told me that he and Makita have spoken several times and that there is a bond between the hurlers. Cimber and Yardley could see major league time this season for the Padres, which would be remarkable. Imagine two submariners coming out of the pen for the Padres in 2018.
You need left-handed funkiness? Then I give you Kyle McGrath. The pitcher made his debut last season, and despite not being blessed with a 90 MPH fastball, he got major league hitters out. He has one of the most unusual deliveries in the game and will be a tough at-bat for any player who has not seen him before. Buddy Baumann has battled some injuries, but is also very funky from the left side, as he slings the ball up to the plate. Baumann is a hard thrower for his stature and further provides funk to this Padres’ bullpen.
Then there is Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates who would be categorized as the “normal” throwers. Each can mix it up effectively, and although they have prototypical stuff and mechanics, they will still be difficult for opponents to hit. Especially if they come in the game following McGrath or Makita. Andy Green has a smile on his face whenever the possibilities of this bullpen is mentioned to him. There will be plenty of losses this coming 2018 season for the Padres, but the bullpen should not be a major factor in accumulating them.