Jonathan Daniel - Getty Images
Steve Cishek may have been the brightest positive point of the 2012 Miami Marlins bullpen, but he was the only positive in an otherwise miserable year for the pen.
Earlier today, we discussed the relative success of the current Miami Marlins closer Steve Cishek, who contributed one Win Above Replacement (WAR) for the Marlins since usurping the closer role. The problem for the Fish was not that Cishek took over the closer role so much that the design was not meant to be this way. The Marlins were supposed to have garnered stability in the pen by spending money in the offseason on closer Heath Bell, but the Fish got the polar opposite this season and watched their pen implode on a fairly consistent basis in 2012. Sadly, as good as Cishek was (and he was good, but not great), the rest of the pen was awful for the Fish, and that is yet another area in which the team went wrong.
Of course, in the failures of the Miami Marlins bullpen, there is no better place to start than Heath Bell. Simply put, Bell was atrocious in the first half of the season, tossing perhaps one of the worst halves of relief in Marlins history, if not the worst. Bell received 25 opportunities to close games before the All-Star Game, yet he blew six of those save opportunities. Bell's ERA ballooned to as high as 11.74 in early May, and even by the end of the first half, it was at 6.75. By the first half's end, Bell had struck out just 19 percent of his batters faced and walked 11.9 percent of those hitters. This first half disaster earned him the nickname Mayhem.
By the end of the season, he was at least able to bring those numbers to a more respectable 20.9 percent and 10.6 percent respectively, thanks to a decent second half in which he owned a 3.12 ERA. But even as Bell was demoted to a setup role, he still did not perform well enough to entice the Marlins to replace Cishek, who struggled relative to his first half work. Bell's complaints about not being afforded an opportunity to close seemed unjustified given that he blew his only save opportunity of the second half. By season's end, Bell was tied for the 11th most Meltdowns among relievers in baseball, alongside Santiago Casilla, Josh Lindbloom, and Francisco Rodriguez.
Bell's 27 Shutdowns was almost as many as Cishek, but the additional Meltdowns not only hurt his SD Rate but also the team's wins. In the end, Bell was worth anywhere in between -0.7 and 0.4 WAR, and my money would be betting on close to no wins or below replacement than 0.4 wins. Either way, Bell was signed to deliver at least 1.5 WAR to this team, as projected before the season, but he did not even come close to that, and his struggles once again cost the Marlins another 1.5 wins on the ledger from preseason to now.
To a lesser extent, the rest of the bullpen did not help either. Not one name outside of Cishek had a strong standout performance, and a good number of players, including Mayhem's own brethren Mini-Mayhem Michael Dunn and Mop Up Mayhem Chad Gaudin, hurt the Marlins in addition to Bell. As a whole, the Marlins' bullpen delivered a total number of wins between 1.7 and -1.7 wins when not including Cishek's performance, depending on the system that you ask, and given what Marlins fans have seen this season, they would be willing to believe a total closer to the middle of those two results.
If you buy a win total of around zero wins for a bullpen that was supposed to deliver 1.7 WAR without Cishek, that means that the Marlins lost almost two more wins from the helpless pen, gaining one of those wins back in Cishek's performance. In total, it would not be surprising to see the Marlins lose at least one more win from this part of the pen, meaning the Marlins bullpen cost the team in total 2.5 wins from their expected amount.
What did you Fish Stripes readers think of the rest of the bullpen this season? Aside from Bell, how did you feel about the performance of the rest of the cast?