Thursday, January 04, 2007

Meet the Foulker

While the Foulke signing certainly strengthens the Indians’ weakness, the bullpen, please hold off on the overly optimistic assumption that the Indians’ games just got shortened to 7 innings with Foulke joining JoeBo in the bullpen.

By some accounts, Foulke is a surly guy who isn’t always the most genial player in the clubhouse, but what would you expect from a guy whose last name is eerily similar to that of Greg Focker? While Focker adjusted pretty well to the ridicule, Foulke could have gone the way of Johnny Hildo – which few would truly care about as long as he pitches an inning of baseball (8th or 9th) effectively.

What Foulke adds to the Indians is more experience (190 career saves) to what was, just 2 months ago, a very inexperienced pen. Foulke’s addition means that 57% of the bullpen has been turned over since last year, and nobody can argue that the turnover for a bullpen badly in need of an overhaul is a bad thing.

Bullpens being the volatile animals that they are, the addition of Foulke (and JoeBo and Hernandez and Fultz) doesn’t guarantee that the Indians’ 2007 bullpen is going to be any better than last year’s. But, with bullpens, a successful one is built with a little luck and, in the Tribe’s case this coming year, LOTS of arms.

The real wisdom of these additions to the bullpen is the nature of the contracts to which they are signed. The Indians signed the pitchers to one-year contracts, some with club options – making a limited commitment to these particular pitchers while covering the future in the chance that one of these players thrives in 2007. The flexibility in payroll with the manageable contracts allows the Indians to succeed if the pitchers succeed as opposed to being handcuffed to a long, unmanageable contract.

Before the signings are viewed as another instance of “Dolan thriftiness” (if you can really call a $5M-$7M contract “thrifty” with a straight face), realize that whether your team plays in Yankee Stadium or Kauffman Stadium, the flexibility in an unpredictable aspect of a baseball team is the desired result for any team. Otherwise, the team is saddled with dead weight in a place that really is incapable of carrying any. One awful reliever, working on a big contract, that is unable to contribute outside of mop-up duty is comparable to playing a turnstile on an offensive line – it affects the whole dynamic of the unit, as the other members are given more responsibility, stretching everyone a little too thin.

The other big benefit of the signing is the “trickle-down effect”, which allows the relievers already in place to slot down another inning. Basically, it allows Betancourt and Cabrera (thought to be 7th and 8th inning options) to slot down another rung in the ladder to the 6th or 7th inning, where they will be joined by Hernandez and Fultz. If one of the pitchers is hurt or proves to be ineffective, the pitchers that prove to be effective as the season proceeds can take a step up the ladder to fill that void. That depth is desirable, and that’s just at the big-league level. The way that the signing affects depth organizationally is a whole other post.

So, we get to Meet the Foulker, a low-risk, high-reward pitcher to bolster the weakness of 2006. The quantity of arms that Foulke joins completes the Indians’ off-season strategy of quantity in lieu of certain quality. In the roulette world of bullpen creation, it’s as good a strategy as any.

Finally, for you Danzig fans out there (both of you), FYI, Foulke leaves the bullpen to that ode to the Oedipus complex, “Mother”.
Enjoy it.


t-bone said...

Well, if the arrival of the DiaperTribe means early morning posts, then more power to the little one!

FYI, I wrote the DiaTribe in for five categories here. Can you guess which ones?

Cy Slapnicka said...

did anyone see the Browns had an "offensive quality control coach"? he was fired today, was the nephew of Romeo.

I'm sorry, but if I was paying the bills, I would have a very big problem with the fact that we had a coach that had that title and our offense played like it did.