For the first time in the last
four years, the
This is the second in a series of four post-season reports on the Johnson City Cardinals:
2011 Johnson City Cardinals Team Review (Sep. 21, 2011)
The roster saw a total of ten
relievers during the 2011 season.
Eight relievers played exclusively for
Pitchers Eligible for Johnson City Reliever of the Year (10): Dyllon Nuernberg, Logan Billbrough, Michael Santana, Roberto Canache, Tyler Mills, Nick Gillung, Heath Wyatt, Matt Rein, Manuel De La Cruz, and Chris Costantino (in order of innings pitched for Johnson City).
|Relievers ready for playoffs|
Did Any Relievers Lose Playing Time During the Year?
Three relievers had late starts to their season.
LHP Nick Gillung had an MRI on June 23, two days after the season started. Due to that, he did not make his pro debut until Game 12 of the season. Gillung had 17 innings pitched as a reliever and nine innings pitched as a starter during the regular season. He threw six innings as a starter in the playoffs. Gillung likely projects as a spot starter or long reliever in the future. For the purpose of this review, he will be considered a reliever.
RHP Chris Costantino signed on August 9 after being drafted in June and then pitching in the New England Collegiate Baseball League: "Costantino: Cards' 43rd Rounder in the House". Costantino made his professional debut on August 19 in relief of Nick Gillung during Game 57.
Any Reliever Roster Changes?
LHP Manuel De La Cruz was promoted
on July 27 to the Batavia Muckdogs in the New York-Penn League after just eight
innings pitched: "De La Cruz:No Earned Runs Leads to
Promo". "Manny" pitched just six innings
over five games in Batavia (0-0, 6.00 ERA) and spent more time on the disabled
list than on the active roster:
"De La Cruz: Out of
"De La Cruz: Short Stay on
"De La Cruz: Return to the Disabled
List". Since De La Cruz pitched most of his
Reliever Team Statistics and Summary
The ten relievers combined for a 17-7 record with 20 saves and 32 holds over 236 IP (38.4% of the team's total IPs). This is a BIG increase in percent of innings pitched over last year (23.5%) when the tandem starter system was used. As a group, they averaged 8.0 H/9, 0.5 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9, 9.4 SO/9, and 3.0 SO/BB. They combined for a 1.24 WHIP, a 3.05 ERA, a 2.98 FIP, a 69% save percentage, and to allow 39% of their inherited runners to score. They caught just 19% of the possible base stealers. The 2011 relievers, when compared to the 2010 bullpen, were better in H/9, SO/9, and ERA but were worse in SV%, IS%, and CS%.
It was pretty clear from both the statistics and from watching the games that there were five relievers regularly performing very well for Johnson City (Billbrough, Wyatt, Gillung, Santana, and Canache), two relievers that had excellent statistics but also had too small a sample size to really figure out (Costantino and De La Cruz), and three relievers that were inconsistent (Rein, Nuernberg, and Mills). Billbrough and Wyatt got the majority of the save opportunities (55%), Santana and Canache got the majority of the holds (41%), and Rein and Mills appeared in most of the games that the Cardinals were trailing.
At the start of the year, Nuernberg appeared to be the reliever that would get most of the save opportunities since he was a known quantity from the 2010 GCL team. However, soon after the season started, newcomers Billbrough and Wyatt passed him on the "closer" list. Eight of the ten relievers had above average FIPs (<2.98) with Nuernberg (3.63) and Mills (7.19) trailing the pack.
As a team,
All of the pitchers combined for 7 errors, however, the ten relievers, despite pitching over 38% of the innings, committed just one error (Wyatt fielding error in the first game of the season).
As good as the relievers were at throwing and fielding, they were almost as bad at catching base stealers. The team combined for 39% CS while the relievers were just 19% CS:
|Left-Handed Relievers (3):|
|Right-Handed Relievers (7):|
Individual Reliever Statistics
Listed in the table below are some
of the key statistics for
|Age||22.2 yr||23.1 yr||22.6 yr||21.3 yr||21.3 yr|
|BAA vs. RH||0.205||0.222||0.215||0.208||0.295|
|BAA vs. LH||0.282||0.267||0.200||0.190||0.154|
|Reliever||Costantino||De La Cruz||Rein||Nuernberg||Mills|
|Age||20.0 yr||21.4 yr||23.3 yr||20.3 yr||21.7 yr|
|BAA vs. RH||0.133||?/0.263||0.250||0.241||0.277|
|BAA vs. LH||0.167||?/0.500||0.360||0.211||0.333|
Pitch Types and Velocities
When velocities are mentioned in the discussions below, those unfamiliar with the Appalachian League should understand how things work. Virtually every ballpark in the league has a display on or near the outfield scoreboard for pitch velocities. Unfortunately, most of the displays either don't work or are not hooked up to a radar gun. How each ballpark handles it varies.
Both teams and scouts sit behind home plate and record pitch velocities. Sometimes it is easy to get a seat behind them so that you can see the velocities as they register on the radar guns; sometimes it is not. I prefer to not do this while I observe a game but sometimes I will.
This year, the only ballpark that had velocities displayed (of the five ballparks I visited) was Elizabethton (Twins). I attended four games there (Aug 1, 2, 12, and 14) and recorded reliever velocities for Billbrough, Gillung, Santana, Rein, Nuernberg, and Mills. Heath Wyatt threw one pitch; a game-ending, bases-loaded, lineout, double-play for his fourth save. Here is a summary of my notes for those six relievers:
Billbrough: Aug 14: 1.1 IP, 18 pitches, 13 strikes, 2 K. Appeared to throw all fastballs (sit 87-91 MPH; touch 92 MPH) and maybe two sliders (79-81 MPH). Both called strikeouts were on fastballs.
Gillung: Aug 1: 1.1 IP, 29 pitches, 15 strikes, 3 K. Fastball sat 86-89 MPH, touched 92 MPH, and recorded one called strikeout. Changeup was 77-82 MPH and recorded two swinging strikeouts.
Santana: Two games; both with good results. Aug 1: 6 pitches (3 strikes) with a swinging strikeout for his only out. All 87-88 MPH fastballs. Aug 14: 1 IP, 15 pitches, 12 strikes. Fastball was 88-91 MPH and a secondary pitch (slider?) was 78-82 MPH.
Rein: Aug 2: 1 IP, 14 pitches, 6 strikes. Fastball 83-86 MPH. 73-76 MPH curve. Gave up a double on an 86 MPH fastball. No strikeouts and one walk.
|Nuernberg messing up pregame ritual|
Nuernberg: Two games; both 26 pitches; one where he was lit-up for six hits and five earned runs and one where he didn't give up a hit. Aug 2 (bad): 1 IP, 26 pitches, 23 strikes, 1 K. Fastball 87-91 MPH. 76-78 MPH secondary pitch (curve?). One called strikeout was on a 91 MPH fastball. Aug 12 (good): 2 IP, 26 pitches, 16 strikes, 2 K. Fastball was 89-94 MPH with one called and one swinging strikeout. 76-78 MPH curve. 80-81 MPH changeup. Conclusion: Good Dyllon was 2-3 MPH faster than bad Dyllon.
Mills: Two games; both mid 30 pitches; one
where he was lit up with 2 home runs and a double over 2 IP and one where he
gave up just one hit over 1.2 IP.
Aug 1 (good): 1.2 IP, 36
pitches, 22 strikes, 1 K. Fastball
sat 90-93 MPH, touched 94 MPH, and recorded one swinging strikeout. 81-82 MPH secondary pitch. 71-72 MPH curve (twice; one wild pitch
and one ball). Aug 12 (bad): 2 IP, 35 pitches, 24 strikes, 2 K. Fastball sat 84-88 MPH and touched 90
MPH. 78-80 MPH secondary pitch
(slider?) with two swinging strikeouts.
During the "Meet the Cardinals" event in late June, I asked each pitcher what his fastball velocity was and what he thought his best pitches were. Here is a summary of my notes for the relievers (special thanks to Dyllon Nuernberg and Roberto De La Cruz for Spanish translations). Some of the comments were from Pitching Coach Doug White:
Billbrough: No velocity written down. Since he was an undrafted free agent that wasn't even on the roster yet, I was focused on who he was, where he was from, etc. Best pitches: slider > 2-seam/4-seam fastball > changeup > curve.
Wyatt: Submariner with good stuff. Fastball 82-85 MPH. Slider > 2-seam fastball.
Gillung: Fastball sits 87-89 MPH and touches 90 MPH. Changeup > 4-seam fastball.
Santana: Good control. Fastball 90-91 MPH. 2-seam fastball > slider.
Canache: Did well recording outs in extended spring training. Fastball 91-93 MPH. 4-seam fastball > sinker > curve > changeup.
De La Cruz: Fastball sits 85-86 MPH and touches 90 MPH. Curve > 4-seam fastball.
Nuernberg: Gutsy with a good plain. Fastball 90-93 MPH. 4-seam fastball > knuckleball.
Mills: Fastball sits 92-94 MPH and touches 96 MPH. 2-seam fastball > slider > changeup.
The Rankings Explained
#2 Heath Wyatt: In the second third of the season, it
looked like Wyatt was pushing Nuernberg out of the "closer" role. Although, much like
#3 Nick Gillung: The first left hander in the rankings
got a late start to the season and was actually a starter at the end of the
season. In fact, Gillung was named
the Top Pitcher of the Appalachian League postseason ("Gillung: Top Appalachian League
Postseason Pitcher") by Minor League Baseball for
his start in the deciding game of the finals in
#4 Michael Santana: He doesn't look like much on the mound and his roster weight of 155 lbs. might be generous but don't let that fool you. He can get his fastball up there in the low 90s, he has good control, and his slider could become an excellent strikeout pitch. He led the relievers in ERA (1.45), WHIP (1.03), HLD (7), BAA (.202), H/9 (6.7), and groundball percentage of BF (34%). His BABIP (.253) was the lowest of the relievers and might indicate that he was a little bit lucky. He isn't going to strikeout a lot of batters but he is pretty difficult to square-up as well. He was right on the team average age (21.3) so he will probably have difficulty making the Quad Cities roster next year.
#5 Roberto Canache: It was difficult to separate the
Dominican Santana from the Venezuelan Canache (pronounced CUH – NAW – CHAY) in
the rankings. They are basically
the same age, were both used predominantly as set-up men, and performed
similarly. Canache at 6'5" towers
over Santana, who is generously listed at 6'. Canache, a righty, had an interesting
reverse platoon split (.295 BAA vs. RH and .154 BAA vs. LH). In fact, Canache led all the relievers
in BAA vs. LH. Canache led the
relievers in IS% (18%) and demonstrated excellent control (walking just 4.9% of
BF). Much like Santana, he should
get a look at the Quad Cities bullpen but is more likely to end up with
Costantino: He didn't sign until the deadline in
August and he had just 23 BF.
Costantino didn't allow a run during the regular season, pitched three
hitless innings in the playoffs, and will be just 20 yrs. old next weekend. Costantino played for Laconia in the New
England Collegiate Baseball League earlier this summer where he made eight
starts and struck out 60 over 47 innings pitched. Costantino was the postseason MVP of the
league and was ranked the fifth best prospect in the league by Baseball
#7 Manuel De La
lefty in the rankings split his season between
#8 Matt Rein: A late start to the season as a late-signing undrafted free agent put the lefty Rein (pronounced Ryan) at an early disadvantage. He was the oldest reliever (23.3 yrs.), the worst at holding base runners (0% CS%), and the worst at keeping inherited runners from scoring (70% IS%). His .390 BABIP would indicate that he was pretty unlucky and on a positive note, he allowed no home runs and led the relievers with an 11.7 SO/9. His velocity is quite low but he obviously has a very good off-speed strikeout pitch that could keep him in the organization for a few more years.
#9 Dyllon Nuernberg: He just turned 20 yrs. old a month before the season began and he has very good velocity. However, he was very inconsistent during the season and he struggled with his control (5 HBP, 8 WP, and 4.1 BB/9). His fastball is pretty straight and was relatively hittable most of the time. He really didn't have a good strikeout pitch and he would regularly see deep pitch counts per batter and lots of foul balls. His velocity and age will allow him to see a lot of work with the minor league coaches who should focus him on his command and a good secondary pitch. Although he says he has a good knuckleball and Pitching Coach Doug White indicated at the start of the season that he would be allowed to throw it, I don't think that happened. Most knuckleball pitchers don't have a mid-90s fastball to fall back on when the knuckler isn't knuckling. Nuernberg will have plenty of time in the future to work on it if the fastball fails him.
#10 Tyler Mills: He is another high-velocity, low-command project for the minor league coaches who really struggled this year. Mills had more walks than strikeouts to go with his 2.1 HR/9 and 7.19 FIP. He will be 22 yrs. old before next season begins so the pressure is on to figure something out next spring.
Reliever Regular Season League Leaders
Heath Wyatt (23 G, t-2nd).
Michael Santana (21 G, t-7th).
Roberto Canache (21 G, t-7th).
Heath Wyatt (8 SV, 3rd).
Michael Santana (7 HLD, t-1st).
Roberto Canache (6 HLD, t-3rd).
Heath Wyatt (3 HLD, t-8th).
Dyllon Nuernberg (3 HLD, t-8th).
Manuel De La Cruz (3 HLD, t-8th).
Nick Gillung (3 HLD, t-8th).
Heath Wyatt (15 GF, t-4th).
Nick Gillung (0.00 HR/9 over 26 IP, 6th).
Logan Billbrough (6.33 SO/BB, 3rd, minimum 27.2 IP).
The relievers for the playoffs (in order of IP) were Billbrough, Costantino, Santana, Canache, Wyatt, and Nuernberg. Gillung was used as a starter and Rein and Mills were not used.
The relievers combined for a 2.02 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 5.4 BB/9, and 8.8 SO/9 over 13.1 IP (30% of the total). They recorded two saves (Wyatt and Billbrough) and one blown save (Santana) in five games. Their ERA and SO/9 were significantly better than the starters (3.52 ERA and 6.2 SO/9) but their WHIP and BB/9 were worse (1.01 WHIP and 2.9 BB/9).
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