Why Moving Sosa to the Bullpen Won’t Help

Yesterday, Bobby Cox announced that he is moving Jorge Sosa to the bullpen. It’s sort of a strange move considering that both Sosa and the bullpen have been bad. [Insert Titanic-deck-chair cliche here.] Some people have high hopes for Sosa in this role, possibly as a closer, because of his “stuff”—a quality that always makes me roll my eyes when it’s mentioned. By putting him in one-inning situations, Sosa can throw harder for a shorter period of time. There’s nothing wrong with that logic, either. You could also point out that Sosa pitches better in the first inning than in any other inning that he pitches. Take a look:

Inning		AVG	OBP	SLG	OPS
Inning 1	0.234	0.250	0.511	0.761
Inning 1-3	0.283	0.321	0.507	0.828
Inning 4-6	0.341	0.367	0.619	0.986
Inning 7-9	0.333	0.500	0.444	0.944

While a .761 OPS-allowed isn’t necessarily something to be proud of, he’s clearly pitching better earlier in the game than later. The idea is that he gets fatigued as the game goes on; thus, he should he should pitch better in short relief stints. But before anyone gets too excited, take a look at his first inning numbers a little more closely.

Inning		AB	HR	BB	K
Inning 1	47	4	1	10
Inning 1-3	152	9	10	26
Inning 4-6	126	8	8	19
Inning 7-9	9	0	2	0

The strikeout-to-walk ratio is nice, but the FOUR home runs is not good. That’s about 3 HR per 9 IP, which is Travis Smith bad. But the news only gets worse. Look at his numbers by pitches.

Pitches	AB	HR	BB	SO	AVG	OBP	SLG	OPS
1-15	44	4	1	9	0.273	0.283	0.568	0.851
16-30	51	4	5	6	0.216	0.281	0.451	0.732
31-45	54	2	4	11	0.370	0.407	0.611	1.018
46-60	42	1	4	7	0.310	0.354	0.429	0.783
61-75	44	2	1	4	0.318	0.313	0.568	0.881
76-90	31	2	4	6	0.258	0.343	0.548	0.891
91-105	23	2	2	2	0.478	0.519	0.826	1.345
106-120	3	0	1	0	0.333	0.500	0.333	0.833

In his first 15 pitches he’s been pretty darn bad. When I see him running out of the bullpen, I’m not going to have any more comfort than I have had. I doubt the Braves are expecting much either. This move is more about improving the starting rotation than improving the bullpen. Chuck James needs a place to pitch, and it was either him or HoRam. The bottom line is that Sosa just isn’t a very good pitcher. He’s certainly better than some, and he does have some value, but there is not much here to get excited about. Hopefully, he’ll prove me wrong.

6 Responses “Why Moving Sosa to the Bullpen Won’t Help”

  1. A.West says:

    Hopefully he was “saving himself” for the full game when starting the first inning. A pitchers first inning when he’s preparing to pitch a full game versus when he’s preparing to pitch one or two innings is different, and not necessarily comparable statistically. Smoltz didn’t bother pacing himself when closing for one inning. We’ll see whether Sosa improves when he no longer has to pace himself.

  2. Frank says:

    Sure the move will help–it’s addition by subtraction. You’re spot on in saying the gain from this move is about getting James into the rotation. Sosa will still be lousy but he’ll be taking bullpen innings from other lousy pitchers. Meanwhile we’ll see James every 5th day, an important part of assessing the existing talent and rebuilding for 2007.

  3. JC says:

    Ok, so it will help. But this team needs HELP!

  4. Jeff says:

    Personally, I think the better addition to the bullpen would have been Thomson. Yes, he’s a valuable starter when he’s going well (and he’ll get back to it, I’m sure). But he seems to have a stamina issue this year (about 5 innings or so) which is probably a result of his early injury issues this year. To me, we might be able to fix a serious problem (the 7th and 8th innings) by putting him there where he can throw lights out and then get out. He was pretty good in the pen earlier this year (and yes I know it was a small sample). Sosa, too, might benefit as well. Remember that he spent an awful lot of time this off season in the bullpen, rather than building up arm strength. So, one inning bursts may be better for him. The thing is, as you note J.C., he’s not that good (he was awfully lucky last year).

  5. Trace Wood says:

    Another thing to remember about Sosa is that he’s a converted everyday player and has had only 47 minor league innings total. I’m guessing it’s pretty tough to learn how to pitch when a) you’ve never been limited to a single role for a full season, b) you’ve recieved relatively very little instruction and c) you’ve had to learn everything while facing the best hitters on Earth.

    He’s fairly adept with getting out of jams. Of course, there’s a limit to how many times one can tempt fate. I suspect he will do pretty well as the closer except on those occasions when he faces Carlos Delgado.

  6. Pablo says:

    JC what are you talking about? Sosa seems to be doing great so far! Just 2 HR’s in 5 ip, one being a walk off that just happened. Just what you want from a solid closer.