What I Expect From the A’s Bullpen This Year

Last week we analyzed the starting pitchers of the A’s staff. Now let’s take a look at the bullpen. The Athletics bullpen last year posted an abysmal 4.01 ERA.


Two weeks ago, manager Bob Melvin  said, “We might not have a particular closer,” according to MLB.com’s Jane Lee. Although Ryan Madson was the A’s  closer for most of last year, appearing in 63 games and going 30 for 37 in save opportunities, there were still four other pitchers who earned a save as well: Zach Neal, Sean Doolittle, John Axford, and Ryan Dull.

If Madson wants to continue his role as the 9th inning man and return to the player that he was in Philly, he needs to knock down that ERA (3.62) and WHIP (1.28). Oakland needs a sturdy and reliable piece to go to and the possibility that Madson’s the only option is not promising.

I believe Curt Young should continue molding Sean Doolittle, with his plus fastball and his 9th inning level slider, and make the transition from set-up man to closer.

2017 season line for Ryan Madson: 52 IP, 19-25 for saves, 3.97 ERA, 31 SO

2017 season line for Sean Doolittle: 69 IP, 30-34 for saves, 3.17 ERA, 81 SO


New acquisition, Santiago Casilla, is currently waiting on his final paperwork to leave the Dominican Republic and join the A’s in Mesa. I have no clue why we are paying this guy $11 mil over two years but maybe he can salvage his 2016 campaign and become a solid presence in the bullpen. After nine blown saves a complete collapse in the last two months of the year, I don’t know why Dave Kaval and Beane would invest in the 36-year-old. I find myself saying that a lot about the A’s front office decisions (Donaldson, Moss, Kazmir, Norris, Milone, A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Rich Hill, Otero, and Addison Russell).

Look to see John Axford and Liam Hendriks  put out mediocre numbers as well. The only positive things I see in the A’s bullpen is Ryan Dull, Zach Neal and Daniel Coulombe.

Ryan Dull, 27, was absolutely amazing for the A’s last year, pitching for 74 1/3 innings with just a 2.42 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. This should come as no surprise however as Dull was a stud in the minors with AAA Nashville and AA Midland, posting a 2.07 career ERA. I expect Dull to really blossom into one of the top 7th inning men in the game.

Zach Neal served as a solid piece in the pen in the 2016 campaign as well as a swingman. 28-year-old Neal worked as multi-inning reliever and made some emergency starts as well last year. A positive about Neal is that he doesn’t give free rides, allowing only 6 walks in 70 innings last year. However, Neal was DFA’d last month to make room for newly signed Plouffe and Casilla and probably won’t make an appearance during the season unless he has an awesome spring or a player has to be put on the DL. It’s also possible that Neal’s 2016 be his only good year in the majors. I don’t think it will take long for hitters to figure out his pitch to contact strategy. Also, the fact that Oakland already has plenty of swingmen and long relievers (Cotton, Mengden, Triggs, Hahn, and Alcantra) does not help. Sadly, Neal is falling down the depth chart rapidly.

Dan Coulombe, 27, a rare lefty that’s a right-handed hitting specialist, threw for an ERA just above 4.50 in 2016. But surprisingly, opposing right-handed hitters hit for a .204 batting average against him. Coloumbe doesn’t have overpowering stuff (93 mph fastball) but he has a really good cutter that he relies heavily upon and a solid changeup. Look for him to make some drastic improvements in 2017.

Jesse Hahn, Raul Alcantra, and Chris Bassit will most likely be making some appearances this year in both the pen and rotation as well.

2017 season line for Santiago Casilla: 48 IP, 4.42 ERA. 1.86 WHIP, 53 SO

2017 season line for Ryan Dull: 75 IP, 2.23 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 67 SO

2017 season line for Daniel Coulombe:  52 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 53 SO

2017 season line for John Axford: 55 IP, 3.72 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 53 SO

2017 season line for Liam Hendriks: 67 IP, 3.69 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 62 SO

Reliability and consistency is what’s most important in the bullpen for obvious reasons and the A’s lack that. There are no Fernando Abad’s or Dan Otero’s in this pen and that will wind up hurting them.

Overall, I expect the A’s bullpen to not blow anyone away but not be blown away. They will keep them in games but if it’s 2-1 or 2-2 going into the 8th inning, the outcome is a toss up.



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