Thinking back to 2015 used to be taboo for Oakland A's fans. It was a year in which everything went wrong and the team finished in the cellar. These days, though, it's not so bad, as in hindsight 2015 seems like a magical time when the A's only lost by one run every day instead of 10.
But even still, none of us will ever forget that 2015 bullpen. There's no need to rehash all the ways it was bad or all the things it did wrong. If you were there you remember, and if you weren't then you can never understand. Sean Doolittle essentially missed the season, Tyler Clippard got crammed into the closer role, and a collection of seemingly good 6th inning pitchers got completely overmatched in the 7th and 8th innings.
There were two relievers in particular, though, who seemed to me like they hurt the most: Dan Otero and Fernando Abad. When I ran the numbers last winter, I came up with four relievers who did the most damage. The list included those two guys, plus Evan Scribner and Edward Mujica. But Scribner had always been a fringe guy and entered the year as the last arm in the pen, and Mujica was a desperate emergency midseason reinforcement who spent most of his time driving a tank around the stadium. They were never supposed to be huge parts of the plan anyway.
Otero, on the other hand, was coming off a two-year run with a 2.01 ERA (and 2.92 FIP) in 125⅔ inning. Abad had just posted a 1.57 ERA for the A's the previous season, with a 3.40 K/BB rate and only four homers. Both had done most of their 2014 work in the 7th and 8th innings, and while they weren't full-fledged set-up men they were still supposed to be the kinds of quality role players who help make a pen strong and deep.
Instead, Otero posted a 6.75 ERA thanks to allowing more than 12 hits per nine innings, and Abad served up 11 homers in 47⅔ innings en route to a 5.50 FIP. They combined to blow four of their nine save/hold situations. Overall they both looked irreparably awful, as if their past successes had been complete flukes never to be repeated, and as such they were both unceremoniously let go last winter. Relying on them in 2015 was the right decision to make based on their careers to that point, but cutting ties after the year was the only option.
Let's see how they're doing with their new teams this year.
Otero, 2016 (Cle): 10 games, 1.59 ERA, 11⅓ ip, 9 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR, 8 hits
Abad, 2016 (Min): 16 games, 0.63 ERA, 14⅓ ip, 14 Ks, 4 BB, 0 HR, 9 hits
Oh c'mon. It's not that the A's need those performances on their own 2016 team, as the revamped pen has been one of the only faintly bright spots on the roster so far, but the 2015 squad sure needed them. Where the hell were those numbers last year when Oakland was flailing?
In case you're curious about some of the other members of last year's trainwreck, Scribner, Mujica, and Ryan Cook haven't yet thrown a pitch in either the majors or minors this year, with Scribbles and Cook injured. Tyler Clippard has been fine, but he was fine for the A's last year too. Venditte, O'Flaherty, and Leon have all been briefly terrible in 2016, but again, they were never crucial cogs in the machine. Here's one guy who never quite put it together in Oakland, though, in either the rotation or the pen:
Drew Pomeranz, 2016 (SD): 7 starts, 1.80 ERA, 40 ip, 51 Ks, 19 BB, 2 HR, 24 hits
Now you're just mocking us, baseball gods. And before you scream "Petco Park!" let me note that only two of those seven starts have come at his friendly home, and he's already conquered the terrifying Coors and Wrigley.
This has been your periodic reminder that bullpens, like life, are completely unfair and should not be taken seriously for analytic purposes. They are utter random number generators due primarily to their small sample sizes, and their quality will swing a team's record significantly in a given season based on little more than a dice roll. Is this the year Dan Otero will post a 6.75 ERA, or a sub-2.00? The answer to that question will be delivered by a Magic 8-Ball and it will largely decide the fate of your team's season.
Now whatever you do, don't look up Brett Lawrie's numbers in Chicago.