Jeff Ridgway and the 2007 D-Rays Bullpen

If you troll through Reds message boards and comments on Facebooks (I don’t know how our Scott Kelly does it), you’ll notice that while fans accept that this team was going to stink, they didn’t realize how pungent their aroma would be. They also had no idea that the bullpen would be this foul.

A bunch of whoziwhats and ohitshims have occupied the bullpen in Cincinnati this year. Guys like AJ Morris, Drew Hayes, Dayan Diaz and Layne Somsen have tried their hand on the mound.

There’s one bullpen of recent vintage that’s similar to this pen, and one pitcher in particular seemed like an apt comparison to the guys listed above.

On September 17, 2007, after eight seasons in the minors, 27-year old Jeff Ridgway took the mound for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They were at Anaheim, and Ridgway was called into duty as the third pitcher of the night for the visitors. Edwin Jackson had given up 14 hits and seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, and Grant Balfour had just given up a walk and a single in the bottom of the sixth. That single was misplayed by BJ Upton and a run scored on the error, making the score 8-6.

Ridgway faced Casey Kotchman with a man on third and one out. The game was still in reach for the Devil Rays. Kotchman singled to center scoring a run, and then Howie Kendrick crushed a ball to deep center for a triple. Joe Maddon replaced Ridgway, whose debut wound up short and bitter. He threw five pitches, allowed an inherited runner to score, and left with an infinite ERA.

Ridgway appeared in two more games for Tampa Bay that year. On September 21st, he came into a game against Boston to start the ninth and gave up a walk, hit a batter, and allowed a home run by David Ortiz. Against the Yankees on the 26th, Ridgway started the sixth inning, and gave up four hits in five batters. He finally recorded an out though as he induced a pop up by Alex Rodriguez.

The 2007 total for Ridgway was 3 games, 1/3 innings pitched, 189.00 ERA.

This is not to pick on Ridgway. He was a loyal organizational soldier who overcame arm injuries to become a good relief pitcher in AA and AAA, and in 2008 pitched 10 decent innings for the Braves. What those outings were are a great illustration of the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays bullpen.

Cannon fodder.

There have been bad bullpens throughout history, and some seasons have been lost because of them. By some measures, that 2007 Devil Rays bullpen wasn’t even the worst in baseball that year (hello, Baltimore). What’s remarkable about that bullpen is two-fold:

A. Tampa Bay rebounded from a 66-96 team with a bullpen that had a -7.2 WAR to a World Series team that had the fourth best bullpen in terms of WAR in the AL in 2008.

B. They weren’t young guys that got better in 2008. The Devil Rays turned over almost their entire bullpen for 2008. The relief pitchers in 2007 were, to a man, older than the regular rotation used in 2007 save one – 24 year old Jae Kuk Ryu.

The regular five man rotation – James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Andy Sonnastine, Edwin Jackson, and Jason Hammel, were 25 or younger. JP Howell started 10 games and was 24. Two other pitchers started for the Rays were older – Casey Fossum and Jae Weong Seo, but they started less than Hammel.

Of that bullpen, closer Alberto Reyes was 36. Gary Glover was 30. Fossum 29. Brian Stokes was 27. Shawn Camp was 31. Juan Salas, 28. Scott Dohmann, 29. Dan Wheeler was also 29. Etc. Etc.

They also weren’t long for MLB, for the most part. Here are the last years in the majors for the above:

2008 – Reyes, Glover, Salas, Dohmann

2009 – Fossum

2010 – Stokes

2012 – Wheeler

2014 – Camp

Wheeler is the only one who really made an impact for Tampa Bay after that year, putting together some good years for the contending teams even though he was 0-5 with 3 blown saves and allowed 56% of his inherited runners to score after being acquired for Ty Wiggington in 2007.

Camp, through bribery or guile, or something, lasted until 2014 despite a 7.20 ERA in 2007.

The Reds bullpen in 2016 is just as stinky. They’re also a bit older than the rotation, especially the cannon fodder like Diaz, Somsen, Hayes and Morris (all of them are between 27 and 29 and made their debut this year). We could be seeing the same thing happen with the 2016 Reds as the 2007 Devil Rays. A bad bullpen sent out there to sop up innings and beatings, while the young, good arms escape with their lives.

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