2004 Player Reviews: RP

2004 Player Reviews: RP
Alan Embree Embree came over in a trade with the San Diego Padres back in 2002, shortly after Embree turned in a dominating interleague outing against the Yankees. We got Andy Shibilo for Brad Baker (We’ll regret this one 10 years later when Baker is the best closer in the game) and Dan Giese (now with PHI and had a strong AAA season at 27 years old). In 2002, Alan Embree gave us a 2.97 ERA in 33 IP, then 55 IP with a 4.25 ERA last year. This year, he gave us 53 IP with a 4.13 ERA. I thought that Embree lucked out quite a bit this past year. To me, his velocity had dipped, and became more hittable. He did. His H/9 went up from 8 to 8.4, and his K/9 went from 7.4 to 6.4. So why the dip in ERA? Well, he now has a lot more control. He dropped from 2.6 W/9 to a tiny 1.9. That’s pretty good.
Embree was traded for to compete against the Yankees. Did he do that this year? You betcha, hurling 7.1 IP against them (second most the entire season, trailed by 8.1 IP against Baltimore) with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP, and a .083 BAA. Take out every single interleague game, and Embree’s ERA is a tidy 3.10. That’s right. 3.10. So Embree was extremely effective against American League hitters. I was speaking to Sam the other day, saying that Embree kind of scares me in the 2005 season, thinking he could implode.
Suffice it to say that Embree still scares me, but at how good he is against American League hitters. Trivia to know down the road – Alan Embree was the pitcher when the Red Sox clinched the ALCS. (Ruben Sierra grounded out to Pokey Reese who threw to Doug Mientkiewicz.)
Mike Timlin Another person I wasn’t too high on was Mike Timlin. Oh don’t get me wrong, I like Mike Timlin. He was a constant in the bullpen woes of 2003, giving us a 3.55 ERA in 84 IP. He took a step back this year, though, throwing 76 IP with a 4.13 ERA. His H/9 went from 8.3 to 8.8, W/9 from 1.0 to 2.2, K/9 from 7.0 to 6.6 and WHIP from 1.03 to 1.23. There’s no denying that he is still a good reliever, but it’s time to start utilizing Timlin as more of a middle reliever than set-up man, as he was in both 2003 and in 2004 after Scott Williamson got injured. Granted, Matt Mantei is an injury waiting to happen, but I’m hopeful that Byung-Hyun Kim can step it up this year.
Keith Foulke It still baffles me how Keith Foulke lost his job. Earth to “baseball-minded” people – 100 mph gas and 7’0″ tall people do not translate to success. If a pitcher who is 5’5″ and throws 89 MPH puts up a 1.58 ERA year after year is available, you take him.
Not that Keith Foulke is 5’5″. But 89 MPH is pretty much what his fastest pitch is. Drafted by the San Francisco Giants, it took him three years to make it to the majors, throwing 45 IP with an 8.26 ERA. Trivia fact – Keith Foulke had a great career as a starting pitcher in the minors, and started 8 games for the Giants. In the infamous White Flag trade of the Chicago White Sox, they traded Wilson Alvarez to the Giants for Lorenzo Barcelo, Mike Caruso, Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, and Brian Manning. Foulke was used as a reliever, and put up a 4.13 ERA in 29 IP of work. The next year, he was Alan Embree, logging 65 IP of work with a 4.13 ERA. He became a relief ace with a 2.22 IP in 105 IP in 1999 at 26. He then began his two-year string as White Sox closer, saving 34 and 42 games. I speak with Vince Galloro on occasion, and one day he mentioned that Foulke lost his job because then manager Jerry Manuel just didn’t think Foulke could do the job. Gotta be kidding me. Foulke had a 2.90 ERA in the year he lost his job, in 2002. He saved 11 games and pitched 78 IP. He, Mark Johnson, and Joe Valentine were traded to the Athletics for Billy Koch and 2 players to be named later.
He saved 43 games for the Athletics, then became a free agent. It went down to either Oakland or Boston, but Boston does what it does so well – wooed Foulke away from the Athletics by meeting with him personally, going to Bruins games with him, the stops were all pulled out and the possibility of making history. As Keith Foulke said after the Sox won the World Series – “I came here to be a part of history, and we did it. Now they can take that curse and stick it where the sun don’t shine.”
Foulke was a big part of doing it, as he saved 32 games. A far cry from 43? Yes, but we used him as a relief ace, and brilliantly. A 2.17 ERA with 83 IP, and 61 games. No matter what anyone says, his lack of speed does not translate to ineffectiveness, as someone thinks it will (scroll to 2005 projections). I’ll remember his 2.2 IP in Game 4 of the ALCS forever. I was hanging on to every pitch, awed he was pitching this much and shutting down the opposition. There are four things I remember very clearly about the game. Dave Roberts’ steal, Bill Mueller’s tying single, David Ortiz’s winning home-run, and Foulke’s three innings of domination.
So thanks to the three cogs of the bullpen. Thanks a ton.

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