The Lava Lamp 2018: Bullpen

The Lava Lamp 2018: Bullpen

Most Padre watchers likely imagined that the 2018 bullpen would have a very different look from the 2017 bullpen. Both breakout star Brad Hand, as well as pleasant surprise Craig Stammen, looked to be on their way out of San Diego and into more interesting jerseys, either through trade or free agency. Kirby Yates put together a respectable half season and was looking like trade bait as well.  However, both Hand and Stammen somehow managed to find their way back onto the Padres’ roster with new contracts, and Kirby Yates pitched well enough to stay on the team but poorly enough to not get shipped off. With a few notable exceptions, we can expect most of last year’s group of firemen to return this year. This shouldn’t be cause for too much excitement. While the K/9-BB/9 rate was decent, the squad as a whole were ranked second to last on Fangraphs based on WAR with .5. (better than only Detroit, which ain’t saying much). Still, you dance with who brought ya, and the Padres, ready or not, are going dancin’, so let’s break down the relievers who are slipping corsages on our wrists.

Let’s start with the closer!

Brad “Scuffy” Hand

The man who launched a thousand manual stimulation jokes.

It’s weird to think that this closer position, as maligned as it is, is one that the Padres have seemed to fill with somewhat quality players for a while. Brad Hand was a surprise entrant to this lineage that includes Hoffman, Bell, Huston Street, even Gossage and Rollie Fingers going back far enough (though neither Fingers nor Gossage were closers in the truest sense of the word).

The Padres picked up Hand after the Marlins DFA’d him out of spring training. I wonder if there’s a Marlins Haiku writer out there somewhere who looks at Brad Hand and thinks “Oh that’s so Marlins! Gave a lefty reliever his walking papers and he turns himself into an all-star, why do I even care about this team?!!??” Then I look up @MarlinsHaiku on twitter and I remember, no one cares about the Marlins. Not even Marlins Man who can be seen everywhere but an actual Marlins game.

Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

Anyway, Brad is good and he’s durable. Putting up a 2.16 ERA and appearing in 72 games 2017 (that’s a lot). He’s the Padre closer this year or at least until he gets traded, which is what we said all last year too. Hand resigned with the team for three years at a little less than 20 million, which keeps both Brotato and team happy. Honestly, contending teams might not turn their nose at this contract either if they’re looking to upgrade their left-handed relief options but the extension likely means Brad is going to be a Padre for a while. So without further ado:

The last thing you want in Relief is a White-Knuckle situation, especially in a game that’s been a real Squeezer. When you want the Job done right Hand is your man. His curve has the Midas Touch but he really Peels the Bone out of the batter’s hands with his slider, as well as the Old Fashioned fastball. With Hand on the bump, you can count on him to Button the Mutton 1-2-3. Then watch as the whole team gives each other Royal Handshakes after a Smooth Finish at a Medium Pace… I’m not Pulling your Pork either.

Second up is…

Craig “Reggae-Man” Stammen

Stammen’s 2017 campaign started rough and with free agency looming it didn’t look like 2018 was going to be especially lucrative for him. Enter pitching coach and practitioner of black magic Darren Balsley, who “fixed” some part of his delivery. With some early season struggles behind him, Craig turned himself from a long relief/mop-up arm into a decent middle-inning reliever. Stammen’s prominence grew in the bullpen after Maurer and Buchter, two bullpen fixtures, got moved to Kansas City when he became the set-up man for Brad Hand. Stammen proved his mettle, especially in bases-loaded situations, and cashed it to the tune of a 2 year $2.25MM contract this past January. Thank you, Darren Balsley and your witches brew of an eye of newt, toe of frog, six pack of Coors light and a little rosen powder. I guess you want to know why his name is rasta man, don’t you? Well here you go:

To the tune of Bob Marley’s Jammin’

Oh, yeah, well, alright

He’s Stammen

He throws a sinker to you

He’s Stammen, Stammen

And I hope you like Stammen too

In a jam, on the mound

Batters put it on the ground

As most Sinker ballers do

And every batter pays the price

Facing Craig just isn’t nice

Stammen till the inning’s through

He’s Stammen


Next up is…

Kazuhisa “The Tool Man” Makita

Ok First things first is it Kaz or Maki? Because I’ve seen both. Not that I’m complaining, I’m a haiku writer after all, so syllable flexibility in a name is a nice thing to bring to the table. The obvious thing to note about Maki is his Instagram account. It’s superb. Check out these IG posts:

Sunset pics?


Fun Filters?

Food Pictures (possible entrants for #PadresMeatTwitter)?


Pics with cute guys?


The man is killing it on the Gram.

He also had the number that Hosmer is wearing now (30). I want to know if Hosmer just asked for the number and Maki gave it to him or if there was some bartering/purchasing of the digit.

I guess it’s important to note that he was the closer the Japanese team in the WBC and that he went undrafted out of college but is now here in San Diego with a major-league team. Dreams do come true.

Oh one more thing, his fastball is going to be the slowest in the major leagues. By a lot. Hotdog venders toss their wares faster than Kaz does a baseball. But I suppose when the ball leaves his hand it’s 17 feet below the Earth’s mantle making it tricky for batters to see even if it is moving slower than {the second act of Call Me By Your Name.- my kid getting ready for preschool-an Amish drag race- my iphone now- me coming up with things that are slow} With the ball moving so slow and all the time it takes to put that wind-up together, I fear base runners will have a field day stealing bags. We shall see.

Moving on to…

Kirby “Your Enthusiasm” Yates

So last year Yates started out as more than just an effective reliever he was, actually pretty good. Yates had a sub 3 ERA in May and June and a 0.84 ERA in July. Then he didn’t get traded at the deadline and took his frustrations out on padre fans. He started pitching like garbage, posting a 12.19 ERA in the month of August. Eventually he righted the ship and finished on a high note. The theme of starting strong, falling into an abyss, and crawling out seems to be a theme with the Kirb-Stomper. He went to high school in Hawaii and got drafted by the Red Sox out of high school; to me, this is spectacular start to life, let alone a baseball career. But instead of signing with Boston he opted to go to college, which is a decision I can get behind, except that college was Yavapai Collage, a Junior Collage in Prescott, Arizona. Going from Hawaii to Arizona seems like a backward step but the Yavapai Roughriders do have a good JC program with several major leaguers on their alumni list. Unfortunately, he missed a JC national title game with Tommy John Surgery. He went undrafted out of college but got signed by the Rays bounced around a bit but finally landed in the Gaslamp Quarter like a sailor on payday. He forces batters to swing and miss at a high rate which makes him very desirable.  If he starts 2018 the way he started 2017, he probably gets dealt at some point this season; such is life for a big league relief pitcher. (I can’t believe I just did that whole paragraph without a single Nintendo reference.)

Next is everyone’s favorite wind-up artist…

Carter “It’s not a balk, ok?” Capps

The guy keisters the ball for a second, crow hops off the mound and delivers the pitch from about 50 feet five inches. It’s beautiful and mesmerizing and the league changed a rule to forbid it in the future. He has supposedly toned down the delivery motion, hopefully this means he gets hurt less; I cant imagine doing a flamenco routine every time he hurls the ball is easy on the body. Scuttlebutt around Padres twitter was that he was a likely trade piece last season (sensing a theme) but ended up getting hurt, again, and destroying any value he had. He’s probably in the same position as was last year: coming off injury, trying to make it through a whole season looking to get traded to a contender.

Next up is…

Phil “Posh Spice” Maton

Posh got drafted in the 20th round of the 2015 draft and cruised through the minor leagues landing with the big league club halfway through 2017. I’ve read articles about his spin rate but maybe this is where some of the analytics get a little noisey. His spin rate is great which paid off in the minors and at the very beginning of his time with San Diego but major league hitters figured him out quickly and started turning his fastballs into souvenirs. Luckily, he’s still very young and the aforementioned warlock/pitching coach Balsley might be able to improve his secondary pitches. I hear he throws a sinker from time to time, maybe Randy Jones can spend some time with him to teach him how to throw a better sinker and wear ostrich skin boots.

Posh Spice? Dude never smiles, Fowler must hate that.

Lets be honest, it’s still March and not everyone with a number on his back is going to go north with the team. There are a handful of bubble guys that honestly might not make the team but are worth at least a little ink here, so I give you:

And All The Rest…

Buddy Bauman:

He throws a bunch of different pitches but gets hit around the yard a bunch. He’s also been prone to getting hurt so don’t expect too much from Buddy in the near future. He is a former Royal though so he should fit in just fine on the Padres. Seems like spending time in the KC farm system is a prerequisite to be on the 2018 40-man roster in San Diego.


He was one of the pieces in the Yonder Alonso trade that brought Pomeranz and Jabari Blash to the Padres. That trade was a major building block to the current padres re-build and no one much noticed at the time save for Yonder Alonso enthusiasts and Blashaholics.  He pitched a bunch of innings for the Padres last year second to only Brad Hand. I think he probably makes the squad this year as a lefty option but doesn’t see a great deal of high leverage situations.

Kyle McGrath:

Kyle is a junk ball lefty with an exaggerated delivery. What’s up with all the different and weird win-ups in this bull pen? He basically forces his body into the shape of a cobra on each pitch, which seems like a recipe for a strained oblique. I bet his stretching regimen is intense. Like 4 hours of hot yoga a day intense. He was a September call up last year and has a chance to make the team out of Peoria this year but is likely headed to the minors. When you do math you choose McGrath for El Paso.

Miguel Diaz:

Diaz was one of the three rule five guys that stayed on the roster all year last year; the others were Cordoba and Torrens. The team tried turning him into a starter and he got hurt. Diaz wasn’t ready for the majors last year and still probably isn’t this year. I hope he enjoys bus rides across Texas because he’s probably headed to the minors.

Colton Brewer:

He hasn’t made his MLB debut yet. Look, the guy’s first name is Colton; this will play well in San Diego. As long as he is brewing locally sourced cutters , artisanal curveballs, and sour ales spiced with a mid 90’s fastball.

Alan Springdale:

Alan struggled after coming up from AAA El Paso last season but settled into a groove and pitched 18.2 scoreless innings at one point. One thing to note is that he only pitches from the stretch, which keeps runners from stealing bases. Another interesting factoid about Alan is that he doesn’t exist. I made him up, but doesn’t he sound like a guy that could be competing for a bullpen spot? It’s March, there’s too many spring games to go and some of these guys are going to get cut, or hurt, or traded. Don’t get too attached to some of these bullpen arms. It’s like really getting into the back-story of a red shirt on Star Trek or any character on Game of Thrones.

Follow Nicholas Burmeister on Twitter @PadresHaiku

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