MLB relief pitchers are getting more respect than they did back in Joba Chamberlain’s day.
It wasn’t that long ago that the 10-year veteran pitcher retired in 2016, but he has noticed the players coming out of the bullpen now are getting the recognition they deserve.
“When I came into the game, there were only two dudes throwing 100 [mph], it was me, and Joel Zumaya,” Joba Chamberlain said on the latest episode of ‘Balk Talk.’ “Now -- it’s like, if you’re not throwing 100, they’re like ‘What are you doing? You’re not even part of this bullpen.’”
[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
The A’s have proved Chamberlain's point recently. The fastball velocity from A’s bullpen arms averages 94.1 miles per hour, good for the 12th highest in the league. While it’s not always about the velocity coming out of the bullpen that changes the game, those relief arms in Oakland are 3-0 to start the season.
“If you look what’s transpired over the last, probably 10 years, I think they’ve put an emphasis on how much bullpens are important and how they can shorten the game,” Chamberlain said.
With a 60-game season underway, reliable relief arms are more important than prior seasons. Every pitch matters, and it’s noticeable when those relievers aren’t available.
A’s manager Bob Melvin admitted that he’s dipped into his bullpen quite a bit since the start of the season. That happens, especially with every game amplified. But we’re getting to the point where the starters are able to go deeper into games, which is great news for starters and relievers alike.
[RELATED: Luzardo to make first MLB start next week]
The monetary respect is there as well. Over the last couple of seasons, there have been trends where relief pitchers were getting paid more than starters. The A’s, along with the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres and even the New York Yankees, spent more on their relievers than starters in 2018.
It doesn't sound like that will change anytime soon.
“I think there is a very, very valuable aspect of what people are putting on the backend of the bullpen. More so now than 10, 15 years ago,” Chamberlain said.