Thursday, September 10, 2009

Niemann deserves better support

Jeff Niemann, the best pitcher on the Rays staff, will have nothing to show for this season except maybe a bump to the fourth or third spot in the rotation next season.

He leads the staff in wins (12), complete games (2) and shutouts (2), and should be among the league leader in wins if not for a bullpen that continues to let him down.

In his last five games in which he received a no-decision, Niemann turned a lead over to the bullpen four times. The other game was a 1-1 tie.

You can argue manager Joe Maddon should let Niemann pitch deeper. You can also argue the bullpen has been particularly horrible when following Niemann to the mound. Take away three of the blown saves and Niemann is 15 wins.

That would make Niemann the leader in the AL Rookie of the Year race.

Grant Balfour is usually the culprit, getting the loss or letting the trying run score in four of Niemann's last five no decisions.

Nothing cause Rays fans to wince more than seeing Maddon walk to the mound to pull Niemann when the big righty has the lead.

Niemann has a 3.24 ERA in his last five no-decisions. Take away the inherited runners the bullpen allowed to score that were charged to Big Jeff, and his ERA is 1.01.

Can a pitcher sue his bullpen for lack of support?

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