MLB Bullpens That Burn Money
by Trevor Whenham - 06/26/2007
There is nothing in the world, and I do mean nothing, that is more annoying than watching your team take a lead, hold it into the later innings, only to have the bullpen throw it away. I'm sure that the landfills of North America are full of televisions with fist-sized holes through the screens because of bettors' frustration caused by just such a situation. A substandard bullpen can make the difference between a postseason team and a team that wishes the season ended in August.
A team like the Red Sox show how valuable a bullpen can be. They have the best record in the league in large part due to their bullpen - a 9-3 record and 24 saves in 27 tries. There are a lot of other teams, a shocking number really, that could stand to have a much better bullpen. There are three bullpens, though, that have shown a particular skill for taking a bettor's money, putting it in a pile, dousing it with gasoline, and burning it up. Here are three teams that should refund bettor's money because they are worse than they should be thanks to their relief arms:
San Francisco - The Giants are ice cold, and the bullpen is doing nothing to thaw them out. The relievers have a combined record of 6-12, they have blown eight save chances and their 13 saves are only better than the Yankees and Houston. The most mystifying thing about this bullpen is that it isn't entirely clear why they stink so badly.
Their .240 opposing batting average isn't the best in the league, but it is far from the worst. Their 3.48 ERA is the fourth best in the majors. They have 157 strikeouts compared to 83 walks - not a spectacular ratio, but far from disastrous. On paper, in other words, this relief squad should be serviceable. The fact that they aren't is due in part to the lack of a pitcher or two that can step forward to be real leaders, and in part to the pathetic run support they get. Whatever the cause, this team creates a whole lot of stress for those who decide to back them.
Yankees - Remember in the glory days when the game was basically over as soon as a Yankee starter left with a lead? Those days are way back in the rear view mirror. It seems totally inconceivable that a team can spend as much money as the Yankees did and still have so many questions on the mound. The starters have been a problem for much of this season, and the relievers are no better.
The Yanks have a league low nine saves, and they have blown their save chances 12 different times. Only Houston has joined New York in blowing more saves than they have converted, and the Astros are hardly the team that New York should be comparable to. The relief staff has 162 strikeouts compared to a league-worst 135 walks. No wonder they are struggling.
New York has lost five of six, and the most recent series in which they dropped two to a San Francisco team that had lost eight straight coming in shows the bullpen woes. On Saturday the team fought back in the ninth to tie the game up and head to extra innings only to have Scott Proctor give it away in the 10th. The next day the bullpen turned a close game into a 7-2 blowout. Things were so bad on Sunday that Roger Clemens was called on to make his first relief appearance since he was a rookie. Rumors are flying about all of the players the Yankees are going to pick up before the trade deadline. Their fans had better hope that a few decent relief arms are on that list.
Baltimore - The Orioles are so bad that they can't find anyone who wants to be their manager. If they had solid relief pitching they would probably be less than great, but at least they could say that they were better than their neighbors in Washington. The bullpen has blown 11 saves in 24 tries, and they have managed to post a profoundly terrible record of 8-19. You have to work hard to be that bad, even if you play for the Orioles. Their combined ERA of 5.32 is better than only Tampa Bay and the White Sox. The O's recent three game winning streak showed just how this team needs to operate - the starters need to pitch very well, the offense needs to score a lot of runs and the bullpen needs to be given as few chances as possible to show what they are really made of. Unfortunately, both solid starting pitching and run support are fairly rare in Baltimore, so the bullpen will have many more chances to do what they have shown that they do best.