MLB Handicapping and Betting: The Bullpen Report
by Aaron Smith - 7/10/2013
The dreaded bullpen meltdown is undoubtedly the toughest way to lose a baseball wager. The starter coasting through seven or eight innings, only to see the bullpen come in and ruin the game. There isn’t a worse feeling than that of the disgust you feel when the game you had just marked as a win becomes an unexpected loss.
All bullpens are going to blow some leads from time to time, but if you do your homework you can be more prepared for which teams are more and less likely to be on the wrong side of that situation. Bullpen depth has been a problem for a lot of teams over the last few years, but it’s actually a way that bettors can get an edge on the betting public. Which bullpens can you rely on?
Doc’s Sports is always looking to give you extra information to help you win. This MLB Bullpen Report will allow us to take a look at the best and worst bullpens in the majors so far in 2013. We’ll take a look at the best and worst bullpens every couple weeks this year. Please note that statistics used in this report are for games played between March 31 and July 8.
Top Five Bullpens (Listed by ERA)
Atlanta Braves (2.63 ERA)
In the past couple weeks, the Braves have really distanced themselves from the rest of the bullpens in baseball. Atlanta’s bullpen has an ERA that beats the second best bullpen by more than a quarter of a run. That terrific bullpen is what allows them to win games like they did on Monday night in Miami. The Braves won 7-1 in 14 innings after six different relievers combined to throw 7 and 2/3 innings without allowing a run. When the game goes into extra innings, the Braves have to be considered the heavy favorite.
Pittsburgh Pirates (2.89 ERA)
The Pirates slipped off the top five bullpens list last time, but they are right back up to second on this report. Mark Melancon has now appeared in 43 games and he has an amazing 0.85 ERA. Justin Wilson fits the role as the specialty lefty that every great bullpen needs. Jason Grilli has converted 28 out of 29 save opportunities. This bullpen is the number one reason the Pirates have been such a huge surprise this year.
Toronto Blue Jays (2.93 ERA)
Did you think it was just the Blue Jays offense that has brought them back into contention over the last few weeks? The great pitching of the bullpen has flown under the radar for most. Opponents are hitting only .224 against this group. Steve Delabar has a 1.58 ERA in 40 innings pitched, and he is the early leader in the AL Final Vote for next week’s All Star Game.
Kansas City Royals (2.97 ERA)
All year the Royals offense has disappointed, but they are staying close to .500 due to their pitching staff. This bullpen wasn’t expected to be any good, but they have been excellent. There are a lot of hard throwing guys in this bullpen, and they have allowed just 92 walks all year. The American League average for walks from the bullpen is 104. Time will tell if this group can stay in the top five, but they have been great thus far.
Milwaukee Brewers (2.97 ERA)
Here’s one that surprises a lot of people. This bullpen was mocked a year ago, but some of the guys who were terrible last year have been awesome this season. Francisco Rodriguez is a perfect 9 for 9 in save opportunities. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a gold glover in center field like Carlos Gomez. If it weren’t for his glove, Rodriguez would have blown his first save Monday night against the Reds.
Bottom Five Bullpens (Listed by Worst ERA)
Houston Astros (4.96 ERA)
Houston has ran away with the bottom spot in the past couple weeks. The Astros bullpen has an ERA that is far worse than any other bullpen in baseball. Opponents are hitting .279 against this bullpen. It doesn’t help that they have allowed 120 free passes. Because of the poor starting staff, this bullpen is overworked as well. Things aren’t getting better anytime soon for this bullpen.
Philadelphia Phillies (4.63 ERA)
A continuing theme for the Phillies this year has been quality starting pitching that gets ruined by bad middle relief. The Phillies have 57 quality starts this year, but they have only won 44 games. Jonathan Papelbon has been good at the back of the bullpen, but they have to find someone for the seventh and eighth innings.
Seattle Mariners (4.37 ERA)
Seattle’s bullpen has been absolutely decimated by injuries this year. Tom Wilhelmson’s struggles at the back of the bullpen have really hurt this team, but he has pitched two straight perfect innings in his last two save opportunities. Seattle’s bullpen will likely get a little better if he can nail down the closer role once again.
Los Angeles Dodgers (4.31 ERA)
The Dodgers have been winning in spite of their bullpen of late. Kenley Jansen has all the tools to be a very good closer, but he has blown 3 of his first 12 save opportunities. Brandon League has been a complete disaster, and his 6.16 ERA pretty much tells the whole story. Ronald Belisario has been reliable in the past, but he has struggled so far in 2013. The Dodgers need to find a way to shore up this bullpen.
Boston Red Sox (4.30 ERA)
Boston’s bullpen has 17 saves and 14 blown saves so far this year. Injuries have slowed this group down a bunch, but they need guys like Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow to be much better. Koji Uehara did well initially as the team’s new closer, but he has blown two of his last three save opportunities. Bailey will likely get another chance to close, but can he take advantage of it?
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