MLB Handicapping and Betting: the Bullpen Report
by Aaron Smith - 5/1/2013
If you are a baseball bettor, there is no doubt that you have had some heartbreaking losses due to a bad bullpen outing. We’ve all been there. The starter does his job and hands it over to the bullpen, which proceeds to ruin all of the starter’s hard work and cost you money. It’s probably the most frustrating way to lose a wager.
Is there anything that you can do about it? Actually, the answer is “yes” in the long run. While you won’t be able to avoid being on the wrong end of a bullpen meltdown occasionally, if you do your homework on the bullpens, you can end up being on the right side of the bullpen blowup more often than not.
Doc’s Sports is always looking to give you extra information to help you win your bets. This MLB Bullpen Report will allow us to take a look at the best and worst bullpens in the majors so far in 2013. One month into the season, this is what the bullpen statistics look like. Please note that statistics used are for games played between March 31 and April 30.
Top Five Bullpens (Listed by ERA)
--Atlanta Braves (2.01 ERA) It should come as no surprise that the Atlanta Braves are at the top of this list. Craig Kimbrel has quickly turned into the most dominating closer in the league, and Atlanta has plenty of solid options for middle relief. The entire Braves bullpen has blown only one save all year. Opponents are hitting only .212 against the Braves bullpen. Atlanta has managed their bullpen innings well, too. The Braves bullpen has thrown 76 innings so far this year. Expect this bullpen to stay at or near the top of the league all year.
--Minnesota Twins (2.30 ERA) Who could have guessed that the Twins would be second on this list? Minnesota sits at .500 on the year, and they have the excellent work of their bullpen to thank for that surprising record. Glen Perkins has found a real niche as the closer for this team. Perkins is striking out more than 13 batters per nine innings of work. Jared Burton has a 0.96 ERA as the team’s primary setup man. This bullpen is much better than last year, but it’s hard to imagine them staying near the top of the bullpen rankings.
--Baltimore Orioles (2.49 ERA) Baltimore’s bullpen was the single most important reason the team got into the playoffs last year, and they are great again this year. Jim Johnson is one of those guys who is going to give you a good outing almost every time out. He has a stellar 0.64 ERA so far this year. Darren O’Day has a 0.66 ERA in 14 appearances. It’s the same guys as last year, and they are still going strong.
--San Francisco Giants (2.57 ERA) One of the primary reasons the Giants won the World Series last year was the depth of their bullpen, and that is a big strength again this year. Opponents are hitting just .217 against the Giants bullpen. Anyone who has seen Sergio Romo’s slider in action knows that it is one of the nastiest pitches in baseball. Javier Lopez is nearly unhittable for lefties. Expect this group to be among the best all season.
--Kansas City Royals (2.60 ERA) The Kansas City Royals are another big surprise on this side of the bullpen report. Opponents are hitting only .207 against this bullpen, which is the single best mark in baseball. Luke Hochevar was a major disappointment as a starter for the past few years, but he has been great in the bullpen this season. Aaron Crow hasn’t allowed a run in eight appearances. Greg Holland is still unproven as a closer, but he has been pretty good so far this year. Don’t expect the Royals to stay in the Top 5.
Bottom Five Bullpens (Listed by Worst ERA)
--St. Louis Cardinals (5.81 ERA) The St. Louis Cardinals have a good team, but it definitely isn’t because of their bullpen. As good as the Cardinals offense is, they are going to lose quite a few close games this year because of their glaring weakness in the bullpen. Jason Motte is on the disabled list, and there is no return date in sight for him. Opponents are hitting a ridiculous .297 against this bullpen. Mitchell Boggs is in contention for the worst ERA in baseball. In 13 relief appearances, he has an ERA of 12.66.
--New York Mets (5.09 ERA) The Mets had one of the worst bullpens all of last year, and they have picked up right where they left off. New York has more blown saves (four) than they have saves (three) so far this year. Bobby Parnell had a hiccup in Miami earlier this week, but I think the team has to stick with him at the closer spot. Brandon Lyon has been bad all year, and Parnell has a much higher upside. There isn’t any help coming for this bullpen, so it’s going to be another long season for this group.
--Tampa Bay Rays (4.70 ERA) Tampa Bay has been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball so far this season, and the bullpen is at least partly to blame. The Rays have three regular relievers (Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, and Kyle Farnsworth) with an ERA above 6.40. Tampa Bay has three saves and three blown saves this year. Fernando Rodney is off to a shaky start as the team’s closer. One positive for Tampa Bay fans is that this bullpen has been used less than any other in the majors. The Rays bullpen has thrown only 59 and 1/3 innings so far this season. Expect some improvement from the Rays in the coming weeks.
--Philadelphia Phillies (4.67 ERA) Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo have been brilliant for the Phillies bullpen, but the rest of the pen has struggled mightily so far in 2013. Chad Durbin and Raul Valdes both have an ERA of 7.00 and 7.98, respectively. With a very good closer and a dominant lefty for late in the game, you have to think this bullpen will rise in the rankings over the next few months.
--Los Angeles Dodgers (4.66 ERA) It’s crazy that the Dodgers are on this side of the report, because through the first week of the season the Dodgers bullpen didn’t even allow an earned run. Clearly, that means that the Dodgers bullpen has been terrible for the last few weeks. Brandon League is the closer right now, but Kenley Jansen has the best stuff. How long will Don Mattingly stay with League in the ninth inning? Middle relief has been a real weakness for this Dodgers bullpen so far this year.
Read more articles by Aaron Smith
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