Relief pitching has never been more important than in this era of pitch counts and "protecting" prized starting pitchers. But the performance of a team's bullpen will ebb and flow throughout the season. Don't worry baseball bettors, Doc's Sports has you covered. Each week in this space we identify the best and worst bullpens of the previous seven days and what that could portend moving forward. Let's get started.
Best MLB Bullpens (5/10 through 5/17)
Philadelphia Phillies (24 IP, 2.25, 6 Holds 5 SV, 1 BS)
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The Phillies have been the most profitable bet in baseball this season, and that's mostly been a result of the relief staff. Closer Jeanmar Gomez (2.66 ERA) had an additional three saves last week to give him 16 for the season. Set-up man Hector Neris also continued his lights-out performance as he lowered his ERA to 1.44 while adding two more holds to give him 11 on the season. Can this hold up? Tough to tell, but it will likely have to as the Phillies still don't have a single quality start.
Colorado Rockies (13 IP, 2.07 ERA, 4 Holds, 5 SV, 1 BS)
Closer Jake McGee closed all five of the Rockies wins last week to give him 13 on the season with an ERA of 3.78. Since a blown save against the Dodgers in which he gave up five runs in late April, McGee has allowed just a single run while converting eight of nine save opportunities. The other positive news is the Rockies starters are actually starting to pitch deep into games. That should help alleviate the "Coors Field fatigue factor" that tends to hit the Rocks' 'pen later in the year.
San Diego Padres (28 IP 2.25 ERA, 6 Hold, 4 SV, 1 BS)
The Padres went 4-4 last week, which included a sweep of the powerful Cubs at Wrigley. That was certainly unexpected, but probably not the performance of the Friars bullpen. It's been a traditional (only??) strength of San Diego during the Petco Park era. Fernando Rodney had two saves last week, and a pair of other relievers also closed-out games (Ryan Buchter, Carlos Villanueva).
San Diego ranks just 24th in bullpen ERA for the season thanks to some early-season struggles. However, the Padres have had better results in the win-loss column of late, and the relief staff has been a big reason why.
Other hot MLB bullpens: San Francisco Giants (14.1, 3.14 ERA, 4 SV, 2 BS), Milwaukee Brewers (16.1 IP, 1.65 ERA, 3 Holds, 3 SV, 0 BS)
Worst MLB Bullpens (5/10 through 5/17)
Chicago White Sox (12 IP, 5.25 ERA, 0 Holds, O SV, 3 BS)
The first-place White Sox hit their first bump in the road this season as a 1-5 week included the bullpen blowing all three of its save opportunities. However, note that none of the blown saves were by closer David Robertson (10 SV, 1.08 ERA). He was on bereavement leave last week but returned Tuesday. The Sox are eligible to rebound with their full arsenal of weapons now back in place.
Seattle Mariners (15.1 IP, 5.96 ERA, 3 Holds, 1 SV, 3 BS)
All three of Seattle's losses last week were the result of failing to convert a save. Closer Steve Cishek, who has been outstanding this season, blew saves on back-to-back nights to the Angels over the weekend. No closer is perfect, obviously, so this could simply be the law of averages at play. There was some good news for the first-place Mariners on Tuesday as veteran setup-man Joaquin Benoit was activated from the DL after missing nearly a month of the season. Seattle has MLB's fifth-best bullpen ERA, and this should just add to their depth at the back-end.
Minnesota Twins (21 IP, 8.14 ERA, 3 Holds, 0 SV, 2 BS)
The Twins are an absolute dumpster fire, and the bullpen has been doing no favors. In three appearances last week, setup-man Trevor May allowed a combined eight runs in just 1 ⅔-innings. For the season, Minnesota's bullpen has blown nine of its 11 save chances while posting a 4.82 ERA. That's an 18.8 percent save percentage. The next lowest in MLB? The Reds 33.3 percent (4-of-12). Converting just two of 11 saves is simply unheard of. It can't continue, right? Right??
Other cold MLB bullpens: Atlanta Braves (23 ⅓, 5.01 ERA, 0 Holds, 0 SV, 0 BS), Cincinnati Reds (21.2 IP, 6.36 ERA, 1 Hold, 1 SV, 1 BS) 1-5
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