Several clubs in playoff contention got big production from their bullpens last week. The Pirates, Tigers and Royals relief staffs were a combined 10-for-10 in save opportunities to help keep each club's wild card hopes alive.
Of the seven teams to make this week's bullpen hot list, six are in playoff position or contention, with the one outlier being the Oakland A's. This just goes to show just how important relief pitching is in today's game.
And the cold list? Of the four clubs on that dubious ledger, only the Nationals are a playoff team. Yes, bullpens are critical.
Hottest MLB Bullpens (8/22 thru 8/29)
Kansas City Royals
21 IP, 0.86 ERA, 5 HLD, 4 SV, 0 BSV
The Royals have won 12 of their last 14 games, and a major reason has been the bullpen. During this current hot streak, the Kansas City 'pen has given up a grand total of two runs. This is the best stretch of any bullpen in baseball this season.
Closer Kelvin Herrera picked up three more saves last week and is now a perfect 10-for-10 in save chances since taking over the closer role from injured Wade Davis in late July. This staff is deep, talented and boasts plenty of big-game experience.
The Royals will be home this week for three games versus the Yankees followed by a visit from the Tigers for three games.
21 1/3 IP, 1.27 ERA, 6 HLD, 4 SV, 0 BSV
The Pirates bullpen hasn't missed a beat since the trade of All Star closer Mark Melancon. The veteran left-hander Tony Watson has replaced Melancon with aplomb, as he recorded three more saves last week. He is now a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities in August.
It's not just Watson, either. A big reason the Pirates moved Melancon is because of their bullpen depth. That starts with veteran set-up man Neftali Feliz. In three appearances last week, Feliz recorded both a hold and a save and didn't give up a run. For the season, he has a team-high 29 holds with a 2.92 ERA.
The Pirates playoff push continues this week with three games at Wrigley Field against the Cubs followed by a return home for three games against the Brewers.
Other hot MLB bullpens: Chicago Cubs (19 2/3 IP, 2.29 ERA, 1 HLD, 3 SV, 0 BSV); Detroit Tigers (16 1/3 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1 HLD, 2 SV, 0 BSV); Los Angeles Dodgers (29 1/3 IP, 3.38 ERA, 11 HLD, 4 SV, 1 BSV); Miami Marlins (19 2/3 IP, 0.92 ERA, 1 HLD, 2 SV, 1 BSV); Oakland A's (18 2/3 IP, 0.86 ERA, 4 HLD, 2 SV, 0 BSV)
Coldest MLB Bullpens (8/22 thru 8/29)
21 IP, 6.86 ERA, 1 HLD, 0 SV, 1 BSV
The Nats are eight games up in the NL East and likely have their postseason ticket punched. The back-end of the bullpen is set with the addition of the aforementioned Melancon. But there has been some slippage with the middle relief staff. Yusmeiro Petit (3-4, 3.99 ERA) coughed up five runs and took the loss against Colorado on Saturday, while a night earlier set-up man Shawn Kelley (10 HLD, 6 SV, 3.23 ERA) was touched up for three runs in an 8-5 loss to the Rockies.
The first-place Nats are a balanced club with few real weaknesses. But if this foreshadows a real downturn by the bullpen, it could be another season of disappointment in D.C.
Other cold MLB bullpens: Colorado Rockies (18 IP, 7.50 ERA, 6 HLD, 1 SV, 2 BSV); Minnesota Twins (23 IP, 8.61 ERA, 0 HLD, 0 SV, 2 BSV)
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