This week's bullpen report is yet another indicator of just how critical relief pitching is in today's Major League Baseball. Each of the four best bullpen efforts from last week came from clubs squarely in the playoff chase. Conversely, of the three worst bullpen performances, two resulted in likely fatal postseason blows for their respective clubs.
Here is this week's look at the hottest and coldest bullpens in MLB.
Hottest Bullpens in MLB (8/29 through 9/4)
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26 2/3 IP, 2.03 ERA, 3 HLD, 3 SV, 0 BSV
The deep and talented Cubs bullpen was rather amazing last week, particularly when winning three of four games against the Giants. The relief staff didn't give up a run in 16 innings pitched in that series while striking out 17 and allowing just three hits and two walks.
If that's not enough, the Cubs bullpen is set to receive another boost this week. Former closer Hector Rondon (2.47 ERA, 18 SV), who has been out with a triceps injury since mid-June, is set to come off the DL on Monday. He could be a huge weapon in a set-up role for the Cubs.
This week Chicago hits the road for three games against the Brewers followed by a three-game set versus the Astros.
16 IP, 1.69 ERA, 6 HLD, 3 SV, 0 BSV
It was another strong week for the Nationals relief staff, which boasts MLB's second-best bullpen ERA this season (3.31). Mid-season acquisition Mark Melancon picked up two more saves in three perfect appearances last week, while Shawn Kelley (3.21 ERA, 10 HLD) closed the door on the Phillies on Wednesday to pick up his seventh save of the season.
The Nationals bullpen has been one of the best in baseball all season. It's loaded with experienced and reliable weapons from which manager Dusty Baker can select. This could pay big dividends for Washington come playoff time.
This week the Nationals host the Braves for three games then the Phillies come to town for a four-game set.
Other hot MLB bullpens: Baltimore Orioles (17 2/3 IP, 2.04 ERA, 2 HLD, 2 SV, 0 BSV); Cleveland Indians (18 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2 HLD, 2 SV, 0 BSV); New York Mets (19 IP, 3.79 ERA, 3 SV, 0 BSV)
Coldest MLB Bullpens (8/29 through 9/2)
21 2/3 IP, 6.65 ERA, 1 HLD, 0 SV, 3 BSV
It was second straight lost week for the Marlins, who have now dropped 10 of 12 to fall to four games off the pace in the NL wild-card chase. Last week's struggles were largely a result of the bullpen. Fernando Rodney, who took over the closer role in mid-August when A.J. Ramos hit the DL, suffered his first blown save and loss with the Marlins when allowing three runs in the ninth to the Indians on Saturday. On top of that, since his return Ramos hasn't looked like the same pitcher as before the injury. He suffered a blown save in a Marlins loss to the Mets on Monday, then two days later he took the loss against the Mets when coughing up three runs in the eighth inning.
The Marlins have stopped hitting, and the bullpen is springing leaks. Their faint postseason hopes are fading quickly.
25 2/3 IP, 6.31 ERA, 3 HLD, 1 SV, 2 BSV
The postseason chances of the Mariners have also faded into oblivion the past two weeks. Seattle is 2-10 in their previous 12 games to fall to five games back of the final AL wild-card spot. Last week, the bullpen cost the Mariners a win when Edwin Diaz suffered a blown save and a loss against the Rangers on Tuesday.
Seattle had gotten good work from its bullpen the first four-plus months of the season, but that pendulum has swung as many expected. This is not the most talented or imposing of groups, and a return to the previous form would seem unlikely.
Other cold MLB bullpens: Chicago White Sox (23 1/3 IP, 3.86 ERA, 3 HLD, 1 SV, 3 BSV)
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