The AL East is far and away the strongest division in baseball this season. In fact, it could very well end up sending three teams to the postseason in the Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox. The recipe for success among that trio has included one commonality: a strong bullpen.
The Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox posted the three best bullpen performances in MLB last week. Conversely, the playoff-hungry Marlins and Indians suffered big blows to their postseason hopes last week when let down by their respective bullpens.
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Here is this week's look at the best and worst bullpens in MLB:
Hottest MLB Bullpens (8/1 thru 8/7)
Toronto Blue Jays
21 IP, 2.14 ERA, 4 HLD, 4 SV, 0 BSV
Closer Robert Osuna (2), Joaquin Benoit (1) and Jason Grilli (1) each recorded saves for the Blue Jays last week. It's a huge luxury for Toronto to have three proven closers at the back of the bullpen, as Benoit and Grilli each has extensive ninth-inning experience at previous stops.
Osuna has also been a revelation for the Blue Jays. Just 21-years-old, the right hander has converted 24-of-26 save chances with an ERA of 1.79 this season.
Toronto (63-49) enters Monday's action a game back of the Orioles in the AL East. This week they are home for six games: three against the Rays followed by three against the Astros.
16 IP, 3.38 ERA, 3 HLD, 4 SV, 0 BSV
It was another strong week for an Orioles bullpen in the midst of an excellent season. Baltimore's relief staff has posted the second-lowest ERA in the league this season (3.08) while converting 75.5% of save chances, which is the sixth-best mark in baseball.
Closer Zach Britton, who added two more saves last week, is a perfect 34-fo4-34 in save chances with a minuscule 0.58 ERA this season. Darren O'Day has been one of the better set-up men in baseball as well, although he was roughed up a bit in an Orioles win on Sunday. Still, this is a deep and talented relief staff.
Baltimore will spend this week in the Bay Area as they play four games in Oakland followed by a three-game set in San Francisco.
Other hot MLB bullpens: Boston Red Sox (15 1/3 IP, 1.76 ERA, 1 HLD, 3 SV, 1 BSV); Detroit Tigers (20 2/3 IP, 4.08 ERA, 5 HLD, 3 SV, 0 BSV); Seattle Mariners (17 1/3 IP, 2.08 ERA, 1 HLD, 5 SV, 1 BSV)
Coldest MLB Bullpens
22 2/3 IP, 6.35 ERA, 7 HLD, 2 SV, 3 BSV
The contending Marlins were just 2-4 last week with two of those losses being a direct result of the bullpen. Closer A.J. Ramos suffered a blown save and a loss when giving up three runs in the ninth to the Cubs on Wednesday, then the following night set-up man Fernando Rodney coughed up the lead in the 8th inning in a loss to the Rockies.
Despite the recent struggles, Miami's 3.75 bullpen ERA is still better than the league average. Last week's blown save by Ramos was just his second in 32 chances this season. This is a solid unit capable of rebounding.
The Marlins will be home this week for three games against the Giants followed by a three-game set with the White Sox.
28.2 IP, 5.97 ERA, 1 HLD, 1 SV, 0 BSV
The Indians recent struggles are largely the result of the starting rotation, but the relief staff hasn't been without blame. The bullpen was called early and often last week to try and keep early deficits close. It failed miserably as the ERA noted above would suggest.
The good news for the Tribe is newly-acquired closer Andrew Miller has picked up right where he left off with the Yankees. The left-hander registered a hold when pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings against Minnesota on Thursday, then he followed with a one-inning save against his former team on Saturday.
This week the Indians play the Nationals for two games in D.C. followed by a four-game series at home against the Angels.
Other cold MLB bullpens: Los Angeles Angels (17 2/3 IP, 5.61 ERA, 6 HLD, 1 SV, 3 BSV); Colorado Rockies (20 1/3 IP, 4.87 ERA, 0 HLD, 0 SV, 2 BSV)
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