Worst Bullpens in Baseball
Last week I wrote about specific pitchers to target for the upcoming weekend, but targeting pitching extends further than just the starters. In the first six weeks of the season, the league average of innings pitched per games started (IP/GS) is at 5.7, with the Cubs leading the way at 6.5 IP/GS and the Reds in last at 5.1 IP/GS. Therefore, at least a third of the game is usually controlled by the bullpen, offering the opposing offense several opportunities to cash in after the starter has exited. So let's take a look at the teams with the worst bullpens so far, and how their shortcomings can become a positive for your offense.
The Reds pitching staff has been terrible all around, but their bullpen has really accentuated the problem. They have an overall ERA of 6.44, including eight blown saves in 12 chances. The major issue surrounding the Reds bullpen is the fact they've allowed a league-worst 31 home runs in just 38 games. Given the fact Reds' starters average the fewest amount of innings pitched per start, their bullpen sees a lot of work, which has hurt their team even more. The Reds will face the Indians tonight and tomorrow, will host the Mariners at home this weekend, and then head to LA to face the Dodgers. Look for these teams to exploit the Reds bullpen as they continue to mix and match with new arms trying to correct the problem.
Texas comes in with the second worst ERA as a bullpen, sitting at 5.17 through 39 games. They've allowed the second most home runs in the majors among bullpens with 25, and have allowed the highest opponent average at .280. Combine this with their league worst strikeout percentage and you get a bullpen that has struggled mightily. In the next week the Rangers will face Oakland to close out their series at home, then host Houston for a weekend battle and travel to face the Angels on Monday. So if any of the Rangers starters have a short outing, look for the other teams to capitalize against the bullpen as well.
The league's second worst team can attribute a lot of its problems to its faulty bullpen. The Twins are tied with the Reds and Mariners with a league-most eight blown saves, and come in five saves behind the closest team with only two. Not only have they not had many great opportunities to put away games, but they haven't won many decisions on their own, going 5-10 allowing a 4.48 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .275, good for second worst behind the Rangers. Looking forward to face the Twins in the next week will be the Tigers, Blue Jays, and Royals.
No surprise that the two worst teams in the majors both make this list, but the Braves have had bullpen struggles of their own. Their ERA is closing in on five at 4.78, and they have blown 50% of their save chances. The Braves have a 4-11 record as a bullpen, and have one of the highest WHIPs (walks and hits per innings pitched) in the league at 1.50, which can be attributed to their 63 walks allowed, which is the most in the league. The Braves will face off against the Pirates for the next two games, as well as division rivals in the Phillies and another sub-par bullpen in the Milwaukee Brewers to round out the week.
It's important to look at the whole context of pitching when choosing batters each day. With a majority of teams relying on their bullpens to go three or more innings night in and night out, a lot of damage can be done on the offensive side. Therefore, keep an eye out for pitching matchups on teams with weaker bullpens, as a majority of at bats in a game can come with relievers on the mound.
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