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Bullpen Banter

   by ASA - 06/05/2009

Thriving – Chicago White Sox

I felt the ChiSox might be a surprise in the A.L. this season. Their pre-season odds to win the World Series sat at 40 to 1 and that was a decent long shot investment in my opinion. They started the season terribly and my forecast looked to be off base. However, now this team has won 10 of their last 14, moved close to .500 and sit in second place in a fairly weak A.L. Central. They are now just 3.5 games out of first place and their bullpen has had a lot to do with that resurgence.

The Chicago bullpen has been extremely solid over the last few weeks with the exception of one GIANT blip. That was a 20-1 loss to Minnesota on May 21st where the relievers contributed heavily to the lambasting. The Sox bullpen in that game allowed a whopping 12 runs. However, since that meltdown, the White Sox are 8-3 and the bullpen’s collective ERA is only 1.48. They have gone six straight games (Tuesday night’s results included) without allowing a single earned run. This set of relievers sit just behind Boston for the A.L. lead in bullpen ERA this season and that includes the 12 run debacle a few weeks ago.

The Southsiders have several individuals having fantastic years out of the pen. Closer Bobby Jenks has an 0-2 record, however he has recorded 12 saves in 13 attempts this season. The middle relief – set up situation has been lights out for this team. Veteran Scott Linebrink has made 19 appearances and his ERA is a miniscule 1.93. Octavio Dotel has trotted to the mound 20 times already this year and his ERA is barely above 1.00. Right hander D.J. Carrasco has pitched 33 innings in relief and allowed only 9 earned runs. The top left hander out of the pen is Matt Thornton and he has been fabulous with 30 strikeouts in 21 innings and an ERA of 1.71. Those mentioned are a very solid top “five-someâ€쳌 to work with for fiery manager Ozzie Guillen.

This team will be one to watch as I mentioned before the season started. The starting pitching has been solid with Mark Buehrle having all All-Star year. John Danks and Gavin Floyd are now starting to pitch to their potential after each had a rough start to the season. The bats are coming alive as they have averaged 6.3 runs per game over the last eight outings. Management has also shown a willingness to try and hit a “home runâ€쳌 in an attempt to deal for Jake Peavy recently. One constant should this team make a run will be the bullpen with some of the best numbers in the Majors.

Struggling – Colorado Rockies

As of this writing the Rockies have the second worst record in all of baseball. While their performance at the plate has been abysmal hitting just .247 as a team, Colorado’s bullpen has had a lot to do with their struggles this year. Their bullpen numbers have actually gotten worse as of late and if it doesn’t improve soon, this team will stay at or near the bottom of the National League.

Speaking of struggling lately, how are these numbers for you? The Rockie bullpen has an ERA of 14.31 over their last eight games. It’s no surprise they won only two of those games. As for the entire season, opponents are hitting over .300 against this bullpen and their overall ERA is 5.21. That’s good for 28th in the Majors. Only the Angels and Nationals rank lower. That’s also one of the main reasons that Colorado is just 3-10 in one run games. As a whole, the relievers have a record of just 5-10 and have blown five saves.

One argument for the Rockie bullpen might be the terrible pitching venue they perform in. Coors Field has long been known as a grave yard for pitchers, however a recent road stint proved that these relievers can be just as bad on the road as they are at home. A 10-game, mid-May road trip through Atlanta, Detroit and Cleveland showed the struggles of this pen. During that run they allowed 18 earned runs in 23 innings pitched. They also allowed their opponents to hit .300. So while Coors Field has something to do with the inflated numbers here, it’s not the only factor. They have simply been bad.

Of the six relievers making the most appearances this year, only closer Huston Street has an ERA below 5.89. Jason Grilli and Manny Copras have been the biggest disappointments after some past success. Grilli has allowed a terrible 39 base runners in only 18.1 innings pitched. Copras has an ERA of 6.08 in his 23 innings thrown. The starting pitching has been OK, but the bullpen has been a back breaker. Clint Hurdle found that out when he was ousted from his managerial position in May. If replacement manager Jim Tracy has any hopes of taking this job full time at the end of the season, his bullpen better wake up soon.


Kansas City Royals – KC was a surprise team out of the gate, however they have really fallen flat lately winning just 5 of their last 22 games. They really need closer Joakim Soria back soon. They may get their wish as Soria is reportedly close to returning. Soria was a perfect 7 for 7 in save opportunities and had not allowed an earned run when he went down with an injury in early May. His replacement, Juan Cruz, has really faltered lately allowing 9 hits and 7 earned runs in his last 4 innings pitched.

Washington Nationals – The Nats bullpen has been outright atrocious this year. They sit at the bottom of the Majors in ERA at 5.80. However, closer Joel Hanrahan appears that he might be a sliver of hope in an otherwise unstable situation. Hanrahan has not blown a save since April and has allowed only one run in his last six appearances. I realize he doesn’t really get a whole lot of save opportunities with Washington, but he has been a positive for the pitching staff.

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