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Bullpen Banter

   by ASA - 08/06/2009

Thriving – Florida Marlins

When thinking of potential playoff teams, my guess is the Florida Marlins wouldn’t vault to the forefront of most people’s minds. However, the fact is, this team is only 5 games behind Philadelphia in the N.L. East and just 4 games back in the wildcard race. They have a definite shot at the post season and it just might be their bullpen that gets them there.

The Fish are on a nice run right now and as usual, it coincides with a solid effort from their bullpen. Over the last 13 games, Florida sports a 9-4 record and their relievers during that stretch have an ERA of 3.43. That’s better than their very solid seasonal ERA numbers which sit at 3.77 which is good for 7th in MLB. They have allowed opponents to hit just .246 this year. This bullpen is a very effective strikeout group already with 321 K’s on the season which ranks them second in baseball.

Despite the very good overall numbers, the one aspect of their relief corps that is lacking would be the closers role. They have already blown 14 saves on the season and closer Matt Lindstrom has been on the D.L. for over a month. He just returned to action in early August and picked up a save in Chicago. The Marlins are hoping he performs better than he did leading up to his injury when he had 14 saves, but a lofty ERA of 6.30.

Even with the struggles in the closer’s spot, this bullpen has flourished due to their depth. They have some very good mid-range and set up relievers. They have three pitchers in the bullpen that have made 45 or more appearances that have ERA’s of 2.77 or less. That’s quite impressive. Dan Meyer has been a bulldog out of the pen with 51 appearances and an ERA of only 2.21. Kiko Calero has an ERA just over 2.00 and has allowed only two earned runs in his last 10 trips to the mound.

One mid-season pick up to keep your eye on is Brendan Donnelly. He was signed by the Marlins in early July after being waived by the Rangers in late March. Donnelly has made 13 appearances allowing just one earned run. His ERA is 0.82 with a WHIP of 1.18. If he continues to outperform expectations, this bullpen will be even stronger down the stretch.

This team is a solid 18-13 in one run games and despite being outscored on the season, they sit four games above .500. Much of that is due to a solid bullpen that continues to perform well.

Struggling – Minnesota Twins

The Twins pitching as a whole has been quite underwhelming this season. The starting rotation is starting to get alarmingly thin as Kevin Slowey is out for the year with a wrist problem and Francisco Liriano has been bothered by an elbow flare up. These problems could put undue stress on a bullpen that has been less than stellar for much of this season.

This team sits in the absolute opposite situation of the Florida Marlins which I commented on above. The Twins have a great closer in Joe Nathan who has racked up a whopping 226 saves since the start of the 2004 season. However, the long relievers and set up men for the most part, leave a lot to be desired. Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares are both very solid, but after that the Minnesota pen has a huge drop off. The remainder of the relief corps has been a revolving door of prospects and journeymen who simply haven’t gotten the job done.

The pitching staff as a whole has an ERA of 4.62 which is 24th in Major League Baseball. Their bullpen numbers aren’t much better with an ERA of 4.21 good for only 21st in the league. In fact, every pitcher on their staff with the exception of Nathan, Guerrier, Mijares and starter Nick Blackburn have ERA’s higher than 4.20.

It’s actually gotten worse for the bullpen as of late. Over the last 15 games, the Minnesota relievers have an ERA of 6.79. As would be expected with that number, they have given up multiple runs in nine of those games. Breaking it down even further, in 7 of the last 15 games, the bullpen has given up four or more runs. Not surprisingly, the Twins had a record of 6-9 during that span and have fallen back to .500 in the weak A.L. Central.

With a starting staff that is thinning as we speak, the bullpen will likely get more work in the upcoming weeks which could be a problem. It’s something we’ll have to keep a very close eye on.

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