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Baseball Banter

   by ASA - 05/13/2009

Struggling – San Diego Padres

One wouldn’t normally tab a bullpen as struggling if their current closer is eight for eight in save opportunities and has yet to allow a run. However, that is just what I am about to do. The San Diego bullpen, sans closer Heath Bell, has been somewhat of a dumpster fire as of late.

As I mentioned, Bell has yet to blow a save this year, however the remainder of San Diego’s relievers have combined to throw away eight save opportunities already this season. Opposing hitters are spanking the Padre bullpen around to the tune of a .282 batting average. They also sport an ERA of nearly 5.00. On top of that this pen is walking nearly as many as they are striking out which is cause for alarm. In actuality, their overall 1.49 to 1.00 strikeout to walk ratio is much worse than it may appear if you take out Heath Bell’s ratio which is 7 to 1. That number drops to just 1.25 to 1.00 if you exit Bell from the equation. As you can see, besides Bell, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about here.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that a few formerly reliable middle relievers are struggling right now. Cla Meredith, who has a lifetime ERA of just over 3.00 in his three year stint with the Padres, currently has an ERA of 4.50. He has also blown three saves this season. Duaner Sanchez had a very successful run of four years with the Dodgers and Mets before coming to San Diego in 2009. He has not lived up to his billing with an ERA of 6.75 allowing a whopping 19 base runners in just 9.1 innings. Those two, along with others, need to perform as they have in the past for this team to get out of their recent funk.

Speaking of their recent funk, the Padres have lost 11 of their last 13 games as of this writing. During that 13 game stretch, the bullpen has allowed 28 earned runs in just 32 innings pitched. Their starters aren’t going deep into games which doesn’t help. Jake Peavy is the only starter that is averaging six innings per start.

A glass half full optimist, or a true blue San Diego fan, might have reason to believe this will turn around soon. First of all, the Padres have had a tough schedule playing 19 of their last 26 games on the road. After finishing off their series in Wrigley Field, this team plays nine straight home games. They also play host for 16 of their next 22. However, a simple change of venue doesn’t mean the pitching will improve. I’ll take a wait and see approach on that, however for now, there is no doubt about the fact that this San Diego bullpen is struggling.

Thriving – Milwaukee Brewers

I have been singing the praises of new Brewer closer Trevor Hoffman in my “other bullpen snipitsâ€쳌 in past editions, however now it is time to include the entire staff. Don’t get me wrong, Hoffman is still a key, or even the key, component to Bernie’s bullpen. He has converted on all six of his save opportunities and has yet to allow a run OR a walk. This is a huge stat for a team that blew 8 saves this year before Hoffman returned off the D.L. and an enormous 27 saves in 2008. However, Hoffman’s “supporting castâ€쳌 so to speak has been pulling their weight also during this hot steak for Milwaukee.

After starting the season with an alarming 4-9 record, the Brewers have now ripped off 15 wins in their last 20 games. While their bats have come alive, much of that success can be attributed to the pitching staff. The starters, who were shaky at best early, have improved and are doing a solid job. The rotation is not great, however they have pitched well enough to win for the most part. The bullpen has been a bright spot to say the least as their ERA during that 20 game stretch sits at 3.50.

Milwaukee has a nice mix of long relievers and set up men to go along with Hoffman. Carlos Villanueva is becoming much more comfortable in his set up role after struggling big time in April. His 5.51 ERA is not overly impressive, however much of that lofty mark was gathered early in the season. Villanueva has not allowed a run in his last five appearances. Mark DeFelice (1.08 ERA), Seth McClung (3.18 ERA), Mitch Stetter (3.27 ERA) and Todd Coffey (3.24 ERA) round out a very solid corps of relievers that has allowed opponents to hit only .231 on the season.

The Brewer’s line up is among the best in baseball and will no doubt score runs by blasting home runs out of Miller Park. However, the key to this team’s continued success will be the pitching staff. I’m still not completely sold on the starting staff, however if the bullpen keeps rolling this team will have a great chance in the N.L. Central.


Texas Rangers – The Ranger bullpen has been among the shakiest in baseball this year and they are about to get worse. That’s because one of the only bright spots in the pen, Frank Francisco, is out for the next several games due to a bicep issue. Francisco has pitched 14.2 innings this year and has yet to allow a run.

Philadelphia Phillies – Brad Lidge was as close to a sure thing as you could get in 2008. Forget that, he WAS a sure thing. Lidge had 48 saves in 48 attempts last season. This year he has already blown one save and his ERA is soaring above 8.00. There is growing concern in Philadelphia that his lingering knee problem isn’t going away anytime soon. His velocity is down from a year ago and he has allowed at least one earned run in four straight appearances. This is definitely a situation to keep your eye on.

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