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Bullpen Banter

   by ASA - 06/17/2009

Thriving – Seattle Mariners

Despite an unproductive offense that is averaging only 3.73 runs per game on the season, which is the worst in baseball, the Mariners are still hovering around .500 for the season. That is due to their solid pitching performance, most notably their bullpen which is among the best in baseball.

You might not know it as Seattle seems to be flying a bit under the radar this season, but this team has the second best ERA in all of baseball at 3.68. Their bullpen numbers are also very impressive with an ERA of just 3.28 which is good for third in the Majors. This team has been very efficient in close games already coming out on top in 15-one run contests. That is in part due to their poor offense that simply cannot pull away from teams, but more a direct effect of their solid bullpen holding onto small leads. Their starting rotation has been very good with Bedard and Hernandez posting All Star type numbers and when turning the game over to the bullpen they have more than done their part closing out a number of close games.

Speaking of closing out games, Seattle began the year with Dave Morrow as their closer but he couldn’t get the job done with three losses and an ERA approaching 6.00. However, journeyman Dave Aardsma, who is playing on his fifth team in six years, has filled in exponentially better than anyone expected. Aardsma, who came over from Boston as an “afterthoughtâ€쳌 type free agent, has posted 11 saves in 12 attempts with an ERA of only 1.78. Miguel Batista has allowed too many base runners this year, however he has kept a majority of those from crossing the plate as his ERA is 3.16. His versatility is also invaluable as he can start, close or pitch anywhere in between. Mark Lowe has a record of 0-4 but solid overall numbers in his 29 appearances. Rookie Shawn White has been a solid right-handed specialist with an ERA of 2.01. He has allowed just 22 hits in his 31.1 innings on the mound.

Seattle has now won 10 of their last 17 games despite playing all but six of those on the road. They are hanging around in the A.L. West only 5.5 games back of Texas. If their bats can come around soon or management latches on to an offensive upgrade via a trade, expect this team to make some noise as their pitching has been among the best in baseball.

Struggling – Detroit Tigers

The Tigers bullpen was a big area of concern entering the season as they underperformed the last two seasons which were both disappointing years for Detroit as a whole. However, the relievers performed well for the first few months of this season helping vault the Cats to the top of the A.L. Central race. June has been another story as they have faltered allowing other teams in the division to close in on the top spot. While Detroit still clings to a two game lead in the division, each of the other four teams are now within striking distance.

The Tigers have a record of just 6-9 over their last 15 games and their bullpen has been horrendous during that stretch. The relievers have pitched in 13 of the last 15 contests, allowing runs in 10 of those games. Over those 15 games, the bullpen has pitched 49 innings and allowed an astounding 79 base runners and 30 runs. That terrible streak has pushed this unit’s ERA up to 4.68 which is the 8th worst mark in MLB. The Tiger hitters have also cooled with a batting average of .217 over the last 10 which hasn’t helped, however the bullpen has been the main reason for this rough patch.

Detroit’s top three starters have been outstanding with Verlander, Jackson and Porcello all with ERA’s of 3.71 or lower. However, last year’s standout, Armando Galarraga has really been poor lasting just barely over 5 innings per start. Dontrelle Willis hasn’t come close to returning to form and he only puts in an average of 4.7 innings per start. Because of that, this bullpen has had to eat up a bunch of innings when those two have started which is a negative.

A quick glance at closer Fernando Rodney’s save numbers might suggest he has been lights out. That is not the case. He actually is 12 for 12 in save opportunities, however his ERA is 4.50 which is very poor for a closer. He has also failed in several “non-saveâ€쳌 appearances as of late. Zach Miner has been shuffled between the bullpen and starting rotation without much success as he has allowed 67 opponents to reach base in just 41 innings pitched. Veteran lefty, and former starter, Nate Robertson has been a disaster out of the bullpen with an ERA of nearly 8.00. He has allowed nearly two base runners to reach every inning he has pitched this season.

As a whole, the Detroit bullpen has only two regulars (7 appearances or more) that have an ERA of less than 4.22. They have seven regular relievers with ERA’s higher than that. Not good to say the least. They better get that straightened out soon or you won’t see them on top of the A.L. Central for much longer.


Washington Nationals – Just when we thought now former closer Joel Hanrahan was starting to come around, he was removed of that role. It hasn’t gotten any better for the Nats as Ron Villone and Mike MacDougal combined to blow another save opportunity on Tuesday night. That was Washington’s 16th blown save equaling their overall win total!

Toronto Blue Jays- Toronto’s bullpen was revived with the recent performance of closer Scott Downs. He had saved 8 of his 9 chances with an ERA below 2.00. Now it looks like the Jays will have to move ahead without Downs who was injured on Tuesday night and will most likely be headed to the D.L.

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