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Bullpen Banter

   by ASA - 08/19/2009

Thriving – New York Yankees

Everything simply seems to be clicking for the Yankees. They are currently the second best hitting team in MLB with a .278 average and 5.5 runs per game. Their starting pitching has come together after a sluggish start to the season and might be the best in baseball. Finally, New York’s overall bullpen numbers won’t knock you over, but they are throwing very well right now.

When thinking of the Yankee bullpen, the first name that always comes to mind is Mariano Rivera. The pin stripers almost never have to worry about blowing a save if Rivera is available to close out. Rivera has racked up 35 saves this season with only one blown opportunity. His ERA is just 1.94. Even more impressive, Rivera has allowed only one earned run in his last 25 appearances dating back to mid-June.

After struggling as a starter this year, Philip Hughes has definitely found his nitch in the bullpen. After making seven starts and sporting an ERA of well over 5.00, the Yanks brass made the decision to move Hughes to the bullpen in early June. Since that move, he has made 24 appearances allowing only 3 earned runs. His ERA has dropped to 3.39 in the process.

Recent additions have also really helped the depth of the bullpen. Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin are newcomers to the staff and while their numbers may not be overly impressive, they have given the team more options out of the pen. Mitre has made six starts and Gaudin is slated to make his first start on Wednesday night. That has given New York the opportunity to keep Alfredo Aceves as a reliever where he has been very successful with a 7-1 record. His lone start was a disaster in Minnesota so the ability to keep him out of the rotation due to recent acquisitions will be key during their late season and post season run.

When the Yankees swept rival Boston in a recent four game series, their bullpen was a key reason. New York’s bullpen ERA during that four game stint was just 2.53 while Boston’s relievers struggled to an ERA that was over 8.00. The Yanks relievers allowed only 19 total base runners in 14.2 innings of work. Boston, on the other hand, allowed 32 base runners in 15.1 innings. Both bullpens will be a key element in the late season race for the A.L. East. After their recent showing, New York’s relievers have the edge.

Struggling – LA Dodgers

If you glance at the Dodgers seasonal bullpen stats, you wouldn’t think they belong in this spot. However, despite the fact that L.A. has the second lowest bullpen ERA on the season, that hasn’t been the case as of late. After roaring through the first half of the season with the best record in the N.L., the Dodgers are just 15-17 since the All-Star break and their bullpen inconsistencies have contributed.

Despite their overall season success, over the last 10 games this relief corps has an ERA of almost 5.00. Their bullpen ERA since the All-Star break is a decent 3.70, however it is a bit higher than their overall numbers.

Three Dodger relievers have really struggled as of late. Closer Jonathan Broxton has an ERA of nearly 6.00 his last six appearances. More of a concern are his three blown saves in his last 6 opportunities. Closing out games has been a sore spot for this team all season long. In fact, they have already blown 21 saves this season which is the second worst number in the Majors behind Washington which is in league of their own when it comes to bullpen problems.

Other not living up to billing recently are Ramon Troncoso and Guillermo Mota. Both have very impressive seasonal numbers, but as of late they have not been performing well. Troncoso has an ERA of 23.62 over his last five outings. Mota has picked up two losses in his last five appearances with an ERA exceeding 10.00.

With current injuries to starters Jason Schmidt and Hiroki Kuroda, it could further weaken a pen that is not performing well. Chad Billingsley also missed a start due to a hamstring issue but made his next schedule appearance. Any more problems with Billingsley and this bullpen would really take a huge hit.

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