Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ranking the 2017 Postseason Bullpens

The postseason begins today with the American League and National League Wild Card Rounds set between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins representing the American League while the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies will represent the National League. These four teams are both looking for one thing and one thing only, a victory. Even if that victory means that your team would then have to face the team with the best record in your respective league, it’s the playoffs and anything can happen. A starter can be less than effective, the offense could be lulled to sleep or the bullpen could just be completely and utterly dominant in every sense of the word meaning that anything can happen in a short series. Speaking of the bullpen let’s take a minute this morning to rank the 10 bullpens entering this postseason to see which team potentially has the edge this October.

The Cleveland Indians are the best team in Major League Baseball according to many, including myself, so it would only be fitting that the team has the best bullpen as well, right? You’re waiting for me to say “wrong” but I am not going to because it is the Indians that have the best bullpen in the playoffs in my opinion with closer Cody Allen and former Yankees Nick Goody and Andrew Miller. Bryan Shaw is the Indians answer to Dellin Betances as he leads the team in appearances while not many teams, including the Yankees, can get the ball in the air to hit home runs off Dan Otero. With the short series in the ALDS looming the Indians could also see Danny Salazar and Mike Clevinger join the bullpen in relief, which is borderline unfair for opposing batters if you ask me.

Prepare your rotten tomatoes to be thrown because I am about to do something unthinkable and say that the Boston Red Sox have a better bullpen then the New York Yankees. Yeah, they do. Craig Kimbrel has been the best reliever in all of Major League Baseball this season in my opinion, yes better than Kenley Jansen, while Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly and some dude named David Price have been lights out in the bullpen for Boston. Add in the fact that a couple of the Red Sox starters could be entering the bullpen as well and Boston could have one of the deepest bullpens in the playoffs here in 2017.

Slightly behind the Red Sox are finally your New York Yankees and their bullpen. Trust me, it hurt to put the Bronx Bombers behind the Red Sox but I just had to do it. New York doesn’t know what they can expect out of Adam Warren after returning for the final weekend after missing time with a back issue while Tommy Kahnle is inconsistent at best right now for New York. Dellin Betances has been better but the big right-hander has always had a knack for working himself into trouble and I find it hard to rely on him like I have in years past. Don’t get me wrong, I love this bullpen and if everyone is healthy and pitching to the back of their baseball cards then this bullpen can match with anyone in the league, especially the Red Sox and even the Cleveland Indians, but right now not even me being a massive “homer” can rank this bullpen any higher than third out of ten teams, which isn’t bad at all.

Finally a National League team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Or should I say the Los Angeles Kenley Jansen’s because it has been the Jansen show for LA out in the bullpen this season. Jansen recorded 41 saves here in 2017 including 12 saves that were for more than one inning, something you don’t see a whole lot of here in the game lately. Kenta Maeda is in the bullpen and Alex Wood may be not far behind him for the NLDS as the Dodgers combo of Pedro Baez and Ross Stripling looked shaky down the stretch in September.  

The Arizona Diamondbacks may have the second best bullpen in the National League, who saw that coming when the season started back in April of 2017? Some may argue against having the Diamondbacks this high but what Fernando Rodney did after a slow start to the season, 33 saves in 37 chances with a 2.38 ERA along with a .200 batting average against, did enough to convince me that the Diamondbacks were for real here in 2017. Remember, the Arizona pitching staff is amazing so the Diamondbacks are unlikely to have to rely on their bullpen for four-to-five innings a night like some teams. The plan for Torey Lovullo and company has to be to get seven innings out of their starter before handing the ball to Archie Bradley and then Rodney in the 9th. Bradley pitched to a 1.73 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP this season as the setup man and as a multi-inning arm for the Diamondbacks here in 2017 and will likely be used in the same capacity during this year’s postseason.

The Washington Nationals were thought to have one of the worst bullpens in all of the NL East Division when the season started as the team was without a lockdown closer or much middle relief, but then came the July 31st trade deadline. Before the deadline the Nationals acquired Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler in separate trades which completely transformed their bullpen into a dominating machine. Doolittle is the team’s closer now and converted 21 saves after being acquired by Washington allowing Dusty Baker to use arms like Matt Albers, Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez in early inning situations when needed.

The Chicago Cubs bullpen is a bullpen that I would describe as “good, but not great.” Good will win you games and may even win you a short series with some offensive help behind you but I truly think in a seven-game series a “good, but not great” bullpen will get exposed. Wade Davis is still amazing but it is everyone behind Davis that is suspect, even an emerging Carl Edwards Jr. Justin Wilson is a big strikeout guy while Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing should be effective against Washington’s left-handed hitters but I don’t think it will matter at the end of the day unfortunately.

The Colorado Rockies are here only because of Greg Holland. The Rockies middle relief has been shaky all season long even after the acquisitions of Pat Neshek and Jake McGee and it will only garner more question marks when rookie starters Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman join the fold. If the Rockies can just get the ball to Holland though the team has a chance to win every time so that has to be the plan out in Colorado.

The Houston Astros are only in this position because the Minnesota Twins traded away their closer Brandon Kintzler before the July 31st trade deadline. The Astros probably have the shakiest bullpen among all the postseason-bound teams here in 2017 which is evident by their staff ERA of 4.29, 18th best in MLB among all 30 bullpens. Ken Giles was great this season converting 34 of 38 save opportunities but it was the middle relief that is the reason why Giles didn’t get many more saves than that, well that and that high-powered offense.

Finally we have the Minnesota Twins whose bullpen defied the odds after their closer was traded in late July. Matt Belisle is the new closer and has done well all things considered while rookies Trevor Hildenberger and Alan Busenitz have both exceeded expectations in their first years in the bigs respectively. Taylor Rogers has done well as a left-handed specialist for Paul Molitor’s bullpen while the team has been able to patch their way to the postseason without Kintzler. The team’s bullpen can’t be relied upon in my opinion but hey, you can’t predict baseball. Let’s just hope you can tonight in the Bronx.

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