MLB Bullpen System update: A volatile week moves numbers slightly

July 31, 2023 11:15 PM

MLB Bullpen System update: A volatile week moves numbers slightly

This past week was a volatile one for the bullpen systems on a day-to-day basis, but when all was said and done, the six drill-down systems we have been tracking barely moved. Some were up, some were down. I guess that’s how it goes sometimes in a season that stretches six months. The overall numbers seem to be dropping lately, almost in unison with the statistical numbers of bullpens throughout the league. Interestingly, this year’s average bullpen ERA has plummeted to 4.13. In recent seasons, this number has been closer to 3.8. Could this be one of the reasons the numbers for all games are down comparatively to recent years? Are bullpens being less reliable than usual, and as a result, the better bullpens are losing more regularly? That would be a reasonable explanation for big favorites struggling so badly.

Even despite the inconsistent performance of late, hopefully, you have embraced the idea that better bullpen teams are the stronger wager when assessing the options. They just aren’t accounted for as much as starting pitching by oddsmakers, thus giving bettors value in typically at least 1/3 of games. Hopefully, the numbers are also convincing you that paying exorbitant prices in baseball makes little sense, as the big favorites continue to lose money for their backers, even with superior bullpens.

I’ll remind readers of what I shared last week when asked what’s the easiest way to use these bullpen ratings. Well, there may be more profitable ways (by ROI) as shown by the drill-down systems below, but the easiest method is to simply take the teams with the better Steve Makinen Bullpen Ratings that aren’t favored by -190 or more. Had you been doing that all year, taking the overall season record and subtracting the big favorite losses, you’d still be up about +8 units.

I’ll be continuing my weekly tracking of all these numbers for the rest of the season, and I’m hoping you have actively been employing these principles. I will continue to stress how much I believe in the foundation of the bullpen systems I have been tracking and how easy they are to utilize.

If you missed our new VSiN Analytics feature called the MLB Report, you can get all of these bullpen systems qualified for you each day.

Remember, to fully implement these strategies into your daily baseball betting routine, you only need two things: 1) the details of the systems as noted below and 2) VSiN Pro Access to MAKINEN​ DAILY POWER RATINGS page under the MLB tab on

AVOID/FADE all better bullpen overpriced favorites of -190 or higher

Highly priced better bullpen teams were just 11-5 this past seven days and won a minimal +0.7 units. Now, in games this season through Sunday 7/30 in which the team with the Steve Makinen better-rated bullpen was listed as a favorite of -190 or higher, that team now owns a 184-104 record, but for -55.74 units. In my opinion, bullpens prove to be the difference in games that are priced more competitively, and I personally don’t like backing heavy favorites with this high of prices on any single regular season baseball game.

Overpriced better bullpen without a big starting pitcher edge angle

In combining starting pitcher differences in looking at games with -190 favorites or higher, there’s been an opportunity to be selective in fading overpriced favorites. Specifically, when the starting pitcher difference between the better Steve Makinen rated bullpen team is less than 20, these big favorites have gone just 41-47 for -65.86 units! This angle was 3-2 last week but still lost –1.11 units, another week on continued fade opportunity realized. This situation is rare but should be taken advantage of when it arises. Even though the R.O.I. on this system is shrinking steadily, for the season it remains at -74.8%!

Better bullpen underdog teams remain solid wagers

A frequent and profitable system arises when the team with the better SM Bullpen Ratings is playing as an underdog (or pick 'em). After a mediocre 12-15 (-1.26 units) performance over the last week, moneyline underdog teams with better bullpen ratings for the season are now 245-251 for +53.21 units. The R.O.I. of this angle remains a healthy 10.7%!

Worse bullpen teams continue to struggle in extending winning streaks

I have found that fading teams with lesser SM bullpen ratings that are looking to extend winning streaks has been a strong strategy. The strategy of fading these teams over the last 7 days continued to produce the results we’re looking for. After a 6-9 (-1.93 units) week, on 2-game winning streaks, the teams with worse Steve Makinen Bullpen Ratings in a matchup are now 170-166 for -33.52 units, an R.O.I. of -10%. After a 3-4 result (-1.14 units), worse bullpen teams on 3+ game winning streaks now have a record of 63-80 for -21.25 units. The R.O.I. on that system continues to produce at -14.9%.

Better bullpen teams are capable of building lengthy winning streaks

In conducting a study of teams with better bullpens on winning streaks, I have not found anything significant on the 2-game data, although these did do OK last week. However, when looking at teams with better Steve Makinen Bullpen Ratings looking to extend 3-game winning streaks, I have tracked that these teams have gone 163-103 for +31.21 units, an impressive R.O.I. of 11.7%. These better bullpen teams had a rough week though, with -5.74 units on a 6-9 performance.

Better bullpen teams thwart losing streaks

Updating the results since 7/24 of when on 2-game losing streaks, the teams with better SM bullpen ratings in a matchup have gone 166-127 for +11.2 units. Better bullpen teams on 3+ game losing streaks have gone 80-52 for +22.19 units. The R.O.I. on this system remains 16.8%, but it was over 50% just a few weeks ago. We’ll continue to track this hoping it turns back around soon.

These simple angles can be qualified each day by utilizing the MAKINEN DAILY RATINGS page on

My goal of posting and tracking these angles regularly is to get you to think along the lines of how fundamentally important good bullpens are in handicapping baseball and in being able to realize that no MLB game should ever command such lofty prices. I will continue to stress that I believe the reason for the success of these strategies is that they are foundational systems based upon a key team strength and other situational factors.

The reason these drill-down systems arose is that I wanted VSiN readers to feel more comfortable in betting systems that don’t require wagering on every single game. That said, for the entire season I have again been tracking the original general bullpen system, which took into account the overall record for backing the better bullpen rated team in every game on the schedule. This is how the analysis started, and I have expanded since. I’ve been using this methodology for the last five or six years to strong profits. It was very negative for the last 7 days, with two particularly brutal days, going 40-44 for -19.3 units.

Back to last week’s results, these were the figures by day:

Monday 7/24: 5-3, +1.21 units

Tuesday 7/25: 6-7, -2.52 units

Wednesday 7/26: 5-9, -8.7 units

Thursday 7/27: 3-2, +1.06 units

Friday 7/28: 8-6, -0.39 units

Saturday 7/29: 7-8, -6.3 units

Sunday 7/30: 7-8, -3.66 units

Adding these numbers to the overall season records of this methodology, we are now at 855-694 for -49.45 units. Even though our losses have been building overall, compare that to the average baseball bettor, who if playing every game so far this season, would be down almost -120 units with average performance.

Here are the updated key bullpen stats that have been accumulated so far this season, as well as my current Bullpen Power Ratings as we head into this week’s games. Note, ratings were as of games through Sunday, July 30th and I do update them on a daily basis.

Key Bullpen Stats (through games of July 30th)

Top 5 Bullpen ERAs

  1. New York Yankees: 3.14
  2. Cleveland: 3.52
  3. Boston: 3.63
  4. Seattle: 3.64
  5. Toronto: 3.65

Worst 5 Bullpen ERAs

  1. Oakland: 5.50
  2. Washington: 5.40
  3. Kansas City: 5.16
  4. Texas: 4.83
  5. Colorado: 4.77

Top 5 Bullpen WHIPs

  1. Tampa Bay: 1.20
  2. Cleveland: 1.21
  3. Atlanta: 1.21
  4. San Francisco: 1.21
  5. New York Yankees: 1.22

Worst 5 Bullpen WHIPs

  1. Oakland: 1.52
  2. Washington: 1.50
  3. Kansas City: 1.48
  4. Colorado: 1.46
  5. St Louis: 1.43

Top 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. Houston: 10.44
  2. Baltimore: 10.21
  3. Seattle: 10.19
  4. Toronto: 9.99
  5. Atlanta: 9.78

Worst 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. Washington: 7.60
  2. Tampa Bay: 8.29
  3. Oakland: 8.37
  4. Colorado: 8.46
  5. Boston: 8.56

Top 5 Bullpen Last 7 Games WHIPs

  1. Chicago Cubs: 0.78
  2. New York Yankees: 0.85
  3. Pittsburgh: 1.05
  4. Seattle: 1.12
  5. Toronto: 1.12

Worst 5 Bullpen Last 7 Games WHIPs

  1. St. Louis: 1.79
  2. Arizona: 1.66
  3. Washington: 1.62
  4. Houston: 1.62
  5. Colorado: 1.55

I use a manual process of analyzing daily box scores to build my Bullpen Power Ratings. In most cases, the end number is a reflection of the stats listed above with great consideration also given to overall talent, injuries, and momentum.

Biggest Movers in SM Bullpen Power Ratings since last week Monday, July 24th

Biggest upward movers (PR points)

  1. Chicago Cubs, San Diego: +6 points
  2. Boston: +5
  3. New York Yankees, Pittsburgh +4                                                                              

Biggest downward movers (PR points)

  1. Minnesota, Colorado: -7 points
  2. Atlanta, Los Angeles Dodgers: -6
  3. Houston/Milwaukee/St Louis: -5

Steve’s Current Bullpen Ratings/Ranks

Rank - Team - Bullpen PR

  1. Tampa Bay: 18
  2. New York Yankees: 17
  3. Baltimore: 15
  4. San Francisco: 13
  5. Milwaukee: 13
  6. Los Angeles Dodgers: 11
  7. Houston: 11
  8. Toronto: 11
  9. Chicago Cubs: 10
  10. Boston: 9
  11. Philadelphia: 9
  12. Seattle: 9
  13. Minnesota: 9
  14. Atlanta: 8
  15. San Diego: 7
  16. Cleveland: 6
  17. Pittsburgh: 5
  18. Cincinnati: 3
  19. Miami: 0
  20. Detroit: 0
  21. New York Mets: -4
  22. Arizona: -4
  23. Texas: -6
  24. Chicago White Sox: -6
  25. Los Angeles Angels: -7
  26. St. Louis: -10
  27. Colorado: -15
  28. Washington: -21
  29. Oakland: -25
  30. Kansas City: -30

These are sorted first by bullpen ranking, and then by overall team power rating. Remember to continue being selective using the drill-down systems I have shared.

As we head into this week’s games, it should be noted that there are three teams on 3+ game winning streaks and three teams on 3+ game losing skids:

Active 3+ game winning streaks (as of 7/31)

  • Atlanta
  • Kansas City
  • San Diego

Active 3+ game losing streaks (as of 7/31)

  • Milwaukee
  • Minnesota
  • Texas
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