MLB Bullpen System update: Better bullpen underdogs blazing in August

August 7, 2023 11:00 AM

MLB Bullpen System update: Better bullpen underdogs blazing in August

This past week was a tremendous one for the bullpen systems, particularly the one suggesting to back the teams with better Steve Makinen Bullpen Ratings as underdogs, as they produced over 14 units of profit while going 19-8. Anyone who knows underdog wagering understands how good of a performance that is. Huge favorites also continued to struggle, regardless of bullpen status, and anyone who has been following this weekly column knows that we need to consciously avoid, or better yet, fade those teams on a regular basis.

The rest of our six drill-down systems were down a bit but nothing nearly as definitive as the profits we gained from our better bullpen dogs. The overall numbers climbed significantly as well, and I will get deeper into that.

Hopefully, you have continued to embrace 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. I also hope the continuous tracking is 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.

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 +30 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 as well.

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 11-9 this past seven days and lost another -8.81 units. Now, in games this season through Sunday 8/6 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 195-113 record, but for -64.55 units. This is an R.O.I. of -21%! 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 45-49 for -65.82 units! This angle was 4-2 last week and actually won a minimal +0.04 units. 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 -70%!

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 phenomenal 19-8 (+14.15 units) performance over the last week, moneyline underdog teams with better bullpen ratings for the season are now 264-259 for +67.36 units. The R.O.I. of this angle remains a healthy 12.9%!

Worse bullpen teams continue to struggle in extending winning streaks

I have found that fading teams with a lesser SM bullpen rating that are looking to extend winning streaks has been a strong strategy. However, the strategy of fading these teams over the last seven days didn’t continue as usual. After an 8-8 (+2.44 units) week, on two-game winning streaks, the teams with worse Steve Makinen Bullpen Ratings in a matchup are now 178-174 for -31.08 units, an R.O.I. of -8.8%. After a 6-4 result (+3.74 units), worse bullpen teams on 3+ game winning streaks now have a record of 69-84 for -17.51 units. The R.O.I. on that system continues to produce at -11.4%.

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 two-game data, although these did do OK last week. However, when looking at teams with better Steve Makinen Bullpen Ratings looking to extend three-game winning streaks, I have tracked that these teams have gone 170-110 for +28.5 units, an impressive R.O.I. of 10.2%. These better bullpen teams had a negative week though, -2.71 units on a 7-7 performance.

Better bullpen teams thwart losing streaks

Updating the results since July 24, when on two-game losing streaks, the teams with better SM bullpen ratings in a matchup have gone 173-132 for +9.94 units. Better bullpen teams on 3+ game losing streaks have gone 84-56 for +18.13 units. The R.O.I. on this system remains 13%, but it was over 50% just a month 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 for 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 a fantastic week, with two particularly incredible days, going 61-32 for +14.16 units.

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

Monday 7/31: 4-5, -4.94 units

Tuesday 8/1: 12-2, +9.58 units

Wednesday 8/2: 9-6, +1.74 units

Thursday 8/3: 10-1, +10.1 units

Friday 8/4: 7-7, -3.58 units

Saturday 8/5: 10-5, +2.49 units

Sunday 8/6: 9-6, -1.22 units

Adding these numbers to the overall season records of this methodology, we are now at 916-726 for -35.29 units. Even though these are showing losses for the year overall, compare that to the average baseball bettor, who if playing every game so far this season, would be down almost -130 units with average performance. We are nearly up to a 100-unit difference, or what should be referred to as an advantage.

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, August 6th and I do update them on a daily basis.

Key Bullpen Stats (through games of August 6th)

Top 5 Bullpen ERAs

  1. New York Yankees: 3.07
  2. Seattle: 3.51
  3. Baltimore: 3.55
  4. Cleveland: 3.56
  5. Atlanta: 3.58

Worst 5 Bullpen ERAs

  1. Oakland: 5.53
  2. Kansas City: 5.23
  3. Washington: 5.13
  4. Colorado: 4.84
  5. Texas: 4.68

Top 5 Bullpen WHIPs

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

Worst 5 Bullpen WHIPs

  1. Oakland: 1.52
  2. Kansas City: 1.48
  3. Colorado: 1.48
  4. Washington: 1.46
  5. St Louis: 1.41

Top 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. Houston: 10.46
  2. Baltimore: 10.25
  3. Seattle: 10.20
  4. Toronto: 9.85
  5. Miami: 9.76

Worst 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. Washington: 7.60
  2. Colorado: 8.36
  3. Oakland: 8.38
  4. Tampa Bay: 8.44
  5. Boston: 8.45

Top 5 Bullpen Last 7 Games WHIPs

  1. Seattle: 0.81
  2. St Louis: 0.82
  3. Baltimore: 0.84
  4. Washington: 0.91
  5. Milwaukee: 0.92

Worst 5 Bullpen Last 7 Games WHIPs

  1. Boston: 2.02
  2. New York Mets: 1.73
  3. Colorado: 1.69
  4. Los Angeles Angels: 1.66
  5. Houston: 1.65

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 31st:

Biggest upward movers (PR points)

  1. Washington: +12 points
  2. Baltimore, Seattle, Texas +6
  3. Atlanta/Chicago Cubs/St. Louis: +4

Biggest downward movers (PR points)

  1. Boston: -11 points
  2. New York Mets: -10
  3. Arizona, Colorado: -5
  4. Los Angeles Angels/Miami: -4

Steve’s Current Bullpen Ratings/Ranks

Rank - Team - Bullpen PR

  1. Baltimore: 21
  2. New York Yankees: 20
  3. Tampa Bay: 15
  4. San Francisco: 15
  5. Seattle: 15
  6. Milwaukee: 15
  7. Chicago Cubs: 14
  8. Houston: 13
  9. Atlanta: 12
  10. Minnesota: 11
  11. Toronto: 9
  12. Philadelphia: 9
  13. Los Angeles Dodgers: 8
  14. Pittsburgh: 6
  15. Cleveland: 5
  16. San Diego: 5
  17. Texas: 0
  18. Cincinnati: 0
  19. Boston: -2
  20. Detroit: -2
  21. Miami: -4
  22. St. Louis: -6
  23. Chicago White Sox: -8
  24. Arizona: -9
  25. Washington: -9
  26. Los Angeles Angels: -11
  27. New York Mets: -14
  28. Colorado: -20
  29. Oakland: -27
  30. Kansas City: -32

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 an unusually high six teams on 3+ game winning streaks and six teams on 3+ game losing skids:

Active 3+ game winning streaks (as of 8/7)

  • Baltimore
  • Minnesota
  • Seattle
  • Texas
  • Toronto
  • Washington

Active 3+ game losing streaks (as of 8/7)

  • Arizona
  • Boston
  • Cincinnati
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Miami
  • New York Mets
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