MLB Bullpen System update: evaluating the first half of the season

July 10, 2023 08:04 PM

We have reached the MLB all-star break, the end of the unofficial first half of the season. It was a good first-half run for all of my MLB Bullpen Systems, despite giving back some profits last week after losses. If you’ve been reading these weekly articles and following along, I’m hoping you have actively been employing these principles, and 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.

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 Ratings page under the MLB tab on

The only one of our six drill-down systems that produced profitably was the overpriced angle fading better bullpen teams without a big starting pitcher edge. That said, I’m very pleased with where we stand right now and look forward to a successful second half of the season.

Just a note of my schedule moving forward…I will be digging deep into college football prep over the next two weeks, mostly in getting ready for our 2023 VSiN College Football Betting Guide, so I probably won’t be doing another bullpen update till Monday 7/24.

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 32-42 for -64.63 units! This angle was 6-3 last week but still lost -0.9 units, another week on continued fade opportunity realized. This situation is rare but should be taken advantage of when it arises. The R.O.I. on this has been -87.3%!

Avoid/fade all better bullpen overpriced favorites

Highly-priced better bullpen teams were 16-7 this past seven days and won a minimal +0.2 units. Now, in games this season through Sunday 7/9 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 158-85 record, but for -38.64 units. In my opinion, bullpens are the difference in games that are priced more competitively, and I don’t like backing heavy favorites with this high of prices on any single regular season baseball game. Hopefully, some of you have embraced the concept that backing the underdogs in these games is a profitable endeavor, no matter how much it appears that the favorite “should win.”

Better bullpen underdog teams are solid wagers but gave back some profits last week

A frequent and profitable system arises when the team with the better SM Bullpen Ratings plays as an underdog (or pick 'em). After a 6-13 (-6.29 units) week, our worst of the season, money line underdog teams with better bullpen ratings for the season are now 208-211 for +49.96 units. Even so, the R.O.I. of this angle remains a healthy 11.9%!

Worse bullpen teams have struggled in extending winning streaks but won last week

I have found that fading teams with a lesser bullpen rating that are looking to extend winning streaks has been a strong strategy. The strategy of fading these teams last week also lost some of our season profit. On two-game winning streaks, the teams with worse Steve Makinen Bullpen Ratings in a matchup are now 148-136 for -23.01 units, an R.O.I. of -8.1%. After a 6-6 result, worse bullpen teams on 3+ game-winning streaks now have a record of 51-67 for -17.45 units. The R.O.I. on that system is -14.8%.

Better bullpen teams are capable of building lengthy winning streaks

In conducting a study of teams with better bullpens on winning streaks, I haven't found anything significant in the two-game data. 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 144-86 for +34.46 units, an impressive R.O.I. of 15%. These better bullpen teams gave some $ back with a 9-8 (-2.7 units) result in the last seven days.

Better bullpen teams thwart losing streaks

After posting losses the last two weeks, updating the results of when on two-game losing streaks, the teams with better bullpen ratings in a matchup have gone 143-100 for +23.8 units. Better bullpen teams on 3+ game losing streaks have gone 69-36 for +34.06 units. The R.O.I. on this system is 32.4%!

These simple angles can be qualified daily using 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 again negative last week, going 52-43 for -9.47 units. I will continue to stress that when combined with avoiding overpriced favorites, the simple strategy of backing better bullpen teams will keep you in the baseball betting game for the long haul.

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

Monday 7/3: 7-3, +3.74 units

Tuesday 7/4: 8-7, -2.37 units

Wednesday 7/5: 6-8, -3.7 units

Thursday 7/6: 6-6, -1.28 units

Friday 7/7: 8-7, -1.93 units

Saturday 7/8: 10-5, +0.09 units

Sunday 7/9: 7-7, -4.02 units

Interestingly, every one of the last seven days was at least .500 in terms of better bullpens winning games, but the high prices led to losses. Adding these numbers to the overall season records of this methodology, we are now at 737-587 for -24.67 units. Compare that to the average baseball bettor, who if playing every game so far this season, would be down about 95 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 9th and I do update them on a daily basis.

Key Bullpen Stats (through games of July 9th)

Top 5 Bullpen ERAs

  1. Cleveland: 3.09
  2. New York Yankees: 3.11
  3. Atlanta: 3.43
  4. Houston: 3.56
  5. Toronto: 3.63

Worst 5 Bullpen ERAs

  1. Oakland: 5.75
  2. Kansas City: 5.09
  3. Washington: 5.03
  4. Colorado: 4.90
  5. Chicago White Sox: 4.74

Top 5 Bullpen WHIPs

  1. Cleveland: 1.15
  2. Atlanta: 1.18
  3. Toronto: 1.21
  4. New York Yankees: 1.22
  5. Tampa Bay: 1.23

Worst 5 Bullpen WHIPs

  1. Oakland: 1.56
  2. Colorado: 1.50
  3.  Kansas City: 1.49
  4. Washington: 1.47
  5. St. Louis: 1.41

Top 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. Houston: 10.57
  2. Baltimore: 10.31
  3. Philadelphia: 10.07
  4. Toronto: 10.02
  5. Kansas City: 9.95

Worst 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. Washington: 7.49
  2. Tampa Bay: 8.15
  3. Boston: 8.15
  4. Oakland: 8.30
  5. Cincinnati: 8.38

Top 5 Bullpen Last 7 Games WHIPs

  1. Seattle: 0.80
  2. Philadelphia: 0.86
  3. Toronto: 0.88
  4. Milwaukee: 0.96
  5. Atlanta: 1.01

Worst 5 Bullpen Last 7 Games WHIPs

  1. Los Angeles Angels: 2.08
  2. Kansas City: 1.80
  3. St. Louis: 1.78
  4. New York Yankees: 1.72
  5. San Diego: 1.60

I use a manual process of analyzing daily box scores to build my Bullpen Power Ratings. In most cases, the end number reflects 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 the 3rd of July:

Biggest upward movers (PR points)

  1. Cincinnati: +6 points
  2. Pittsburgh, Toronto: +5
  3. Philadelphia: +4

Biggest downward movers (PR points)

  1. Los Angeles Angels: -12 points
  2. New York Yankees, St. Louis, Kansas City: -6
  3. Arizona, Chicago White Sox: -5

Steve’s Current Bullpen Ratings/Ranks

Rank - Team - Bullpen PR

  1. Tampa Bay: 20
  2. New York Yankees: 17
  3. Houston: 16
  4. Atlanta: 15
  5. Toronto: 15
  6. Minnesota: 15
  7. Cleveland: 15
  8. San Francisco: 13
  9. Philadelphia: 10
  10. Baltimore: 10
  11. Los Angeles Dodgers: 9
  12. Arizona: 9
  13. Chicago Cubs: 8
  14. Milwaukee: 7
  15. Seattle: 6
  16. Miami: 4
  17. Cincinnati: 3
  18. Detroit: 1
  19. Texas: -1
  20. San Diego: -1
  21. New York Mets: -3
  22. Pittsburgh: -3
  23. Boston: -4
  24. Los Angeles Angels: -6
  25. St. Louis: -6
  26. Chicago White Sox: -9
  27. Washington: -13
  28. Kansas City: -18
  29. Colorado: -21
  30. Oakland: -35

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.

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