Yanks boast best early bullpen

chapman
The MLB season is less than two weeks old, but it’s never too early to get a good handle on which bullpens are performing best and worst. With each passing season, relief pitching takes on greater importance.
 
I tend to lean on my bullpen ratings more than ever nowadays, as I believe the change to placing a runner on second base in extra innings has enhanced the importance of having pitchers who can get hitters out — and in dominant fashion. As such, I have placed even more emphasis on the strikeouts-per-nine-innings calculations. 
 
Before I unveil my current bullpen rankings and a few highlights from my study, it’s important to note that the power ratings I have used are the same ones that go into creating the daily strength ratings and projections you’ll find on VSiN.com all season. They are devised from statistics, performance and perception in the betting markets. I also use ballpark factors in adjusting the stats to accurately reflect the conditions in which a pitcher operates.
 
Why do I find bullpen handicapping so important? Easy. Look at the results from my ratings for the shortened 20202 season:
 
 
— MLB played 950 games last season. By simply taking the team with the higher Steve Makinen Bullpen Power Rating, a bettor would have gone 528-399 (57%) for -1.25 units. There were 23 games in which the teams had equal ratings. While not a positive unit figure, it is still enough for a bettor to have essentially beaten the juice, typically an average of about 7% throughout a season, by simply relying on a fundamental handicapping concept.
 
— In games with a SMBPR difference of 10 or more, the better-rated team was 265-166 (61.4%) for + 23.02 units. This represents a return on investment of 5.3%, a nice return for a few months of MLB betting.
 
— In games in which the SMBPR difference was 20 or better, or essentially the top five bullpens versus the bottom five bullpens, the better-rated team was 77-33 (70%) for + 20.16 units. This is an ROI of 18.3% and a strategy that should earn the endorsement of any baseball bettor doing the daily grind.
 
Keep in mind that these ratings will move throughout the season as I update them as often as daily. However, if you have a good gauge for the talent levels and you monitor the key stats regularly, you’ll be able to understand the differences between teams.
 
Here are some highlights from my rankings and the stats utilized:
 
— The Yankees, one of the leading World Series favorites for 2021, own the best bullpen in baseball, highlighted of course by closer Aroldis Chapman. But New York’s bullpen boasts a lot of power arms beyond him. This is the second straight season the Bronx Bombers top the season-opening list.
 
— The No. 2 team is the Padres, who have moved up in the early part of the season by simply getting hitters out in the first 11 games. Through their 8-3 start, the Padres’ relief corps ranked first in ERA, second in WHIP and fourth in K/9.
 
— The Brewers have dropped from second at the outset of the season to their current ranking of seventh. Their early stats and a couple of blown saves just don’t warrant keeping them near the top of the list, despite what could be the best talent in any pen. Milwaukee has had the NL Relief Pitcher of the Year in three straight seasons with Josh Hader and Devin Williams, and both are still on the staff.
 
— The bullpens of the Blue Jays, Giants, Phillies and Cubs have climbed into the top 10 of the MLB rankings after unexpectedly strong starts. We’ll see how long they can maintain.
 
— The 2020 World Series combatants are in the bottom eight of my current rankings. The Dodgers’ and Rays’ relief staffs have struggled in the early going, but fortunately for the defending champion Dodgers, the starters have done more than enough to cement an 8-2 start.
 
— The A’s, Rockies and Tigers have posted the worst early-season bullpen numbers, and unsurprisingly those teams’ combined record was just 11-20 through Monday. The Athletics’ performance was particularly unexpected as they were ranked in the top 10 to start the season.
 
Here are MLB’s 30 teams ranked in order of their Steve Makinen Bullpen Power Ratings:
 
1. New York Yankees (power rating: 24)
 
ERA: 1.61 (No. 2)
WHIP: 0.738 (No. 1)
K/9: 11.88 (No. 3)
Saves: 2
 
2. San Diego Padres (power rating: 22)
 
ERA: 1.00 (No. 1)
WHIP: 0.839 (No. 2)
K/9: 10.93 (No. 4)
Saves: 6
 
3. Toronto Blue Jays (power rating: 15)
 
ERA: 2.25 (No. 3)
WHIP: 1.196 (No. 8)
K/9: 10.16 (No. 10)
Saves: 3
 
4. Cleveland Indians (power rating: 12)
 
ERA: 2.96 (No. 6)
WHIP: 1.193 (No. 7)
K/9: 10.37 (No. 8)
Saves: 3
 
5. San Francisco Giants (power rating: 9)
 
ERA: 3.34 (No. 7)
WHIP: 1.044 (No. 3)
K/9: 9.39 (No. 18)
Saves: 5
 
6. Philadelphia Phillies (power rating: 8)
 
ERA: 3.73 (No. 10)
WHIP: 1.118 (No. 4)
K/9: 10.06 (No. 13)
Saves: 3
 
7. Milwaukee Brewers (power rating: 8)
 
ERA: 5.05 (No. 22)
WHIP: 1.513 (No. 25)
K/9: 8.82 (No. 25)
Saves: 2
 
8. Minnesota Twins (power rating: 7)
 
ERA: 3.38 (No. 9)
WHIP: 1.153 (No. 5)
K/9: 10.12 (No. 11)
Saves: 3
 
9. Chicago Cubs (power rating: 7)
 
ERA: 2.93 (No. 5)
WHIP: 1.285 (No. 15)
K/9: 13.38 (No. 1)
Saves: 3
 
10. Chicago White Sox (power rating: 6)
 
ERA: 4.41 (No. 17)
WHIP: 1.268 (No. 14)
K/9: 12.19 (No. 2)
Saves: 1
 
11. Atlanta Braves (power rating: 4)
 
ERA: 2.62 (No. 4)
WHIP: 1.37 (No. 17)
K/9: 9.97 (No. 14)
Saves: 3
 
12. Boston Red Sox (power rating: 4)
 
ERA: 3.86 (No. 11)
WHIP: 1.436 (No. 23)
K/9: 10.65 (No. 6)
Saves: 1
 
13. Cincinnati Reds (power rating: 3)
 
ERA: 4.5 (No. 19)
WHIP: 1.2 (No. 9)
K/9: 9.45 (No. 17)
Saves: 3
 
14. Houston Astros (power rating: 3)
 
ERA: 3.92 (No. 12)
WHIP: 1.214 (No. 11)
K/9: 8.37 (No. 29)
Saves: 1
 
15. New York Mets (power rating: 3)
 
ERA: 5.54 (No. 25)
WHIP: 1.692 (No. 28)
K/9: 10.38 (No. 7)
Saves: 0
 
16. Miami Marlins (power rating: 2)
 
ERA: 5.19 (No. 23)
WHIP: 1.182 (No. 6)
K/9: 8.82 (No. 24)
Saves: 1
 
17. Washington Nationals (power rating: 2)
 
ERA: 4.43 (No. 18)
WHIP: 1.211 (No. 10)
K/9: 10.09 (No. 12)
Saves: 1
 
18. Arizona Diamondbacks (power rating: 2)
 
ERA: 3.38 (No. 8)
WHIP: 1.382 (No. 18)
K/9: 9.06 (No. 22)
Saves: 1
 
19. Los Angeles Angels (power rating: 1)
 
ERA: 3.95 (No. 13)
WHIP: 1.386 (No. 19)
K/9: 9.15 (No. 20)
Saves: 3
 
20. St. Louis Cardinals (power rating: 0)
 
ERA: 4.23 (No. 15)
WHIP: 1.32 (No. 16)
K/9: 9.66 (No. 15)
Saves: 3
 
21. Kansas City Royals (power rating: 0)
 
ERA: 4.38 (No. 16)
WHIP: 1.432 (No. 21)
K/9: 10.22 (No. 9)
Saves: 3
 
22. Seattle Mariners (power rating: -1)
 
ERA: 4.19 (No. 14)
WHIP: 1.266 (No. 13)
K/9: 9.07 (No. 21)
Saves: 3
 
23. Los Angeles Dodgers (power rating: -2)
 
ERA: 4.67 (No. 21)
WHIP: 1.593 (No. 27)
K/9: 8.67 (No. 28)
Saves: 4
 
24. Pittsburgh Pirates (power rating: -5)
 
ERA: 5.88 (No. 26)
WHIP: 1.235 (No. 12)
K/9: 10.68 (No. 5)
Saves: 1
 
25. Texas Rangers (power rating: -5)
 
ERA: 5.4 (No. 24)
WHIP: 1.463 (No. 24)
K/9: 9.28 (No. 19)
Saves: 2
 
26. Baltimore Orioles (power rating: -7)
 
ERA: 4.62 (No. 20)
WHIP: 1.432 (No. 22)
K/9: 8.76 (No. 27)
Saves: 3
 
27. Tampa Bay Rays (power rating: -8)
 
ERA: 5.93 (No. 28)
WHIP: 1.707 (No. 29)
K/9: 8.78 (No. 26)
Saves: 3
 
28. Detroit Tigers (power rating: -9)
 
ERA: 7.03 (No. 30)
WHIP: 1.411 (No. 20)
K/9: 9.52 (No. 16)
Saves: 2
 
29. Oakland Athletics (power rating: -10)
 
ERA: 6.02 (No. 29)
WHIP: 1.57 (No. 26)
K/9: 6.86 (No. 30)
Saves: 0
 
30. Colorado Rockies (power rating: -12)
 
ERA: 5.92 (No. 27)
WHIP: 1.711 (No. 30)
K/9: 9 (No. 23)
Saves: 2
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