Worst Bullpens in Baseball (7/27/16)

By Mark Dankenbring
Worst Bullpens in Baseball – Part 2

About 10 weeks ago I wrote an article highlighting the worst bullpens in baseball through the first couple months of the season. Bullpen strength isn't often considered when choosing hitters in DFS, but starters only average 5.2 innings pitched per start, so at least a third of the game is handled by the bullpen. The Reds, Rangers, Twins, and Braves landed at the bottom of the list nearly two months ago, and the first two of those teams remain. Let's take a look at their updated statistics as well as the two new teams that appear on our list 100 games into the season.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds continue to have one of the worst pitching seasons in recent history, and their bullpen has remained even worse than their starting staff. Through 100 games, the Reds have a league worst WAR of -3.4 as a collective relief corps, and are the only bullpen with an ERA over five, sitting at 5.37. The Reds are also the only bullpen in the league to have blown more saves than they've converted, sitting at 17 and 16, respectively. Cincinnati's bullpen has been extremely prone to giving up the long ball, as 69 home runs have been hit through their 100 games, is 18 more than the next closest team. Look for the Reds' bullpen to struggle for the rest of the year and remain one of the most targetable staffs across baseball.

Texas Rangers

The next repeat offender on our list is the Rangers. After two months since my original post, they still remain second worst in the MLB in bullpen ERA at 4.85, even though they've improved about .32 points. The Rangers also remain the league's worst bullpen in terms of opponents batting average, currently allowing a .272 average to opposing batters. Texas has been able to close games out well, as they've posted the third highest save percentage of any team, but that's where the good news stops. The Rangers bullpen has the worst strikeout per nine innings pitched this year at 6.98, and are the only team who have struck out less than 18% of batters. If the Rangers are keen on making a postseason run this year, they'll likely make a move or two at the deadline to sure up their bullpen and make it more of a threat come October.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are a new team to the list of worst bullpens, and have really struggled recently. Over the last 30 days, the Rays have the second worst bullpen ERA at 5.58, which has raised their overall ERA to 4.63. Also, over that span the Rays pen has gone 0-5 and are the only team without at least two wins from their bullpen. Overall, the Rays bullpen has allowed the fourth worst average against in the majors, sitting at .265. The Rays also sit fourth worst in home runs allowed per nine innings pitched. Even though the Rays bullpen has struggled this year, they've pitched the fifth fewest amount of innings, so in order to target them successfully, make sure their starter is likely to exit the game early.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The fourth and final team to make the list this week is the Diamondbacks. The D-backs sit at fourth worst in the league in ERA at 4.65. The Diamondbacks have struggled to keep opponents off the base paths, as they've allowed a 1.48 WHIP on the year, which is good for second worst in the league behind the Reds. Attributing to the high WHIP is the amount of walks they've allowed as a bullpen. They've allowed the third most in the league with 154, but also sit in fourth to last with 4.12 walks per nine innings pitched. The D-backs have really struggled over the last month as well, as they have the league's worst ERA over the span at 5.83. Their WHIP stands at 1.69 over that period, good for worst in the league as well, and they've allowed the sixth most home runs per nine innings over the past month. Overall, their numbers are poor, but they're on a severe downturn and should be targeted over the next couple weeks.

It's important to look at the whole context of pitching when choosing batters each day. With a majority of teams relying on their bullpens to go three or more innings night in and night out, a lot of damage can be done on the offensive side. Therefore, keep an eye out for pitching matchups on teams with weaker bullpens, as a majority of at bats in a game can come with relievers on the mound.