The first thing every baseball bettor used to do was look at the starting pitching matchup and start handicapping from that perspective. While this still important, that part of handicapping baseball has diminished.
Thanks to the dollar’s invested in starting pitching, the analytics aspects of the sport and greater dependency on bullpens, MLB bettors are forced to view pitching differently.
Last year relievers were used over 38 percent of all innings played, a major league record. The front office, not the manager as much anymore, is who controls games. The manager today is like a retail store manager, who has certain responsibilities, but he is in daily contact with the district manager (front office personnel), who is really calling the shots.
With this type of thinking, the skipper might have his No.3 starter rolling along in pitching five strong innings, but because the game plan going in was to not have the starting pitcher face the opposing batting order a third time, the bullpen has to go to work. If it works, great, but if the bullpen gives up a lead and blows the game, the public and talk radio are not asking for the head of the analytics department to be fired.
That is why in today’s game, you need a deep and varied bullpen.
Here we will look at some of the best and worst coming into the 2018 season. Many teams are not settled at the beginning of the season and we will see some pens get better or worse as the year unfolds. Here is our subjective opinion of how we see it and your comments are always welcome.
1) Yankees – Having Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances is a great place to start but having David Robertson, Adam Warren, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green is a well-constructed bridge to the late innings of any New York contest.
2) Astros – While Ken Giles and Chris Devenski are not household names, with Houston on television more this year, baseball fans will learn what baseball bettors already know. Adding Joe Smith was brilliant and change of scenery might really help Hector Rondon.
3) Indians – Granted, the Tribe did lose Byran Shaw and Joe Smith, but in the dugout is Terry Francona and he will find hurlers that will get him to studs Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.
4) Rockies – Some might argue the Dodgers or Red Sox should be listed here, but Colorado also works. Wade Davis, Jake McGee and the aforementioned Shaw are going to save a lot of wear and tear on the Rockies youthful starting staff. The rest of the pensters are not sensational, but manager Bud Black knows how to mix and match them.
30) Royals – After several seasons of having elite bullpen’s, those days are over in Kansas City. If you like a Royals starting pitcher to do well against an opposing team, you might consider first five-innings wager with this crew.
29) Tigers – Here is a stunner, the Detroit bullpen is a dumpster fire. Though individual closers have enjoyed great seasons for the Tigers, the last time they had a terrific bullpen was 2006. Best case scenario for this contingent of relievers, mediocre.
28) Marlins – All you need to know is 38-year old journeyman Brad Ziegler is the Miami closer (for now).
27) Rays – Alex Colome was effective when he moved to the bullpen in 2015 and followed that up with a banner season in 2016. Last year Colome saw a regression in all areas and since he’s being backed up by Daniel Hudson, Andrew Kittredge, Dan Jennings and Sergio Romo (formerly of the Giants), you can figure how this will turn out.
Doug Upstone wrote this for ScoresandStats.com