Relief pitching is a crucial part of baseball, as an elite bullpen can shutdown an explosive lineup late in the game, and a poor staff can ruin a starters’ great night. The Kansas City Royals’ relievers were crucial in their playoff run, and many argue that the only thing holding the Detroit Tigers back from a title is their bullpen.
My rankings are based on production, not on who has biggest name relievers.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
This past season, all three Pirate relievers put up ERAs below 2.00. Out of the three, Melancon has been particularly impressive. In two season with the Pirates, the right-hander has pitched very well, posting a 1.65 ERA.
The Pittsburg bullpen is already very impressive, and they could be adding another weapon to their arsenal next season. John Holdzkom, who is 27-years-old, pitched towards the end of the year, and in his first nine games in the bigs, Holdzkom recorded a 2.00 ERA while striking out 14 batters.
4. Baltimore Orioles
With the American League’s third-best ERA last season, the Baltimore Orioles’ relief corp was very impressive this past year. Darren O’Day is very excited about this season, as he says the pen has no plans of dropping off in the upcoming year: “We were pretty good, and we’ll be just as good this year, if not better this year.”
With O’Day, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz all still on the roster, O’Day might be right. The pen only got more effective down the stretch last season. Out of the four, O’Day posted the highest second-half ERA at 2.57. Matusz lead the year at 1.42.
The relievers did an excellent job of controlling damage when entering the game in tough situations. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the bullpen allowed just 25 percent of inherited runners to score, the second-lowest mark in the American League.
3. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners will have a lot of choices in relief situations. Last season, Fernando Rodney was the Mariners All-Star closer, putting up an ERA of 2.85. Dominic Leone put up a 2.17 ERA, Tom Wilhelmsen posted a 2.27 ERA, and Danny Farquhar had a 2.66 ERA. As a group, Seattle’s bullpen had a 2.59 ERA last season, which was the lowest mark in baseball.
If the Seattle Mariners are going to end the team’s 14-year non-playoff streak, the bullpen is going to have to step up again in 2015.
2. New York Yankees
Spring training is rapidly approaching, and the Yankees should have two tremendous options at closer in Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. Miller, who was signed by the Yankees to a four-year, $36 million deal this offseason, played very will last season while spending time with both the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. In 72 games, Miller put up a 2.02 ERA, while recording a 14.9 K/9 ratio.
Betances played well in 2014 as well. The 26-year-old held opposing teams to a .149 batting average and also stuck out 135 batters in only 90 innings. Betances commented on the closing situation , saying he isn’t worried about the competition for the spot.
“I haven’t put too much mind into it. There’s people that have mentioned it. For me, I’m just going to try to do the same thing, whether it’s the seventh, eighth or ninth.”
For opposing teams, it won’t pleasant facing the New York Yankees at the end of the game.
1. Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals’ bullpen was absolutely incredible in 2014.
In fact, there had never been a team with two relievers who both pitched at least 60 innings and recorded ERAs below 1.50. The Royals had three in Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis.
Out of those three, Davis was the most effective. In 2014, the right-hander had a 1.00 ERA and didn’t give up a single home run in 72 games.
The Royals’ bullpen was a major part of their 2014 run to the World Series, and it should be just as good this season.