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Handicapping MLB Bullpen Stats

Meaningful Pitching Analysis

On a short Monday card let’s take a look at Bullpen stats and rankings in MLb,  in my opinion and based on solid research, bettors often overlook the importance of the bullpen when making a bet.

One mistake is that they assume that the starter will continue his 3 game trend into the current start.

That many times does not occur and when a strong starter struggle the bullpen is often times the reason a team can still win the game.


The Dodgers have the best ERA in baseball at 3.57. Their bullpen sports a 3.31 ERA and ranks 5th in MLB. The LAD bullpen win/loss record is 18-7, which means that that in 18 games they held the opponent and allowed the offense to score runs and win the game. In only 7 games did they fail to hold a tie or lead. The next best in MLB are the NYY with 14 wins, Philadelphia with 14 wins, and Florida with 14 wins.

The bottom 5 are Washington with just 5 wins and 22 losses, Colorado at 6-10, the Reds at 6-7, KC at 6-11, and Anaheim at 7-13. Wins are important to say the least, but now that we are about a 3rd of the way through the season we need to identify those teams with tired arms in the bullpen. Based on innings pitched Baltimore leads the way with 219.2, Florida with 219.2, LAD with 217.1, Houston with 213.2, and Philadelphia with 213 innings pitched.

The least used bullpens are KC at 167.0, Pittsburgh at 171.2, the Cubs at 172.1, Texas at 174, and LAA at 174.2 innings pitched. Not surprising KC has had 7 complete games by their starters and is a dominant reason why the bullpen has not been overused. Not surprising too is that LAA and Texas have had 5 complete games thrown by their starters.

All of this data leads us to an often used scouting stats called VORP. VORP is simply Value Over Relacement Player. Offensively, it quantifies the number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances. VORP scores do not consider the quality of a player’s defense.

For pitching it reflects and quantifies how dominant a pitcher can be. For example, Zack Greinke ranks number 1 in baseball with a 40.3 VORP score. Jered Weaver is 2nd, then Roy Halliday, Dan Haren, Cliff Lee, Edwin jackson, Kevin Milwood, matt Cain, Josh Johnson, and johnny Cueto round out the top-10.

Interesting that no DOGER appears until 11th ranked Billingsley and Ramon Tracosco, who is a reliever. in summary, take the list of starters that are in the top-10 in VORP and then determine if the bullpen is solid – not having thrown 20 or more innings in the past 7 games – and you will have the beginning of a strong play.

I would also suggest finding this pair of qualifying variables when their teams are on the road. You will get far greater value from the money line in road games when backed by this pair of variables.

So, what i have attempted to show here is that you cannot afford to just look at what i call the “flash” stats. The best example is looking at the tope rated pitching staff in MLB – the Dodgers.

Those are stats based on past performance only. You must look at and tear apart the data to see who is available to pitch out of the bullpen and what value the manager has placed on them on the season. If a key set-up pitcher is not going to be available because they have pitched the past 3 games, then the bullpen strength is greatly reduced.

Boston had just played four games against the Yankees and their close Palpabon had closed the last three games. They then traveled to Philadelphia to begin a 3 game series. in game 1, Boston had to piece meal their way to a 13 inning win knowing that Palpabon was not going to be available.

Now, he did warm-up, but once the Sox got a multi-run lead in the 13th he was shut down.

The thing to remember is simple. Had he pitched in 4 straight games you could pencil in the fact that he would not have pitched for a minimum of 2 games or 2 days.

These are the important points to access.


Comments Are Welcome…

John Ryan has been handicapping baseball, football, and basketball for over fifteen years. He has won several National contests and has placed in top-5’s in countless others.

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