MLB Handicapping Tips – Matt Fargo April 3rd, 2008
By: Matt Fargo
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The Bullpen – Key to Profits
Baseball season is just under way and looking at some basic philosophies is important. Starting pitching and offense are the two things that people look at most when handicapping baseball but there is one aspect that is considered by some to be the most important and that is the bullpen. A shaky bullpen can kill a quality start and can erase a big lead given to them by the offense so if the bullpen falters, starting pitching and offense doesn’t even matter.
On the flip side, a good bullpen will do just the opposite and protect those big leads and give the starters good support throughout the season. The middle relief is where games are won and lost and a good middle rotation takes pressure off the closer as well as the starters since they don’t need to feel they have to throw a near perfect game in order to get a win.
Looking at the 2007 season, the top ten teams in bullpen ERA were San Diego, Boston, Toronto, Atlanta, Texas, Cleveland, Chicago Cubs, Washington, Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado. It’s no surprise that six of those teams were in the top 11 in profits with San Diego falling in at 12th, the first team to not show a profit on the season. Those six teams were a combined +$6,317 in profits. Coincidence? Not a chance.
Extending out further, the top 10 teams in bullpen ERA finished a combined +$3,927, a very solid ending number. Looking at the bottom six teams in bullpen ERA, none finished the season with a winning record while none of those teams finished in the profits either. The six teams were 20th or worst on the money list and they lost a combined -$9,323. That is a huge amount of losses.
Going back further there is not much of a difference. In 2006 the top 10 teams in bullpen ERA were Minnesota, Oakland, New York Mets, Detroit, Kansas City, San Diego, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Florida and Toronto. Six of those teams finished in the top 10 in baseball profits with Toronto coming in at 11th. Those six teams were +$8,946 and four of the top five in ERA were the top four in the money list (Minnesota, Oakland, New York Mets and Detroit).
The bottom five teams in bullpen ERA were Kansas City, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Tampa Bay and San Francisco. Only the Royals showed a profit on the season while the other four teams showed a combined deficit of -$5,704. The Kansas City profit was obviously an aberration and it was due to enormous line as the royals still finished with the second worst record in baseball at 62-100.
In 2005, the top ten teams in bullpen ERA were Cleveland, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Oakland, San Diego, Los Angeles Angels, Washington, Seattle and Houston. It’s no surprise that seven of those teams were in the top 10 in profits with Minnesota, San Diego and Seattle being the only teams not to show a profit. Those seven teams were a combined +$8,542 in profits.
Those top ten teams in bullpen ERA finished a combined +$4,725, which is right on pace with history. Looking at the bottom five teams in bullpen ERA, only Boston finished the season with a winning record and the Red Sox and Devil Rays were the only of those five teams to finish in the black on the money line. The combined losses were -$3,438 so a bad bullpen leads to some ugly numbers.
Looking at the 2004 season, the top five teams in bullpen ERA were St. Louis, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Texas and Atlanta. Four of those teams were the top four teams in profits with Anaheim being the only team not in the top four. Those four teams were a combined +$7,745 in profits showing once again that a solid bullpen leads to the cash.
Overall, the top ten teams in bullpen ERA finished a combined +$5,305. Looking at the bottom five teams in bullpen ERA, only Cincinnati finished the season with a profitable year as Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto and Colorado all finished in the red. The combined losses were -$3,585 which is very close to what the bottom five finished with in 2005.
Trying to handicap the bullpens is the toughest part since the pitchers are coming in and out, whether it’s to and from the minors or back and forth from the starting rotation. Knowing who is back there is extremely important and looking at daily transactions is a must since the bullpen is constantly turning over for most teams. It’s an aspect that is overlooked by most but obviously should not as the analysis can make or break your season.
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