Ranking The Top Five Bullpens In Baseball
1. Atlanta Braves
When you have the best bullpen arm in the game, it’s hard not to be #1. Craig Kimbrel is just head and shoulders above everyone else.
Consider this: Kimbrel has only pitched in three full seasons. In all three years from 2011-2013, he’s led the National League in saves, made the all-star team and every year, and has an ERA around 1.50.
And he’s just 25-years-old.
The rest of the Braves bullpen isn’t too shabby, either. Left-hander Luis Avilan is more of a finesse guy than a strikeout king, but he has a 1.69 career ERA and allowed just one home run in 65 innings last season.
Hard-throwing right-hander Jordan Walden had a 10.3 K/9 in close to 50 innings in 2013, and David Carpenter–although most likely known for the huge home run he gave up in the playoffs–was a revelation in his age-27 season, pitching 65.2 innings last season with an ERA under 2.00.
Throw in the fact Jonny Venters could return in May from Tommy John Surgery, and you have the standard for bullpens across the MLB.
2. Boston Red Sox
The defending world champions have depth in their bullpen, and lots of it. We all know what Koji Uehara is capable of, he was quite possibly the team’s MVP over the course of last season with his video game-like 1.09 ERA and .565 WHIP.
Add in the signing of Edward Mujica, who put up top three closers numbers and an eye-opening 17.00 K/BB ratio in the first half of last season as the set-up man, and look out.
The Sox also boast Junichi Tazawa as a dependable back end option, two established left handers in Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller, and young Brandon Workman, who actually pitched high-profile innings in the World Series last season.
This bullpen can match-up with the best of them.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
I don’t know what’s it the water in Missouri, but if you want hard-throwing, triple-digit MPH arms (who doesn’t?), then look no further than the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen.
Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez (who’s still in the mix for a rotation spot), and Kevin Siegrist can all dominate hitters with just fastballs, and not one of them has even reached their 25th birthday.
Add in reliable veteran Randy Choate, the underrated stylings of Seth Maness, and a possible return by former all-star Jason Motte, and you have one of the most dominating back-ends in the game today.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
But instead they flourished.
Both guys were lights out all of 2013. Melancon (who I ranked the top set-up man in the game earlier this offseason) posted an ERA of 1.39 in 71 innings, and Grilli was an all-star until an injury last season.
Combine those two with left-handed studs Tony Watson–who posted a 0.69 ERA in the second half of last season–and Justin Wilson–who managed a 2.08 ERA in over 70 innings last year–and you have a bullpen built for success.
5. Cincinnati Reds
How do you leave a bullpen off this list when they have a guy who throws 104 MPH and posted a 15.8 K/9 last season?
You don’t. If Aroldis Chapman isn’t the best closer in the game, he’s certainly the second best. He has reinforcements, as well.
Sean Marshall is a former closer and established bullpen arm, opponents hit an abysmal .197 against J.J. Hoover in 2013, and Jonathon Broxton could be ready by opening day. It’s not just a one-man-show in Cincinnati.
Bullpens that just missed the cut: Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants
Follow OPSN Lead Writer Shawn Ferris on Twitter @RealShawnFerris for more MLB news, updates, and analysis.