Reviewing the AL East 2015 Projections: Relief Pitching


Sep 26, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Andrew Miller (48) pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

We are on to the AL East bullpens in the rankings review, and Dellin Betances just started warming up again. I kid, I kid.

While my thoughts on Joe Girardi‘s overuse of his bullpen are one thing, the effectiveness was quite clear. And it wasn’t just Andrew Miller and Betances. I guess that kind of gives away who I am ranking at number one.

With that said, let’s get right to the rankings. Players who appeared in 20 or more games will be included.

Preseason Rankings (expanded upon here)

  1. Baltimore Orioles – Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Wesley Wright, Brad Brach, Ryan Webb, T.J.McFarland, Logan Verrett, Jason Garcia
  2. Boston Red Sox – Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Edward Mujica, Anthony Varvaro, Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross Jr., Brandon Workman, Steven Wright
  3. New York Yankees – Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, David Carpenter, Chase Whitley, Esmil Rogers, Bryan Mitchell, Jorge DePaula
  4. Toronto Blue Jays – Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Steve Delabar, Todd Redmond, Chad Jenkins, Kyle Drabek, Aaron Sanchez
  5. Tampa Bay Rays – Grant Balfour, Brad Boxberger, Jake McGee, Jeff Beliveau, Kirby Yates, Ernesto Frieri, Burch Smith, Kevin Jepsen

End of Season Rankings

  1. New York Yankees – Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren (also a starter), Branden Pinder

My concern with the Yankees bullpen had nothing to do with Miller or Betances. Sure, I didn’t know if Miller would be able to handle being a closer and replacing Mariano Rivera. Well, he did just fine, finishing with a 2.04 ERA, 36 saves, a fantastic WHIP of .859 and a strikeouts per nine innings of 14.6. Miller was really, really good.

However, Betances may have been even better. Despite appearing in tied-for-the-most games out of any relief pitcher in the AL East, Betances had a 1.50 ERA, 9 saves, a WHIP of 1.012 and a strikeouts per nine innings of 14.0. A dominant duo at the back end of the bullpen.

But Wilson, who tied Betances with 74 appearances, was very good as well. He had done well for several years for the Pirates, and it certainly translated to the AL East. He had a 3.10 ERA, was 5-0, with a 1.131 WHIP. These three allowed Joe Girardi to feel comfortable if his team had a lead through six innings, because they all were lights out.

But, the other pitchers in the ‘pen did a good job as well. Warren served as the long man, and Shreve and Pinder, two I didn’t even project to the bullpen when the season started, each had ERAs under 3.10.

2. Baltimore Orioles – Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Chaz Roe, T.J. McFarland

In most divisions, the Orioles bullpen would have been the best. Britton also had 36 saves and pitched to a 1.92 ERA with a WHIP of 0.990, with a strikeouts per nine innings rate of 10.8. While the numbers aren’t quite as good, you could certainly argue Britton was better than Miller. Britton is a ground ball pitcher, not a strikeout pitcher, so the strikeouts being lower is not surprising. Also, many of the hits off Britton were ground balls that found holes. Not many games saw hitters squaring up Britton.

However, just like with the Yankees, Darren O’Day may have been better. O’Day appeared in 68 games with an ERA of 1.52 and a WHIP of 0.934. The side-armer was very effective again for the Birds and will be paid for it this offseason.

Brad Brach formed the third part of the back-end of the Orioles’ bullpen. He had another great season, with a 2.72 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.197.

But it was the lack of depth in the bullpen that holds the O’s just behind the Yankees. Matusz’ numbers look good, although the eye test is a different story. Hunter was not as effective and was traded, and although Roe started off very well, he faded and had an ERA about 4.  One person to mention who did not have enough games is Mychal Givens, the converted shortstop who finished with an ERA of 1.80 in 30 innings.

3. Toronto Blue Jays – Roberto Osuna, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Liam Hendriks, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Tepera, Steve Delabar, Bo Schultz

The 20-year-old Osuna had a fine season as he took over the closer job to a 2.58 ERA, despite six losses. Cecil and Loup saw lots of time at the back-end of the bullpen, but by season’s end another youngster, Aaron Sanchez, was in the setup role. Sanchez struggled with his walks in between starting and the bullpen, but settled down as the year went on.

More from Baltimore Orioles

Cecil and Loup both appeared in over 60 games, with Cecil doing a much better job. His ERA was below 3, while Loup’s approached 4.5.

Hendriks was a major surprise in the Jays’ bullpen. This is a guy who struggled mightily as a starter in numerous stops, but he found a home in Toronto’s bullpen. He was 5-0 with a 2.92 ERA in 58 games and was able to provide some depth out of the bullpen as well.

Delabar continues to fall short of the All-Star form he showed in the past for the Jays.

4. Boston Red Sox – Koji Uehara, Alexi Ogando, Tommy Layne, Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross, Craig Breslow, Matt Barnes, Jean Machi

Koji had another good season, with a 2.23 ERA and 25 saves, but age and injuries caught up to him, as he only appeared in 43 games. The bad news for the Red Sox is that no one else picked up the slack, as five other players combined for only 15 saves.

Ogando and Layne both appeared in 64 games and had nearly identical ERAs, at 3.99 and 3.97 respectively. Ogando threw just over 64 innings, while Layne was more of a situational pitcher for the Red Sox.

Tazawa had arguably his worst year in the majors, going 2-7 with an ERA over 4.10.

5. Tampa Bay Rays – Brad Boxberger, Steve Geltz, Brandon Gomes, Xavier Cedeno, Kevin Jepsen, Alex Colome (also a starter), Jake McGee

When your closer has 10 losses and by far the worst ERA in the division, it isn’t a good sign. When that guy (Brad Boxberger) wasn’t even expected to be the closer, and the expected closer only appeared in six games with a 6.23 ERA before being released (Grant Balfour), it only gets worse.

While Boxberger did have 41 saves, the most in the division, he also had an ERA of 3.71, over one point worse than the next highest closer ERA (Osuna.)

Cedeno and Jepsen, along with McGee once he was healthy, were the strong parts of the Rays’ bullpen, but as a unit these guys lost 35 games.

Orioles Outlook

The Orioles are likely losing Darren O’Day, and may lose a few other fringe pieces of their bullpen. However, Britton and Brach will be back, and Givens could be a 7th or 8th inning option if O’Day does not return.

Next: Ranking the starter in the AL East

The team also may be able to consider Dylan Bundy or Jason Garcia as a late-inning reliever, as I don’t see room for either of them in the rotation. Oliver Drake could also play a role in the bullpen, and Matusz may return as the lefty. While there are question marks, I’m not overly concerned about the O’s bullpen.