Rookie Tony Watson rocking a Hanrahan selection earlier this season.

Pirates Bullpen Worst in NL Central


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We wrote this morning about the struggles by the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen.  Three relievers are getting it done for the Buccos– Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and although not so much lately, Justin Wilson.  The two southpaws along with Melancon have put up two wins above replacement.

The challenge is the rest of the bullpen pulls that formidable number down to just .4 above replacement level.  It’s enough to start noticing after leads are quickly returned, saves blown, and you fire bottles in frustration around your favorite watering hole.  The elation that was the 2013 Shark Tank is gone.

So what about the rest of the bullpens in the NL Central?  Not surprisingly, most are performing better than the Pirates according to certain statistics.

The Brewers Zach ‘not a misprint’ Duke leads a Milwaukee Brewers bullpen that has done just enough for the leaders of the National League Central.  The pen of the Brew Crew was worked hard as the club screamed out of the gates in April and has settled in nicely since.

Duke sits atop the list with a .9 WAR and some miniscule numbers while Will Smith, Francisco Rodriguez, Rob Wooten and Tyler Thornburg also have been above replacement level.  The Brewers have done amazing things with their bullpen in 2014.  The Brewers worst reliever is their Rule 5 pickup from the Pirates.  The Bucs pounded We-Chung Wang who has only thrown 13.2 innings in 2014.

The big question is can the Brewers keep all this momentum/winning/costume party thing going?

The Brewers dressed as rappers and wranglers for a road trip.

The Brewers dressed as rappers and wranglers for a road trip.

We keep hearing the Brewers have to fade sooner or later.  Maybe not, but their bullpen certainly looks like a candidate to regress to me.

Brewers Bullpen stats from Fangraphs.

Brewers Bullpen stats from Fangraphs.

The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen is doing their job quietly. Just look at the numbers–you see strikeouts from Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist.  The strand rates from Pat Nesheck, Sam Freeman are strong.  The ground ball percentages are all over 50 from Freeman and and handful of others.

The Cardinals don’t really even have a worst reliever right now.

It’s sick to see the Cardinals with such a strong bullpen and difficult to see much regression, one could actually see their pen improving as the season moves toward the finish.

Cardinals bullpen stats from Fangraphs.

Cardinals bullpen stats from Fangraphs.

Finally, the Reds bullpen looks a bit more similar to the Pirates. Ardolis Chapman sits atop the Fangraphs leaderboard with a .9 WAR that matches the effort from Tony Watson.  The strikeout rate is ridiculous.  Take away Chapman and it’s not nearly as challenging, but it comes in at .7WAR.

The Reds worst reliever is J.J. Hoover who just happens to match the WAR Jason Grilli has put up thus far in 2014.

Reds bullpen stats from Fangraphs.

Reds bullpen stats from Fangraphs.

The Cubs bullpen is actually performing better than many in the game.   That tells you all you need to know about how far the Shark Tank as fallen in 2014.  And you know what, the Cubs just got a lot better by letting go of their worst reliever, Jose Veras.

The Pirates bullpen was below replacement level with the negative .8 Bryan Morris brought to the yard.  The Pirates dropped him off on Miami and the Pirates are a tad over replacement level, but still way back in the best bullpen race so far in the NL Central.  The Reds are next worst followed by the Cubs and Brewers who are tied with a 1.4 and then the Cardinals lead the way with a gaudy 2.4.

It sucks to see the Buccos bullpen fall so far, only the Mets are worse in the NL, but the numbers don’t lie.    The season is far from lost and as we wrote this morning, changes need to be made.

Go Bucs!

Pirates bullpen stats from Fangraphs.

Pirates bullpen stats from Fangraphs.


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Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates

  • eugene tober

    The bullpen has been over used this season but it has been that way for a long time. The reason is because of the Bucs culture, that being they wont spend money on a bat during free agency.

  • JBubs

    Like golf, baseball is a fickle mistress. But it’s time to get pumped for the second half run. The team will be at full strength and it should be fun.