Last year, the Kansas City Royals bullpen received a lot of credit for their run through the postseason. The three headed monster of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland were truly dominant through the regular season, and that run continued through October. In fact, the Royals are considered to have the best bullpen in baseball.
Yet, if the Royals bullpen is ballyhooed as it has been, then they should rank amongst the best in baseball in virtually every statistic. Instead, the Royals ranked tenth in bullpen ERA at 3.30 and 13th with a 1.24 WHiP. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates actually ranked ahead of the Royals with a 3.28 bullpen ERA and an identical 1.24 WHiP.
So, what does that mean for the Pirates? While the Royals are earning accolades for having one of the better bullpens in the game, some of that credit should also be heading to the Pirates as well. In fact, the Pirates trio of Mike Melancon, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes were quite the tandem in the back of the Pirates bullpen, combining for a 1.82 ERA and a 0.99 WHiP. While the Royals trio had a better ERA, coming in at 1.28, they were similar with a 0.97 WHiP.
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Yet, even though the Pittsburgh Pirates had a trio at the back end of the bullpen that were similar in production to the Royals bullpen, they do not get the same type of respect. Perhaps this is because of that playoff run the Royals went on, while the Pirates were eliminated in the Wild Card game. Maybe, for the Pirates bullpen to get that due, they will need to be more than a one and done team in the playoffs.
With the increased focus on building bullpen depth, it is time for the Pittsburgh Pirates to get their due. Players like Luke Gregerson and Andrew Miller cashed in during free agency this year, underscoring the importance of having a dominant bullpen. Fortunately, the Pirates already have one.
The Kansas City Royals may receive a lot of accolades for their bullpen, but the Pittsburgh Pirates were actually better last season. Maybe this year, a deep playoff run will lead to that recognition.