Relief pitching is one of the more overlooked aspects of betting on baseball. Which American League bullpens might be too worn out to belong in our future MLB picks?
Jason's 2015 record as of July 13: 31-24, plus-7.36 units ML; 0-3, minus-3.30 units Total
So here we are at the All-Star break, the unofficial midway point of the 2015 MLB regular season. We've done quite all right for ourselves with our baseball picks here at the home office, but if we're going to stay in the black, we have to be prepared for change. The deeper we get into the season, the more players are going to break down and fail. But which ones?
Probably the ones who have been used the most so far. Let's take a look at the bullpen situations in the American League; relief pitching is a great place to find value with your MLB picks, since few recreational bettors pay attention to this aspect of the game. Naturally, the teams who go to the bullpen the most tend to have bad records – but that's not the case on the junior circuit this year.
The Ballad of Jake McGee
The Tampa Bay Rays (46-45, –0.45 units) go into the All-Star break with the busiest bullpen in the majors, totalling 305.0 innings of work. Not a very good 305.0 innings, either: Tampa Bay ranks No. 27 overall at –0.1 WAR, and No. 28 at a combined 4.23 FIP. However, we should cut these guys some slack. Last year's emerging closer, Jake McGee (1.73 FIP, 19 saves in 2014), got a late start to the season after having his elbow scoped last December. McGee has a sizzling 1.09 FIP in 19.2 innings of set-up work since returning to active duty in mid-May.
Otherwise, as poor as Tampa's bullpen has been, the workload has been spread evenly enough that fatigue shouldn't be much of a concern now that McGee is in uniform. It's too bad about Ernesto Frieri (6.33 FIP), though. He was a mess after signing a one-year deal last November, and Frieri has already been demoted to AAA-Durham, maybe never to return. Call it addition by subtraction at this point.
The Kansas City Royals (52-34, +16.85 units) are second in the AL at 285.1 bullpen innings pitched, but their relievers have been tremendous, ranking fourth overall at 3.6 WAR and third overall at 3.15 FIP. The Royals have had to put in some overtime to help cover for injured starters Jason Vargas and Kris Medlen; both pitchers are due back soon, though.
Our bullpen of greatest concern belongs to the Boston Red Sox (42-47, –11.51 units). This unit is third in AL usage at 284.1 innings, but No. 26 overall at 0.0 WAR and second-to-last at 4.29 FIP. Having to cover for Boston's awful starting rotation is bad enough, but now that Clay Buchholz is on the 15-day DL with a strained right flexor, there are seven Boston pitchers on the injured list. Fade while the fading is good.